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Taza Chocolate Factory Takeover 2013 - Thank You

Author // Jeff Wharton

On Saturday, February 2, 2013 Taza Chocolate let us take over their factory store for the second time to benefit The Greater Boston Food Bank. We were completely floored by the response that we got from our wonderful community; many of you waited over an hour to get inside while temperatures outside dipped into the low twenties. With nearly 700 attendees coming through the door and proceeds from Roxy's Grilled Cheese's chocolate-covered bacon grilled cheese sandwiches we raised $3,600, doubling the proceeds from 2012! That's enough money for The Greater Boston Food Bank to provide 8,496 meals to those in need. Pretty epic!

With that in mind, we want to thank each and every one of you for coming out, for braving the cold and for being a part of this great event!

Line before the doors opened
The line before the doors opened. You can't see it, but it went all the way to the
end of the block, turned the corner, then half way down the next block.

Line for Roxy's Grilled Cheese
The line for Roxy's Grilled Cheese...luckily the line to get into the event was right in front of the truck!

Of course, we couldn't have done it without our wonderful event sponsors either, all of whom donated their time and products. So we'd like to give a special thanks to:

Again, thanks to everyone involved, from the attendees to the event sponsors! We could not have done it without any of you! We look forward to seeing you all again!

First Attendees In the Door
The first attendees in the door finally get some beer and chocolate. They got here an hour before the event!

Inside the Taza Chocolate Factory Store
The end of the line: inside the Taza Chocolate Factory Store after trying all four pairings.

Squam Brewing Golden IPA [Beer Review]

Author // Jeff Wharton

A few weeks ago, I found myself skiing up in New Hampshire at Waterville Valley. I’ve been going regularly for years now and it’s been interesting seeing the entire area change during that time. One thing I’ve definitely noticed is the increased prevalence of craft beer up there! At first, if I wanted something really good after skiing, I had to bring it up from Massachusetts. As time went on, a gourmet store opened to cater to the skiing crowd and had a good selection of beer...and it was even right across the street from where I stayed! But, alas, it closed within a year or two. The good news? It probably closed because the town grocery just around the corner really stepped up it’s game on all sorts of things, including beer! So did the bars and restaurants in the Waterville Town Square and surrounding areas.

Squam Brewing Golden IPA

But the last time I was there, a couple weeks ago, the Jugtown Country Store in Waterville Town Square caught my eye with a big shelf of beer as I walked by. Upon entering I found a decent-sized but well-curated selection of craft beer, including a good bit of local stuff. Among them were some brews from Squam Brewing...beer I hadn’t heard of? Well of course I had to get it. Now, to drink it!

This is one beer that changes greatly as you move it around. Sitting, looking at it head on it’s a deep brownish, yellowish flavescent hue. Hold it up, especially near any light, and it turns to a light straw color, clear and crisp looking. With a single finger head perched atop, it looks good...but not particularly hoppy.

Aaaaaand this is one of those times when it seems looks may be deceiving. At 8.5% abv this is a bigger IPA and it seems to be hopped to keep up with that alcohol! You can definitely smell a bit of heat on this one...it is approaching 9%...but the main smell I’m getting is candied citrus fruit. I’m guessing this is some fragrant hops mixing with a big, east coast malt backbone. Only one way to tell!

If you’re looking for a big, bitter tongue number this is not your IPA. The malt is solid, strong and sweet. It’s not assertive, not brash, but smooth and toothsome. The hops are there, but it’s not a ton of early boil hops (which will make the beer bitter). It seems that the brewer reserved the entire load of wonderful little green flowers for the end of boil, imparting tons of flavor from the cones. You can almost chew on this beer; it’s thick and approaching the mouth feel of some barleywines I’ve had. Candied, tropical fruit flavor carries through from the aroma and, accompanied by some alcohol heat, makes this a quite pleasant, warming beer. I’ll definitely pick this up again next time I’m in New Hampshire. Especially as I think this would be a great brew to crack open after a day snowshoeing or on the slopes!

Can't Keep 'Em Apart - A Beer & Chocolate Love Story 2013

Author // Jeff Wharton

Some of you may remember this from last year but it seems that Valentine's Day is coming up again (didn't this just happen a year ago?). To us, what could be better than celebrating with some craft beer and chocolate? How about raising money for The Greater Boston Food Bank? What if we told you you could do all those things at the same time?!

Well on Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 from 2-6pm you can! Drink Craft Beer is taking over the Taza Chocolate Factory Store AGAIN and we're doing some pretty cool stuff AGAIN! Last year we had 550 people come out and raised over $1800 for the Greater Boston Food Bank. Let's see if we can top that this year!


