Chocolate Beer from the Spice Islands

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St. George’s Harbour, Grenada

The Spice Island of Grenada in the West Indies isn’t well know for its beer selection, with Carib and Stag being the most commonly available brands.  It is however quite well known for producing things like rum, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger and chocolate.  I thought it might be interesting to come up with a beer recipe that combines some of these ingredients

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Douglaston Spice Plantation – allspice, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, cacao, bay leaves & ginger

After visiting a chocolate plantation on the north side of the island, I learned exactly how chocolate is made and why it pairs so well with beer.  It’s the cacao beans, which are found inside large pods, that are used to make chocolate.  The beans are removed from the pod with the white pulp still surrounding them and it is left to ferment in large vats for 7 days.

This process breaks down some of harsher tannins and gives the bean a much fuller body and richness that we know and love in chocolate. The wild yeast that ferments these beans (Saccharomyces) is very similar to what ferments beer, which is probably why chocolate and beer work so well together.

Inside cocoa

Beans inside cacao pods

Following fermentation, the beans are laid out in the sun for another 7 days to dry.  Once dried they are sorted, roasted and crushed to separate it from the husk.  Broken pieces of the bean are also known as cacao nibs.  The refining process goes on from that point to make chocolate, but it’s the nibs I want to use to make a beer with.

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Drying racks for cacao beans

The most common style of beer to make use of those nibs would be either a porter or a stout, but I wanted to try something a little less conventional.  Surrounded by the big beautiful blue salt water ocean, the island of Grenada itself gave me the idea to add some sea salt into the mix.  Think about how great salted dark chocolate tastes and how that combination might make an interesting beer.

I initially thought a Chocolate Gose might be the way to go to merge these flavours.  Gose beer is a traditional German sour wheat beer that has salt and coriander added to it.  The sour aspect of the style might prove problematic with the chocolate, so I’ve opted to try a Salted Chocolate Stout instead.  I also wanted to incorporate some of the other island ingredients such as nutmeg and rum and figured they would blend well with this particular recipe.

So this is the recipe I’m going to use for a 5 gallon batch:

12 lbs 2 Row Pale Malt
1 lb Chocolate Malt
1 lb Munich Malt
1 lb Oats, Flaked
12.0 oz Carafa II
8.0 oz Special W Malt
4.0 oz Roasted Barley
1.00 oz Nugget [13.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min
Belgian Golden Ale (White Labs #WLP570) Yeast 9
Cacao Nibs (following primary fermentation)
Nutmeg (following primary fermentation)
Sea Salt (following primary fermentation)
Rum soaked oak chips (secondary)

Once I brew this, I’ll post again with the results and tasting notes for the beer.