Caribbean Chocolate Cake 2020
Happy Caribbean Chocolate Cake day! Our annual Tropical Stout release is here and we couldn't be happier with this year's brews. With nitro, pancake stacks and wood for days, we think these 4 beers work in unison as a collection, but also each bring a unique twist.
They're now all live on the webshop - act fast as they will sell out!
INTRODUCING THIS YEAR'S BEERS
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. The body of this beer is full and decadent, encapsulating the ‘Cake’ element in the name more than ever before! 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.
Our most extravagant beer meets the most extravagant breakfast in this year’s Caribbean Chocolate Cake twist. We’ve adjusted the base here a little to allow the pancake element to come through. We’re layering maple notes from syrup to wood, maximising depth of flavour. A small amount of smoked malt, working in tandem with bourbon maple staves and the sweet, sticky undertone adds a delicate aroma akin to the impact you’d get from perfectly prepared streaky bacon. A generous helping of cacao and a dusting of spices, in part from the expressive Amburana wood, completes this liquid guilty pleasure.
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, even more lactose, even more wood. It’s doubled down and ramped up to imperial strength. We’ve increased the ABV slightly this year and welcome back Amburana wood. These spicy, fragrant spirals impart all kinds of flavours, not dissimilar to the complexity of tonka beans, making the beer a truly unique experience.
It just wouldn’t be a complete collection without utilising the skills of barrel manager Steve, and of course, some of the finest oak barrels in our cellar. The art of ageing in wood vs spinning on wood comes with subtle differences that we love to explore, not least in this project. As soon as last year’s CCC barrels were emptied ready for release, we immediately re-filled with fresh beer to begin the journey of the 2020 vintage. The Buffalo Trace bourbon and rye barrels impart all kinds of spice, caramel and spirit notes, along with a delicate vanilla note and some tannins from the oak. We then spin the beer after it’s been aged, this brings us a fresh vibrancy of flavour and aroma to the beautifully matured beer. This particular can is a labour of love that requires constant tasting throughout and a deft touch to blend.
THE PROCESS BEHIND THE BEER
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.
The original star of the show is Cypress wood. We love Cypress for its subtle vanilla wafer sweetness and the delicate tannins that it can impart on beer, particularly valuable when you’re offsetting big, rich flavours. An exciting recent example of utilising Cypress spirals was when we had the opportunity to collaborate with Tate on Thousand Things IPA to celebrate their Van Gogh exhibition. The Starry Night foreground features a dominating flame-like cypress tree, which among other things, serves as a visual link between land and sky. As the tree links themes of the painting, Cypress wood in Thousand Things augmented the fruit-led aromas and tempered the lactose sweetness. It also helped to bring an eminent drinkability in a beer that perhaps you wouldn’t have expected to be quite so drinkable.
A new addition to the series in 2019 was Brazilian Amburana wood. Amburana is also known as Brazilian oak, named after the country where the majority of Amburana trees are grown. It is a wood commonly associated with the aging of a Brazilian spirit, Cachaça, a sugarcane spirit similar to rum. It is said that Amburana tends to reduce perceived acidity in a drink, but we were absolutely blown away by the flavours it offers. It’s both sweet and savoury, with spices of gingerbread, sweet vanilla and tonka bean depth, and even a herbal note being picked up by our team. Death by Caribbean Chocolate Cake is a fantastic example of what it can add to a beer. We’re also using a small amount in Caribbean Chocolate Pancake Stack for its spicy qualities.
Maple Wood / Bourbon Maple Chips
In order to create the ‘pancake stack’ sensation to Caribbean Chocolate Pancake Stack, we’ve set out to layer the beer through all stages of the brew and fermentation. What we’re looking for is depth of flavour as opposed to a one-dimensional maple syrup tone that could potentially dominate the beer. As part of this journey, we’ve introduced some maple wood into the equation.
Sugar Maple, also known as Rock Maple or Hard Maple, contributes subtle notes of maple syrup, with a soft sweetness in a way that contrasts with use of syrup itself. We also pick up vanilla, caramel and Bourbon pecan nuttiness that plays particularly nicely with the other ingredients here.
