If ever there were a drinker's holiday, St. Patrick's day would be it. We wanted to do something special this year. While there's nothing wrong with a traditional pint of Guinness, a Black & Tan or a pint of Harp, we thought we could come up with some more interesting variations for your St. Patricks day. We've come up with some interesting drinks along with a special recipe to start your St. Patrick's day off right.
Samuel Adams Irish Red Ale
Every St. Patrick's day needs a good session beer. Lets face it, St. Patrick's day is about drinking endurance and this new offering from Sam Adams fits the bill.
Appearance: Red... duh. Tan head, about an inch.
Smell: Little sweet malt... not much, pretty mellow.
Taste: Mellow. A little malt sweetness... Just enough hops that you can taste some flowery taste, but that's it. You gotta look for it.
Why we like it:
1. Super drinkable... which is great for St. Patrick's Day
2. Nice malt flavor.
3. Easily available, and lets face it, it's St. Patrick's day so you need plenty for you and your friends!
Hop King - Black & Tan
You didn't think we were just going to give our normal list of beers did you? When we sat down to figure out what we wanted for this article we knew we had to do a twist on a black and tan. We came up with what we've come to call "Hop King", a 50/50 blend of Victory Hop Devil & Victory Storm King. Sure it doesn't layer all nice like a Guinness and Harp, but we guarantee you'll like it.
Appearance: Dark dark dark brown... almost black. This won't stay separate, though. It did for a second... but then no. But who cares, let's try it!
Smell: Roasty hops... not roasted hops, because that'd be gross... or would it? (Yes, it would) We smell roasted barley and lots of hops. Mmmmm.
Taste: Bitter chocolate and piney hops. The roast comes through in the finish, but if you burp, you'll burp hops.
Why we like it:
1. A Craft Beer take on a classic St. Patrick's Day favorite.
2. Goes down way easier than you'd expect this combo to. The Stout and IPA round each other out making them easier to drink together than separate.
3. Hops are green. St. Patrick's Day is green. Coincidence... or fate?
Butternuts Moo Thunder Stout
Looking for a Guinness alternative? This stout by Butternuts brewery in upstate New York is the perfect session stout. Just the right amount of malt bitterness with a nice easy mouthfeel that lets you have a few.
Appearance: Almost black, turn to dark ruby around the edges.
Smell: Chocolate milk.
Taste: Chocolatey, smooth and kind of sweet.
Why we like it:
1. Can drink it all day.
2. Awesome artwork... It's a cow being struck by lightning on a can?! Plus you get to say Butternuts all day.
3. Great alternative to Guinness Stout
Around the World in 60 Minutes - A Craft Beer Irish Car Bomb
Another beverage we knew we needed to tap was the car bomb. Traditionally a pint of Guinness with a shot of 1/2 Jameson and 1/2 Bailey's Irish Cream dropped into the pint. At the outset we knew we weren't going to make a beer drink that you chugged, but the idea of a shot glass dropped in gave us some ideas. What we've come up with is a new take on some classic Dogfish Head flavors. For this drink pour most of a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA intoa glass then pour a shot of Dogfish Head World Wide Stout (18% alcohol) and drop into the pink. Drink at a pace of your choosing, but know that it tastes REALLY good, so you may find yourself sipping to savor.
Appearance: Golden, with black swirling. Head swells after dropping shot glass in.
Smell: A little sweet, and definitely hoppy!
Taste: Just a touch boozy, a little roast and some hops. We wouldn't drink it all day, but we'd drink one or two for sure! A great blend of St. Patrick's Day and Craft Beer.
Why we like it:
1. It doesn't curdle... you can actually enjoy it instead of chugging like you were a freshman pledge.
2. Adds a nice malt backbone to the much loved Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
3. Blending beers is fun!
(By the way, yeah, that's dust you see on the World Wide Stout bottle... It's been aged a year and a half.)
Ok so we promised a recipes as well. This is a DrinkCraftBeer exclusive developed by Devon. We don't leave Guinness out of our day, we just eat it!
Guinness Waffles with Bailey's Whipped Cream
2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup room temperature Guinness (fresh, though, open the can right before you add, do not use Guinness from the bottle)
1 1/4 cups milk
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
Use in your favorite waffle iron and enjoy!
For whipped cream just use your favorite whipped cream recipe and whip in Bailey's Irish Cream to taste. Don't try using whipped cream from the can, it won't work.
Devon and Jeff
DCB: How did you get started in brewing and what led you to start Three Floyds?
