Monday, January 31, 2011

El Rey Gran Saman 70% Dark Chocolate

Today The Dark Chocolate Blog reviews the Gran Saman from Venezuelan chocolate maker El Rey.

Manufacturer: Chocolates El Rey
Cocoa Content: 70%
Location: Venezuela
Manufacturer Website
Rating: C+

Today's chocolate tasting is the Gran Saman from Venezuela's El Rey. The Gran Saman bar is deep mahogany in color with reddish-orange highlights. The palate has nutty notes of peanuts and walnuts. There is very little acidity of note, but some faint notes of banana and mango are present. Mint, oak and vanilla flavors are here as well. There is a note of roasted coffee, but it is way in the background. Chewing the Gran Saman brings forward notes of cedar, mint and some faint strawberries. The consistency is quite gritty and doesn't really smooth out as it melts. The finish has nutty notes and hot cocoa.

I must admit that I was quite disappointed with the El Rey Gran Saman dark chocolate bar. The construction seems rather poor with an overall gritty, nearly chalky, consistency. The flavor seemed rather bland as there was little in the way of either acidity or roasted flavors to excite the palate. With so many great chocolates being made with Venezuelan cacao, I had some high expectations for this bar, but this was a big miss for me.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Today Beer! samples yet another brew from Sierra Nevada, their Kellerweis hefeweizen.

Brewery: Sierra Nevada
Location: Chico, CA
Style: Hefeweizen
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

In my glass today is the Sierra Nevada Kellerweis. This is their year-round hefeweizen. The Kellerweis pours up a hazy, golden-tan color with a thick white head. The nose detects fruit, grass and Eurolager notes.

On the palate the malt has notes of wheat bread. There is a slight sweetness, which is highlighted by notes of vanilla and liquorice (as in real liquorice candy, not black licorice/anise). There are some berry notes here, along with some yeast. The Kellerweis is medium bodied, with both a touch of creaminess and a touch of juiciness. The finish has sweet spices that linger after the malt starts to fade.

This is my first taste of the Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, and while I have never been a huge hefeweizen fan, I really like this beer. There is some nice unique flavor going on here. I know I will be adding this to my rotation of beers for the spring as the weather warms.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sierra Nevada Stout

Today Beer! gives the superb Sierra Nevada Stout a taste:

Brewery: Sierra Nevada
Location: Chico, CA
Style: Stout
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today we are tasting the Sierra Nevada Stout. This stout pours up an opaque mahogany color with a huge dark tan, foamy head. Right away the nose detects some good things. There are waves of complex aromas with roasted cocoa, earth, and wine along with both fruity and floral contributions from the hops.

The complexity continues on the palate. Aromatic hops lead off with both fruit and floral notes. This is followed by roasted coffee notes from the malt. A second wave of hops then rolls in with pine, juniper and a mild bitter bite. There are also some highlights of rye bread and wine. The Sierra Nevada Stout is medium-bodied and quite drinkable for a stout. There is also a bit of warming alcohol as well. The finish has a lingering hops bite over unsweetened cocoa and espresso

The Sierra Nevada Stout is a great, unique stout. This is a rather hops-forward style for a stout. The roasted malt flavor pairs excellently with the hops, but the hops are really the top dog here. The hops flavors are well-balanced. While there are some fruity hops notes, you aren't getting hammered with a big Cascade monotone which really wouldn't work here. The Sierra Nevada Stout drinks like a "roasted IPA" (especially since the body is a bit on the lighter side for a stout). This is a great showing from Sierra Nevada and the perfect dark beer for hopheads.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Domori Porcelana 70% Dark Chocolate

Today, The Dark Chocolate Blog tastes the renowned Domori Porcelana dark chocolate:

Manufacturer: Domori
Cocoa Content: 70%
Location: Venezuela
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A-

Today we taste the Domori Porcelana 70% dark chocolate bar. The Porcelana cacao is one of the most sought after beans in the world, and Domori's Porcelana bar is regarded by many as the definitive interpretation of this cacao. The bar itself is on the lighter side in color; a light mahogany with ruby highlights.

