The latest addition to Carlsberg's Semper Ardens range of speciality beers is Criollo Stout, a dark beer with real chocolate and English liquorice.
Each 70cl bottle of the dark beer contains 10 grams of chocolate, as well as a touch of English liquorice, added during the brewing process. Carlsberg Denmark released Criollo Stout in 2000 as the third gourmet beer in its ambitious Semper Ardens project. The initial target was an extremely small group of 30 exclusive restaurants, mainly in Copenhagen.
At the time, Criollo Stout was hand-brewed, hand-bottled and hand-labelled at Carlsberg's pilot brewery.
"The few consumers who tasted Criollo Stout were enthusiastic, so we decided to give more Danes the opportunity to taste these full-bodied brews," said Ken H. Andersen, vice president of marketing, Carlsberg Denmark.
Criollo Stout is based on six different types of malt, including chocolate malt and caramel malt, which gives the beer its lightly roasted, sweet malt aroma and its almost black colour. Rye malt supplies some characteristic tang, while wheat malt gives the beer its soft taste and fine, dense froth.
Carlsberg Denmark claims to be one of the few breweries in the world to use chocolate in the brewing process, which completes the taste experience with an aroma of roasted coffee and vanilla. The chocolate used is Valrhona's Manjari, which has a cocoa content of 64 per cent and is made from Criollo cocoa beans - giving the beer its unusual name.
These cocoa beans are said to be among the finest and most aromatic in the world. English liquorice and aroma hops have also been added. The result is a full-bodied, dry beer with a touch of sweetness. It is also a strong beer, with an alcohol content of 6.8 per cent, and has not been filtered, so the bottle may contain tiny flecks of chocolate.
"One of the aims of the Semper Ardens project was precisely to underline the versatility of beer and to develop its potential - and we feel that Criollo Stout has entirely lived up to this aim," said Andersen.
Criollo Stout is available at approximately 120 gourmet restaurants, as well as off-licences, specialist shops and selected supermarkets throughout Denmark.
Master brewer Torsten Steenholt drew inspiration from the traditional stout flavours: coffee, liquorice, vanilla and chocolate - nuances that derive from various kinds of malt, such as caramel malt and chocolate malt.
"I felt it might be exciting to utilise real chocolate in the brewing process, to see what this did to the taste," said Steenholt of the idea behind the first Criollo Stout pilot project in 2000. The idea of adding chocolate to beer is one that very few breweries in the world had ever attempted before Carlsberg.
The latest version of Criollo is different from that initial beer, though. The 2003 version contains twice as much chocolate and slightly less English liquorice, providing a more harmonious taste.
"It was with a certain degree of concern for the fermentation process that we poured such large amounts of chocolate - 14 kg per 1000 litres of wort - into the wort boiler itself," said Steenholt. "It is well-known brewing lore that fat breaks down the surface tension and destroys the all-important froth. But the yeast survived, untroubled by its encounter with the cocoa fat in the chocolate."
The Semper Ardens range of beers was designed not only as a platform for Carlsberg's brewers to show what they could do but also to create a beer which was a good accompaniment for food. Criollo Stout is said to go well with both sweet and savoury cuisine, as well as fish and meat.
Steenholt also believes that Criollo Stout has good storage potential. "It remains unaltered three months after its sell-by date, so I think it can only improve by lagering. I believe that the quality of the beer will improve, thanks to its dark colour and high alcohol content. In time, I would expect Criollo Stout to acquire a more port-like taste as the carbon dioxide content diminishes, and this will also alter the physical experience of the beer."