The Bruery has been bringing amazing craft beer to Orange County, California (known as a beer wasteland for years compared to the Bay area and San Diego) since 2008. They are known for smaller batch and experimental beers and are much sought-out in the beer trading community. The Bruery is probably known most for their annual release Black Tuesday, a barrel aged Russian Imperial stout that is destined for a future A Whale A Week entry of its own. Chocolate Rain began (I think) in 2009 at the brewery as a one-off version of Black Tuesday with vanilla beans and San Francisco based TCHO Chocolate cocoa nibs. The beer first released in bottle 2011 after it had already gained a huge cult following by beer geeks. Currently they take a select few of their barrels of bourbon aged Imperial stout, age them with the above ingredients for several months, and then blend them to get the final Chocolate Rain. The beer has a rating of 96 on Beer Advocate and a solid 100 on RateBeer. The 2013 vintage has an ABV of a whopping 18%!
My memory is hazy of when I first tried this beer (perhaps because of the 18%)...it was either with Andrew Gieseke or Rob Wengler--I know we tried it with both of them at some point. My wife and I both fell in love with the beer immediately. The Bruery is not distributed here in Minnesota, but Andrew was a member of their Reserve Society--allowing members to get first crack at their rare beers--however that requires that you have a mule to pick them up and send them to you! I later accumulated a couple of bottles in a bulk cellar buy from a cool local guy with a crazy amount of rare beers that he had to pare down.
Sj and I did a chance to get to The Bruery's taproom in Placentia (not placenta) California when we went on our anniversary trip to Disneyland last year. That place is insane with at least 20-30 of their own beers on tap and even more in bottle. We were glad we took a cab so we didn't have to drive back. Though apparently none of the local cab companies could find us, since it took about an hour to finally get out of that place! There are worse places to be stuck. We brought back a whole case of bottles for later use... It pays to travel with an empty wine shipper!
For this particular A Whale A Week tasting I finally had my friend Garret Davis over to the bar. This one was on his list of untasted whales and I felt it was time to share the wonder that is Chocolate Rain--as it was once shared with us. Garret is a homebrewer and Jack Of All Brews member, known for his love of IPA. He was kind enough to share a Sixpoint Resin double IPA with me that was stellar! Sj wanted no part of that hoppy beast. Breaking open the thick wax easily with my Hopsecutioner opener (thanks Martin!), I then poured this into snifter glasses.
Chocolate Rain 2013
Eric: High alcohol, vanilla, and chocolate are all right up front and in your face! Light wood char. Very sweet smelling. Notes of wood or oxidation as it warms (paper, oak.) Lots and lots of bourbon.
Garret: Chocolate. Rubbing alcohol. Bourbon. Vanilla.
Eric: Very dark brown, but not black. Fine light tan head that fades quickly. Slight copper glow when held to light.
Eric: Crazy powerful sweetness! Vanilla is very strong and amazing--accentuating the sweet flavors. Not much malt flavor to this--more like a honey and booze sweetness. Strong bourbon notes. Lots of alcohol warming, but not quite a full burn. Chocolate comes in after a few sips when the palate gets used to the vanilla and bourbon but is subtle. Raisin as it warms up. Almond or cherry pit flavors at finish. Mouthfeel is thick and almost syrupy, but carbonation is high enough to even it out a bit.
Garret: Cinnamon, brown sugar. Very sweet, sticky. Thick and oily mouthfeel.
Eric: Incredibly sweet and boozy. Not as chocolate-forward as I remember it. Complex beer and borders on cloying but just barely misses that spot. I feel a bit like going to bed now. Would love to sip this under a starry night by a fire pit in the fall. 4.5
Garret: Delicious! Very boozy, but I would not change a thing! 4.75
Sarajo: Sooo super sweet and delicious. I love to drink dessert. 4.5
Overall Score: 4.58
Yup, this one is tasty! This is a beer to share for sure, since I can't imagine drinking more than a snifter of it.
And for an added Easter egg here is your moment of Chocolate Rain by Tay Zonday:
Photo details: For this shot I took a photo of the bottle label, then another shot of a cluster of packaged chocolates, then superimposed them using Photoshop Elements.