The inspiration for this brew came from a couple different beers – but mostly from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith specialty series offering, Cocoa Molé. If you’re not familiar with a molé beer, think of Mexican hot chocolate – which is hot chocolate with cinnamon and chile peppers and other spices added. Sometimes these molé brews are lumped into the broader category of chile beers – but molés are quite distinct from what would otherwise a be blonde ale with jalapeno added. So, consider molé beers as a sub category within the chile beer category.
Another simply fantastic molé beer is made by San Diego brewery Stone Brewing Co. Their Xocoveza has come out the last two holiday seasons – with the more recent release being even better than the first. It’s a combination of peppers, chocolate, vanilla, coffee and other spices. The beer is very flavorful, but not overly heavy.
Our clone brew for the New Belgium Lips of Faith Cocoa Molé clone starts with the malt. As with all dark brews, we used a combination or light and dark malts. This includes rye, in addition to the usual barely. The grain was finely milled, once. We fined milled the grain to help us better achieve our target original gravity. Fine milling, over coarse milling, helps to further open up the malt, exposing their sugars that will be captured by the boiling water.
For our own attempt at a mole beer, we’ve limited our add-ins to just three very special ingredients:
• whole cinnamon sticks
• retail chile powder
• 100% pure cacao
All of the ingredients we used are available at your local retail grocery market. Though the add-ins are unusual for a beer, they are easy to obtain – as opposed to some of the more special hops we’ve used in our brews.
As with our previous brews, the original gravity of the wort clocked in at 1.045 – which was short of our recipe’s calculation of 1.051. As a side note, we measured the original gravity with both an inexpensive hydrometer as well as more expensive refractometer. We’ve been experimenting with the repetition and level of milling. Even with milling the grain finely (as opposed to coarsely), we still fell short of our target gravity.
Sampling the wort, the add-ins were barely distiniguishable. Perhaps only the chili powder made itself known. However, there were ample hops in the brew that stood out in the wort sample. Will this beer be molé-y? We can only know that six weeks in. It will, however, definitely be bitter from the hops.
It’s not bad, if not a little underwhelming. The base of the brew is good with some chocolaty notes present. Then there is also a small to moderate kick coming from the chili and cinnamon powders. It’s not bad. But I want more – more of everything: more chocolate, more cinnamon, more peppers – and I want coffee and vanilla and nut meg too. In short, I would consider this a sort of mole-light. It’s a good introductory beer for those who are just ever so slightly adventurous.
What’s more, the character of (some of) the add-ins persevered over the course of a few weeks. This is different from some of the other brews we’ve concocted – where the character contributed by the add-ins fades exponentially with age. Two and half weeks after the “drink” date (the drink date is usually two weeks after bottling), the presence of the add-ins were still there. Yay!
As mentioned, I’d like to try additional add-ins, especially vanilla and coffee – closer to the style that Stone Brewing puts out in their Xocoveza. I’d also like to see what adding more cacao does – or what happens when introducing these add-ins at different parts of the brewing process. For example, instead of going into the primary fermenter – these add-ins could go into the boil. They may – or may not – help to impart more flavor of the add-in into the final brew. A final option for tweaking the add-ins could involve changing the granularity of the add-ins. Specifically, using a whole chile pepper instead of just chile power, or grading/shredding the cinnamon sticks and bit of cacao.