Thursday, December 18, 2014

Birthday Beer: Shiner's surprising chocolate stout

Image credit: McGarrah Jessee and
The Gambrinus Company.

I guess Forrest Gump was right when he said "Life is like a box of chocolates," since one look at Shiner's latest offering will have you thinking, "you never know what you're gonna get."

The quote is appropriate because earlier this week I received what was, in effect, a box of chocolates from the Spoetzl Brewery and their brand manager McGarrah Jessee. It was a gift of sorts, to help celebrate the brewery's 106th birthday. Of course, one might have expected to look inside and find a traditional German lager, but much to my surprise the contents revealed Shiner's new chocolate stout. Needless to say, based on past history, it wasn't what I thought I was gonna get.

Birthday Beer, a.k.a. Shiner 106, is a limited-edition creation brewed in small batches with chocolate malt and real cocoa. It's the first stout produced by Shiner, coming a little less than three years after the brewery crafted its first ale in Wild Hare Pale Ale, and a further departure from their traditional line of lagers. As for the number designation, in addition to referring to the number of years Spoetzl has been in business, it's a continuation of a series of annual releases that began with Shiner 96.

Samples of Birthday Beer arrived in a gift box, appropriately wrapped in paper with a birthday party motif. An accompanying card, depicted in the image above, described the beer as having "a distinctly chocolate aroma and taste." You'll find no argument here, as a rich cocoa powder character is evident immediately upon opening. This persists throughout the drinking experience, as does an underlying sweetness which is balanced by a hint of chocolate bitterness in the finish. The beer has reasonable body, along with some chalkiness and a fair bit of carbonation, and while I wouldn't call it "stout" in terms of strength or feel, there's a good amount of flavor for a brew that fits right in with Shiner's easy-drinking style.

The card goes on to suggest that Birthday Beer will return again next year, presumably keeping the same name but with the contents being yet another surprise that's "something completely different." If you're a fan of the "little brewery," I suppose that gives you something to look forward to. For now, though, this year's edition will be available in twelve-ounce bottles and cans. Seek it out wherever Shiner products are sold.

Birthday Beer - Shiner 106
Style: Chocolate Stout
ABV: 5.0%
IBU: 18
Malts: 6-Row, Chocolate
Hops: Nugget
Other: Cocoa

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