Review: Samuel Adams “The Vixen Chili Chocolate Bock”

In general, I am a fan of Samuel Adams beer varieties. When I found this one-off style (brewed only once), I was definitely intrigued. I definitely enjoy beers with a strong chocolate profile, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed chili beers in the past. Chili and chocolate has been a hot item in sweet shops for several years now, but this was the first time I saw it advertised as a combination in a beer.

But what cinched the purchase for me was reading the bottle; not only did they go to the trouble of telling what malts and hops they used (not that most of the names meant much to me — I’ve only brewed once), but they also pointed out that they used chilies from Mexico, cocoa nibs from Ecuador, and cinnamon from Southeast Asia. (It just so happens that my favorite cinnamon — and yes, I have a favorite cinnamon — is the Vietnamese Cassia cinnamon from Penzey’s Spices.)

So, not just chocolate and chili… but chocolate and chili with cinnamon! In a bock! From Samuel Adams! I was sold. I bought two bottles.

It pours beautifully — a deep cola with reddish notes (burgundy? ruby? garnet? I should probably be more descriptive if I want to be taken seriously by beer snobs, but really I just want to appeal to “guys who like beer but don’t want to be a jerk about it”). The head wasn’t overly thick, but it lingered.

The nose was complex; the notes of chocolate were obvious, as were roasted malts, but despite the extensive list of hops the bitterness in the fragrance was muted.

Despite the fairly robust flavor, the mouthfeel was a little thin. At first, I thought it was thick, actually, but then I realized that it was just sticky due to a pervasive streak of sweetness that I hadn’t anticipated.

My first taste of it was unpaired, and I was extremely disappointed that I couldn’t taste the chili or the cinnamon without concentrating. I don’t know what kind of chili they used, but there was no heat to it; I suspect possibly something with some fruity notes. After the malt and the chocolate, the next strongest flavor was just alcohol.

Tonight, I tried it with a meal from Las Chalupas, our local Mexican restaurant. To my surprise, I was better able to detect a hint of the cinnamon flavor, although the chili disappeared entirely. I enjoyed the beer far more when I had a slightly spicy meal with it, but in general I have to say that I was disappointed. The promise of a Samuel Adams chili chocolate bock beer with cinnamon set my expectations high, and it completely failed to deliver anything more than an adequate craft beer.

My grade: C-

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