Nick: I started home brewing when I was 18. I originally hated beer because all anyone drank in high school was warm Old Style or warm Budweiser. I’m like, “why are they drinking this shit?” Then I tried some good beer, then around 18-19 started home brewing stuff. I decided when I was 21 to go to brewing school and do it professionally. Then I brewed pro at a couple places, The Florida brewery, Falstaff, and Malta which is a horrible unfermented porter. But some people like it for breakfast so that’s cool. Then I worked for the wine cellar, which is like a German style brewpub out in the west suburbs of Chicago.Then in ’96 we opened Three Floyds, with the help of my brother and dad. We opened in Hammond, which is north of here. We opened in Hammond because, and everyone asked, “Why’d you open in Indiana, and not Chicago?” In Hammond we had 5,000 sq ft., rent was $500. That’s why we opened in Hammond. If we opened the same size brewery in Cook County, IL, rent would have been $5,000. And we started with very little money! You can see our original brew house, it was just a small 5 barrel kind of ghetto system.
DCB: It must feel kind of good to move from little finance and a little place to here.
Nick: Yeah, and we’ve done it without really any debt, so that’s good! Some people are like, “Well why aren’t you at 20k barrels, like so and so…” Well, because we don’t want giant loans or giant debt load or have partners whose philosophy we clash with.
DCB: So you guys have been open about 11 years now. Certainly a lot has happened in that time, you guys have gotten a lot of acclaim in the beer industry. You’ve gotten some awards. Has there been a difference… is there a pressure now that people have an expectation about what comes out of Three Floyds, when you guys are developing new recipes.
Nick: Yeah, if we don’t make gigantic… I hate to call it “extreme” beers, but that’s what they’re calling them… Like we just made a Helles and people just shrugged their shoulders. But, a terribly good, clean german helles, people are like “eh, boring.” But, if anyone else made it, some other brewery or brewpub, then you know people would love it. Yeah, I guess there is some pressure to always make bigger more alcoholic more hoppy stuff. But we make the whole gamut now.
DCB: Yeah, it seems like things are already starting to diversify. Are you guys trying to make sure that you keep a wide variety of beers open to the public despite that pressure to create extreme beers.
Nick: Yeah, at our pub especially, there’s the very strange stuff and stuff we only make in a 6bbl tank to serve here. But every month now we come out with a new 22 oz seasonal which we’ve never done before. But we’re making more and more beer, 20% growth every year, but shrinking our reach to just Indiana and Illinois. We can’t even keep up with Chicago.
DCB: Yeah, you used to distribute out to Rhode Island, and we used to drive down there to try and get stuff from you guys.
Nick: If you can only deal with 3 distributors, instead of 15, that’s way less headaches and the beer doesn’t have to travel as far and be fresher. When we’re bigger, we’ll be back in those markets.
DCB: Do you have any plans for increased distribution? Or are you working on saturating the current markets right now.
Nick: Our immediate goal is 10k barrels. After that, if we go to 15k, then we can possibly rethink about that. But there are 8 million people in this area so I think that’ll keep us busy for the next couple years at least.
DCB: We also happened to notice that Chicago seems to be a pretty good beer city… With all the quality breweries right in the area and it’s all getting drank.
Nick: Yeah it is, but the distribution laws are terrible. Bell’s pulled out for that reason, New Glarus isn’t here for that reason. And a lot of national brands don’t want to get a bloody nose in Chicago because of the distribution laws. Which are a result of Al Capone and what Chicago is infamous for back in the early part of the 20th century.
DCB: It definitely sounds unfortunate. The more breweries you talk to out here, they all sort of subtly mention the distribution and the franchise laws that exist.
Nick: Well the distributor in Illinois owns you.
DCB: They own your brand and can sell you however they please.
Nick: And if you want to leave them, you have to, in some cases, pay them 3 years of profits of what they would have made. So to buy out a big brand is millions of dollars. If you want to switch distributors, most people can’t or can’t afford it.
DCB: That’d be a good way to get into debt right there. So, speaking of you say you introduce a new 22oz every month, what do you use as inspiration when creating a new beer. Do you test it first, or do you have a good idea of what it is and it gets brewed.
Nick: Both, now that we have a pub we can totally test things in out own weird way. Basically, we’ve always just made stuff that we want to drink. We’re small enough that it all sells. If we made 5,000 barrels of something that wasn’t popular, then that might be a problem. I guess, regardless, we make stuff we want to drink, regardless of what the public wants.