UPDATE: Please note, THE EVENT IS NOT SOLD OUT AS IT'S A PAY-AT-THE-DOOR FIRST-COME-FIRST-SERVED EVENT. But, we've decided at this point to stop taking RSVP's. At this point we have 1,200 people already RSVP'ed for this event. 

We are totally humbled and floored by the reaction this event has received and so thankful to live in an area that thinks things like feeding those in need are important! Because everything is being donated for this event, we don't have an unending supply of beer and chocolate. That said, we are committed to hosting as many people as we can from 2-6pm, given the beer and chocolate we have, and raising as much money as possible for The Greater Boston Food Bank! So we look forward to seeing you all out at the Taza Chocolate Factory this Saturday from 2-6pm!

Use this link to donate directly to The Great Boston Food Bank.

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About Taza Chocolate

Taza Chocolate is a bean-to-bar, organic, direct trade chocolate company that has been growing like crazy over the past years. We met them when it was just a couple guys in a factory in Somerville and we’ve watched them grow to national distribution. To us, it’s incredible what Taza Chocolate is able to do with just a few select, high quality ingredients. It actually mirrors our love of craft beer, as brewers do the same with a few simple ingredients. That’s why we think that these two are such a perfect complement to each other.

About Can't Keep 'Em Apart 2013

It’s no secret, Taza Chocolate and Drink Craft Beer have long been friends. We’ve done a ton of events together in the past, they've come to our fests and we've done chocolate and beer classes where we’ve paired some of the best craft beer on the market with our favorite bean-to-bar, organic chocolates. And then last year we even brought you all to the factory! Well we're doing it all again for 2013!

Given the reaction to last year's factory takeover (550 attendees and $1800+ raised), we knew we had to do it again for Valentine’s Day. So, with that in mind, we’re taking over the Taza Chocolate Factory Store again on Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 from 2-6pm and offering you a chance to try four delicious chocolate and craft beer pairings, featuring Slumbrew, Narragansett, Backlash & Ipswich Ale! We'll also have Roxy's Grilled Cheese on hand, selling Chocolate-Covered-Bacon Grilled Cheese (as well as their normal menu) with $1 from each purchase of this featured sandwich going to Greater Boston Food Bank! All we ask in return is a $5 donation at the door, 100% of which will go to The Greater Boston Food Bank. Come join us at:

Taza Chocolate Factory Store
561 Windsor Street
Somerville, MA 02143

Every dollar that gets donated allows them to provide 2.5 meals to those in need, so your $5 donation will provide 12.5 meals! If you bring just one friend, that’s 25 meals for people who are going hungry!

For just $5, you'll get:

  • Four samples of craft beer paired with four Taza Mexicano Chocolates
  • Meet the crews from Slumbrew, Narragansett, Backlash & Ipswich Ale
  • Hang out with Devon and Jeff from Drink Craft Beer
  • A chance to provide 12.5 meals to those who are in need
  • Roxy's Grilled Cheese on hand, selling Chocolate-Covered-Bacon Grilled Cheese with $1 from each going to Greater Boston Food Bank

The pairings you'll get to try are:

Narragansett Bock with Taza Mexicano Cinnamon Chocolate

Narragansett Bock & Taza Mexicano Cinnamon Chocolate

Warning, this pairing has been known to induce epic high fives. Seriously though, this was our first pairing we did we’re stoked by how well these two come together. We tried this beer with the vanilla chocolate, thinking the sweetness of the malt would pair nicely with the the vanilla bean flavors, sadly that fell flat so we grabbed the cinnamon. The Bock has some nice roasted flavors that really get heightened by the cinnamon. While some of the flavors in Taza’s mexicano line can be subtle, the cinnamon is right there in your face. The sweetness of the beer in this case helps mellow things out in just the right way.

Backlash Beer Famine Tripel with Taza Guajillo Pepper Mexicano

Backlash Beer Famine Tripel & Taza Guajillo Pepper Chocolate

Ok, ok...we know, doesn’t it seem like we always include a pairing of the Taza Guajillo Pepper Mexicano chocolate and a yeasty, dry, minerally beer? Well there’s a reason! Because it’s sooooo damn good. This time Backlash’s new single hop single malt Belgian-style tripel ale, Famine, is the beer to pair with this chocolate. The yeast from the brew and the earthy spice from the chocolate just come together in a magnificent flavor combination that will make you gasp and ask for more. After you swallow the spice lingers just long enough to mix with the Belgian funk of the yeast and it’s great. Honestly, you’re going to want seconds.

