The cocoa bean or simply cocoa, which is also called the cacao bean or cacao, is the dried and fully fermented seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter can be extracted. Chocolate is typically made from cacoa nibs, sugar, and cocoa butter, all of which has to be (hopefully organically) processed before it becomes something you’d recognize and want to put into your mouth. Most cocoa beans originate in Peru, Belize, or Madagascar and then stored in a climate-controlled room where inferior beans are removed. The good ones are then slow-roasted in a modified coffee roaster, a giant machine of big, silver cylinders that looks like it’s meant to mix cake batter. Once the beans are roasted, still more industrial apparatuses begin to click and whir, beginning with a winnowing machine, which cracks open roasted beans, separating the nibs from the husks that are whisked away by a vacuuming device. The nibs, known as cocoa powder and used to make chocolate, are pulverized and then ground into liquid form with stone wheels that resemble the landing gear of a jet airliner. This is the point at which the whole mess starts to look like chocolate — with the addition of organic sugar and homemade cocoa butter with a grinding device like an automobile carburetor, out of which creamy liquid chocolate happens. Several hours later, the mixture is moved to a conching machine, another automated metal bowl, where it’s heated and gets creamy again. In another big metal bowl, the chocolate gets tempered, which makes it shiny. The whole shebang gets set aside to age for a week or two and, once they’re hardened, the nibs of chocolate are aged for several weeks and later melted for use in making craft beer. About two weeks later, the cocoa-infused craft beer arrives at Peaks and Pints in Tacoma, Washington, where it’s placed with four other cocoa-infused craft beers and named Craft Beer Crosscut 1.12.19: A Flight of Cocoa Nibs.
Craft Beer Crosscut 1.12.19: A Flight of Cocoa Nibs
7.5% ABV, 28 IBU
Kick your peanut butter fix up a notch with Belching Beaver Brewery’s Mexican Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout. Formally named Viva La Beaver, and prior, Living La Beaver Loca, Belching Beaver changed the name to highlight the key flavors of this award-winning beer: creamy peanut butter, cinnamon and cocoa nibs. Peaks and Pints also picks up notes of roasted coffee, cookie dough, fudge, brownie batter, cappuccino, toffee and dark roasted malts upfront, as well as a little vanilla on the mid-palate. This decadent milk stout is the definition of dessert beer.
Trap Door Brewing tossed real waffles in the mash tun while brewing their decadent Super Treat Neapolitan ice cream stout. Then, the Vancouver, Washington brewery conditioned this milk stout on strawberries, vanilla beans, and cacao nibs. All the ingredients make an appearance, including the waffles. Yes, this stout is super sweet, but it’s also super delicious.
10.2% ABV, 37 IBU
A collaboration between Midnight Sun Brewing and Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge, this dark strong chocolate ale is brewed with chocolate and rye malts, roasted cacao nibs, cacao powder, Maca root powder, brown sugar and Modern Dwellers’ Mayan Spice blend that’s then aged with cocoa powder. Sure, it’s unique but it’s well balanced and remarkably easy to drink. Expect a nose of cacao with a spice. Flavor shows pepper hotness but the chocolate balances it. There may be alcohol here but it is hidden under the pepper and big dark malts. It finishes with some pepper zip.
5.8% ABV, 40 IBU
Probably Modern Times Beer’s single most requested beer in their San Diego tasting room. The chocolate and coffee of Black House makes an awesome base for intemperate quantities of coconut and cocoa nibs. Flavor is loaded with coffee upfront, with a tiny hint of coconut and a touch of dry cocoa powder. It mellows out to a semi-sweet finish that is somewhat creamy.
8.9% ABV, 55 IBU
Originally a collaboration with the Scots at Brewdog in 2013, Elysian’s The Fix is a big and bold imperial stout that is also just as much of a chocolate beer as it is a coffee beer. The Fix also may be the most caffeinated brew on the market, brewed with 9 pounds of Stumptown Coffee Cold Brew, or the equivalent of a 1/2 cup of coffee in every bottle. Elysian then aged the stout on 3,000 pounds of Congolese cocoa nibs from Seattle-based Theo Chocolate. This is an intensely dark and rich beer.