Friday’s beer run was, once again, to the Four Seasons Beer Store to stock up for the holiday weekend and also choose a beer for review. Glancing through the cooler, I nailed a sixer of Two Brother’s Resistance IPA, some Robert the Bruce and some Dead Guy ale. I though that would be enough knowing that I had six remaining samples of Latitude 48 Sampler and a few homebrews in the beer fridge.
But my curiosity drew me over to the craft shelf stocked with room temperature beer. Right in the front was the Dog section. Flying Dog and Dogfish Head were next door neighbors here with DFH having more selections, especially in bombers.
I eyed DFH’s Squall IPA and wondered how it would compare with Bell’s Hopslam and Firestone Walker’s Double Jack. But… what’s this? Some new members of the DFH family of craft beers were here in giant bottles. one was Sah’tea and the other was Theobroma. I checked the prices of both. Outrageously expensive.
A pause and more thinking. It’s summer, it’s the 4th of July weekend. Shouldn’t I do a review of some summer slammer so the readers could possibly get some advice? Maybe make a hit at a patio BBQ? Wouldn’t a nice wheat beer go down nicely in this hot weather? I checked the Theobroma label:
Ale brewed with natural flavors (honey, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, ancho chilies & ground annatto.)
Hmm. A chocolate beer? With chilies? Then I read on the side panel:
Theobroma, or “Food of the Gods,” is a re-creation of the premier chocolate beverage of the Americas, intended only for the gods, kings and the elite. This liquid time capsule is based on the earliest chemical and archeological evidence of cacao in the New World, dating to before 1100 B.C., and enhanced by natural additives of the later Mayan and Aztec drinks.
Sah’tea, on the other hand, was a recipe from 9th century Finland, also interesting as hell. I decided to stick with the Mayans and Aztecs and and I pitied myself for being the fool who was buying two bottles of beer for $26. Then I thought about the big jar of saved loose change in my bedroom and all the aluminum cans in bags waiting for a trip to the recycler.
Before work, I did some research on this beer. What could it possibly taste like? Sam Calagione answered that question for me:
DFH’s penchant for ancient beer recipes is infinitely exciting. What new ingredient could they possibly brew into a beer? And that thought reminded me of a comic we ran not too long ago.
Interesting. A chocolate beer that doesn’t taste like chocolate with heat coming from the chilies. The DFH website had more info on this beer for me to chew on.
At work later that evening, I asked my partner, Miguel, if he ever had ancho chilies. “Oh, yeah. They’re not so hot. Not like jalapeños.” He held up two fingers apart denoting about two inches. Sam must have known about this when he added it to this beer recipe.
Saturday rolled around with temps in the low 90s. I started out in the fan-conditioned Manly Garage about noon, but gave up and went inside to the coolth of the AC about an hour later. By the after dinner hour, the temp showed as 85° and I recamped out in the lab/out-building/office/fortress of solitude. I had grabbed stemmed beer glass from the cabinet and contemplated what sort of taste experience I would have drinking with the ancient Aztecs and Mayans.
The beer filled the inside of the glass with a peach or nectarine colored liquid, kinda pink, kinda orange-red. The head came up about a half-inch and quickly dissipated away. The liquid itself was translucent, almost foggy and it was difficult to make out any carbo-bubbles. The aroma had a nice fruity scent to it.
The first sip went in with a lot of body. The sweetness then erupted in the middle, and finally, the odd bitter sensation at the swallow. This was another mystery beer, one that will have me thinking about which tastes went with which ingredients. The beer starts out like a nice Belgian ale and then bares its teeth as the liquid is transferred for the swallow. A unique tartness and bitterness seemed to paint angry graffiti on the back of my throat. This was somethin’ else.
The sweetness at the front was fleeting. It was there for the intake and then handed the taste ball off to the rugby players. There was an earthiness to the taste at this stage. Not really tasting like dirt, but similar to tasting like something freshly dug from the ground. Then there was the slap at the end.
With a mere 8 IBUs, this beer obviously got all its moxie from the chilies, just like Sam said. Tartness around the sides of the tongue and then the razor-like swallow not at all like what hops do. The beer, however, had manifested no chili flavors, just a little remaining heat after the swallow. The annatto is an ingredient that I have never heard of and as such, didn’t even try to pick the flavor out.
I most assuredly would not call this beer a ‘chili beer’ as Beer Advocate does. This was more along the lines of Factory Experimental beer. Definitely an ale, but not according to any style that my taste buds have run across. There was no obvious alcohol aroma and the sips went down rather easily. The only heat being delivered was the chili-esque stab at the back of the throat.
This beer is also one of those sandbagging beers. The 9% ABV is nothing to be taken lightly. While a drinker may be sipping away, trying to figure out all the ingredients and relishing in all new taste sensations, the alcohol could come up from behind and clobber the medulla oblongata into a coma.
If you spot this beer at your LBS, grab a bomber of it, read the label and ask yourself if you’d like to go on a journey of tastes, the likes of which may be harsh at times, but ultimately be an experience you will remember for a long time. If you’re interested in trying this beer, one bomber should suffice. The $13 price tag may put you off on getting two. One pint, 9.4 ounces of this beer would do just fine. You’d get two full glasses’ worth just enough to open your eyes to these new tastes and then call it quits when the tongue gets tired. You may be amazed when the beer’s all gone.
I imagined myself sitting around a ceremonial fire with some ancient Americans. One of the first questions I’d ask would be: “What about that calendar you guys carved?”
Taste: B > A witch’s brew of ancient ingredients.
Smoothness: B- > Runs the gamut from smooth to sharp.
Drinkability: B- > Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
Bang for the buck: B- for one bomber; C- for two.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sip) I catch a little hint of the cocoa. (sip) Yeah, I do taste the cocoa. But it also has that bitterness to it a little bit. (sip) And it’s a bitter chocolate. (sip) It’s ok but I probably wouldn’t drink much of it. It’s different. (Our resident chocolate expert has spoken.)
Video review: It takes four guys to truly analyze Theobroma.
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