J. Wakefield Harbinger Hazelnut Coffee Imperial Sweet Stout
I had never really heard of Miami’s J. Wakefield Brewing prior to my running across a few of the company’s bottles on a beer run back in January. Harbinger is one of the two bottles that I purchased that day — cracking it open a few days after. This 12% ABV imperial milk stout is, as you can probably guess from the title, brewed with coffee and hazelnuts. I wish I knew more about the beer itself, but I can tell you that it’s damn tasty.
The hazelnut can have a profound influence on beer, especially one brewed to the style of a sweet or milk stout. I was worried that the big beer would come across too cloyingly sweet like my kid’s Nutella spread — thankfully, it does not. Harbinger actually focuses more on the earthy nuttiness of the nut which pairs wonderfully with the robust coffee influence. There is a moderate sweetness behind it all that only adds to the beer’s smooth body, giving way begrudgingly to a lasting and lightly drying finish. For such a high level of alcohol, the potency is masked dangerously well.
Harbinger not only served as a great introduction to the J. Wakefield Brewing, but is also an excellent beer. It’s moderate sweetness and slightly robust character made it an excellent brew to sip on after dinner. It’s not quite in the dessert beer range and, honestly, that’s not what I was hoping for when I cracked it open. Harbinger’s nuttiness and richness, combined with that smooth feel make for a darn good imperial stout.
A small, dense cap of brown foam falls to a patchy surface cover and a thing ring atop the opaque black stout. It certainly looks the part.