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As I type this draft up, Dea Latis are hosting a Beer & Chocolate guided tasting at The Brewery Tap, Leeds. Without making a sweeping generalisation about the fairer sex (of course not!), it’s looking incredibly successful. A lot of people like Beer. But everyone likes chocolate.
Thus, the two are best of buddies. There are some truly world-class Chocolate beers out there – Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (and people say that’s not as good as it used to be) being the first two that spring to mind – but, as with the dark beer/coffee tryst, there’s a lot of poor ones out there too. As a flavour, it’s a case of approximation. The delightfully Wonka-esque-named Chocolate Malt doesn’t really impart a chocolate flavour to me; more of a burnt/roasted note. So what do you do? Add Cocoa? Steep the beer on Cacao Nibs? Syrups and Essences? All of the above, it would seem, judging from a quick scan of the ‘net.
I must admit, I do like an occasional chocolate beer hit – but I generally get it from chocolatey stouts and porters, rather something with the specific word chocolate on the label. I also like Chocolate with beer: stouts, brown ales, porters and krieks*are delicious at times with a little nibble of chocolate on the side (Ooh, get me, I bet you’re thinking. Don’t worry, this is a*practice*I only carry out at home, proudly wearing my ‘beer git’ badge).
One that I enjoy often is Saltaire’s Triple Chocoholic, which lasts about three seconds wherever it appears on cask. *A bittersweet stout swirled with Chocolate Syrup and giving you an instant hit of Maltesers and Toblerone, it’s the kind of beer that you feel you*shouldn’t*enjoy but do; which is ironic,*given*that that’s how most of us feel about chocolate. And maybe that’s the key to the style’s popularity; it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure.
I picked up an armful of Yorkshire’s current chocolate-themed beers for an Easter blowout. First up, Rudgate’s York Chocolate Stout (5% abv). Of course; York. The home of Rowntree’s and Terry’s; the home of Northern chocolate treats like KitKats and Chocolate Creams. Now, the chocolate-making is done by small companies like York Cocoa House – who teamed up with the ever-reliable Rudgate Brewery to produce this stout.
It’s pretty well-realised, actually. Dark but with the merest hint of Ruby within, the nose is all caramel and milk chocolate – Mars Bars, perhaps, being your reference point. There’s some mocha in the body, which is light, *and it finishes with some toasted bread notes that gets increasingly bitter as the finish goes on. The chocolate flavour in here is pleasant and well-balanced; and I actually think it could do with a little more ooomph (official term) in the body, to enhance that even more. Still, a really enjoyable beer and it passes the chocolate beer test – it’s drinkable.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Sam Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout (5%abv). Expectations were high; wonderful, classic Smith’s label, and an amazing aroma to boot – the best of the bunch. As I poured, the room filled with deeply nutty notes; all Walnut praline and Coffee-cake frosting. But it tasted way too sweet for me – tooth-jarringly so. I couldn’t drink much of it.
Next up, Brass Castle’s Bad Kitty (5.5%abv) – a beer I’m more than familiar with, having judged it not long after its inception at York Beer Festival in 2011. We crowned it winner that year, and rightly so; my memory of it was that it was head and shoulders above the rest on the day. Not a chocolate beer per se but a Vanilla Porter, I’ve included it as it’s in the same family, if you will.
Bottled, it surprised me with its drinkability. Bad Kitty is a pitch-black moggy with a deep, rich vanilla sponge aroma that’s backed up by lashings of roasted, toasted malt notes. The almost over-sweetness that the nose sets you up for never really appears. Instead you get a smooth, suppable porter that begins with vanilla cream and finishes fruity and moreish; laden with Blackcurrant and digestive biscuit. If you like Vanilla Porters – or that particular flavour in Beer, seek this out.
Giving the usual Easter Eggs this year? Seek out a chocolate beer instead – at least it’s different!