Two years ago after an evening tasting session at the brewery we discovered the bottle photographed above in the back of the brewer’s beer fridge. There’s always a wealth of interesting and unusual brews in there that we each bring back from bottle shops and breweries we’ve visited on our travels or from the brewers homebrewing experiments. But this one caught our attention: ‘Special Beer. Do Not Drink’.
Naturally, we all wanted to open it. One of our founders, Michael, said it was one of his early homebrews, brewed back in 2011. It was a Porter brewed with the addition of Ancho chillies, inspired by a Mexican chocolate and chilli dessert recipe from a great local Bristol business called The Spicery. It was put aside to see how it aged and of course, five years later we couldn’t resist opening it. It was rich, well balanced with an incredible chilli warmth in the finish. Ancho chillies are very mild in heat and so let the real chilli flavour come through, revealing notes of raisin, red pepper, liquorice and chocolate. For all of us, this was a beer we would keep going back to in our memory. It was a stand out beer.
Fast forward to May 2017, we were at Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival. Alongside the other incredible beers on offer, there was one unusual offering that amazed us. The beer was Kindred Kunindra by Fierce Beer Co, a Thai Coconut Porter brewed with the addition of coconut, Kaffir lime, spices and Cayenne pepper. The beer had the familiarity of thai green curry, which has never been a flavour profile we have sought out in a beer. It was intriguing, complex and entirely drinkable. We thought it was a real triumph and it was one of our top beers of the festival. We always love beers that take us by surprise and make us re-think our assumptions.
As the festival season passed and we ran in to the lovely team from Fierce a few times more and became friends. We discussed collaborating on a brew together. These two brews and the use of chilli within a rich, dark beer became focal to the discussion.
We decided we wanted to create a beer which explored the chocolate and chilli combination, fruits and spices, with the mix of gentle heat and rich sweetness. So, on Valentine’s Day with Hot Chocolate playing on the stereo we brewed Aztec Shake together.
Our chosen brew was an Imperial Milk Stout made with copious chocolate malts, cocoa power and vanilla. These ingredients come together to provide an opulent and luxurious flavour profile. The addition of Ancho chillies, like those used in Michael’s Porter homebrew, lend a rich, fruity character with a deep warmth. The further additions of raisins and cinnamon complement the rich fruit sweetness and provide a gentle warming spice. We added all these ingredients both on the hot side during the boil, and then again on the cold side post fermentation. This technique helps to give a great depth of flavour and the right balance of the spices. Together the flavours marry to create a curious balance of sweetness and spice, a real dessert beer.
Aztec Shake is available in keg and bottle across the UK from today and will be available on draft and in bottle at the brewery tap room on Saturday 5th May.