DCB: It seems to have worked so far.
Nick: Like Alpha Kong, I don’t know how that will sell, but I’m sure we’ll sell it all!
DCB: Everyone’s kind of looking out for the new Three Floyd’s beer. It always gets buzz when it comes out. They all seem to be well received too.
Nick: Well, you try your best and make it as clean as possible, with the best ingredients and we try to do the best we can
DCB: Switching gears a little bit, there’s been a decent buzz around Coors coming out with their new craft beer division. Do you have any thoughts on how that will affect the whole industry and how you feel about that?
Nick: I guess they’re already kind of deceiving people with Blue Moon and I guess they’re going to continue on with that. For us, it turns more people onto trying new beers. So I guess it’s not a bad thing. Will our $8 or $9 six-packs be competing with that? I don’t think so. People will always be looking for genuine hand crafted micro. So, overall, I guess it’s a good thing. The big breweries have been slipping in percentages, so I mean they’re just turning to what’s working.
DCB: It’s really a testament to you guys. It was ignored by the macros for so long, now when they start to enter the game it acknowledges a legitimacy that there’s something real there and it’s not a fad.
Nick: Well, we’ve grown consistently and, micro nationally is 5%... that came out of their percentages, so…
DCB: Along those lines, we thought it was kind of interesting when the CEO of SAB Miller came out and said craft beer is a fad and going away, yet their two biggest competitors are venturing in to make fake craft beer.
Nick: Miller tried in the 90’s with Amber Reserve. It wasn’t half bad. But I don’t know for their CEO to say that is kind of … stupid. You go to any big city and see a new pack of micros. Or to any part of the western United States, it’s everywhere.
DCB: So, going along, obviously you have a lot of small releases at the brewpub. Do you have any big upcoming releases that will go to production soon?
Nick: Well this summer we just started doing Gumbalhead in 6-packs. That’s kind of our biggest release in years. Other than that just the seasonals and, of course, we’re now known for Dark Lord Day, that’s our other big release. That’ll be in April 2008.
DCB: This is kind of a weird question, but it seems that you guys get pigeon-holed a lot, especially with the Dark Lord… if anyone knows one beer it’s Dark Lord. Everyone kind of comes out here for that. But you always notice there are a few beer geeks who are like “it was better last year… no it was better the year before.”
Nick: Yeah, they’ll always do that. As long as you annually date it with different color wax… people always say stuff like that. All those British barley wines: “’85 is better than ’88… ’89 is better than all of them.” There’s always going to be that. And that’s a good thing. Some years will be prized over others. I mean, it’s bound to happen.
DCB: We always notice that people say, “Last year’s was better, they’re ramping up and selling out…” There’s always that guy.
Nick: If we turned the whole brewery into a Dark Lord factory, maybe they could say that… but we only made 90 barrels of it. And it was heavier than ever this year, so you can’t say that no matter what.
DCB: One of the interesting things is the way you package your beer too. The wax dipping, the art work is certainly unique. Is that something you wanted to do right from the beginning to have a powerful image along with the beer?
Nick: Well, yeah. When we started, everyone had a tree or a mountain or was named after a town, so we used characters. Then, on top of that, buying the best ingredients and making the best beer possible, trying to make the best graphics that we could. The brewery’s motto is, “It’s Not Normal,” so make the graphics and art totally not normal, and use the best graphics we could find. Randy Mosher, he’s a famous home brewer and he’s written a couple of books, he does our graphics, he’s done a really good job.
DCB: When you do the wax dipping, does that present challenges as you try to scale up your production?
Nick: Yeah, that sucks! At Knob Creek, you can tell which lady dipped it by which way the wax drips. We actually got a better wax machine, so it’s 2 or 3 days of hand dipping. It makes the beer stand out, though… and it dates it… and it looks cool.
DCB: One of the things that’s interesting is this term: “extreme” beer. Right now there’s this interesting thing happening in craft beer as a whole where some people are starting to turn away from that term… or trying to.
Nick: Well, extreme you think of guys with barbed wire tattoos. I guess it’s a bad moniker. But, I guess, some of them are extreme in a way. But that’s what micro brews do. Not many are making corn or rice adjunct lagers.
DCB: Going back to the brewing, what’s inspiring you out there? When you’re looking for something knew, where are you looking to right now?
