Double Your Chocolate, Double Your Fun

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On the docket:  Rogue’s Double Chocolate Stout

Poured into:  Dogfish Head goblet

S:  Opaque umber liquid fills up the glass, topped by a thick, mocha head.  Minimal lacing and staying power.  This is certainly not a fresh bottle, though the age is undetermined.  Particulate settles on the bottom bowl of the glass.

A:  Intense baking-chocolate aroma, malt sweetness, and a slight bright note from the Cascade hops.  Rich and inviting.

T:  As it warms, the chocolate is more apparent.  Supporting flavors also include a licorice note, in addition to a slightly mineral chalkiness.  Guinness-like.  Is that the chocolate malt and roasted barley?  There’s raisin here too, I thank the Caramel 120 malt.  The sweetness and chocolate exit eventually, leaving a dry-ish, slightly bitter finish.  Alcohol very well integrated, hardly noticeable.

F:  For a 9% stout, this is easy to drink and lighter than expected- most likely due to the rolled oats.  I do appreciate Rogue providing the grain and hop bill on the back of the bottle, as it helps parse out where the flavors originate.

O:  Big, bold, chocolatey sipper.  Ages well.  Considering the amount of snow on the ground as I type this review (~19 inches, the last great snow storm of 2017- in March no less!), I feel the libation a perfect way to combat the elements.

Suggested food pairing:  port-wine cheese, crème brûlée, Porterhouse steak dry rubbed in chocolate and coffee grounds, on its own as a “cocktail” beer

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Beer: The Most Romantic Drink of All

That high-stress relationship holiday is around the corner, and I’m sure florists, Hallmark, restaurants, and M&M Mars are poised to make a killing.  Yes, I’m referring to Valentine’s Day.  Inspired by Ms. Puckette’s article over here on her site, I feel wine is pretty well covered.  My focus will be on my first love, beer, and its ability to pair well with chocolate.

Right out of the gate, beer already has an edge over (most) wine when pairing with food- its carbonation.  Capable of cutting through rich, thick flavors and dense fat, those bubbles in beer act as a palette-cleanser.

Couple this cleansing ability with similar flavors found in chocolate, and beer is effective, versatile, and quite the complimentary beverage to chocolate.  Dark, roasty stouts and porters may contain black patent and/or chocolate specialty malts, providing flavor.  Some brewers even add chocolate itself into the recipe, as is the case with Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout made with organic cocoa.  Another option for pairing is a milk stout, such as Left Hand’s Nitro.  It’s brewed with lactose (milk sugar) which does not ferment out, leaving the beer a touch sweet.  Try milk stouts with chocolate high in cacao, to counter and soften the bitterness.

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For those fans of spirits, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout or porter will provide a layer of depth and complexity to your chocolate pairing.  Bourbon barrels impart a dose of vanilla and caramel, plus a dryness due to the oak compounds.  Pair these brews with quality milk chocolate and experience something akin to a Milky Way Bar.

Something commonly paired with chocolate is fruit.  Combined with either white or traditional chocolate, fruit beers make excellent “chocolate-covered strawberry/cherry/raspberry” experiences.  A beer such as Founders Rübæus, or its big brother, Blushing Monk, are made with raspberry puree.  Raspberries also provide a hint of tartness, adding a balance to the rich, creaminess of chocolate.  Or, you could skip the fruit AND the chocolate, and blend a chocolate and fruit beer together, a la Samuel Smith’s strawberry and chocolate.

For the truly adventurous, perhaps something esoteric is in order.  The few of us who enjoy those whack-and-unwrap chocolate oranges, try Sierra Nevada’s Side Car (or any pale ale with hops that impart an orange flavor to the beer) with some creamy milk chocolate.

I know me and my wife will find some sort of awesome combination to celebrate this year’s romantic holiday.

It’s Been 20 Years? Stone’s Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

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On the docket:  22 oz. Stone Brewing Co.’s 20th Anniversary Encore Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.  Bottled:  1/10/16.

Poured into:  Stone Brewing Co. branded pint glass

S:  An ebony body fills out the glass.  On top sits an espresso-foam tan head, thick and sustaining.  Lacing is thick and regular.  Bubbles may be present, but the body is so dark, I cannot see them.

A:  Great aroma of dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malt and cut oats.  The hops are lost under the amazing, midnight black medley.  As the beer warms, the alcohol is a bit more pronounced.

T:  The nose carries over into the taste.  Added to the fold is an initial sweetness.  It quickly fades, and the dark, bittersweet baker’s chocolate comes through.  Roasted coffee and a liberal dose of bitter hops carry on through to the finish.  Hops provide a piney punch on the end.  Alcohol is present as a pleasant tingle as the beer approaches room temperature.

F:  Fluffy, smooth, creamy.  For such a high abv beer, this one is easy to drink, mostly due to the oats, lightening the body.  It is titled Bitter Chocolate, and they’re not fooling around at Stone.  Between the hop bill and the treatment of the malt, there is a significant drying effect on the end of this beer.  Long finish, with a bracing bitterness.

O:  Luxurious, sweet but mostly savory.  For those looking for a “grows on you” type of beer, this is for you.  Dark chocolate fans should grab this one.

S:  4  A:  4.25  T:  4.5  F:  4  O:  4.25

Suggested food pairing:  Tiramisu, sweet cheesecake, nutty/creamy English cheese, barbecue with sweet sauce