Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dogsplosion! Theobroma and Sah'Tea

If you recall, in my last post we went through a little bit of the history behind ancient ales. I know Dogfish Head isn't the only company making these, but they are one of the best (if not the best) at marketing them. I've been lucky enough to try four of these, since they are somewhat hard to find and are only available at certain times of the year. Midas Touch and Chateau Jiahu will have to wait for another time, but without any further ado, here are the reviews of Theobroma and Sah'Tea:

The stories behind these beers would  be the most interesting thing about them if the flavors weren't so unique. These beers are so different from each other, that if they weren't both classified as Ancient Ales they would have no place in the same article. These are not your daddy's beers; they are his great great great grandfather's.


Theobroma could be roughly compared to a chocolate stout. I use the word "roughly" as in "a saber-tooth tiger could be roughly compared to your house cat Snookums." It would almost be more accurate to compare this to a Molé Sauce rather than any beverage, since its brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds).

Upon opening the bottle you are greeted with the sweet smells of caramel and raisins (typical of Dogfish Head.) The smell reminded me greatly of another of their brews, Burton Baton. I was surprised when I started pouring this beer that it was clear and golden. With all the talk about chocolate on the label, I had wrongly assumed that it would be dark brown.

Theobroma doesn't have much head or lacing; I had to pour it out pretty quickly to get enough foam for a picture. This doesn't mean that the beer is flat, in fact it's quite the opposite. This is a very fizzy beer, but the bubbles don't last.

The initial taste is sweet and light; it reminded me more of a Rosé I had in a fancy restaurant than any beer. This Rosé was described to me as a "Man's Rosé" since it was sweet but contained complex flavors like chocolate and spice. Maybe he was just pulling my leg, but the memory of "quality" stuck with me. This beer has "quality."

As I continued to imbibe, the taste became sweeter with a brief bitter finish. The chili peppers come through only slightly, but as you drink more it begins to smolder. I think the aftertaste is delicate bitter chocolate instead of hops. If you don't like hot stuff, be mindful that this beer burns a little and warms the throat. It's pretty mild, but I do have the tolerance of Pancho Villa.

Overall, I highly recommend this beer. My personal preference would be to have it on its own as a dessert beer (more like a port.) I'm not sure it would go well with food or after having anything sweet, so give it a shot  after your next dinner party.

Sah'Tea is a very interesting beer. My notes about it seem to ramble on because it was continually changing. This beer is so spicy, that I think the spices actually change the way you taste as you continue to drink it. Instead of using the usual review format, let's go through my notes in order:

When first opened, I was greeted with a sweet smell containing spices and apricots. Once poured, the beer is golden and cloudy. My first thoughts on tasting were "The flavor is amazing, like apple pie." I don't mean a fruit pie you get at the Kwik-E-Mart or some Mrs. Smiths (that cheater!). This apple pie taste is the apple pie lovingly prepared and served at a family gathering. Just warm, sweet, and mainly: spicy.

My next thought was "This is the best pumpkin ale I ever had, even though it's not a pumpkin ale and contains no pumpkin." I've since revised my opinion since I found a truly amazing pumpkin ale (which I'll review at a later date) but the sentiment was all tied up in the spices. You don't normally find beer with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and black pepper unless it's a pumpkin ale or was spilled over an apple pie.

The flavor initially hits with ginger and cloves (I also thought nutmeg, but was mistaken.) It's starts and ends sweet, including the aftertaste. This isn't like a beer, it's more like a mulled cider. I think at one point I called it "Christmas in a bottle."

As I became more intrigued, I went to my spice drawer. I got some juniper berries (an ingredient in the beer,) some cloves and some nutmeg. Although I was wrong about the nutmeg, the smell of that mixture was very similar to the beer. The juniper berries seem to be the predominate fruity flavor in the beer.

Overall this beer is fantastic. In the fall and winter, I'd love to keep a stock of this around. It's perfect for sitting around a fireplace and sipping (if I had a fireplace.) Instead of milk and cookies, leave some of this out for Santa. Just make sure he stays over, it's pretty strong stuff.

This concludes our "Dogsplosion!" Trifecto. No dogs were harmed during the writing of these blogs, despite my best efforts (kidding!) Next week will be a guilt ridden review of a He'Brew ale.

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