Nick: Everywhere you go… you go to brewpubs or beer bars and it could be any brewpub anywhere that’s made a one-off weird sour this or wine-barreled this. There’s no one source. It’s all diverse. It comes from I guess everywhere. For me at least. It’s not just Trappist breweries… it now comes from everywhere. And now Europe has some amazing micros, so that’s good. They’re making some inspiring stuff now.
DCB: Just looking around and seeing those barrels… [pointing at barrels nearby] we’ve seen a lot of people doing the sour thing lately… experimenting with it…
Nick: That’s the newest thing. Those are all just straight up bourbon, though. We will be doing some sour stuff. A real Berliner Weisse… some krieks… and framboise I think.
DCB: Wow! That’s quite an interesting departure from everything else.
Nick: Well it’s the one place we haven’t really ventured into. It’ll be cool. We’ll make some weird fruit flavored ones. It’ll only be available here. I don’t know if we’ll ever bottle them. We’d have to napalm the whole bottling line.
DCB: Everyone keeps talking about bringing sour barrels in. And they’re skeptical about bringing it into their brewery.
Nick: It should almost be another brewery if you’re going to do it. We’ll just keep those fermenters on the other side of the building. You don’t want to contaminate the whole facility just because you’re trying one new thing.
DCB: Well, 10,000 barrels is definitely exciting… especially with very little debt and without big investors. And we’re sure people will be psyched to hear about the sour beers you guys will experiment with. Good luck in the future and thanks for hanging out with us for a bit!
Ever since our first sip of Inkwell Stout, we here at DrinkCraftBeer.com have been big fans of Matthew Steinberg's work. When we heard that he was leaving Offshore Ale Company and their brewpub on Martha's Vineyard to start a new craft brewery in Plymouth, MA, we were psyched. No longer would we have to travel via ferry to drink his beer (Offshore was a brewpub that only had 2 bottled offerings. To get his specialty beers, you had to take a ferry for almost an hour to get to the island of Martha's Vineyard off of Cape Cod). On top of the geographic change, Mayflower Brewing Company is the first new production brewery to open in Massachusetts for a while now, so we wanted to make sure we were there to see the beginning. When news first broke, we called Matt and said we wanted to be there as soon as possible to document the opening and sit down to talk with him. Well, they finally laid the last drain, got the brewhouse set up and fired up their brand new kettle on January 4th. On the 16th, DrinkCraftBeer.com was at Mayflower to check out their beautiful new brewery and talk to Matt Steinberg about his newest project. Oh, we got to try a small sample of Pale Ale as well. Let's just say we're psyched for this new brewery! Now, on to the beer talk.
DCB: So how did Mayflower come about?
Matt: Drew (Owner) is a descendant of the Mayflower. His family member was John Alden who was the cooper (barrelmaker) on the Mayflower. He was hired to be on the Mayflower so he could make barrels to bring back because they needed to leave some barrels that had beer behind. When the boat came back there were cooperage laws that when you leave with cooperage you had to bring the cooperage back with you. You had to build the cooperage on the boat. So that's part of that story.
DCB: Haha, so even back then losing kegs was a big problem, I guess!
Matt: So that was part of the labels, using the barrels for the pale ale as the flagship, not that it's barrel aged beer but I don't think most people will expect it to be barrel aged. Then the farmhouse picture for the mellow golden ale and the hops for the IPA. But the porter we decided to go with the three threads story, which is strong ale, dark beer, and lager blended together to make a more drinkable beer for the porters and whoever else were working. So we were thinking, what can the icon look like? Drew found this rope image with three ropes for a boat and I was like, "That is awesome!" So we had our graphic designer draw our own version of that. The color is really cool; you can see on the six packs it sort of has a wood grain. The porter has this charcoal black gray look. I'm real happy with it. Looking at all these images on the computer was very difficult looking at it on the monitor. But then when they six packs came in I was like, "Yeah this is sweet."
DCB: Is brewing in the English style different for you?
Matt: I love the classic part of it. Being at Offshore with the two flagship beers it was one thing. A lot of people really don't understand, but I do love the classic styles. I kind of got over the need to brew a different beer every batch. I loved that for 4 1/2 years but, finally, I was like it's time to buckle down and brew some beer. We brewed the draft beer for the last year I was there and it was really a challenge on that system to brew consistently.
DCB: While you were at Offshore you could really do whatever you wanted to brew, can we still expect some special brews from you here?
Matt: Yeah, we're definitely going to do some. I did design all these beers, so I take any credit or criticism in that sense on these beers. Ryan and I are going to do our best to brew a couple of seasonals that come out every year. We're thinking about doing a Thanksgiving ale which I think makes perfect sense. The one problem I see with that is the release date. All the Oktoberfests are already on the shelf and, as those are coming off, winter beers are going in. Our Thanksgiving beer would be going in say October first and go until New Years. But does it seem like it's old on New Years if you're drinking Thanksgiving ale? So we need to figure that out. We don't want to brew an Oktoberfest because we're an English style brewery. The Thanksgiving ale is probably going to be something like and old ale. We briefly talked about doing a barley wine. I don't love barley wines for personal consumption; they are certainly a fun beer to make because you see how crazy people go. I love Cambridge Brewing company's spring [barley wine] Arquebus that Will [Meyers, CBC head brewer] makes. It's a spring barley wine and it's dry and strong. I don't know how Will makes it so dry but man it's amazing. So that is certainly an option for a spring beer. We've talked about doing some type of wheat beer for the summer. I'll be itching to do some kind of imperial stout. I've got a whole new idea for an imperial that I'll just have to be careful not to call Inkwell (Matt's IRS from Offshore) out of habit.
As proud as I was of that beer [Inkwell] every time I brewed it, it was never the same and it was improvisational stout in title. I am excited to do some new stuff. The IPA here is nothing like any of the IPAs I brewed before... it's 70 IBUS and 6.8-7.2% and it's going to be big and bitter, high aroma, dry hopped. But it will be drinking beer...for freaks. [laughs]
DCB: Will you be doing some cask ales?
Matt: Yeah we will be, I own two firkins personally.
Ryan: [laughs] Yeah probably tomorrow we'll have one filled.
Matt: Shoot yeah we could probably do it tomorrow. We don't have an engine yet, but the idea was to have an engine here (indicating a spot on the tasting room bar top). But this [tasting room] wasn't designed to be a bar here, but we'd need to get a breather and make sure we open it on a day we can get 20 people here, but that shouldn't be a problem.
DCB: [Speaking of places with casks,] if you can get into Deep Ellum that'd be great...since we can walk there.
Matt: Yeah we'll definitely be in there. Aaron does a great job there. Sunset already placed an order as well.
DCB: Were you guys worried about entering the Massachusetts market since there's so much beer here?
Matt: I have to say I don't necessarily think that the saturation is true. One of the issues with the market here in Massachusetts is that the distributors bring in so many beers so it is saturated but it's not saturated by breweries that are local. It's very easy to say, "I drink the local beer;" if you live in Boston it's Harpoon, if you live out west it's Berkshire, but there's nothing down here. And Drew, when he was planning this brewery he had several ideas. He had this dog oriented idea, but that's kind of been played out a little bit. And the Mayflower idea, but he would only do that if it was built in Plymouth. He had to build a facility where it belongs. He had a really hard time finding a location until he found this place which is a great location for a brewery. We're not going to get any walk by traffic. It's not super easy to find, but it's not that hard.
We already have so many locals, the construction guys already want beer, the electricians want beer and it's unbelievable how much business Colony Place is doing. So yes the market is saturated with great beer, but there's room for more. The Publick House has great Belgians and tons of stuff from California, but they have no beer from MA on tap beside a couple specialties and some one offs.
DCB: How big are you guys looking to do production wise?
Matt: Right now we plan on doing 1000 barrels. We have the hops to do up to 1200 this year.
DCB: Where are you looking to distribute?
We're looking to be a small regional brewery in the 10-15K barrel range eventually.
DCB: Will you be doing any bombers?
Matt: We'll be doing 6 packs for now but our bottling machine can be easily adjusted so we'll probably do some special releases in bombers. The IPA will be draft only at least to start, so that may be something that goes into a bomber at some point. We found this really interesting package for bombers that's a 4-pack that you can either do stickers or print on. That would probably be more like a mix pack of bombers, so I love that idea.
We've talked about doing 12 packs, like a mix pack, Christmas time mix packs do really well.
DCB: So the big questions: When does it hit stores and when can people taste it?
Matt: Well Ryan and I have been tasting it but we're lucky. Draft beer will probably be released late next week or early the following week (January 24/25 or the following week). The accounts that will see it first will be: British Beer Company, Stone Forge Tavern, T-Bones in Plymouth, The Colonial, Sam Diegos and a few others. Cambridge Commons pre-orderd, Union Brewhouse has pre-ordered a few kegs.