Ipswich Ale Brewery Rye Porter with Taza Vanilla Mexicano

Ipswich Ale Brewery Rye Porter & Taza Vanilla Mexicano Chocolate

When we tried the vanilla with the bock, both the chocolate and beer got quite muted. As soon as we took a sip of this combo, though, both beer and chocolate jumped off our tongues and really lit up. The vanilla amplifies the chocolatey sweetness of the porter while the beer brings out some sweet, dark berry notes that are usually hidden in this chocolate. This is a good, smooth experience just like the moves you’re going to spring on on your valentine on Valentine’s Day. You don’t have to think too hard about this one, so just sit back and enjoy.

Slumbrew My Better Half Imperial Cream Ale

To find out what My Better Half's better half is when it comes to chocolate, you're going to have to come on out to the Taza Chocolate factory on February 2nd! This will be your first chance to try this year's batch of My Better Half as it's only being packaged days before. So come meet the Slumbrew crew and try some super-fresh imperial cream ale!

Cisco Brewers HBC 342 Hopsicle Ale [Beer Review]

Author // Jeff Wharton

In early November, Devon and I were invited to the Craft Brewers Guild Tradeshow in Boston. Craft Brewers Guild is one of the big beer distributors to bars and bottle shops in the Boston area and they carry a ton of craft brewers, Cisco Brewers included. It was a great experience to talk with brewery reps from companies all over the country and even the world. Because they were trying to show off for potential new on- and off-premise accounts, some companies had broken out the big guns, of which Cisco was one. We were talking with one of their crew when I noticed some 750 ml bottles sitting all alone behind the ice tub...I had to ask, right? Turns out that one of the bottles was HBC 342, a beer made only with the hop for which the brew was named and 75% buckwheat in the grain bill. I got a small sample that night, but stumbled upon a whole bottle while at Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont, MA.

With Cisco Brewers coming to Drink Craft Beer Springfest: A Celebration of Hops in April, I figured I had to look at this beer more closely! So here’s the story on the brew, and here's to hoping they bring it (or something like it) to Spingfest!

Cisco Brewers HBC 342 Hopsicle Ale

If you handed me this beer and didn’t let me smell or taste it, I’d tell you it was some type of wheat beer: hefeweizen, Belgian wit, etc...But I’d be wrong! Hazy to high Hell and back with a white, creamy, thick and voluminous head you’d be forgiven for mistaking this for just another hoppy American wheat ale. An opaque tan color, it’s almost murky from either yeast or, more likely, buckwheat.

This is a hoppy, hoppy, hoppy smelling beer! As I was pouring the head puffed up and aromas of peach and watermelon shot into my nostrils like moths to a light. As I take a second to really get a whiff, I’m noticing some orange creamsicle and cantaloupe in there as well. Listen, I’m not one to make up a bunch of flavors in beer but this one is crazy with a capital “C!”

On my honeymoon, my wife and I visited Mexico. At the hotel we got watermelon juice on the patio, overlooking the waves crashing onto a deathly rocky shore. Perhaps it was the heat and humidity, or maybe it was the romanticism of the whole trip, or maybe it was because I was finally relaxing after a crazy year of work and wedding planning, but it was the single most delicious drink I’ve ever had. I bring this up because, and stay with me here as it’s about to get weird...there’s some watermelon hitting my olfactory nerves with good ol’ HBC 342! It smells a lot like that watermelon juice, so this one is going to have to have some serious flavor issues for me to not like it now. It’s summertime in a bottle! Fruity, soft and refreshing. All capped off by the slightest tart note, maybe from the buckwheat? Or maybe from the incredible amount of hops.

Wow! If I thought the smell was outlandish I should’ve waited for the taste. Those melon flavors are standing at attention and holding on to my taste buds for dear life! The buckwheat lends a super dry, spicy component to the whole thing that adds another level of complexity onto hops already utilized artfully. It’s a round, soft and fuzzy beer that, at 4.7% abv, could be drank all day in hot weather. Throw this in a can and your friends would enjoy the crap out of it in the backyard playing baggo! I’d do a lot of unsavory things to get some of this served on cask.

So, long story short, if you see this one on the shelf, make sure to check it out. It’s limited but, more importantly, it’s delicious. So don’t delay. Another well done beer by the folks living the island life on Nantucket! Looking forward to seeing them and some other great hoppy beers of theirs at Drink Craft Beer Springfest: A Celebration of Hops in April!