On the palate the Domori Porcelana has a fruity chocolate richness. Roast notes akin to French/Italian roast coffee sit in the background. There is a lively acidity to this chocolate. The main fruity note is that of raspberries/raspberry preserves. There is also a hint of some lemonade citrus notes. Bread (white toast specifically) is also notable here. Also present are notes of salt, peanut butter and a light coffee-bitterness in the background. Chewing the Domori Porcelana brings forward notes of raspberries, oak and toast. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy with a slight cooling sensation. The finish has toast and jam with espresso notes.

Domori really captures the unique flavor of the Porcelana cacao in this dark chocolate bar. There is a remarkable flavor of raspberry preserves on toast that really stands out. There is a great jammy fruit character here and some interesting "doughiness". The Domori Porcelana is a great, one-of-a-kind chocolate that I highly recommend to everyone.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Barista Prima Columbia KCup

Manufacturer: Barista Prima
Location: Columbia
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Today's tasting is yet another KCup from Barista Prima, their Columbia. While technically billed as a medium roast, the Columbia is more deeply roasted than the typical medium roast coffee. Off the brewer there is a nut-brown colored froth along with a moderate amount of oil. The coffee itself is mahogany in color. There are aromas of roasted almonds and toast on the nose.

The palate picks up a cedar-like woodiness. There is some cocoa along with an unsweetened chocolate-like bitter bite. The Columbia has a moderate acidity leading to a faint note of lemon zest/oil. There is a notable roasted nut flavor as well. The Barista Prima Columbia is medium bodied and coats the tongue a bit. The finish has cocoa and roasted almonds.

Green Mountain has done a fantastic job selecting premium coffees for their Barista Prima line. The Columbia isn't as heavily roasted as some of the other Barista Prima coffees, but it does have enough of a bite for me. Easing back on the roast opens up some nice acidity that a heavier roast tends to mask. This is yet another must-try coffee from Barista Prima.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Free Barista Prima KCup Sampler

Barista Prima is offering a free sampler of their 4 KCup varieties through January 30. If you like what you've seen in our reviews, then follow the link below to request your sampler:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Heavy Seas Winter Storm - Category 5 Ale

Today's tasting comes from Beer!, where we review the winter seasonal from Heavy Seas - their Winter Storm ESB.

Brewery: Clipper City Brewing Co.
Location: Baltimore, MD
Style: ESB
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today's beer tasting is Heavy Seas' winter seasonal, the Winter Storm Category 5 Ale. The Winter Storm is a big ESB. It is deep amber in color with an off-white, clumpy head and fine bubbles of carbonation. The nose has a big citrus-hops aroma with some faint sweetness.

The Winter Storm leads off with a solid bitter kick up front. Fruity hops flavors pass by quickly but distinctly. The bitter hops then take on a pine/juniper quality with some floral notes as well. There is a hint of sweetness, some mineral notes and a background of pretzel maltiness. The Winter Storm has a fairly heavy body, which suits it well. The finish is long bitter hops balanced by a hint of sweetness.

It's not often that I taste a seasonal beer and wish it was available year-round, but the Heavy Seas Winter Storm is a rare exception. This is simply a fantastic ESB. There is a considerable bite for the hopheads, but it is balanced by a faint residual sweetness. Its heavy body and high alcohol content (7.5% ABV) help hold everything together as well. This is a top-notch beer for the hopheads, get some soon before it's gone.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pacari Esmeraldas 60% Dark Chocolate

Today The Dark Chocolate Blog serves up the Pacari Esmeraldas straight from the Ecuadorian rainforest.

Manufacturer: Pacari
Cocoa Content: 60%
Location: Ecuador
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B

Today's tasting is the Esmeraldas, a 60% dark chocolate bar from Pacari. The Esmeraldas cocoa comes from the rainforest on the North coast of Ecuador. The chocolate bar is notably dark for only being a 60% cocoa, and has highlights of purples and reds.

The initial impression on the palate is a rich, sweet chocolate. There are notes of bread, sunflower kernels, earth and mint. The sweetness also leads to notes of caramel, toffee and "cream & sugar" coffee. The acidity level on this chocolate is fairly light. Chewing the Esmeraldas brings forward caramel as well as a faint berry note. The mouthfeel does have a slight graininess and waxiness to it. At the tail end the finish has cocoa and caramel that fades slowly and lingers for longer than I expected, given that this is a fairly mellow tasting chocolate.

