When paired well, the flavors of beer and chocolate are a special treat. New Glarus Brewing has just introduced a beer marrying the fruity and spicy qualities of the Belgian dubbel with European dark chocolate. It's called Chocolate Abbey, and it's a new entry in the brewery's Thumb Print series of special releases.
What is it? Chocolate Abbey from New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus, Wisconsin.
Style: The core beer of New Glarus Chocolate Abbey is a Belgian dubbel. The style is a medium-bodied red to dark brown ale, known for light malty and nutty aromas, and even some chocolate hints of its own. Belgian dubbels have low bitterness and a distinctive yeasty quality with fruity tones of banana, raisin and plum. They are moderately strong, ranging from 6.25% to 7.5% ABV. Oftentimes they are bottle conditioned, so a slight haziness can be common. The style originated at monasteries during the Middle Ages.
Background: "We are just foodies in general, and we always enjoy tasting new things when we go places," says Deb Carey, founder and president of New Glarus Brewing. Deb and her husband, brewmaster Dan, drew inspiration for their Chocolate Abbey from a trip to Germany and the Czech Republic.
New Glarus Chocolate Abbey is made with European dark chocolate, English Maris Otter malts and four different types of hops. It's best served a little warmer than refrigerator temperatures to bring out the caramel and biscuit tones of the malt and the sweetness of the chocolate. The beer finishes at around 6% ABV. It's a brew that will age nicely, allowing its flavors to mellow. Just store a few bottles out of the light and in a cool place for a couple of months. New Glarus Chocolate Abbey sells in four-packs for $10.
It's been a good year for New Glarus. A multiple winner at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival in Denver this past weekend, the brewery received a Gold Medal in the American-Style Black Ale category with its Black Top IBA. Among the fruit beers, New Glarus Raspberry Tart also won a Gold Medal -- when it comes to beer and chocolate pairing, this is a wonderful choice with chocolate cake!
- Aroma: A very inviting chocolate aroma with a light yeasty background.
- Appearance: Dark bronze with ruby tints. A bubbly and rocky, tan head.
- Texture: Medium bodied and bubbly.
- Taste: A smooth caramel beginning with yeasty-spicy qualities and a hint of fruity, black cherry, with a solidly roasted semi-sweet chocolate body.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Malty and a lingering roasted chocolate flavor that is not overly bitter or burnt.
Glassware: This is a beer best served in a glass that encourages sipping, such as a chalice or tulip glass.
Pairs well with: Chocolate Abbey is a dessert beer, best served on its own. However, for an interesting combination, try this beer with fenugreek Gouda cheese as a pre-meal appetizer. The chocolate in the beer mingles nicely with the sweet, nutty maple flavor of the fenugreek seeds in the soft cheese.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: If you like beer, and you like chocolate, pairing a specific brew with a chunk of chocolate is one approach. However, creating a beer with chocolate added during the brewing process is a much greater challenge. Too much chocolate and you'll just end up with a bittersweet syrup that even the most adventuresome beer enthusiast will find neither interesting nor tasty. Dan Carey avoids that with his choice of European dark chocolate, which offers mildly sweet chocolatey tones to compliment the yeasty and light fruity-cherry and plum tones of the Belgian dubbel.
New Glarus Chocolate Abbey is a beer with an assertive chocolate aroma and finish. It's best enjoyed by slowly sipping -- you don't slam this beer. I must admit, it took a couple of bottles over a couple of evenings to fully appreciate its range of sweet, fruity and spicy flavors. However, the rich combination of chocolate and cherry fruitiness make it a wonderful dessert beer, especially for the upcoming holidays. I suggest stashing away a four-pack now and keeping it out of the light and in a cool place until Thanksgiving and beyond, to make for a big finish to those holiday meals.