Before he moved back to New Zealand with his family, the first person I asked to write for The Crafty Pint loved to point out how good Modus Operandi were when it came to brewing dark beers. In their early days, they captured the attention of the beer cognoscenti with excellent hop forward beers such as Former Tenant and Sonic Prayer (OK, and bringing CANimals to Australia, and winning all the awards, and...). Yet their forays into darker territory – Silent Knight Porter, various stouts including spiced GABS entry Black Magic Woman, for example – always brought joy to the palate of Nick Oscilowski (and, presumably, many others).
It's into such a space they venture again with Phantom Of The Calavera, a stout with a name referencing both the Lloyd-Webber musical and the edible skulls typically enjoyed on the Mexican Day of the Dead. It takes a similar approach to the aforementioned Black Magic Woman, brewed with cocoa, vanilla, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, yet if you fear heat, fear not: this isn't a palate-antagonising sweat-inducer but the liquid equivalent of that fancy chocolatier’s rich chilli chocolate.
The pepper contributes aromatically alongside the cinnamon, with just a teensy bit of depth-adding heat. It's such a gentle heat – presumably softened by the cocoa and vanilla additions – you could slip a Phantom Of The Calavera into a session with mates and there's a good chance they'd think it's a more typical, albeit fulsome, stout sitting in the midpoint between dry Irish roastiness and modern day sweetness.
Enjoyable without excess, like a Mexican hot chocolate should be, even if it did cause flashbacks to the time my parents insisted on taking me to see that musical in the West End...
Published May 16, 2022 2022-05-16 00:00:00