Westbrook Brewing Co.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
Mexican Cake Imperial Stout
Dec. 20, 2010, will always be one of the most important days in the history of Westbrook. On that day, the fledgling Mt. Pleasant brewery sold its very first keg of beer, thus christening what has become one of the best breweries in the entire Southeast.
This past January, to celebrate its first year, Westbrook produced Mexican Cake, a 10.5% imperial stout aged on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and fresh Habanero peppers. I don’t remember much initial fanfare about the beer when it was first released – beer store shelves were stocked with it for weeks – but suddenly, word caught on far and wide about just how phenomenal the beer was. Soon after, it completely disappeared from shelves and reached whale status pretty quickly.
Me, being naive and all, bought just one bottle to save and enjoy later. By the time I made another beer run, it had disappeared. To be fair, my one bottle netted me a Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, so it’s not as if it was all for naught. And since then, the beer has popped up here and there at festivals and tastings.
With the brewery just turning 2 years old, more and more has trickled out into the market with rumors of another bottled batch being released early next year. I was fortunate enough to grab a half growler from a local beer store – one does not simply pass up Mexican Cake on tap – and relived the magic.
The first thing that catches your attention is the pour. To say this thing is thick is an understatement. It’s almost akin to pouring melted chocolate with how thick and viscous it is. Whatever half finger of head there is dissipates almost instantly, leaving behind massive alcohol legs.
After a year in a keg, the spice on the nose has certainly mellowed quite a good bit, but in your back of your nostrils is this lingering bite that’s unmistakable. It starts as a dry cocoa powder note, followed by a bit bite of cinnamon and finished off by a pinch of the peppers. They’re all very dry and grating spices on their own, but the incredibly rich, chocolate notes provide a perfect balance. While it could easily be too overpoweringly sweet or spicy, it’s not. All the notes on the nose are perfectly complimented and balanced.
If the nose wasn’t enough of an indication of how amazing this beer is, the taste removes all doubt. It starts with just of pinch of dark chocolate bitterness. It slips across the tongue, coupled with just enough carbonation to not make it sludgy. I know I describe a lot of beers as being like velvet on your tongue, but this one takes the cake in that department (no pun intended). In the middle of the mouth are big flavors of sweet dark chocolate, cinnamon, caramel, vanilla, espresso and cream.
A year ago, the finish on Mexican Cake really sneaked up on you. This rich, chocolatey stout all of a sudden exploded into this fiery, peppery monster and was then immediately brought back down to Earth by the richness. The heat lingered on the back of your throat and tongue and only intensified as you drank more. But not once did it ever become overpowering or too much. Time has certainly mellowed this beer. The heat is certainly still there on the end, but it’s much milder that I remember it being. But it does build after a while and reminds me of why I fell in love with this beer so easily.