Caribbean Chocolate Cake Home Review Panel
You may remember that before we launched this year's Caribbean Chocolate Cake series, we invited you all to apply to be a beer taster for us. The selected winners would make up our 10 person home review panel, gaining early access to this year's CCC beers.
All we asked from our panel was that they try the beers as soon as they arrived and gave their true and honest feedback. Whilst the beers were free, this was a voluntary adventure, no one was paid. We wanted to make sure our panel gave their true feelings.
We had nearly 2,500 completed applications, so choosing our 10 wasn't easy! We looked for those who displayed a true passion for beer, with the ability to articulate on flavour profiles and the overall experience.
One of our panel was chosen specifically before they stated that they were quite new to beer; we wanted to see how a beer like Caribbean Chocolate Cake would appeal to someone who maybe hasn't tried all the hype beers over the years.
Our chosen panel was: @bigalex1984 | @corninbath | @purcellchris | @thefishjeffery | @elliotkim89 | @hevaeyre | @jimithegent | @dappercellarman | @ceerbl | @juicyluce9
Let's see what some of them had to say!
NITRO CARIBBEAN CHOCOLATE CAKE
"A force to be reckoned with"
As the Nitro was the first of the series to be announced, we were excited to see the reviews start rolling out. One of the first things we were struck by was Jason Menzie's (aka @dappercellarman) beautiful photos. The dark photo box shots really caught the gorgeous nitro cascade. Check them out here - https://www.instagram.com/p/CWCE1XYNM31/
Jason had to say:
The nitro charged foam pirouettes and swirls hypnotically, drawing the eye nearer in search of form or pattern. It goads and allures - much like said brewers’ mythical namesake - before settling into a tight, deep ochre head. At this point as the cascade effect dissipates, you realise you are staring into the abyss.
The colour is darkness redefined. An region of space bereft of all luminosity, where light can’t or won’t shine.
Immediately then this beer displays itself as a force to be reckoned with. It stands, almost intimidating, waiting for you to dare to indulge.
The initial aroma is of sweet and rich patisserie chocolate, mouthwatering in its intensity, backed up with a roasted almost hazelnut-like notes.
The flavour is nothing short of divine. Dark chocolate, praline, and toasted nibs interweave with warming boozy notes and a lasting bitterness from the interplay of malt and cedar wood.
And with oats also making up the grain bill, lactose adjunct and the nitro infusion, the body is sublimely smooth, washing over your palate without any of the admittedly strong flavours becoming cloying or claggy.
This ought to be a slow burner, but like staring into the abyss, it is incredibly difficult to pull yourself away.
It would have been easy for us to edit this down to some snappy highlights... but as a whole, this is a lovely review, beautifully worded and we love it.
Here's some more highlights:
The nitro and lactose make this unbelievably thick smooth creamy texture that makes it feel like you could actually be biting into a delicious slice of cake. The flavours are naturally big on chocolate in the front with subtle vanilla and woody spices keeping things interesting. The flavours linger and develop even after some time from the last sip. -@percyonthebeers
The velvety nitro definitely made this one easy to polish off in no time at all! A short while after finishing I still had a warm, woody and lightly bitter taste in my mouth, which quite frankly left me itching to open the next can! -@corininbath
CARIBBEAN WHITE CHOCOLATE PANCAKE STACK
"Memories of delicious stacks syrup covered pancake"
The next beer to land was a combination (of sorts) of two former variants - the white stout and the pancake stack. White stouts can sometimes be a challenge, as they play tricks on the eyes and the mind. Here's how our home panel found them:
Here's the words of @ceerbl:
A lovely crystal clear amber in the glass gives a hint of what’s to come. The aroma is caramel and syrup and a first taste is enough maple to make me think I should perhaps start standing for the Canadian Anthem and take more of an interest in ice hockey.
Drinking maple syrup straight from the bottle is probably not advisable and this beer helpfully steps in to provide a socially acceptable alternative.
Some light carbonation really adds something here keeping things a little lighter and making a sweet, caramel beer incredibly drinkable with just enough bitterness from that caramel note keeping this a comfortably long way from too sweet.
I know the names of these beers can influence what we taste and how we experience these them but the memories of eating delicious stacks of buttery, syrup covered pancakes is exactly what this brings to mind. This is a very cleverly constructed beer and is perhaps the beer with the most surprises for me of the four I have reviewed.
