Barrel Aged Caribbean Chocoloate Cake by Siren Craft Brew

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Beer Name: Barrel Aged Chocolate Cake

Brewer: Siren Craft Brew (Berkshire) in collaboration with Cigar City Brewing (Florida, USA)

Date Sampled: 22nd September 2016

ABV: 8.4%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..... alright, I know it's still only September, but it seems the festive spirit is already creeping into our home. It doesn't help that my other half loves Christmas; in fact, it is without doubt her favourite time of the year. So much so that I think her throwaway comments about it not being too early to put the Christmas tree up are only said with her tongue half in her cheek. We have already bought many of each other's stocking fillers (just to help out Santa's workload of course) and have started planning the menu for our Christmas party.

Coupled to that, shops are starting to display their decorations and in Tesco today they were making a feature of their large tubs of chocolates. I realise that by putting them out earlier they know that if people buy them now, they'll get eaten long before December rolls around and have to buy more. I know that as I've been there (I still don't like to talk about what has come to be known as Mingle Monday but suffice to say, the box of minty chocolate tastiness was supposed to be a Christmas present but failed to make it out of October).

So why have I started this beer review talking yuletide celebrations that are still over a quarter of a year away? Well, this beauty from Siren Craft Brew (in collaboration with Cigar City Brewing) is like a little bottle of Christmas.

The original Caribbean Chocolate Cake is one of Siren's seasonal specials, a tropical stout brewed with cacao nibs, cyprus wood and lactose, normally available between October and November. I hadn't tried it but had heard great things and had it on my list of beers to try this autumn.

Then last week I saw Siren post a picture on Instagram of this special edition; they'd taken the original Caribbean Chocolate Cake but aged it in bourbon barrels, specifically Jim Bean, Clermont Springs and Makers Mark barrels. I mean I love beer, but I almost love Bourbon as much, so the debit card was out and I got to ordering.

I was not to be disappointed.

From the first pour you know that this is serious business. A rich dark colour with a lovely caramel coloured head, it almost looks like fresh brewed coffee straight from a moka pot.

The nose is bold to say the least; the bourbon is there but so is sticky black treacle, port and spiced fruit. It's here that you could easily be sat with your head over the raw mix from your mum's boozy Christmas cake.

On tasting, the first mouthful almost feels like a rich red wine, but then the flavours start rushing forward. There's a scotch like peatiness along with sticky toffee pudding, dark chocolate and a hint of vanilla. Then the finish brings back the red wine punch, leaving a dryness that I'm assuming comes from the tannin in the barrels used to age this beast.

This is not a beer you'd ever describe as sessionable. It's bold, complex and, at 8.4%, is not to be taken lightly. But it is something special and I think sipped after dinner with a high quality cheese board would pretty much put this in it's element. It may taste festive but it's too good to limit to only one day a year. Siren have produced a beer that is definitely not just for Christmas.

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