Whilst on holiday last year I tried a brew local to where we were from Hog's Back Brewing Company, T.E.A. and wasn't hugely impressed. I mean, it wasn't bad, but it was nothing for me to write home about - except for the fact that I totally did though and you can see the result here. Well, we were down that part of the country again on holiday and I got the shock of my life when nipping out for some nappies ("nappies? Do you mean napkins?" Agh!) and drove past the actual brewery. Being fickle and easily impressed I arranged to bob back the following day but, believing it shut, bought some ales from the brewery in the nearby local shop, assuming the prices would be the same as the brewery.
I was wrong. I am glad that I popped into the brewery shop, alas too light in money to really make much of it, and I shall be going back. Because on this sojourn I picked up, for just over a pound, some lager. Except that it wasn't really lager. I mean, it was, because there were no hops. But it was very nice indeed and came with local chocolate. Intrigued, I bought it and tried it. Now I shall review it. It is, of course, Montezuma's Chocolate Lager.
Alas, the picture was attempted on a hot night in the hotel in which we were staying and was a bad idea - I should have waited and tried to take a better picture in the conservatory where I ended up reading Idle Thoughts by Jerome K. Jerome whilst drinking contentedly. Would you like to know more?
This fizzed a great deal on pouring. Part of this was clearly down to the fact that the stairwell I poured it in (I found a lovely chair I was originally going to sit in) was approximately 25 degrees centigrade at 9pm. It was the discovery of this that made me move to the much more comfortable conservatory and take the brew with me. However, this did make for a huge head of froth and plenty of wafting aroma. The scent of chocolate was deep and powerful, but lacking the bitterness of dark or Swiss chocolate and staying firmly in the hot chocolate and mocha territory of chocolate. This was surprisingly long lasting and was still just as potent after I had taken my pictures and then gone down the stairs to the conservatory and settled in with a book. The head also stuck around but went to more sensible levels of froth by the time I had got into the first few pages of the book (this edition published in the 1940s). The colour had also become a little darker, slowly changing over time in the glass, which was another effect I wasn't quite ready for.
As expected from the aroma, the first taste, taken after reading the dedication to the pipe, was all smokey chocolate and malts: thick and dark. It rolled over into further rich chocolate, not unlike the sort of viscosity you have in a cold chocolate fudge cake, before moving down on into more chocolate but less thick and rich and drier somehow. This is all surprisingly good, I've had a few chocolate ales in the past and none have really managed that contrast of ale and chocolate particularly well but this one does a really very good job of it. It may be obvious, but I was pretty impressed. This was not just a chocolate ale but had a real chocolate taste to it, evidenced by the bars that were available in the brewery shop I suppose, and I have to say that I did not expect to rate this at all. After all, it's a lager and has chocolate in it, it was cheap (just over a pound a pop) and from a brewery that, while passable, wasn't high on my list of breweries to try again. And yet, here it is, a chocolate lager that made me regret not having bought a second. A proper dessert of an ale that was as welcome after a swim, which I had just had, as after a hearty meal.
I would certainly have this again, it wasn't artificially sweetened to the point of saccharine and it was a good rich and deep chocolate. I know I keep saying that, it's hard to accurately describe. It was like a cold hot chocolate with a small amount of coffee on the bed of it, the kind one has on truffles and with mocha, ha, of all things. That I drank it whilst reading Idle Thoughts I feel was quite fitting and entirely inkeeping with the character of the ale. Or lager. Whatever. And all this for 4.5% ABV? Madness!
Enjoy this best in a long evening, when the weather is turning and there is that crispness of frost on the air even though none is forecast. When the long summer nights are drawing in, and the leaves from the trees are beginning to fall. Gather with a small select group around a light, for it is still too warm for a log fire, and make sure all of you have eaten and eaten well, game or pie, then share these around and drink deeply.
I am still pleasantly surprised!