I’m looking forward to getting my hands on some more of it just as much as getting back over to North America to eat more of those pancake stacks.
Here's some more highlights:
I take a generous mouthful. Make no mistake: this is sweet, the sweetest of this year’s quartet, and arguably the sweetest CCC ever. The maple syrup hits again, but it’s soon accompanied by treacle sponge, sticky dates and creamy vanilla custard. Coffee and cacao follow, both somewhat subdued by the syrupy base. On the finish, though, there’s a surprise: a long, subtly spicy, ashy dryness. It provides a wonderful contrast, and somehow makes you forget the extent of the sweetness that came before. A second swig quickly follows, and the rest of the glass doesn’t hang around either.
White Chocolate Pancake Stack shows what can be done when a brewery totally at ease with its craft decides to really let loose. Everyone should try it for the fabulous aroma alone, but those that stick around will delight in this decadent liquid dessert with an addictively unusual twist. Another memorable addition to the CCC ranks. - @jimithegent
Note - we particularly like this as it shows how different people taste beer. For one reviewer the beer is comfortably away from too sweet, the next it's the sweetest CCC ever. It's a great lesson in how different we all taste, and that the answer is always to form your own opinion based on your own experiences.
...it just balances out perfectly with the rest of the beer and it really does remind you of pancakes. It’s your breakfast in a beer glass. Coffee and a sweet stack of buttery vanilla pancakes drizzled in maple syrup. - @jefferseatsandbeer
DEATH BY CARIBBEAN CHOCOLATE CAKE
"It kept me on toes to the very last sip"
Death by has all but become a permanent feature of the set, quite possibly due to the fact that it's pretty much always the team favourite. With a few tweaks, we were keen to see how it went down out in the wider world.
Here's the thoughts of Carly:
Having tried Death By in previous years, I knew what a treat I would be in for an couldn’t wait to get started.
Pouring dark as my mum’s chocolate fudge cake, with a small creamy head that rapidly disappeared, the syrupy consistency was immediately clear from the subtle “wine legs” (is beer legs a thing?!) on the side of the glass.
The initial aromas were – of course – pure dark chocolate… to me also a lot of treacle (interestingly my husband couldn’t smell that at all!), toasty warm vanilla and a really light, fresh wood smell, both from the Cypress and Amburana wood.
First couple of sips – wow. Chocolate, chocolate and chocolate. For me, the treacley taste was there strongly to start with but that quickly settled down and gave way to the smooth vanilla tones.
The wood was a real builder! Barely there in terms of taste for the first few mouthfuls, and then gradually got stronger and stronger but still sat largely as an overtone, without detracting at all from any of the other flavours.
And ohhh the booziness! ???? At 10.2% ABV this sat exactly where I like my stouts to be, warming my cheeks nicely from about quarter of the way through. The sticky, syrupy consistency ensured that the indulgent flavours never left my mouth, even when talking/filming for a few minutes in between sips.
The real delight as I progressed through the glass was that each mouthful tasted different – sometimes it was all about the chocolate, others it was pure warm vanilla, others it was treacle and earthy wood; it kept me on my toes to the very last sip and I LOVE that! ❤
The lingering aftertaste for me was really pleasant – a light bitterness and an ongoing syrupy warmth left me wanting to reach for another can!
My favourite by far for sure -@corininbath
And some more highlights:
The aromas hit your nose long before the glass gets anywhere near your face. Filling the room with bags and bags of cacao nibs and vanilla, it’s an inviting and intoxicating mix that you just keep wanting to breath in.
As you take a sip the first thing that you notice is just how silky smooth it feels gliding over your lips before a perfectly balanced rich gooey chocolate dessert explodes on your tongue. - @percyonthebeers
Despite not being an ingredient, tonka beans are evident in the aroma alongside luxurious and thick dark chocolate.
These nasal notes appear as the lead flavours too, but the combination of high boozy notes with Cypress and Amburana wood evoke notes of ginger, treacle and espresso.
