While at a brewery in Charlottesville, VA, I stumbled upon a display at the counter for a delectable treat. Having never heard of it before, I simply had to purchase the two flavors of Hops + Nuts offered.
As it turns out, the good folks at Hops + Nuts in Greensboro, NC, have a full line of beer infused peanut products. The make roasted peanuts salted with flavor infused sea salt, toasted glazed peanuts, peanut brittle, and covered “beerzels” for good measure. My two bags were of the toasted glazed variety.
Chocolate and peanut butter easily are my favorite sweets flavor combination, so this is right up my alley. The textured coating on the peanuts seems to stick on the skin of the peanut, not really at all on the peanut itself. As for the taste, smooth, sweet chocolate porter tones make this a tasty snack on its own. The savory characteristics of the peanut draw it just towards beer territory. A satisfying dry roasted crunch gives a nice texture to the proceedings.
Since Hops + Nuts mentions on its website that these nuts are perfect for pairing with a beer within its corresponding style, it only made sense to try it out for the purposes of this experiment. For the Chocolate Porter nuts, I decided to pair it with a Left Hand Brewing Co. Black Jack Porter.
For a porter called “Black Jack,” its darkish brown hue is lighter than expected. So, too, is the taste, which makes me think of a brown ale, just made with darker malt.
In terms of sequence, definitely drink the beer first. The semi-sweet dark chocolate and espresso of the porter builds nicely into the sweeter sugar and cocoa of the nut coating. It’s like having dinner and dessert in each sip and snack combination. In past beer and food combinations, I’ve tried them, noted their novelty, and usually finished one or the other individually. However, I was more than happy to ride out this combination until I was out of them both!
Truly fascinating. There are clearly hops on these peanuts. I’m not sure it all comes together to enhance the peanut eating process, but it’s a wild experience. The unmistakable bitterness on the back of the tongue you would expect from a West Coast IPA is the first hint out of the gate. After a couple more peanuts, some floral hops sneak through within the sweet sugar coating. Cascade hops, perhaps? The bitter hop profile is a bit at odds with the fatty, roasted meat of the peanut, but certainly not enough to prevent me from reaching for more, in rapt curiosity. The blend ends up accentuating the roast of the nut on the finish, with smoke lingering in the mouth.
I decided to pair the Shuga Hops nuts with a Brewery Ommegang Great Beyond Double IPA. I was lulled into a false sense of security from the nose on this beer, which is delightful. The taste is decidedly harsher, being a little alcohol heavy for me. Plenty of citrus and pine are forward, and make for a nice body. The overbearing alcohol provided an interesting opportunity for the Shuga Hops nuts to potentially address.
The fatty nut meat certainly does mitigate the harsher qualities of Great Beyond. The floral hops due pair well with the hops from the IPA, adequately marrying the beer and nuts. As above, the roast of the nut jumps out at my palette, diverting attention away from the IPA. My only minor criticism: as well as the nuts cut down on the alcohol and hop bitterness, the hop bitterness creeps right back in at the end of the taste from the nut hops. That being said, again, with so much going on, it’s worth the relative roller coaster of tastes, textures, and mouth sensations.
All in all, if you fancy yourself a beer connoisseur who enjoys contemplating what you’re drinking, you’d be a fool not to give Hops + Nuts a whirl. They have the power to accentuate, balance, and transform your beer of choice, depending on the combination.