Hi-di-hi! It's time for another evening ale in the middle of marking like an eejit (no bad thing, just very busy) and so this marks a welcome bout of relaxation in amongst the self-induced chaos. There's plenty to do and you know what I'm like. I procrastinate. In fact: this sums it up better. Onward. I bought these for a colleague for Christmas and then felt left out, I saw them on offer for less than the price of a can of coke and though 'yes' - and now I review it.
It is, of course, Batemans Brewery Mocha that I have seen about the place a bit and is on permanent sale in Muirhouse Brewery Taps for a quite reasonable outlay too (and in 500ml bottles).
Would you like to venture further into the coffee-shop induced madness of an ale that sells itself by coffee smell? You would? Lovely, read more.
The smell is very chocolate-y with a definite hit of coffee on the nose when opened (though you do have to lean in quite a long way to get this properly). Having recently sampled an actual mocha I can say with reasonable certainty that the smell is very similar. Pouring resulted in a fast head (though it hangs around and looks very much like the sort of froth one gets on a coffee) and not much fizz. Having recently had a lovely pork steak with pepper I was surprised to learn that the initial flavour of this very heavy malt ale was strong enough to work over the top. There's an initial fizz that rapidly dimishes, carrying overtures of that coffee, and then there's a chocolate syrup sort of feel to it as the malt curls around the tongue and glides toward the throat. Even at 6% ABV there's no hit at the back of the throat and the warming sensation reminds me of an actual coffee but without the resultant caffeine hit (and if you know me, you know that this is a good thing).
This is strong though, and the use of real coffee and Belgian chocolate (quite a bit at 1% of the bottle each) really is a clever move as it infuses the brew and dominates the flavour well. I think they play the role of hops in this brew with a oat base and a deep malt that is soft and slippery, allowing it to develop something of a chocolate hit that actually doesn't feel out of place. When I had Black Cat (here) and Double Chocolate Stout (here) there was a definite feeling that, nice as the chocolate tones in the malt were, the whole thing was out of place and badly matched. The chocolate in Barbarian Stout (here) and Aile (here) more recently was also a different animal and a different beast. In these latter brews the flavour was less deliberate and more a reflection on the overall feel, a poor description but the closest that could be reached. Here... well, here we have an actual mocha with the warming effects of alcohol and the overall texture and feel of a decent ale.
As you may have guessed, this is an ale that I am enjoying a fair amount. The more I have of it the better it feels and the more I can appreciate what they have done here. It's clever. It shouldn't really work and I confess that at the price it was I was bracing for massive disappointment. I am not disappointed. This is a definite ale to seek out and try. And it even works as an after-dinner brew, one to have to wind down after a long day and just, well, relax with. I have a tiny 330ml bottle, 2 units, and that is pretty small for the strength. I think it works though. I may have a second this evening and I shall be out to buy more soon.
Indeed, as testament, on finishing my first bottle I immediately grabbed the second I'd stashed (at the price it was it would have been rude not to get more than one) and had that. It simply improves on a second tasting. As a fan of neither hot chocolate nor coffee and as someone whose single experience of a mocha was so-so, this ale is lovely. Just lovely.
Enjoy this as an end of day tipple, when the colour of sky matches the depth of the colour, when the woodland bark looks as impenetrable as the ale, near the glow of a fire with the lights turned low or outside in the cold and the frost with a hat over your brow and a large coat turned around. Hands clad in gloves around the mug you have placed the ale. Stare into the winter cold and dare it to attack you, warding off the knife slashes from the wind, the stabs from the minuscule gaps in your heating armour with the shield of the malt and the protection of the ABV. Sigh. Say: "that hits the spot" and then close your eyes to savour the moment of it hitting your stomach. You're welcome.