Cosy up to a Divine Brown 5.3% Mocha Brown Ale as the temperature becomes increasingly ruthless, and bears down on your poor, wee, tropical Wellington summer-conditioned soul.
Think a seductive, dark coffee character with hints of hazelnut and plums, following through into a clean, biscuity mid-palate, and finishing light, slightly sweet and with delicate cacao/dark chocolate flavours, partnered with aromas of freshly ground coffee, fresh-cut grass, roasted hazelnuts and whipped vanilla cream.
This Mocha Brown Ale is a moreish, Kelly Ryan reincarnation of Fork Brewing’s former Divine Brown 5% Brown Ale, B.B. (‘Before Brewjesus’); its name riffing upon a slightly risqué, back-in-the-day pop culture incident, which, sadly, no one would likely blink a world-weary eye at these days.
“It’s an autumnal beer in a way,” says Fork Brewing brewer, Kelly.
“I say, ‘In a way’, because people have this perception that you can’t drink a dark beer in warmer months, but I think that’s silly!
“I absolutely love Brown and Red Ales – these malt-led beers. And I also quite like the idea of working with coffee and cacao nibs in beer: coffee up front, chocolate and biscuit on the back palate.
“In the past I’ve done quite a few different coffee beers – one called Pollards that I brewed at Thornbridge, which was a Coffee Milk Stout. Then when I was at Epic, I worked on the precursor to the Coffee and Fig Stout for our Beervana Media Brew one year. We later ended up doing a large batch of that, and it’s now done as a yearly vintage of Epic Coffee & Fig Stout.
“I really wanted to bring some mocha elements – that chocolate coffee combo – into Divine Brown to produce a beer that finished with a little bit of sweetness, and have those lovely aromas you get from freshly roasted coffee, with a nice biscuit and chocolate finish from the use of cacao nibs.
“So the beer was fermented, and then transferred onto these massive bags of whole coffee beans and cacao nibs.”
When Kelly brewed Jelly AnTipodean Raspberry Vanilla Chocolate Stout for Fork’s 2015 Beervana Media Brew (placing third and winning the People’s Choice gong), he used a Dominican variety of cacao nibs from Wellington Chocolate Factory, due to the nibs’ low acidity and delicious, swoony aromatics. It worked so well, he tottered off down the road to WFC to collect another lot of the same for Divine Brown.
The coffee roast was the Radicato blend, a combination of different beans, from The Immigrant’s Son.
“I wanted something a little bit darker than our house coffee bean that we use here at Fork. The darker the blend of coffee, the more intense the oils are, and lower on acidity.
“So you end up getting that coffee richness without any of the associated acidity, which can change the mouthfeel and structure of the beer. (And which I’d rather you get through carbonation.)
“Then you chuck that all together with this really cool malt that I use called Biscuit Malt from Gladfield Malts, which gives a little bit of dryness with this digestive biscuit back palate.
“I also used lots of specialty malts: Dark Crystal Malt, that gives a raisiny fruitiness; Chocolate Malt, obviously, for that nice, sort of rich, chocolatey character to accentuate the cacao nibs; and then a combo of Vienna and Munich malts, these slightly darker base malts.
“Shake them all together, push the button on the blender three times… and the beer is finished!”
Kelly says – and this may be the answer to his quandary of why people aren’t so keen to drink this breed of beer in warmer months – that it’s a beer that really benefits from warming.
“Our tap system can only serve at one temperature – unless it’s on our handpull – so if you get a stem and really want to enjoy it, I recommend letting it sit for 5-10 minutes. The flavours kind of open up, and you get this lovely hazelnut-coffee character, particularly on the nose. And the more it warms, the more you get these notes of maple syrup and all sorts of moreish stuff like that!
“I think the key thing is that at 5.3%, it is a brew pub beer, not a bottle to share. So in terms of it being a Mocha Brown Ale, I wanted to make sure that that drinkability element was there; not too sweet, not too rich, not too intense in its chocolate or coffee elements.
“I’m looking forward to brewing this one again! I’m gonna start to play around with the portions of cacao and coffee, and really perfect that balance.”
Divine Brown will be pouring on nitro this Friday (22 April).
Divine Brown 5.3% Mocha Brown Ale Tasting Notes
Taste: Initial dark coffee character with hints of hazelnut and plums. Follows through into a clean, biscuity mid-palate and finishes, light, slightly sweet and with delicate cacao/dark chocolate flavours.
Aroma: Freshly ground coffee, fresh-cut grass, roasted hazelnuts, whipped vanilla cream.
Look: Deep red-brown with an off-white head.
Hops: American Cascade
Malt: Dark Chocolate, Vienna, Munich, Biscuit, Dark Crystal, American Ale
Other: The Immigrant’s Son Espresso Radicato Coffee Blend (Brazilian Catuai & Mundo Nuvo, Guatemalan Huehuetenango, Kenyan Ruiru II, Tanzanian Bourbon & Blue Mountain) and Wellington Chocolate Factory Dominican Cacao Nibs.
Yeast: House Strain – Warm fermented