Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Domori Puertomar Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog reviews the award-winning Domori Puertomar:

Manufacturer: Domori
Cocoa Content: 75%
Location: Venezuela
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A-

Today's tasting is the award-winning Domori Puertomar. The Puertomar is part of the same Criollo line as Domori's Puertofino and Porcelana. The bar is deep mahogany in color with purple highlights. The nose detects a deep chocolate aroma with cherry jam.

The immediate impression on the palate is rich chocolate with Domori's typical jamminess. Distinct notes of bread and caramel are here. There is a moderate level of acidity but lots of fruitiness. Red raspberries, pomegranate, Rainier cherries and orange are all here. There is a notable bitter espresso component, but the bitter kick is somewhat mitigated by all the fruitiness. The bitterness does seem to fade in and out in waves, and combines with the fruit to leave an impression of hops. Chewing the Puertomar opens up sweet cherries, mint and tobacco. The mouthfeel is smooth with a slight cooling sensation. The finish is jammy with cherries and shortbread cookies.

The Puertomar is instantly recognizable as Domori with the big fruitiness and jammy flavor. I find the overall flavor to be similar to their Porcelana, but the fruit tends to be a bit less "in your face". There are some big jam/fruit notes here, but the great thing is that the chocolate flavor never gets lost. Another classic from Domori here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA

Today Beer! tastes another Black IPA, the Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA:

Brewery: Otter Creek
Location: Middlebury, VT
Style: Black IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

We're following up on our recent review of the perfect Heavy Seas Black Cannon with another Black IPA. Today we have the Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA on tap. The Alpine Black is ebony-amber in color with a thick, foamy dark-tan head. There is a considerable amount of chunky sediment as well, so take care in pouring if you prefer not to have it in your glass. The nose has the classic grapefruit note of Cascade hops along with some smoke.

On the palate the Alpine Black IPA has a long initial fruity lead-in before bitter and smoky notes start to roll in. Hops provide citrus fruitiness and a mild kick of juniper/bitter hop resin. Smoke and roast notes are here, but mainly play a support role to the hops. Also notable are yeast notes and a touch of residual sweetness. The Alpine Black IPA is medium-bodied and juicy, making this a very drinkable beer. The finish has a squirt of lemon over bitter hops notes and black coffee.

In contrast to the Black Cannon that we recently reviewed, the Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA is really more of a fruity IPA with some smokiness as a highlight rather than equal parts porter and IPA. This is just as effective of an interpretation of the style, as the smoke and roasted coffee-like bitterness really play well in supporting the hops-forward flavors of an IPA. The Alpine Black is a great beer with some great flavor. I'm really liking this Black IPA style. I hope more breweries follow the lead that breweries like Otter Creek and Clipper City have set, because there is a wide range of interpretations possible on this style and I want to taste them all.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Valrhona Palmira 2009 Dark Chocolate Bar

The Dark Chocolate Blog takes on vintage chocolate with a tasting of the 2009 Valrhona Palmira:

Manufacturer: Valrhona
Cocoa Content: 64%
Location: Venezuela
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today's tasting is the 2009 vintage of the Valrhona Palmira. The Palmira Estates where these criollo beans are grown is located near Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, the home of some of the world’s finest cacao. The Palmira is an orange-mahogany in color. The nose is on the lighter side with some aromas of earthy chocolate.

The first impression on the palate is sweet chocolate with herbal (mint in particular) and earthy notes. Acidity slowly builds, along with nuttiness and roasted flavors. Acidity leads to notes of citrus and sour cherries. There are roasted notes of roast cashews and medium-roast coffee along with some notable earthiness. Chewing the Palmira opens up cherries, leather and earth notes. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy with some cooling sensation. The finish has coffee, cherry pie, mint and nuts.

I have some mixed feelings about the Valrhona Palmira. On one hand, there is a wealth of complexity in this chocolate bar. But on the other hand, there is a notable lack of rich chocolate flavor. It may well be that I am experiencing this chocolate past its prime as this is the 2009 vintage. Still, this chocolate does show a lot of promise for vintaged single-origin chocolate. I'll be curious to see how more recent vintages compare to this one.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Patric Signature Blend 70% Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog takes its first taste of Patric today with their Signature Blend dark chocolate bar:

Manufacturer: Patric Chocolate
Cocoa Content: 70%
Rating: A-

Today we're tasting the Patric Signature Blend, which is a 70% dark chocolate bar. The bar itself is quite eye-catching as it is emblazoned with the Patric logo and has a textured finish. Notably absent are the squares most chocolate bars are divided into. The bar is mahogany in color with some red streaks showing along the edge when snapped. The nose has chocolate and coffee notes which, while pleasing, seem to be pretty standard fare.

On the palate there is coffee initially, followed by building acidity. The acidity brings forward both lemony citrus notes as well as berry notes of blackberries and blueberries. All the while there are nutty notes competing with to be heard over the fruitiness, with almond and hazelnut. Espresso then comes back along with a light oaky highlight. Chewing the Patric Signature Blend leads to sweet nuttiness of pistachio and cashew as well as sour cherry/blackberry notes. The mouthfeel is smooth, creamy and a bit juicy with some cooling sensation. The finish continues the complexity with mocha coffee taking the lead and supported by lemon zest, almond, caramel and chocolate milk.

In contrast with the Amedei "9", the Patric Signature Blend takes a different approach in blended chocolate with some very bold flavors and acidity. The end result is still a great, complex chocolate that let's the beans' flavor shine through. Bold fruit is dominant here, and the citrus leads me to believe that there is some Madagascan chocolate in the blend. Coffee and nuts are pretty big components here as well. The flavors have a great evolution as new flavors are constantly introducing themselves throughout the melt and finish. The one drawback is that the wealth of bold flavors tends to hide the actual chocolate flavor a bit. When the chocolate does finally kick in it reminds me a lot of milk chocolate with caramel and creamy undertones, which is very interesting for a dark chocolate. The Patric Signature blend is quite snackable because of this. This is a great blended chocolate. I can't wait to dig into some of their single-source bars.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Victory Old Horizontal Barleywine

Beer! goes horizontal today with Victory's winter seasonal barleywine:

Brewery: Victory Brewing Company
Location: Downingtown, PA
Style: Barleywine
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today's tasting is Victory's Old Horizontal Barleywine. The Old Horizontal is ruby-amber in color with a hint of gold. The head is slow-rising and climbs up to a massive volume. The head is a ruddy tan in color. The nose is very fragrant of fruit, with notes of berries, citrus, and apricot. There is a wininess to nose that is characteristic of a barley wine as well.

Upon tasting, there is a sweet fruitiness up front that quickly gets taken over by syrupy malt. A bitter kick is here from the hops, which takes on a bit of an herbal character. The Old Horizontal is well-hopped, but not over-hopped. Flavors of maple, pretzels and cherries are also notable. The Old Horizontal is heavy with a slightly syrupy body and leaves a bit of a warming sensation. The finish has piny hop resin over malt syrup.

Victory has really hit the mark with this year's showing of the Old Horizontal. It is very drinkable and enjoyable right now. I especially like the fruit notes both on the nose and the palate. What I am most excited about, however, is the promise this beer shows for aging. I'm kicking myself for not grabbing a few extra to tuck away for aging, so I'm hoping to grab some before they're all gone in my area. The big fruitiness and hops paired with the syrupy malt is generally a recipe for great aging. I'm really looking forward to revisiting the Old Horizontal in a year or two.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Michel Cluizel Noir Infini 99% Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog goes big with Michel Cluizel's 99% dark chocolate bar, the Noir Infini:

Manufacturer: Michel Cluizel
Cocoa Content: 99%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Up for review today is the Michel Cluizel Noir Infini 99% dark chocolate bar. The small 30 gram bar is impeccably made. The face of the bar is 2-textured, with the lower right half covered with very fine stippling. The stippling is flawless, and I am really amazed at the level of fine detail here. The Noir Infini bar is deep ebony in color with highlights of purple and red. The nose detects a rich dark chocolate aroma along with vanilla beans and caramel.

On the palate there is a deep, rich chocolate flavor as the dominant note. There is only a moderate amount of acidity here revealing some lemon peel citrus. The impression of sweetness is really much higher than I would expect from a 99% cacao dark chocolate, with notes of caramel and honey. Bitterness leads to a deep roasted espresso note. Notes of oak, leather and tobacco are here as well, along with a hint of ginger. The Noir Infini has a rather soft, yielding bite to it. Chewing the bar reveals ginger, vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, orange juice and earthy notes. The melt is perfectly smooth, thick and creamy. The finish has deep espresso highlighted by oak and cinnamon.

Every aspect of the Noir Infini shows the supreme level of dedication that Michel Cluizel puts into producing ultra-premium chocolate. The construction is immaculate and flavor is astounding. The Noir Infini has the richest chocolate flavor of any of the ultra-dark chocolates I've tried. I did find the flavor to be slightly subdued because of the lower level of acidity. I think that increasing the acidity a bit would likely increase the complexity a bit, as it seems like there is some fruit that is hidden under the dominant spice/earth/wood flavors. But in its current incarnantion the chocolate flavor is phenominal. If you like ultra-dark chocolate, then you owe it to yourself to get your hands on the 99% cacao Noir Infini. It is truly an incredible taste experience.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Republica Del Cacao Los Rios 75% Dark Chocolate

Today, over at The Dark Chocolate Blog we take our first taste of Republica Del Cacao with their Los Rios 75% Dark Chocolate. How did it fare, and how does it compare with the stellar Pacari Los Rios? Read on to find out:

Manufacturer: Republica Del Cacao
Cocoa Content: 75%
Location: Ecuador
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B

We're following up on our recent tasting of the excellent Pacari Los Rios with another take on these beans. Today's tasting is from Ecuadorian bean-to-bar chocolate maker Republica Del Cacao. Their take on the Los Rios chocolate is a 75% bar that is deep brown in color, bordering on ebony, with ruby and purple highlights. The nose has a deep, powerful chocolate aroma, with highlights of marshmallow and cinnamon.

The Republica Del Cacao Los Rios hits the palate with a distinct note of tobacco/leather. Herbal and sweet spice notes abound with cinnamon, mint and some grassiness. There is a bite of black coffee bitterness here. Banana, hazelnut and cream are here as well. Chewing the Los Rios brings forward notes of mint, honey, toffee and some cinnamon/nutmeg. The melt is perfectly smooth with a slight cooling sensation. On the finish, some chocolate finally sets in along with spearmint as a strong highlight.

I am quite torn over the Republica Del Cacao Los Rios. On one hand, the construction of this bar is absolutely flawless. The bar is divided into four large rectangles with pristine embossing and a lustrous shine. The nose has a wonderful chocolate note that is rich and fudgy like brownie batter. But once the chocolate hit my palate I found myself searching for this powerful chocolate note that the nose alluded to. It takes seemingly forever for any of the chocolate flavor to show up. Overall, the flavor is quite complex, interesting and bold with dominant notes of mint and tobacco/leather highlighted by sweet spice and herbs, but the chocolate flavor is conspicuously missing until the tail end. Still, the attention to detail is promising and I'm looking forward to trying some of Republica Del Cacao's other chocolates quite soon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Magic Hat Vinyl Lager

Today, Beer! looks forward to spring with Magic Hat's spring seasonal, the Vinyl Lager:

Brewery: Magic Hat Brewing Company
Location: South Burlington, VT
Style: Lager
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

With spring just around the corner, it's a good time to kick into Magic Hat's spring seasonal - their Vinyl Lager. The Vinyl is golden amber in color and shows a good amount of fine carbonation rising in the glass. The head pours up a light golden-tan color and is on the shorter side. The nose is fairly light. Aromas of lager malt, wheat bread, and fruity hops are all here along with a faint whiff of cucumber.

