I'm excited to bring you this review because I think it is a fantastic beer and hopefully one that you can find on your local shelves. New Belgium is a solid brewer that distributes pretty widely. This addition to their Lips of Faith series is arguably their best. At least if you ask me.
First, here's the facts on this "ale with cocoa and spices":
Target hops; Pale, C-80, Chocolate and Dark Chocolate malts; Cocoa, Chili and Cinnamon spices; medium to full body; aroma has chocolate and lots of roasted red chilis, hints of dried dark fruits; 9% ABV with bittersweet chocolate and red chili flavor…plenty of heat!
This is a new one to the New Belgium lineup, first released at the beginning of the year. It is billed as an ale full of chocolate and a load of peppers (ancho, guajilla and chipotle). So you're likely either going to hate it or really love it depending on if you like your sweet tooth separated from the heat of a spicy pepper or not. Personally, I really enjoy contrasting flavors that complement each other. I'm intrigued by the pairing of complex chocolate flavor with the spiciness of a roasted pepper. So I find this ale very interesting from start to finish. Let's start the pour!
Part of the reason this one is so intriguing is that I want to make it into a darker, thicker beer than it is. The label and description just scream porter to me. But it is an ale, through and through. So my first impression as it drains into my tulip glass is that it is thin, watery. The color however is dark brown, almost black. The head is thin, tan and it dissipates quickly.
On the nose I get a caramel, cinnamonny smell that is nearly strong enough to overpower the chilis that break through. It's a peppery sweetness already that really makes you wonder how it's going to taste. Is my nose deceiving me? Can all these bold, spicy and sweet flavors come together?
The taste is as bold as it is complex. The sweetness is strong on the front. A lot of chocolate that is a bit bitter at first before some caramel notes smooth it out some. The spiciness from the chilis hits next and they really pack a punch. The heat tingles the more it lingers before the cocoa flavors return with an added kick of cinnamon. If you've ever had a spoonful of spicy chili and then turned around and taken a bite from a dark chocolate bar…that is what I imagine this experience is like. It's bold from start to finish and your taste buds work to pick up all of the flavors. As the beer warms the peppery tastes become more powerful, but so does the cinnamon. I think it's really best if it has had a chance to sit a few minutes in your glass before being let loose on your tongue.
Fantastic beer, but like I said, this isn't going to be for everyone. If you can stand the complexity and it works for you then you'll want to use this as an after dinner beer most likely, but it would also go great with a steak. I'm glad they released this one a little earlier this time around. It's great for Fall since it warms you up while also satisfying that sweet tooth.
Well done New Belgium! Keep this one coming!