I am not a huge fan of flavored beer, meaning beer that is brewed or refermented with additional, flavorful ingredients. But when a flavored beer’s flavoring ingredients present an interesting or unique profile, I am always eager to try it. This is one such beer.
Westbrook Brewing Company’s website is sparse on the company’s history, saying only the following:
Westbrook Brewing is a craft brewery in Mt. Pleasant, SC. Our mission is to make the most interesting, drinkable, and generally awesome beer possible. We love experimenting with different ingredients and brewing techniques, and we hope you’ll have as much fun drinking our beer as we do making it.
Westbrook Brewing Mexican Cake Ale (10.5% ABV) is a stout at heart. As a stout, it is a top-fermented, warm-fermented ale, brewed with dark-roasted, malted grains. This dark roasting caramelizes the sugars in the grains, giving most stouts a sweet flavor. In addition to being a stout, however, Westbrook says of Mexican Cake Ale:
Happy birthday to us! To celebrate our first year as a brewery we brewed a serious imperial stout and aged it on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and fresh habanero peppers. This was the first offering in our annual Anniversary series. It was so delicious we decided to bring it back each May!
So, this is a stout that is aged (not refermented) on those rather unusual ingredients. But if they sound too strange, keep in mind that the ancient Maya, Aztecs, and other early Americans used those very ingredients in a particular chocolate drink they enjoyed and used for ceremonial purposes. So this promises to be a very special beer. I will also note that this is not an easy beer to obtain. What is it like?
Everything On Tap Review: Westbrook Brewing Mexican Cake Ale:
Bottle: The bottle is of very dark-brown glass. The label is a standard rectangle in shape, and its color is a very dark grey, almost black. The lettering is light and dark tan, and the logo shows the illustration of a piece of cake. Overall, the label design is understated and thus elegant in a simple way.
Pour: The color is dark-brown and opaque. The head is tan-brown, and very dense — creamy and frothy. It dissipates moderately-quickly, leaving moderate, sudsy lacing.
Aroma: The aroma begins with dark-roasted, caramelized malted grains, as expected from a nice stout (which this is). Then, the scent of chili peppers and chocolate enter the bouquet, followed by a wisp of vanilla. The cinnamon, however, is almost absent on the nose.
Flavor: The flavor palate is excellent and interesting. It begins with roasted, malted grains and a faint touch of floral hops. Then, there is the distinct flavor of the chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and chili peppers. If you have never had a beer flavored with chili peppers, you might imagine that it tastes like Tabasco hot sauce or something similar, but it really does not. To me, the chilis in this ale manifest themselves with a smoky, tangy element. Yes, the heat is there as well, but it is not bitter and overwhelming, as one might imagine. The finish is pleasantly spicy, but not too much so.
Mouthfeel: The body is definitely full, which is good: a light body would not hold up well to the strong flavors. The carbonation level is light, as one would expect from a stout.
Structure: The ale is built on a broad, stable structure, meaning that it is at its base a well-brewed stout. Then, the aging, which is part of the flavoring process, adds more structure and stability. I suspect that it would stand up well to even more aging.
Food Pairing: Must I state the obvious? Pair this excellent ale with fresh, delicious, and spicy Mexican food.
Overall Rating Out Of 5 Possible Beer Mugs: