For many beer snobs, chocolate brews tends to live in the same world of trashy novelty as pumpkin beer, the "Purple People Eater" of suds. But as the U.S. gains more craft chocolatiers to match our growing brewing scene, opportunities for better versions of the oft-maligned drink arise. Case in point, the new collaboration brew from Saint Arnold Brewing Company, which keeps things local with the inclusion of organic, fair trade Arriba Nacional cacao from Ecuador sourced by none other than Tomball's Tejas Chocolate Craftory.
The result of the marriage is Icon Blue, a chocolate weizenbock (wheat bock) that Saint Arnold brewing operations manager Stephen Rawlings calls "a chocolate banana split in beer form." There is indeed a hint of banana in the nose, but chocolate and malt, like a giant, ultra-dark malted milk ball, are more prominent at first sip. Scott Moore Jr., Tejas' founder and chocolatier, sampled a variety of nibs with the brewers before choosing the Arriba Nacionals for what he describes as its "subtle floral characteristics."
The result? A beer with some actual subtlety, significant body and very little bitterness. It is sweet, but not too sweet to enjoy with a savory meal—I paired mine with Szechuan fish and tofu, which brought out the aromatic peppers of the dish, and the nuttiness in the drink. But the best reason to drink it is supporting the collaboration between two favorite local producers. Go Houston food!