(MOH-lay, n.)--any of various spicy sauces of Mexican origin, usually having a base of onion, chilies, nuts or seeds, and unsweetened chocolate and served with meat or poultry. (source
(n.)--a dark beer resembling light stout, made from malt browned or charred by drying at a high temperature. (source
Living in Tucson has had a pretty dramatic effect on my palette. With regards to beer, it has made me learn to love the lager...because it's hard to drink much else when it's hotter than your core temperature outside, and cooling your house below 85 degrees during the day is a luxury on the order of having a nice new car. With regards to food, I have learned to love Mexican food. Real
Mexican food, which is difficult to come by in most of the country.
And so, we come to this beer. "Winter" in Tucson is a pretty mild affair, but that magical time between October and March where it generally isn't hotter than balls is precious to a man who loves his ales, porters, and stouts...as I do. (It's also the only time when the house is consistently cool enough to brew.)
I had the idea for a mole-inspired porter last year, and took a crack at it. I was a bit too timid with the chiles, though, and ended up making a really delicious but otherwise unremarkable porter. Which hardly counts as a "failure" in the strictest sense. Still, I wanted to capture the rich, bittersweet/smoky/spicy essence of a really good mole negro
in a beer.
So this year, I went all out.
The result is definitely NOT timid. You have to like your spice to enjoy this beer. At the risk of tooting my own horn, this beer is an ideal companion to Mexican food. (We had a few with dinner down in Puerto Penasco over New Year's, as a matter of fact.) As you can see from the picture above, it is ruby-black in color with a dark cream-colored head. Smoky aroma. The beer starts spicy (like really
spicy, not hoppy-spicy), then roasted malt and smoke with a hint of chocolate, then a long, slow "afterburn". The spice lingers in your mouth for quite a while afterwards, as anything made with jalepenos generally does.
If you want to try your hand at this, here's the recipe. The following is for a 5-gallon batch, though a pretty significant volume is lost by bottling due to extremely high rate of sedimentation. (I'm also assuming a basic knowledge of brewing terminology and techniques...if you have questions, please don't be shy about asking!)
3 lbs. plain dark malt extract (Munton's)
3 lbs. plain extra dark malt extract (Muntons's)
1/2 lb. chocolate malt
1/2 lb. black patent malt
1/2 lb. 40L crystal malt
1/4 lb. roasted barley (all the above grains are domestic)
1/4 lb. rauche
(beechwood-smoked) malt (German)
1 oz. Willamette hops (pellets, 4.8% alpha)
1 oz. UK Northdown hops (pellets, 6.7% alpha)
6 oz. Scharffen Berger unsweetened cocoa powder (German--any cocoa without any additives should substitute)
2 Tbs. Mexican vanilla extract (Mexican vanilla is generally stronger than what is made in the U.S.)
2 sticks fresh cinnamon
2 Tbs. ground nutmeg
7 ancho chiles
7 chipotle chiles
2 fresh green jalepenos
British Ale yeast (White Labs)
Soak the dried chiles (anchos and chipotles) in warm water for at least 2 hours to soften them up.
Steep grains in ~2 gallons water for 30 minutes at 150 degrees F.
Remove and sparge grains. Bring to a boil. Add extract, cocoa, vanilla, and bring back to a boil. Add hops and boil for 45 minutes.
Split all the chiles in half. Add them along with the cinnamon and nutmeg to the final 20 minutes of the boil. (For a less spicy version, don't split the chiles.)
Cool to 75 F. Dilute to 5 gallons. Pitch the yeast.
Original gravity was 1.062. Ambient temperature was 70-75 F during fermentation. I did 5 days in primary, 10 days in secondary, and then an additional 6 days in a tertiary fermentation to clarify. (I've mentioned it already, but it bears repeating--this recipe produces a LOT of sediment. Use good aseptic technique and it won't be a problem.) Gravity at bottling was 1.018, 6.0% ABV.
Let it condition in the bottles for at least 3 weeks before drinking. Longer is better. Last year's version was good out until at least 6 months from brewing. The one I'm drinking as I write this spent about 6 weeks in the bottle, and it's great.
¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, para adentro!