Variants. Everyone loves 'em. Well, we do anyway. A 'variant' in the craft beer world is one way we identify an already great beer that we've added something to in an effort to further enhance the great flavors, and thus give the drinker a new flavor experience with a similar beer. It could be an addition of fruit, spices, chocolate, or coffee to name a few. During our last release, we played with our Imperial Milk Stout, Rhino Suit, in an attempt to see what other complementary flavors we could bring out. We made a single keg of this so called 'Mocha Rhino Suit' where we added Stumptown Coffee, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and dried cherries. After aging for a week, the fruit character never really revealed itself and the vanilla beans were blending in with the already vanilla-like flavors from the extended barrel aging. What stood out was the cocoa nibs and the coffee beans in sort of a mocha coffee sort of way. So that's where we focused our flavor additions for this February release, Mocha Rhino Suit.
Choosing the ingredients. We knew that the most important part of designing this Rhino Suit variant was choosing the right beans, both coffee and cocoa. Our production brewery is on the west side of Eugene, some argue a 'no-man's land' for anything worth getting excited for. They're wrong, however, From a brewery business standpoint, they are definitely wrong. We have refrigeration supply houses, packaging warehouses, hose suppliers and much much more. We've also got some really great specialty ingredient suppliers here! Just across the street is a fantastic coffee shop and roaster called Coffee Plant Roaster. They have a great variety of single origin beans to choose from. We worked with CPR's roaster to select a bean that would work well with our new beer blend. The Costa Rican single origin bean is what sung to me. The coffee notes are "smooth, with notes of apricot, orange and cinnamon." Sounds wonderful, huh?
And now for the cocoa. In my search for the right source, I happened upon Chocolate Alchemy. To my surprise, this supplier of raw and roasted cocoa, is just down the street from our brewery. And he supplies many breweries that I know, big and small. And finally, he is a wealth of knowledge on all things cacao. He can teach you how to make chocolate at home, and tell you the equipment needed. Plus, he's been a home brewer and coffee roaster for years. Needless to say, he was a lot of help in dialing these decisions in. And I needed it, as he stocked about 35 different varieties of cacao. I was blown away by the subtle and not so subtle differences. In the end, we choose the Honduran sourced cocoa nib and estimated how much we would need. John Nanci, proprietor at Chocolate Alchemy, got right on the roasting and processing so that we could add the fresh nibs to our beer.
So as I sit here writing this post, and sipping on the still-steeping Mocha Rhino Suit, I think about brewing local. I really want to use local ingredients in my beers when possible. It's a value we try to stay true to. But this blend of stouts aged in bourbon was really calling for coffee and cocoa. As we all know, those aren't really Southern Willamette Valley crops. But having a relationship with your local supplier is the next best thing to having a local ingredient and speaking with Brad at Coffee Plant Roaster and John at Chocolate Alchemy showed me that they care for their craft as much as I do. They source fair trade and/or direct trade raw goods that they process with their own hands and with their own small equipment. Realizing that not only makes me appreciate what they do and what they make, but it also makes me confident that the ingredients we are using in Alesong beers are of the highest quality and their products are held in equally high esteem as what we are producing here.
When you drink Mocha Rhino Suit, roasted coffee aromas pop out of the glass, followed by smooth and creamy cocoa flavors and aromas. The full bodied imperial milk stout is punctuated with rich bourbon, vanilla and mild cinnamon notes. A medium roasted finish is rounded by a mild alcohol warmth and a long lasting sweet, yet balanced finale. We really hope you enjoy this new blend of Rhino Suit and what we have added to it to create this mocha version. Most importantly, I hope you appreciate the small and independent artisans that live and work in our little corner of the world!