Bottles will be some time mid to late February. But I do foresee bottles coming out pretty quick. The tasting room will be open when we say it's open [laughs].
DCB Note: For anyone worried that Matt's beers won't offer up the same quality as his past work, let's just say you have little to worry about. While he may be brewing in the English style, our sample of the Pale Ale was distinctly American in flavor. Not to say there's anything wrong with English beers, but our sample of the pale had nice malt tones with a great up front hop flavor followed by a distinct bitterness. We're excited to try the whole line-up and you'll soon find us scouting out South Shore bars to try them all on tap.
Drink Craft Beer, Eat Craft Chocolate
A few months ago, Jeff happened to stop by the Wine Gallery in Brookline when there was a tasting of Taza Chocolate paired with wine. He got to talking with the representative from Taza who was there, and loved the story of the company: they're traditional, organic, fair trade and work directly with small co-ops in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. After he tried the chocolate/wine pairings, one thought struck him... This chocolate would go amazingly with beer! It's less sweet, has fruity notes and is more raw. Wine isn't the best pairing, beer is! This, in turn, is what brought us to Somerville to speak with Alex Whitmore, the head chocolate maker at Taza Chocolates.
We found out about how Taza Chocolate is made. Quite an amazing process, they have control of the process from bean to chocolate. The process is pretty interesting (especially when chocolate is in the air all around you). Surprisingly, it's very close to brewing as well! Winnowing and milling are similar. Then it's ground and put into a kettle. It's processed in the kettle for a while. There's piping moving the chocolate. Temperatures are important. This tour really showed us how making good artisan food and drink are quite similar in the care devotion you have to put into it. Check out the full "how it's made" feature on the right. After the tour, we sat down with Alex to really find out more about Taza, what drove him to start the company and, most importantly, taste some beer!
DCB: How did you decide this is how you wanted to make your chocolate?
Alex: Basically the idea behind the company is to make a kind of chocolate that isn’t made in this part of the world. In Mexico there’s a tradition of drinking chocolate they way we drink coffee. Down there’s there are places with mills all over the place and you can bring in ingredients and they can grind for you and give you the cocoa so you can go home and make your chocolate drink. And every family will have their own recipe. Sometimes people will add cinnamon or almonds if they are wealthy. I saw this and it blew me away. That’s one of the reasons why I started this company and I wanted to incorporate these mills into the company. They do very minimally refine the chocolate, it’s not a very highly refined European style; even in the bars which we refine using the granite stone roller mills, which we can dial in so they are really close and really tight. The chocolate cycles through the rollers for about five hours to refine the particle size of the sugar to where we want. It passing through the air kind of helps release some intense acids that are remnants of the fermentation process. I didn’t talk much about the stuff that goes on at the farm, but the fermentation of the bean on the farm is very important. We like those acids, they’re precursors to the final flavor but we want to release some of the less desirable ones. Very similar to conching, which we don’t do, it’s a traditional part of the European way that we don’t do (Conching is a process where the chocolate is put through a container containing metal beads which break down the sugar particles from anywhere between 4 and 72 hours). The whole point is to minimally refine the bean, we lightly roast and keep a lot of the natural tropical flavors of the bean.
Anyways…I want to drink some beer.
DCB: Alright let's do it. So what we did is took some beers that we thought would go well... but you know chocolate.
Alex: I hate it when people pair port with chocolate and the flavor is sweet and the chocolate is sweet and it’s too much sweet.
DCB: That’s what’s fun about beer, there’s so many flavors so we’ve got a little bit of sweet, some roasty flavors all sorts.
Alex: This is fun, I’m into this! I love food in general.
So our tasting commenced! We ran through a number of beers some great some not so great. What we have to share with you now is the results of our tasting with Alex. We have what we believe are some fantastic beer and chocolate pairings where we felt the chocolate and beer truly worked together to bring out new flavors in both.
Before we go on to the tasting notes, let us say an article like this is great to read about, but we wanted to do something special this time. For those in the Boston area, we’ll be hosting a tasting of all the beers mentioned in this article at The Wine Gallery in Brookline, MA (on Route 9, right near the Brookline Hills T Stop of the D branch of the Green Line). We’ll be pouring samples of each beer along with samples of each of the chocolates on Thursday February 7th from 5-7pm (a week before Valentine's Day). For those that can’t make it down check out Taza’s website at http://www.tazachocolate.com/shop.php and order a bar or two to try yourself.
