Behind the Beer: Wreck Alley Imperial Stout
It was around this time last year when we were making the final tweaks to a beer that would become Wreck Alley, our Imperial Stout brewed with cocoa nibs and coffee beans. And as we look forward to releasing our first barrel-aged version of Wreck Alley on March 1st, we thought we’d share the story behind the original beer, or at the very least some of the interesting details that wouldn’t fit on the label.
Finding the right coffee…
In our search for the perfect coffee beans, we were certain about two things; first, we wanted a roast that would complement the dark chocolate flavors of the beer without adding bitterness, and second, we wanted to work with a local roaster. Fortunately, the folks at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters were not only willing to supply us with their award-winning coffee, but even offered to create a special roast for Wreck Alley Imperial Stout. After plenty of sampling, we landed on lightly roasted beans from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. The flavors were delicate, and when cold-steeped, the coffee had a nutty, roasted, and toffee-like character.
What the heck are cocao nibs, why do I keep hearing about them, and what are they doing in a beer?
Simply put, cocoa nibs are cocoa beans that have been roasted, de-husked, and crushed into pieces– basically chocolate in its rawest form. In brewing, the addition of cocoa nibs will add to and accentuate the dark chocolate flavors in porters and stouts. The Peruvian cocoa nibs used in Wreck Alley are roasted and prepared by Tcho Chocolate Company on Pier 17 in San Francisco, CA.
Where does the coffee and cocoa come into play in the brewing process?
This step is what all the test batches were for. We use coffee and cocoa nibs in Wreck Alley to lend their individual flavors to the beer, while complementing the flavors of the malts. Because both coffee beans and cocoa nibs can be bitter and acidic, we use a cold-steeping process where both ingredients are added to the conditioning tank after fermentation. This technique allows Wreck Alley to extract the flavors and aromas of the coffee and cocoa without adding bitterness or acidity.
If your better half says they don’t care about Valentine’s Day, don’t be fooled – IT’S A TEST! For all you last minute romantics looking to mix things up this year, we’ve got your game plan. Below are some decadent pairings combining our beers with artisan chocolates from the fine folks at Eclipse Chocolat in San Diego. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out, they’ve got quite an impressive selection at their store on El Cajon Blvd in the North Park area.
Complement: Find a beer that shares similar flavors with your chocolate. An example would be the the milk chocolate and dark fruit undertones of a Baltic Porter paired with a blackberry infused dark chocolate truffle. Easy, right?
Contrast: Find a beer and chocolate combination that enhances both by combining different flavors. An example would be pairing a tart Kriek or Framboise with a sweet berry infused white chocolate. Also, don’t discount hoppier beers; they’re great with chili infused chocolate.
Red Trolley Ale & Salty Dulce de Leche Chocolate
The salty white chocolate and pretzel contrast nicely with the sweet caramel malt flavors of Red Trolley Ale for a delicious balance of sweet and savory.
Fullsuit Belgian Brown Ale & Balsamic Pink Peppercorn Truffle
While Fullsuit’s complex malt profile is a natural fit with the rich dark chocolate, it’s the beer’s phenolic peppery character that matches beautifully with this peppercorn infused truffle.
Parrot in a Palm Tree & Blackberry Goat Cheese Truffle
Parrot in a Palm Tree’s layered chocolate and dark fruit flavors meld perfectly with this blackberry and goat cheese truffle for the quintessential complementary pairing.
22nd Anniversary Vanilla Imperial Stout & Chili Hazelnut Chocolate
The dark chocolate flavors of an Imperial Stout are a natural match with chocolate but this robust pairing takes it a step further. The spicy cayenne-candied hazelnuts enhance the beer’s bourbon flavors that linger through its warming finish.
Pintail Pale Ale – Lemon Thyme Truffle
The floral and citrus character of Amarillo hops mirror the zesty flavors of this lemon and thyme infused truffle, while the sweet white chocolate balances Pintail’s hop bitterness.
Tower 10 IPA – Mango Masala Chocolate
American IPA’s are a great match with spicy India cuisine so it’s no surprise that Tower 10 is a bitchin addition to the Mango Masala Chocolate. T10′s hop bitterness tempers the spice of the masala, while citrus hop flavors highlight the candied mango. Who says IPA’s can’t pair with chocolate?!
Coming Soon: Karl teams up with Misty from Pub Cakes for special recipes and pairings with our 22nd Anniversary Stout.
22nd Anniversary Stout 9.0 % ABV – A bold Russian Imperial Stout brewed with vanilla beans and aged three months in American oak bourbon barrels. This robust strong ale has rich dark chocolate and espresso flavors, underpinned by nuances of vanilla, bourbon, and oak.
Old Columbia Barleywine 9.5% ABV – A full-bodied English-style Barleywine with rich toffee and caramel malt flavors, undertones of fried fruit, and a sweet warming finish.
Imperial Amber Lager 7.5% ABV – A massive amount of Centennial hops give this more robust version of Karl’s favorite beer an aggressive floral and pine-like hop character, over a backdrop of caramel and toasted malts.
Fullsuit Belgian Brown Ale 6.3% ABV – A Belgian-style brown ale brewed with a blend of caramel and brown malts for toasted and sweet coffee-like flavors, underpinned by the peppery spice of Belgian yeast. Aging on French oak adds a hint of vanilla to its slightly dry and warming finish.
Featured Pairing: Steak N’ Egg Sandwich
Steak N’ Egg Sandwich: Grilled prime rib-eye steak, poached egg, provolone and broccoli rabe on a grilled French roll. It’s served open-faced with a field green salad.
The Pairing: For our Anniversary, we created a flavorful pairing worth celebrating. The caramel and toasted flavors of our Amber Lager seamlessly complement the succulent steak, while its smooth finish balances the savory egg and cheese, refreshing the palate between bites. You’ll want a fork and knife with this one.