Drink Your Mexican Hot Chocolate in Beer Form


It's that age-old fall conundrum. You want a cozy seasonal beverage, but you also want a beer. You're all cidered out and think pumpkin beers can suck it. What do you do? Pour a beer in your hot cocoa? No, dummy. You crack open a Xocoveza Mocha Stout.

Who cares if you can't pronounce it? (Sho-Co-Vay-Za, if you insist.) This week's Beer of the Week -- from Stone Brewing in San Diego, with a bit of help from Insurgente in Tijuana -- is a unique, rich brew you'll be sipping all season long.

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The beer is part of Stone's collaboration series and was originally concocted by home brewer Chris Banker. It's described as a beer version of a Mexican hot chocolate and comes surprisingly close while maintaining all of its beery goodness.

There's a lot going on with this beer, but its initial impression comes from a coffee aroma and then a flavor profile that centers on a chocolate body spiked with vanilla, nutmeg, and a touch of pepper spice. It pours with a brown head and has a higher carbonation level for a stout, which helps to separate the lighter spice flavors from the depth of roast malt, coffee, and chocolate within. The pepper addition is mild -- the brewers used pasilla peppers for a light accent at the finish that delivers a clean finish without any burn.

"Essentially, we just scaled up the recipe from a homebrew recipe to large-scale production," says Stone's Nickie Peña. "We did change the supplier of the coffee and chocolate. For this large-scale batch, we used coffee provided by San Diego-based roaster Mostra Coffee, vanilla, and pure cocoa from Southern California's ChocoVivo to give the brew a sweet, roasty flavor."

It's a complicated beer, but one that doesn't overpower or feel cluttered by all of those additional ingredients. On the surface and with a quick sip, it's a milk stout. Closer inspection brings out complementary flavors that never override its clear categorization or threaten to turn it into a novelty beer. Xocoveza is mild and smooth, calming, and a little bit exotic. As spiced fall beers hit the shelves, this is definitely worth picking up.

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