February/March 2009

Chocolate Beers & Coffee Beers

Coffee, chocolate and beer: My absolute favorite things in the world. I'm rather a snob about
all three. The elusive search for the best of each consumes my daily routine. Put them together,
and voila! Pure ecstasy in a glass - the perfect combination.

The Beer Beacon tasting was held at the Buffalo Brewpub in Williamsville, a warm, inviting atmosphere on a snowy winter evening. Along with their House Brews - Oatmeal Stout, Blizzard Bock, Buffalo Lager and a Pale Ale - they have a few dozen guest taps with Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and Great Lakes Christmas Ale on during our visit. The extensive menu offerings will satisfy most appetites with generous portions of ribs, burgers, salads, chicken, pasta, pizza and fish.

My sincerest and heartfelt gratitude goes out to the breweries that sent samples to the Beer Beacon for this Chocolate and Coffee beer tasting. When I wake up from Beervana, I'll be looking for coffee first, then chocolate, then beer, or even better all three together. Does life get any better than this?

Next: Brown Ales and Smoked Beers.

The Place:
Buffalo Brewpub , Williamsville, NY

The Tasters:
We had a large group of tasters with the fantastic five: Vinny, Hop Jack, The Magistrate, Evil
and Gerg all properly primed for the event. Also joining us were craft beer enthusiasts
Steve and Kelly, along with a first timer, JuJu.

The Method:
The beers are all served at the appropriate temperature in clean glassware.
The tasters are told the style, but not the name of the beer, the brewery nor the location.

The Beers:

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout
1280 North McDowell Boulevard, Petaluma, CA 94954

The Magistrate noted the initial vanilla crème, coffee nose and big malt taste up front, slightly thin body, with a roasted coffee ground, dry finish. Vinny smelled a sweet espresso molasses aroma and thought the taste was dark Italian espresso with a shot of kahlua. Kelly thought it was a caramel stout, sweet with a dry finish. Gerg thought the strong coffee flavor would make a great afternoon pick up. Hop Jack also liked the chocolate coffee aroma, while Evil (fresh from the holidays) said it was bitter, like family. As this cappuccino stout warmed up, it tasted even better. The Beer Diva will set this out to enjoy and savor after shoveling herself out after the next Lake Effect snowstorm.

Founders Breakfast Stout, Double Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Stout
235 Grandville Avenue SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Kelly thought this one was very well balanced between coffee, sweet and stout and reminded her of a Starbucks espresso in a can. Gerg agreed: “Starbucks brews beer? Excellent coffee flavor, I'll have 3 pints for breakfast.” Steve found it warming and liked how the coffee taste lingers at the edges of the mouth as the stout flavor fades. We all agreed with Hop Jack who loved the big rich, traditional roasted and malt flavor with a fresh ground Sumatra coffee taste and a smooth, dry finish. Evil doesn't drink coffee and he was getting wired on the brew. Vinny noted the licorice coffee nose with a blast of java in a rich body, with lots of hops bitterness. The Beer Diva was awoken with pleasure by this delightfully caffeinated, hearty chocolate stout.

Lagunitas Frank Zappa Ruben & the Jets Imperial Stout
1280 North McDowell Boulevard, Petaluma, CA 94954

Steve noticed a pancake syrup aroma and a chocolate, roasted grain and biscuity taste that reminded him more of a dark ale than a stout. JuJu tasted milk chocolate. Gerg wasn't sure about the unusual aroma, but thought the taste of sweet, dried fruity, odd chocolate with peppers was creatively interesting, rather beer artsy. Hop Jack classified it as a Foreign Stout, whereas The Magistrate found the hazy, mystery brew both chocolaty and estery, malty sweet with a spicy, astringent finish. Vinny tasted huge maple and a subtle chocolate spice character. Evil thought it was a light cocoa dusted, cloudy elixir of gnomes and expects to find in on tap in Middle Earth.

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence
656 County Highway 33, Cooperstown, NY 13326

Hop Jack noted the definite chocolate nose with an initial bitterness that fades to a soft chocolate smooth finish. The color is dark and rich and the Beer Diva called it “Silk Chocolate Velvet Beer” - soft, sensuous and luxurious - a fabulous 10Th Anniversary beer. Remarkably complex, Evil tasted a slight sourness that reminded him of a kriek. The Magistrate picked up on the strong yeasty esters typical of a Belgian beer. JuJu found the initial taste of bittersweet chocolate, and then it finished with an even stronger, smooth, chocolate flavor. Kelly thought this beer went well with chocolate and nuts and that it would also be a great pairing with fruit desserts or perhaps a beer float.

Southern Tier Choklat Imperial Stout
2051A Stoneman Circle, Lakewood, NY 14750

Now that's a chocolate nose!” exclaimed The Magistrate. Kelly's first impression was “Tootsie Roll!” She added, “The ladies will love it.” Steve thought the alcohol strength, the bitterness and burned roast flavors were well balanced and the chocolate added a unique complexity. Hop Jack noted the sweet, sweet chocolate with a backbone of bitterness that is sneaky smooth, but big and potently dangerous. Vinny found the chewy chocolate-sugar malt body extreme, almost overwhelming, but delightful in limited enjoyment. Evil called it a “quadruple chocolate” with more chocolate flavor than Sam Adams Chocolate Bock, “like drinking Hershey's Syrup straight up.” Gerg thought the big, robust chocolate flavor would be excellent with ice cream.

--- by The Beer Diva, Beer Beacon columnist

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