By Geoff Griggs:
New Zealand’s Dodson St brewery’s latest creation, Craftsman Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, shows little influence from the aromatic green cones. It is, however, no less remarkable particularly if you’re a fan of high-quality chocolate.
Weighing in at a modest 4.9 per cent, Craftsman is firmly at the opposite end of the beer spectrum to the MPA, instead owing much of its character to the addition of organic rolled oats and cocoa nibs. The latter, in case you aren’t aware, are simply cocoa beans that have been roasted, de-husked and broken into small pieces.
While other brewers have used chocolate bars or essence for their chocolate stouts, Renaissance brewers Soren Eriksen and Andy Deuchars employed a generous 10 kilograms that’s $500 worth of cocoa nibs in the single 2000-litre batch, making Craftsman one expensive beer.
The nibs were added in three stages: half split between the mash and the boil and the remaining 5kg fed directly to the fermenter. This late addition was made in order to best preserve the cocoa nibs’ volatile oils, which contain most of the flavour and aromatic compounds.
In case you’re thinking that because it’s called stout it must resemble Guinness, let me set you right. The new Renaissance beer may be a stout in name but, colour aside, it has almost nothing in common with Ireland’s famous dry dark brew.
Craftsman pours an inky dark-brown hue with a deep, pillowy, dark beige head that quickly fades; the oiliness of the cocoa nibs and oats see to that.
Served unchilled, the beer’s aroma combines high-quality dark chocolate and caramel with a hint of something vaguely savoury that reminds me of Marmite. Although I find the savoury note slightly off-putting, once in the mouth the beer is nothing short of sensational.
Neither as sweet, oily or full bodied as you might be expecting, it is however velvety smooth, with plenty of really good dark Belgian chocolate flavours and charred notes from the darker malts.
The finish is crisp, with chocolate, roasted malt flavours, hints of hop flavour and bitterness all combining to cleanse the palate in readiness for the next sip. It’s a truly delightful and hedonistic experience.