dsc01019Better late than never.

Over the Christmas holiday, I sampled several unique craft beers, including Dogfish Head Theobroma, Sam Adams Chocolate Bock and Alpine Boris Imperial Stout. All very different in their own ways, but all respectable in quality and flavor. I figured I’d pull the reviews together in one round-up to help with my backlog of posts I need to get out on stuff I’ve been enjoying recently.

First up is DFH Theobroma. For those that aren’t already aware of the backstory on this one (Discovery Channel recently chronicled DFH Theobroma on their “How It’s Made” show focusing on beer), here’s what the DFH website has to say: 

“This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions.  The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC.  As per the analysis, Dogfish Head’s Theobroma (translated into ‘food of the gods’) is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs (from our friends at Askinosie Chocolate), honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds).”

Beer Advocate classifies this as a chile beer, although there’s a hell of a lot more than just chile going on here. Knowing this is a cocoa-based beverage, I expected it to be chocolatey and creamy, but this wasn’t at all the case. Initial aroma was something like grape soda. Very strange. The longer you lingered on the aroma, you eventually picked up some of the cocoa qualities, but it’s pretty faint. Coloring was something like an IPA, again not at all what I expected. The taste was relatively sweet, and the chile did come through in the finish, giving the back of your throat a hot sensation. Then again, that could be from the 10% ABV. Very heavy mouthfeel with lots of prickly carbonation, reminiscent of a strong, hefty lager, even though this is an ale. Overall impression…a very innovative beer with an interesting story, but not something I’d enjoy drinking all the time.

Rating: B   

dsc010222Next up is this year’s iteration of Sam Adam’s Chocolate Bock. First off, very cool bottle. Helps set up the expectation that what you’ll be drinking is on the high end of the Sam Adams artisan spectrum. And while Theobroma is representative of an ancient culture’s use of cocoa, this one is much more what today’s palette would expect with a chocolate-infused fermented beverage.

Poured with a nice fluffy head, giving way to a toasty, caramel malt aroma. Somehow the hops found a way to break through the malty clutter, coming through just a bit in the nose as well. Very dark coloring, like a heavy stout. But looks are deceiving. The mouthfeel is actually light and smooth, with pleasant notes of chocolate malt, caramel and butterscotch throughout the taste.

At 5.6% ABV, Sam Adams Chocolate Bock 2008 turned out to be a nice, refreshing lager.

Rating: B+ 

dsc010241And finally, Alpine Boris. I picked this one up from South Bay Drugs in San Diego, hearing decent things about this Imperial Stout that’s been barrel-aged and infused with coffee.

Poured with a small head that quickly dissipated. Very dark and opaque. Definitely picked up the barrel-aged qualities in the nose. Hints of bourbon or whiskey, mixed with dark fruit maltiness. Maybe vanilla.

Unlike some other Imperial Stouts I’ve enjoyed (like Surly Darkness or Oskar Blues Ten Fidy), there was a distinct astringent quality to this one. Pretty bitter, but I think by design. Could be from the coffee, I suppose. That aside, some nice dark fruits and roasted malts permeate the taste, masking the 10% ABV. Overall, a pretty decent Imperial Stout, but certainly not world-class.

Rating: B+