Without further ado…the beer…and chocolate.
Taza makes four types of chocolate, three of which are the same recipe with varying percentages of cacao: a 60%, 70% and 80% cacao bar. The other is their Mexicano, which is a Mexican style drinking chocolate made with cinnamon. Because the chilled beer can mess up the texture of the chocolate if you're not careful, there's a certain way you'll want to try these pairings. Make sure you let the chocolate melt in your mouth before you drink the beer. Otherwise the temperature will cause it get a little chalky and you'll miss the great flavors than can come out. Also, letting the chocolate warm up is similar to beer, this is when all the volatiles come out. This will allow you to taste the berry, almond and other flavors that are left in because of the process that Taza employs to make their artisan chocolate.
Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Imperial Stout with Taza 60% Cacao Chocolate
BBC Coffeehouse Porter with Taza 70% Cacao Chocolate
Verhaeghe Echt KriekenBier with Taza 80% Cacao Chocolate
Stone Smoked Porter with Taza Chocolate Mexicano
The Chocolate Mexicano can be whipped into milk or water to create Taza de Chocolate Mexicano (try this, it’s amazing), or eaten as is. This chocolate has a very different texture than any other you’ve most likely tried. It’s processed less so the sugar is a bit grittier and it melts in your mouth differently than most other chocolates. It's also the sweetest of the Taza portfolio. The subtle cinnamon notes provide a smooth spice that begged to be brought out by a good beer. We had a hunch the mild smoke flavor found in Stone’s Smoked Porter would accomplish that, and we were right.
The Stone Smoked Porter has just a hint of smoke which is why this beer works. Many smoked beers suffer from an overwhelming smoke aroma or taste, but here’s it’s part of a broader flavor profile. The pairing with the chocolate brings out the spiciness of the cinnamon while the roasted malt in the porter helps to balance the sweetness of the chocolate. The end result is a smooth rich experience unlike any other pairing we’ve done.
Good food and good beer belong together and we hope this article has helped you think a little bit differently about what both chocolate and beer can be and how they can work together. We had a blast putting this together for you all and we hope those of you nearby can come taste each pairing for yourself. We want to give special thanks to Alex Whitmore from Taza Chocolate and The Wine Gallery in Brookline, MA. For those who can't attend, everything in this article can be purchased at Wine Gallery in Brookline or Kenmore Square (Wine-Gallery.com ), and the chocolate can be purchased online from Taza's website (http://www.tazachocolate.com/shop.php). Until next time!
Devon and Jeff
Taza - How It's Made
First, it starts in places like Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic where Alex and his partner buy the cocoa beans straight from small farmer co-ops at above fair trade prices. This allows them to maintain a distinct flavor profile, as the regional terroir of the beans is maintained. The beans are lightly roasted to preserve flavor. Cocoa beans, after all, are a tropical fruit, and they have a flavor indicative of that before roasting. Taza's beans are actually roasted right in Jamaica Plain, MA using J.P. Lick's coffee roaster (the roast their own coffee, so Taza uses the machine when coffee isn't being roasted).
From here, the beans are put through a winnowing machine. This separates the chaff (the shell of the bean) from the nib. The chaff is a by-product that is either sold to tea companies or given away as mulch to community groups (we made some tea with the chaff, and it's amazing! Nice cocoa aroma and a good earthy flavor). The nib is collected and then put through Molinos, which are the Mexican stone mills that Taza uses. They reconditioned the mills, shipped them up to Somerville from Mexico and rebuilt them. The nibs are dumped into the Molinos and, if you’re using any vanilla or any cinnamon in the recipe, you grind it right through the mill. It gets completely pulverized with the nib. The way it works is there’s two stones with one that rotates. The product gets run between the two and it’s like a thousand scissors shearing the particle size down and then it shoots out the edge of the stone. It’s flowing liquid at that point. Most people think it’s going to be powdery but it’s not. Just like if you imagine grinding peanuts into peanut butter it’s the same thing. It’s a very oily seed, the cocoa bean. The grinding releases all the oils and shatter the cellular structure. This cocoa liquor (it’s what the industry calls ground up winnowed cocoa beans) is collected into buckets and dumped it into the chocolate tank. In their 300 lb chocolate tank they mix in the sugar. Of course, they use only organic cane sugar which is has a golden color with a natural flavor. All of their ingredients are organic. Once the sugar is mixed in, you start calling it chocolate. The sugar is then refined within the liquor as it passes through rollers. This finished chocolate is then tempered, put into molds, chilled and wrapped by hand. They make 600 lbs of chocolate this way, not including the Mexicano, which is ground using a different process.