On the palate the Vinyl starts with juicy notes that lead into an off-dry malt. There is a rich maltiness with some Eurolager notes in the background. Mineral and earth are also here as highlights. The bitter hops are on the mild side and take a few sips to build up. The Vinyl is medium-bodied, which suits this full-flavored lager well. The finish has lager malt highlighted by a fading hop bite and some steely minerality.

Magic Hat has a nice, full-flavored lager on their hands with the Vinyl. While this is pretty much a straightforward lager, flavor-wise this is a big step up over the typical Euro/Canadian fare. Vinyl hits the right balance between flavor and drinkability, and is a great addition to your spring rotation.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Heavy Seas Black Cannon

Perfection. See what else Beer! has to say about the Heavy Seas Black Cannon:

Brewery: Clipper City Brewing Co.
Location: Baltimore, MD
Style: Black IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: A+

In my glass today is the Black Cannon from Heavy Seas. Black Cannon is a Black IPA and is billed as a dark version of their Loose Cannon IPA. The Black Cannon pours up opaque and reddish-black in color. The head is creamy and dark tan in color. The nose has a big citrus note of Cascade-style hops (actually from Simcoe here) and some faint toast aromas as well.

The main overall impression on the palate is roasted coffee fading in and out with citrusy hops. There is a piny note on the bitter hop side. The roasted malt contributes wheat toast, peat smoke, dark chocolate and caramel. Fruity hops yield flavors of apricot and grapefruit. The Black Cannon is medium-heavy bodied, which is perfect for a big IPA like this. There is a touch of warming alcohol as well. The finish has dark chocolate and espresso paired with lingering citrus.

To put it plainly, if there is one beer to choose as the standard for the ideal Black IPA, then the Black Cannon is your winner. The balance between hops and roast is spot-on. This beer is a perfect marriage between porter and double-IPA. A wide-mouthed glass is highly recommended as the hoppy aroma is intoxicating and entices with each sip. Get some in your glass ASAP; the Heavy Seas Black Cannon is absolute perfection.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Amedei "9" Cioccolato Fondente Extra 75% Dark Chocolate Bar

The Dark Chocolate Blog takes on the acclaimed Amedei "9" chocolate bar. Does it live up to it's expectations? Read on:

Manufacturer: Amedei
Cocoa Content: 75%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A-

I'm usually the "delayed gratification" type, but when my most recent chocolate supply arrived I couldn't resist the allure of the Amedei "9", so I dove right in. The Amedei 9 dark chocolate is a blend made from the cacao of 9 different plantations developed by the Tessieri's. The 9 bar has deep purple and ruby highlights over a deep mahogany color. The nose is notably light with aromas of vanilla and almond.

On first taste, the palate travels from a light toasted note to bitter espresso. This is followed by building acidity that has light citrus notes of orange juice. There are notes of lightly toasted almonds, marshmallow and a barky wood note. Chewing the 9 brings forward a bit of a meaty note, raspberry preserves, toffee and almonds. The melt is smooth, but not overly thick, and leaves a slight cooling sensation. The finish has a distinctly almond nutty note that take the lead as the acidity fades.

The Amedei 9 is a wonderfully complex, balanced dark chocolate bar. The flavor unfolds in multiple waves and tells a nice story as it goes. My only quarrel is that there is a notable lack of intensity or boldness. Overall, that is a small price to pay as this allows the multiple flavor notes to sing in harmony. The Amedei 9 is frequently recognized as one of the most sought-after chocolates in the world, and lives up to its reputation in a big way.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Skull Splitter

Beer! goes medieval today with the Skull Splitter ale:

Brewery: Orkney Brewery
Location: Orkney, Scotland
Style: Scottish Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

In my glass today is Skull Splitter, a Scotch Ale from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. Skull Splitter pours up a deep amber color with mahogany highlights. The head is foamy and a golden tan in color. On the nose there are aromas of fruity wine and a sweet bready malt, as well as a dry, spicy/woody note.

