Chocolate and beer have a long history together.
I confess that when I wrote that statement, I was thinking of the long history of chocolate stouts. Traditionally, the ‘chocolateyness’ of such stouts has come from the roasted malts used to make them rather than actual chocolate, although some modern versions actually add chocolate products to the brew as well.
However, it turns out that chocolate and beer go back much, much farther.
Several millenia farther, in fact.
National Geographic proposes that chocolate may actually have been discovered by accident, 3000 years ago, while making beer from cacao pulp. The beans were leftovers from the beer making process, until some smart soul figured out how to turn them into chocolate.
To be honest, this is the sort of archaeology that leaves me feeling a little cynical – tiny traces of cacao are found on a bit of 3000 year old pottery and a whole industrial process is derived.
Still, it’s a nice story.
Hotel Chocolat certainly know their chocolate, and this is their Cocoa Beer. It’s a fairly traditional 4.7% ABV stout, brewed with the addition of cocoa shells; left over from the chocolate making process – and therefore comes full circle from the discovery of chocolate 3000 years ago.
It’s a deep, dark reddish brown colour with a open textured, pale tan head that quickly dissipates.
The nose is fairly rich, with blackberry fruit, muscovado sugar and a sweet roasted coffee. Noteable by its absence is any hint of chocolate. This is slightly surprising – it is, after all, easy enough to get chocolate notes into a beer without even using any chocolate, through careful malt selection.
In the mouth, it’s sweet and a little fizzy; the sweetness is mostly sugar, but there is the barest hint of milk chocolate underneath – although it’s hard to know how much of that is thanks to the power of suggestion. The finish is quite tart; the flavour itself isn’t overly acidic, but it leaves your teeth feeling like you’ve been eating rhubarb.
Overall, it’s a fairly average beer with a distinct lack of chocolate. While disappointing, I’m not entirely shocked because after all, cocoa shells aren’t very chocolatey – which is why they’re a waste product in the first place. 2 stars.
Many thanks to Hotel Chocolat for this sample.