Alex goes on to tell us about the next steps:
"Once the particle size is down to the level where we want it to be it’s done. We then add any additional cocoa butter. We don’t use very much here, just a little to reduce the viscosity a little bit to make it more normal to people’s mouth feel.
We then pump our chocolate and pump it into the tempering tank. You ever open a chocolate bar and see a white sheen on top? That means the chocolate is not in temper and the cocoa butter has separated. It's still fine to eat but the texture might be a little off and it’s not that pretty. This machine takes the chocolate and promotes it’s crystallization and solidification. If you were to just melt chocolate and let it cool at room temperature it would be bendy, it wouldn’t have a good snap and it wouldn’t have a pretty glossy finish on it. That’s because chocolate is polymorphous, one of the many issues with working with chocolate. [The tempering machine] takes the chocolate to about 150 degrees then down to about 85 then back up to about 90-95 degrees.
The chocolate is done at this point, poured into molds and cooled to be hand wrapped by our wrapping team."
Taza offers four different chocolates:
Sure you can have a glass of champagne on New Years Eve, but that's what everyone does. So this year why not change it up a little bit. We've put together five beers for New Years Eve sure to impress when you pop that cork. Each beer also comes in a 750ml bottle, perfect for sharing with your friends!
Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca
Appearance: Slightly hazy, golden color, white puffy head
Smell: Light sweet funk... hints of wheat, slightly yeasty. A little banana.
Taste: Fruity, a tad sweet, a little funky and sour (in a totally good and mild way). Quite light and easy to drink. Pretty carbonated... Not overly so, but higher than normal. If you've had other Jolly Pumpkin beers you'll probably enjoy this. This is one of their lightest offerings that makes it great for a beverage later in the night. It's crisp, light and refreshing.
Unibroue La Fin du Monde
Appearance: Hazy... gets hazier towards the end of the bottle. White, fluffy head... again.
Smell: Mild smell... little sweet, little yeasty.
Taste: Slightly sweet with a medium body and nice subtle orange notes. Pour with care as the yeast is easily stirred and can change the flavor from glass to glass in a notable way. It's very carbonated which helps lighten the overall feel of the beer.
Note: In case you're not up on your French, La Fin du Monde translates to "the end of the world." [Yeah, cue REM music] Wouldn't be a great New Years Toast beer... aside from the loud "pop" when opening, just like champagne! But it'd be good for earlier in the night. A good solid beer that can go with any kind of food you may be eating. It's a tad heavier than the rest in our list and for that reason it might not be best for later in the night. It is delicious though!
Brooklyn Brewing Co. Local 1
Appearance: Clear and pale gold with a white head. You noticing a trend?
Smell: Slightly lemony... dry. Like a lighter La Fin du Monde
Taste: You feel like it's going to attack you as the aroma is intense... but then it doesn't. This beer is very easy to drink, it's very smooth and light bodied, almost airy. The flavors develop and then fade quickly to a clean finish leaving you eager for you next sip...or glass.
Dupont Organic Foret Saison 7.5%abv
Appearance: Pours with about 2” of bone white fluffy head, Opaque orange
Smell: Smells pleasantly earthy…with a hint of spice
Taste: Tastes crisp and a little spicy with a slightly funky aftertaste found in most of our favorite saisons.
For those not familiar with Saisons, they were historically brewed in Belgium during the spring for farm workers to quench their thirst. Because they were brewed before refrigeration this meant they were fermented at higher temperatures, causing a slight funk in the beer. Hell, if it was good enough to quench farm workers' thirst back in the day, it’s good enough to quench ours!
Appearance: Clear copper with a bone white head
Smell: Barely funk... delicious... kind of musty (but in a great way... only because we know this beer tastes great)... sour sweet lemon.
Taste: Mmmm... funk. Medium body but drinks like a lighter beer. Very fine carbonation makes this feel light and less carbonated. Slight malt on the back... We hate to say this, but this beer is really complex. We could try to come up with a list of fancy terms to explain, but in the end it's just delicious. So, for real, just save up, buy a bottle and try it for yourself. Everyone likes this beer. We handed a glass to Jeff's roommate, having no idea what it was, who immediately responded "Wow, that's delicious!" We think you'll do the same. Price? Ok, it's $20, but seriously it's worth it.