On the palate there is a dry fruitiness that evokes raisins and dates, but without bringing much sweetness to the party. The malt takes on a pretzel/pizza dough quality. Hops show up as hidden citrus and pine notes that take a few sips to find. Wininess and some oak are present on the palate as well. The Skull Splitter has a medium body that is quite smooth for such a big beer. There is a big, warming alcohol sensation that develops in the pit of your belly after a few sips. The finish, which is on the short side, has bitter hops that remain as the malt and fruit notes fade.

Skull Splitter is a very enjoyable ale. It is well balanced, and manages to be very dry without going too far and ending up over-dry. This is a big beer that drinks very easily. Be sure to sip this one, or you may end up waking up with a Skull Splitter of your own.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Green Mountain Coffee Lake and Lodge K-Cup

Manufacturer: Green Mountain Coffee
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today we are tasting the Lake and Lodge Blend KCup from Green Mountain Coffee. While this is a dark roast, this is not an "extra bold" KCup (extra bold K-Cups contain added coffee for a fuller flavor), which is a bit of a departure from my usual tastes. The Lake & Lodge brews up a light mahogany in color with a touch of red. It comes off the brewer with a thin ring of white froth and a faint sheen of oil on top. The nose detects lightly roasted nuts and a touch of woodiness.

On the palate there is a woody note of oak and cedar with a bit of tannin. There is just a hint of the bite of unsweetened cocoa. Lightly roasted walnuts and almonds provide some nuttiness. There is also a light acidity that hints at bananas. The Lake and Lodge has just a touch of chewiness and drying tannins. Overall, the mouthfeel is fairly light for a dark roast. The finish has soft oak and nutty notes.

Being a fan of big dark roasted coffees, I had my concerns prior to tasting the Lake and Lodge Blend, seeing as it isn’t an “extra bold” K-Cup. It turns out my concerns were unfounded. While the Lake & Lodge blend is on the light-bodied side, the flavor doesn’t suffer at all. The flavors are light, subtle and refreshing. If you like light-bodied coffee, then this is the dark roast for you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pralus Cuba 75% Dark Chocolate

Not only does Cuba produce fine cigars, it produces some damn good cacao beans as well. Check out The Dark Chocolate Blog's review of the Pralus Cuba:

Manufacturer: Pralus
Cocoa Content: 75%
Location: Cuba
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Up for review today is the Pralus Cuba. This is a 75% dark chocolate made from Trinitario cacao beans. The color of the bar is deep mahogany with some light red highlights. The nose has a deep roasted note that is classic Pralus, along with a bit of woodiness.

On the palate there is somewhat peppery spiciness. Wood notes of cedar and oak are here along with some leather. A distinct note of licorice pairs well with the spice and wood. There are roasted peanut notes and a kick of bitter espresso on the roast side. The chocolate character is rich and nutty. Chewing the Pralus Cuba opens up notes of earth, leather and roasted nuts. The bite itself is a bit waxy, leading to a soft, yielding chew. The melt is smooth, thick and creamy. The Pralus Cuba finishes with peanuts, black pepper and licorice with a bit of spiciness on the tongue.

I am a big fan of the Pralus Cuba. This is a bar that lends itself well to showcasing Pralus' classic deep-roasted style. The roast leaves a rich chocolate that is complimented by nuts and wood. Despite the heavy roast, the unique character of the beans shows through with a nice spicy licorice character. This is a great snacking dark chocolate and would pair well with a woody, dark roast coffee, or an oaked red wine that has some peppery notes. Highly recommended.