It is no longer enough to just make a big, burly stout, age it in bourbon barrels and call it a day. Instead copious adjuncts need to be added to stand out. It started with coffee, a natural pairing with the dark roasty flavors of a stout but has now branched out to the entire pantry.
New Holland jumped on the bandwagon a few years ago when it started releasing special Reserve bottles of its Dragon’s Milk in 2012. Toasted Chilies was first, which I actually took with me to Dark Lord Day but do not remember drinking. Rum barrel and chocolate versions soon followed. Instead of sticking with a core set of adjuncts, each year brought something new. At the Oregon Brewer’s Festival last year, New Holland debuted Mexican Spice Cake, a super trendy rendition on what has become almost a style of its own. By spring of this year the rendition had found its way into bottles and onto store shelves.
Mexican Spice Cake blends vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa nibs and chili peppers to emulate a south of the border treat. While the combination holds promise, the beer doesn’t quite live up to expectations. It is good but the combination of bourbon barrel and vanilla leaves it perhaps a touch sweet. And it has an extremely high bar to live up to set by the likes of Westbrook Mexican Cake and Perennial Abraxas. And the relative ease of finding a bottle probably subconsciously sways the opinion slightly.
Still, if you want a solid example of the style without going through all the trouble of trading for a couple whalez, you could do far worse. The latest Reserve release, S’mores, just hit draft lines and is pretty phenomenal and if the trend of new entries debuting at the Oregon Brewer’s Festival is any indication, we may be encountering Thai Curry next spring. The boundaries of adjunct stouts truly know no bounds.