Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sam Adams - The Vixen Chocolate Chili Bock Review

Brewery: Boston Beer Company (MA)
Style: Bock
ABV: 8.5%
Grade: A-

The brewmasters up at Boston Beer Company are apparently sick of feisty bloggers and beer snobs attacking their fruity wheat beers, as they recently released a line of four limited-release, craft-ier beers. Beers with nice labels, interesting recipes; beers that a beer snob might take a second glance at. I did.

And, wow. Sam Adams earns enough karma to negate quite a few missteps with this one. It's really kind of odd how, of all the beers they could have easily taken over-the-top, Sam Adam managed to land the appropriate subtleties with this one. I mean, their fruit beers are all absurdly overboard, syrupy and sweet and just not good at all. But a chilli beer, a super-niche style that's incredibly easy to overdue, they got that right? Unexpected, but happily true. This is a good beer.

To be clear, the chili is very, very reserved; in fact it's barely detectable unless you know to look for it. Turns out, that's a great way to use chili. Even the best pepper beers I've had weren't something I'd likely reach for more than one of, but this I could drink all night. The chocolate, rather than the chili, dominates the flavor profile, and while that chocolate adds a smooth, silky mouthfeel, the chili just lurks in the background adding some warmth. And that's a perfect place for it. It's not totally lost, but it's definitely not aggressive. The Vixen is one of the few beers I've had that could be described as "savory" — some combination of chocolate and chili with the rich mouthfeel accomplishes that.

The Vixen could almost be mistaken for a chocolate stout, and if it were, I'd say it would easily rank up there with the best of that genre. The added subtleties of the pepper don't change that; in fact, they just add a nice touch of complexity. The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth, with lively carbonation and a medium body. Since this beer is pleasantly not-sweet anyway, I wasn't looking for something with milkshake-like consistency. The 8.5% ABV is impossible to detect.

I can't come up with any complaints about this one; I really enjoyed the Vixen. It's surprisingly subtle and drinkable, yet extremely flavorful. If you're looking for more heat or more craziness, just approach this with a different mindset. Someone at Sam Adams knows what they're doing, and I'll definitely be trying the rest in this series of special brews now.

Availability: Should be easy to find, though Sam Adams intentionally mixed up the label design so it doesn't look like one of their regulars. Might not appear in grocery stores, but should be in most specialty beer shops. Only in 22 ounce bottles.

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