The Pacari Esmeraldas is a decent tasting chocolate that seems to fall just a bit short. At 60% I find that the sweetness tends to mask some other flavors that want to peek out. There are some construction issues as well. Despite these caveats, this would be a good chocolate for those who are graduating from milk chocolates up to darker territories, especially with the notable caramel and toffee undertones.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chocovic Ocumare 71% Dark Chocolate

From the cacao plantations of Venezuela via Barcelona, The Dark Chocolate Blog brings you the Chocovic Ocumare 71% dark chocolate bar. Enjoy!

Manufacturer: Chocovic
Cocoa Content: 71%
Location: Venezuela
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today's chocolate tasting is from Spanish chocolate maker Chocovic. Up for review today is their Ocumare 71% dark chocolate bar. The Chocovic Ocumare is deep brown in color with a purplish-red tint.

The first impression on the palate is a nutty, woody chocolate note. Rich chocolate flavor builds over background bitter notes. There are notes of dried fruit, namely raisins and prunes. Fragrant wood notes of hickory and cedar are distinct here, along with some spice notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. There is a low-to-moderate amount of acidity, but it is just enough to work well with the flavor profile of this chocolate. Chewing the Chocovic Ocumare opens up notes of dried berries, tobacco and leather. The bar melts to a smooth, thick and creamy mouthfeel, with just a slight cooling sensation. The finish has nutty and woody espresso notes.

The Chocovic Ocumare has an enjoyable, distinct flavor. The woody and dried fruit flavors pair very well together, and the lower level of acidity in this chocolate supports those flavors well. This is a very good chocolate, especially if you like the acidity toned down a bit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Unibroue Chambly Noire

Today Beer! reviews the Chambly Noire from Unibroue...

Brewery: Unibroue
Location: Chambly, Quebec
Style: Belgian Dark Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

Today's beer tasting is the Chambly Noire from Quebec's Unibroue. The Chambly Noire is pitch black and opaque with a faint hint of amber. The head is light tan in color and there is notable carbonation and sediment visible in the glass. The nose has notes of butter, wine and toast.

On the palate there is an initial butter note that fades leaving a toasted malt flavor that isn't overly strong despite the deep black color. Yeast is a prominent flavor as well. Cocoa and espresso as well as some champagne notes are present. There are also some cherry and citrus fruit notes in the background. The Chambly Noire is dry, but not bone dry. It has a medium body with some carbonation fizz and a slight coating sensation. The finish has black coffee and buttered toast.

The Unibroue Chambly Noire is a novel concept as Belgian-style beers go. This is essentially a dark witbier, and it works pretty well as such. The Chambly Noire is just dry enough without going too far and the strong butter note on the nose is tamed down to a more balanced level on the palate. What can I say, this is another great showing from Unibroue. If Belgian-style beers are your thing, then the Chambly Noire should be on your "must-try" list.

One other point of note: The Chambly Noire provided an excellent pairing with the Domori Puertofino that we recently reviewed on our sister site The Dark Chocolate Blog.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Domori Puertofino

Today The Dark Chocolate Blog reviews the excellent Puertofino from Italian chocolate maker Domori.

Manufacturer: Domori
Cocoa Content: 70%
Location: Venezuela
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Today's chocolate tasting is the Puertofino 70% dark chocolate bar from Italy's Domori. The first point of note is the crisp, loud snap that rings out when breaking off a piece to taste. This is usually a sign of good things to come. The Puertofino bar is the color of rosewood with a purple tint.

On the palate there is a nutty, rich chocolate note. Espresso bean flavors are notable along with some nice bitterness. There is a solid bite of acidity that leads to notes of citrus, banana and mango. Nutty notes of walnut and hazelnut are here, as well as some earthiness and mushroom notes. Chewing the Puertofino opens up notes of leather, tobacco and hazelnuts. The Puertofino melts to a perfect thick, creamy consistancy. The finish has mocha/espresso beans paired with some green banana.

