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Beer Review: Dogfish Head Theobroma

We were sitting at Amis in Philadelphia last weekend waiting for my sister, husband, and in-laws to join us for dinner. Grabbing a drink at the bar we thought best to order some local brews. Al spotted one of our favorite beers (not available in Florida) – Allagash White Belgian Ale – and decided on that. I spotted an unknown DFH beer (at least to me) brewed with cocoa and ancho chiles? Now I had to try that. After a sip of each beer, Al was holding the Theobroma hostage from me.

For those unfamiliar with Dogfish Head, they are the epitome of what makes craft beer great. They push the envelope, do things others wouldn’t, and are slightly crazy. But all great creations come from people that are just a little nuts. Dogfish Head got its start in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware serving microbrews and great food to summer vacationers in 1995. It wasn’t long before those vacationers craved the beer at home – mainly in the Philadelphia and DC areas. Year after year, they grew. Soon enough they were nationally recognized and distributed, their 120 minute IPA even created a phenomenon of its own. Today you can find DFH in 25 different states, although the majority of their brews stay at that Brewpub in Delaware.

Now about Theobroma…whose story may be more interesting than the beer itself. To quote the Dogfish website,

This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions. The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC.

Pretty deep for a beer, huh? Based on this discovery, Theobroma which means “food of the gods” is brewed with Aztec Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Nibs. Honey, ancho chiles and annatto (fragrant tree seeds) are added to the mix which deliver most of their flavors on the end of the palette. The beer is medium bodied with a low-hop, smooth finish. We paired this with a spicy pasta dish with jalapenos and sun-dried tomatoes. The sweetness from the cocoa balanced the spiciness of the dish on the front but didn’t overwhelm it because of the chile kick in the beer on the finish.

Overall, an interesting and complex beer and not surprisingly one of our new favorites. Want to know more? Check out this video DFH created about the beer, informative and fun!

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A Food Friendly Beer

Pangaea: Not your everyday pale ale. In fact, I think this beer creates its own style category.  When someone asks me about it, I have a difficult time describing it in few words. Light in color in body, ginger on the palate, slightly spicy and a crisp, clean finish. The best part about it is that it’s one of those rare beers that pairs perfectly with food.

The story goes, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head was watching a dinosaur movie with his son in which they were talking about the land mass before it separated into continents, called Pangaea. Sam was inspired to create a beer that would symbolically “put the world back together.”  In doing so, the ingredients are brought together from every continent in the world. Crystallized ginger from Australia, basmati rice from Asia, muscavado sugar from Africa, quinoa from South America, yeast from Europe, maize from North America, and my favorite, water from Antarctica make up this diverse, worldly recipe. They actually contacted the US Military base stationed in Antarctica in order to buy iceberg water. Pretty creative thinking with this one.

Pangaea is the perfect accompaniment to a wide range of foods. I had it the other night with sushi, a very difficult food genre to find a compatible beer. The ginger acted as a wonderful palate cleanser and the light, low hop content left a clean finish. The pickled ginger that comes as a heap on the side of your plate is meant to cut the saltiness of the soy sauce and hotness of the wasabi. Pangaea takes its place just fine, and what makes it even better is that it’s beer! It would also pair wonderfully with holiday meals where turkey, prime rib and ham are the main course. It is not so heavy that it would overpower your food, yet not so light that you don’t notice it. If you are a beer drinker, this is the equivalent of a wine drinker’s “food friendly wine”. And with 7% alcohol, you won’t fall over if you finish the whole bottle yourself.

Pangaea is a Limited Release only found in the Fall. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. As Sam Calagione says, “Good luck trying to find Pangaea”

Dogfish Head Pangaea Limited Release 750ml: $10.50

As luck would have it, Pangaea can  be found at Decanted Wines at 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples FL 34108