In addition to all of this, we’ve managed to source some Bourbon barrel stave chips in which the barrels were previously used to age maple syrup. Along with building the overall maple profile, these chips work perfectly in tandem with our smoked malt to produce a sweet, sticky and delicately smoky undertone.
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.
Although we were happy with the impact of ageing ingredients in fermentation vessels (FVs), we also knew that more flavour could be achieved. We were lucky to be able to pick the brains of Jay Lesher, who had developed the Spinbot 5000 at Cigar City Brewing, a converted 7-bbl grundy tank that incorporated multi-directional inlets.
It was originally designed with safety in mind, as extracting from their bigger FVs was labour intensive. But from there came some big benefits to the beer as well. Jay discovered that by using static contact, it would take on average between 7 and 11 days to pick up American oak. Recirculating infusions with their Spinbot 5000 achieved the same goal within 24-48 hours, but in their opinion, with better flavour results as well.
And so we began building our own interpretation, customised to suit our brewery and processes. The result is something like a hop cannon for adjuncts. We can hold ingredients within the vessel and circulate an entire tank through (FV > Spinbot > FV) until we've extracted the flavours we want, this can take anywhere between 24-144 hours. The idea is to achieve contact time with all the liquid in FV, which would never otherwise be possible.
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.
Whilst many Siren beers have utilised the Spinbot over the years, Caribbean Chocolate Cake is where it really comes into its own. Read on to find out more about how it worked for each beer, and find out more about the Spinbot on our blog - sirencraftbrew.com/spinbot
WHERE CAN I GET IT?
It's live right now on the Siren Webshop, whilst stocks last. However, you can also find it at a host of other venues across the UK, Europe and Beyond!
We have a huge number of partner venues up, down and across the country who have taken the cans. Not only that, we're also in venues in Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and even Singapore - Check all of the venues out here: sirencraftbrew.com/ccc
I HAD THESE BEERS LAST YEAR, ARE THEY DIFFERENT?
Quite simply, yes they are! The standard CCC has had the NITRO treatment and is not to be missed. It's super thick, super creamy and a truly stunning beer. Recipes and processes have been tweaked and we think all 4 beers are tasting better than ever. This year's Barrel Aged version went into the same barrels used for last years, adding another dimension of flavour. Not forgetting this year's special, Caribbean Chocolate Pancake Stack - decadent breakfast in a glass!
CAN I ORDER IN A FEW WEEKS TIME?
You can try, but in the last couple of years the beers have sold out within a week or so. They're popular, so don't miss out!
WHEN AND WHAT IS THE LIVE TASTING?
Our Virtual Beer Tasting will be on Friday 27th November at 7pm. Join us as we chat to various members of the Siren team behind this incredible beer, including Siren Founder, Darron Anley, and Head Brewer, Sean Knight. We'll also be chatting to Willie Harcourt-Cooze from Willie's Cacao about all things chocolate!
All the information will be on sirencraftbrew.com/ccc
ARE THEY VEGAN FRIENDLY
Unfortunately no. CCC uses Lactose to create the creamy milk chocolate experience.
WHERE ARE THE KEG VERSIONS?
*Stares blankly at Boris Johnson* Sadly… the Keg release this year has been delayed, but it will be coming. For now, enjoy the cans, and in particular the Nitro CCC. Once our friends in the industry can re-open their doors and invite us all in we’ll be sending kegs out for launch 2!
IS CCC NITRO IN KEG?
Nope! It’s the standard version on keg, Nitro is in can only, so make sure you grab one (or 12).
IF WE KNEW IT WOULD SELL OUT, WHY DIDN’T WE BREW MORE?
Sadly, we can only brew so much, but there's more out there this year than ever before!
WHY CAN’T I SEE THE PRESENTATION 4 PACKS?
Sadly, these sold out really quick but we're hoping to get some more of the sleeves in asap, if the beer hasn't already sold out!