The Puertofino was my first experience with Domori's dark chocolate and it exceeded all my expectations. The construction is simply perfect and shows Domori's dedication to producing high quality chocolates. This bar has a nice bitter bite to it with a nice acidity as counterbalance. No one characteristic is overpowering, and this allows plenty of complexity to show through.

I paired the Puertofino with the Chambly Noire, a Belgian dark ale from Unibroue. Check out our sister site Beer! later this week for a review.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Barista Prima Italian Roast KCup

Manufacturer: Barista Prima
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Today’s tasting is the Italian Roast KCup from Green Mountain’s new Barista Prima line of KCups. The Barista Prima KCups are all deep-roasted varieties, so these should be right up my alley. The Italian Roast comes off the brewer with a light tan crema and a decent amount of oil on top of the cup. It is deep mahogany in color. The nose has lots of smoky, roasted notes that remind me of a big roasted porter.

On the palate there is unsweetened chocolate up front that gives a pleasant bite. Walnuts and roasted nuts are here along with a fleeting hint of banana. There is a touch of fruity acidity that hints at cherries and provides a bit of counterbalance to the deep roast. The Barista Prima Italian Roast has a full body with a slightly coating mouthfeel. The finish has lingering bitter cocoa notes along with roasted nuts.

This is my first taste of the Barista Prima KCup line from Green Mountain, and I must say that I really like where this is going. The Barista Prima Italian Roast is rich, complex, and loaded with the deep roasted flavors that I love in my coffee. I’m looking forward to sampling more of the Barista Prima line based on what I see here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Southern Tier Porter

Today Beer! keeps the winter Porter theme going with a brew from Southern Tier.

Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company
Location: Lakewood, NY
Style: Porter
Brewery Website
Rating: B

In my glass today is the Southern Tier Porter. This porter is a deep orange-brown color with a deep tan head. The nose detects sweetness, winy notes, chocolate and faint hops notes.

On the palate, there are notes of smoke and roasted cocoa up front. There is a distinct mineral note. Notes of oatmeal, caramel, and earthiness are here as well. There is some alcohol, leaving a bit of a warming sensation. Faint notes of hops and cola are in the background as well. The Southern Tier Porter is medium-bodied with a slight carbonation fizz. The finish has roasted coffee and dark toast.

The Southern Tier Porter is a bit understated for a porter. It is not the typical big, bombastic, roasted porter. The flavor is well-rounded, but it could use a bit more hops for my tastes to fill the void left by easing back on the smokiness. This one is worth a try if you prefer your porters to have the smoke dialed back a bit.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Waialua Estate 70% Dark Chocolate

Today, The Dark Chocolate Blog starts the new year off right with the first A+ rated chocolate we've reviewed since the Amedei Chuao.

Manufacturer: Waialua Estate
Cocoa Content: 70%
Location: Oahu, Hawaii, USA
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A+

Up for review today is the Waialua Estate dark chocolate bar. The Waialua Estate has the unique distinction of being 100% American from bean to bar. The beans are grown at the Dole plantation in Hawaii, and the bars are being made by Guittard. The bar itself is mahogany in color with reddish-purple highlights.

On the palate there are smoky, roasted chocolate notes up front. What starts out as a moderate acidity builds to a lively level, revealing pineapple, citrus, red berries and green bananas. Some mint and floral aromatic flavors are here. Espresso, sea salt, black pepper and creamy notes are all present as well as some earthiness in the background. Chewing the Waialua Estate opens up spearmint, green bananas and a rosy floral note. The bar melts perfectly on the tongue. It is smooth, creamy and leaves a slight cooling sensation. The finish has floral notes, fruit, and coffee (along with a faint espresso bitterness). All notes seem to fade in perfect unison.

The Waialua Estate bar is a true masterpiece. It is perfectly crafted, has great complexity and a very distinct flavor. This is a perfect example of terroir as it relates to chocolate. The Hawaiian volcanic soil leads to a one-of-a-kind flavor that this bar captures perfectly. While my previous experiences with Guittard have been hit-or-miss, this bar is truly one of the elite.

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