Definitely an armchair beer this one, be one to save for your post Christmas dinner stash. - @dappercellarman
CARIBBEAN CHOCOLATE MOLE CAKE
"An extremely quaffable beer"
The chilli beer designed not to be spicy... as a new concept for 2021 (although we've seen one review since the launch that says it not as spicy as last year?!), we were excitedly waiting to see how this beer sat with those at home. For the team, this has been one of the favourites, here's the panel's thoughts:
Many Mole beers I’ve had in the past want you to know they are Mole-inspired and immediately accost you with spice, either hitting the back of your throat as you go in for a whiff or overwhelming your taste buds after one sip. I’m not averse to spice, quite the opposite, but I feel it can be overused in some instances; overpowering the beer instead of complementing it. That is not the case with Caribbean Chocolate Mole Cake. Siren have shown great restraint, judgment and no doubt brewing wizardry for the spice to elegantly creep into the beer over time. In fact, the warmth from the Mole is mostly on the back end of the taste, intensifying in the aftertaste and allowing the beer’s other ingredients the time and space to shine at the front and middle taste. Dark malts, biscuit, coffee and chocolate all come into the fore leaving the spice to satisfyingly round out the flavour profile. I was unable to pick up on the Amburana wood, which could be due to my ignorance, its subtlety or it being overshadowed by the beer’s other properties.
The alcohol content and spice belie the beer’s deceptively easy drinkability with a lighter-than-expected body and a thinner-than-expected mouthfeel. The stickiness that is present in the aroma doesn’t carry over to the taste so it was an extremely quaffable beer. - @juicyluce9
Some more highlights:
My friend was cooking flatbreads in an Ooni oven and one of the breads was topped with beef short rib, padron peppers and black beans, too good a partner to miss for this beer.
It was a great match with the food and those big savoury flavours were not overwhelming for this mole inspired masterpiece. - @ceerbl
I'm a bit of a chilli head, so the more the merrier IMO, but I know most don’t have my adoration of spice. There is a beautiful balance in the beer with the chilli. There is certainly a chilli tickle! Add that to rich, dark and bitter chocolate, the woody vanilla undertones and you have one very delicious beer indeed. - @jefferseatsandbeer
This is definitely a beer not to be judged on the first sip, or knocked back casually - it is one to enjoy on a cold winter evening either in front of a fire and good film, or wrapped up in scarf and gloves outside your favourite craft beer bar.
It was my favourite of the four in the series and I WILL be buying more!! - @corininbath
So that's just some of the reviews from our home panel this year. Do seek them out on Instagram and Twitter, and search #SIRENCCC to find more.
We want to extend a huge thank you to our panel for their honest (and timely!) and brilliantly creative reviews.
Along with Carly and Danielle, we'll be joined by Natalya Watson, Sean Knight, Wayne Wambles and Willie Harcourt-Cooze to discuss brewing techniques, recipes, tasting notes, food pairing, chocolate and more. We'll also be asking the question "Hey Siren, where's the barrel aged version!?"
And finally... Natalya Watson!
As well as our selected home reviewer panel, we also reached out to the fabulous Natalya, beer writer, Advanced Cicerone and Educator, to taste, and review the CCC beers pre-release.
We've separated them out from the rest as Natalya is the professional, but here's Natalya's thoughts on the beers.
1. Nitro CCC
For my next birthday, just stick a candle on this. One sniff and I could practically taste the slice of chocolate cake I was envisioning, as the initial aroma here was so reminiscent of dark chocolate buttercream icing. There are background notes of cacao nibs, dusty cocoa powder, and a hint of coffee, too. 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. Again, chocolate’s in the lead, but there’s a hint of vanilla and a woody spice that's a nice counterpoint to that icing-like sweetness.
2. Caribbean White Chocolate Pancake Stack
Please don't judge me for my questionable coffee choices, but when first poured, I thought this beer smelled just like a Starbucks iced caramel macchiato – it's got a hint of coffee, a milky sweetness and a lot of flavouring. While I find it more reminiscent of caramel on the nose though, it's 100% maple syrup on the palate. You can even taste that sticky sweet pancake stack below. As a big fan of proper fluffy American pancakes, this is brunch in beer form.
3. Death By CCC
Expect inviting aromas of vanilla, chocolate, marzipan and a woody spice, with a slight boozy note in the background that clues you in to this beer’s strength. These flavours then follow through on the palate – 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.
3. Caribbean Chocolate Mole Cake
Smell that chilli pepper! Wow! There's bittersweet dark chocolate, cacao nibs and a dusting of cocoa powder, but that chilli pepper is really what leads. Take a sip and just wait for the warmth to build thanks to the beer's strength, the chilli heat, added spices, and notes of cinnamon and gingerbread from the wood. That underlying chocolatey sweetness is still there though, providing balance and preventing the warmth from becoming overwhelming. Boozy Mexican hot chocolate? Yes, please.