Our Annual Tropical Stout Release
Caribbean Chocolate Cake
You're here to learn more about our annual Caribbean Chocolate Cake series. In amongst the story, you'll find out all about this year's beers, including comments from Educator, Cicerone and Beer Writer, Natalya Watson and some of our chosen 'Home Review' Panel.
Use to the links below to jump to various elements of the story, or to buy below.
And the beers :
The Caribbean Chocolate Cake story began all the way back in 2013. With a collaboration in mind, emails started flying between Finchampstead and Florida, the home of Cigar City Brewing. We were blown away with their experimentation into the relationship between wood and beer, and not just barrel ageing.
They were producing some unique and outstanding results and we wanted in. Cigar City founder, Wayne Wambles, agreed to work on a recipe with us, and kindly shared some of the knowledge and experience that they had picked up over the years. The result was our most indulgent beer yet. CCC broke all the rules, racking up an ingredients bill that made Siren founder Darron’s eyes water. A trio of imported cacao nibs, Cypress wood spirals and brand new experimental hops landed at our fledgling brewery.
This was a new level of ambitious brewing.
The beer that started it all. Caribbean Chocolate Cake is a dense, rich and luxurious stout – even more so this year with the smooth, thick drinking nitro edition. Hand-roasted cacao nibs give hints of tamarind and soft lemon, along with a beautiful chocolate baseline. The malts provide coffee and roast notes in abundance, while the hop profile adds orange and coconut flavours. Spinning on Cypress wood is the icing on the cake - offering lightly toasted vanilla wafers and delicate tannins, balancing the inherent sweetness of the beer. Pure canned indulgence.
Natalya Watson - "Take a sip and the beer doesn’t disappoint – it really is like biting into a piece of cake. The nitro serve gives this beer a full, chewy body that’s so full of flavour."
Let's start with the most important thing, chocolate! After early brews it made sense for us to work with an expert in their field to source our cacao nibs. Someone who could not only supply ingredients, but also work with us to improve the overall impact on the beer. Enter Willie’s Cacao.
Willie's passion for chocolate was born of a love of adventure. That spirit took him to Venezuela, led him to buy Hacienda El Tesoro high in the cloud forest, and remains with him as his quest to make great chocolate takes him on the cacao trail around the Equator in search of the finest beans. Willie's chocolate is all about flavour.
It was Willie that recommended the use of husks, as well as nibs, which helped to elevate the Caribbean Chocolate Cake flavour profile to a new level. It's this passion and love for Cacao that made Willie's the perfect Cacao partner for Caribbean Chocolate Cake.
Our white stout pours with the golden shine of maple syrup, perfect for the drizzled pancake inspiration. Having learned lots from two previous creations, this is a supergroup of a beer. Taking out some of the darker malts gives more room for the expression of incredible bourbon maple chips. These are oak chips from barrels previously used to age whiskey, then a second use of maple syrup. Yes, it's a real thing and no, we can't believe our luck either. Espresso, sourced with the help of our local heroes Anonymous, gives us a touch of bitterness to balance out all the inherent sweetness in the beer, at the same time adding back in some of the roastiness that the more heavily roasted malts would normally provide. It's the perfect counterpoint to keep this white stout drinkable and moreish.
Home Reviewer Corininbath - "By the end of the glass (which I drank far quicker than any of the others, it was almost gulpable) I just had a lovely smooth taste lingering in my mouth. Nothing heavy about this drink - I could quite easily have had a couple more!"
One of the main inspirations behind Caribbean Chocolate Cake has been our obsession with the combination of wood and beer since our very first brew. While our anniversary beer, Maiden, kick started our barrel ageing project, Cigar City Brewing got us thinking about what could be achieved by adding wood-to-beer rather than beer-to-wood. Here’s a little bit more information about the secret ingredients that hold this series of beers together.
Caribbean Chocolate Cake beers tend to use a combination of different wood spirals, including Cypress wood, Maple, and the distinctive spicy notes of Amburana.
This brand new version of CCC takes inspiration from the wholesome, heartwarming Mexican Mole. Chilli and chocolate is a classic combination, and we’ve opted for using Ancho, Pasilla and Guajilla varieties for a spectrum of beautiful flavour. Further layers of mole come in the form of spicy, cinnamon notes of Amburana, delicate nutmeg and luxurious vanilla. We’re also using an experimental HBC472 hop, known for its barrel aged and vanilla character - so although we don't have a barrel aged beer in this year's selection, this creation definitely shares some of the sensibilities.
Home Reviewer Beeresistible- "Many Mole beers I’ve had want you to know they are Mole-inspired and immediately accost you with spice. That is not the case with CC Mole Cake. Siren have shown great restraint, judgment and no doubt brewing wizardry for the spice to elegantly creep into the beer over time."
With all of these incredible extra ingredients to play with, we turn our attention to making the most out of them. We’ve found the best method for this is with a Spinbot. It’s essentially a hop-saturating, adjunct spinning and flavour maxing piece of engineering, and now plays a key part in bringing Caribbean Chocolate Cake to life.
With the Spinbot, we’re able to saturate large amounts of ingredients, such as berries, coffee, flowers, herbs, and of course, wood spirals and cacao… the possibilities are endless using this equipment. For more on the spinbot, check out our blog here.
Death by Chocolate Cake. What would happen if we took one of the nation’s best loved, super-indulgent desserts for inspiration, and applied it to our most indulgent beer? Even more cacao nibs, even more cacao husks and even more wood. It’s doubled down and ramped up to imperial strength. Once again, Amburana wood is arguably the star of the show here. These spicy, fragrant spirals impart all kind of flavours, not dissimilar to the complexity of tonka beans, and it's remarkable how everyone seems to pick up something different from them. It's a truly unique beer that we're very proud of.
Natalya Watson - "...think sweet crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, and cinnamon – and as each sip ends, you’ll feel that gentle alcohol warmth that makes a beer like this one the perfect choice for a cold winter’s night. Dangerously drinkable."
And so to the most important part. Over the years we've experimented with a variety of different flavour profiles and ingredients. In 2020 we added a Nitro element to the main beer, making an already luxurious beer even smoother and more creamy. And 'Death By', the imperial strength version, has all but become a permanent fixture in the lineup.
Over the year's we've had white stouts, pancake stacks, ginger cake, orange cake and even a small batch Christmas cake special! Those with a keen eye will have noticed that the usual habit of 3 variants with barrel aged version making up the 4 was broken in 2021. From here on, we decided to push the boundaries with 4 variants, giving us more freedom to experiment and have fun with the ingredients.
As of early 2022, Barrel Aged CCC will become an annual release in its own right, making the shift into our gorgeous 375 ml bottles.
For now, head to the links below to buy this year's beers, or download the PDF booklet, which goes into more depth.