Dogfish Head Brewery’s Theobroma, a very complex brew

While on vacation to Ocean City, MD, Jason and I were able to take a tour of Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, DE. I was excited to see that I would be able to taste a few new beers, as well as buy three specialty pints of beer available for a limited time. One of these is Theobroma, an “ale brewed with natural flavors (honey, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, ancho chilies, and ground annatto)”. I picked this one because I’m always eager to try beer that uses unique ingredients. I’ve had beers that use cocoa and chilies successfully before, but never together! I was excited about this one, and after finding out Theobroma’a ingredients are inspired by Mayans and Aztecs drink additives and also known as “Food of the Gods”, I had high hopes.

The beer was a surprising goldenrod color, with scant foamy white head that dissipated quickly. As soon as we opened the bottle I could smell Theobroma’s strong aroma of honey and alcohol. Not surprisingly, these were also my first tastes. At 9% ABV, this beer packs a stinging alcohol punch that initially hits you hard. Alcohol is quickly followed by the complex flavor of honey and chili spice, which compliment each other extremely well. The chili spice is smoky, peppery, but with a hint of something else, possibly the annatto, a derivative of the achiote tree found in tropical areas of the Americas (thanks Wikipedia!). Annatto delivers a peppery, slightly nutmeg flavor, and this is noticeable in Theobroma. As the beer warms the chili and annatto flavor becomes stronger, but still pleasant.

After the first few sips, I found myself asking “OK, where’s my cocoa? I saved this beer for dessert for a reason, right?” Then, in my next sip, I was hit with an unmistakable dose of cocoa flavor in the back of my throat which lingered for the duration of the glass. The cocoa flavor is different from other chocolate beers I’ve tasted. It’s not sweet, it’s a bitter, very real tasting chocolate flavor. As a dark chocolate lover, I really enjoyed this part of the beer.

If you get the chance to try Dogfish Head Brewery’s Theobroma, I suggest you do. The only gripe that I have with it is that it seemed to pack so much flavor variety into one glass that it took me a while to appreciate and enjoy. I would love to see what Dogfish Head could do with just one of those ingredients, in a cocoa nib stout or annatto flavored beer, for example. Cheers to Dogfish Head for creating a wonderfully balanced, complex brew!