From the Cellar series, this one showcases a bottle of Dogfish Head's Theobroma, a late spring seasonal beer that is part of their lineup of ancient ales. This rather unusual brew is made with cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chilies and annatto (fragrant tree seeds).
I happen to be a big fan of their forays into beer's past. They're offbeat and unusual, almost never what you expect from a beer, but they're almost always interesting enough to be worth a try.
One year isn't all that long to sit on a beer, especially one that boasts a big alcohol content and a hefty malt bill like this one, so I expected it would hold up fairly well. The first clue that it didn't was in the absolute lack of a nose. This beer was poured a bit cold, but not too cold, so the lack of aroma is surprising. There is some cocoa in the nose but it's faint. Not chocolatey at all. There are hints of dark berries here, too.
The taste is ... well, a year has done this beer no favors. Sure, it's a robust 9% ABV, so it's got the booze to stand up to time, but the delicate balance of chilies and cocoa and honey you get in a fresh bottle is gone. There is still a nice wash of honey there, dipped ever so slightly in cocoa, but the latter is too subtle to be of note. And the ancho chilies and annatto? Gone. Both are present when fresh, adding a hint of spice that rounds out an otherwise sweet brew, but they are nowhere to be found after a year. The primary taste is a silky honey. It's not at all unpleasant, but the complexity of the fresh bottle is gone. Also, as the beer warms the lack of spice contributes to an overly sweet character. Maybe, maybe that sweetness would turn into something nice with a few more years time, but it's doubtful it would top the interesting brew that this is when fresh.
Many Dogfish Head beers lay down pretty nicely. Beers like Word Wide Stout, 120 Minute IPA, and Burton Baton are known for aging wonderfully.
This one, alas, doesn't.
BEER: Dogfish Head Theobroma
TIME AGED: 1 year
VERDICT: Do not cellar. This beer is best enjoyed fresh.