Monday, October 1, 2012

Taste! Belikin Chocolate Stout

Belikin Brewery's one-off chocolate stout (almost 7%!)
by douglas reeser on October 1, 2012
I consider myself a beer lover. Like many craft-beer connoisseurs, I enjoy trying new beers and I drink the hoppy, the malty, the sour, and the weird. When I moved to Belize almost a year and a half ago, my beer drinking took a turn for the boring. It's a small nation, with just over 300,000 people in the entire country, and as with most Caribbean and Latin American countries, craft beer has not yet happened in Belize. Needless to say, the choices are slim. The national brewery, Belikin, has a corner on the market, but thankfully they actually offer a few options. They brew some lagers (Lighthouse and "beer"), they have one of the few concessions outside of Ireland to brew Guinness, and they also brew their own stout (that clocks in at about 6.5%). As a daily drinker, I drank the stout, even resorting to adding a bit of coffee to my glass, that actually worked quite well. Regardless, I didn't have all that much choice in my beer drinking endeavors.

To my surprise, the brewers at Belikin decided to get creative after I moved to the country (although I doubt I had anything to do with this development). The brewery announced a series of seasonal beers, and they started with a sorrel stout. Sorrel, also known as hibiscus, has a sweet, berry-like flavor, and is common in Belize, especially around the winter holidays.  It's typically known as a wine or tea, but it worked great as a stout . I quite enjoyed this uniquely flavored beer last winter, and was looking forward to a spring beer that never came. However, Belikin released a chocolate stout for the annual cacao fest held in the south of the country every May (They also later released "Verano" - a Blue Moon type summer beer). I drank as much as I could during the cacao fest celebrations, and then stashed a few in the fridge to enjoy over the ensuing months.

Gold foiled and stickered cap...
Well, my time in Belize started to wind down, and I had one chocolate stout left. It was Belize Independence Day (September 21), and I was home alone after celebrating the night before. I decided to break out the choco-stout and write down some notes. I poured it into the typical 10oz Belikin glass, and immediately, the strong, rich chocolate aromas hit my nose. It poured a dark brown and had a fizzy carbonation with virtually no head retention. As I lifted the glass to drink, the smell of chocolate overwhelmed my senses, and that smell transferred to my tongue. While not as rich and thick as some craft chocolate brews, the Belikin chocolate stout still tastes like a chocolate bar. It was carbonated in the mouth, and a bit of the bitterness of the stout came through at the end, but there was virtually no aftertaste.

I can't say that this beer would stand out if put up against some of the specialty craft brews from the States, but I do think it would hold its own against most. In either case, it was a welcome change of pace in a country where the men drink stout and the women drink Lighthouse - with pride. It was also unique enough to stand out from other chocolate stouts that I've had in the past. And this should not surprise, as the chocolate is from cacao grown by Maya farmers in southern Belize, something to which no other beer can lay claim. After drinking about half the bottle, I was actually reminded of the traditional cacao drink of the local Maya population - a kind of watery, sweet, chocolatey drink popular in the nearby villages. The stout is sort of like that cacao drink, with very little in the form of additional flavors coming through. In the end, the beer left a chocolate taste in my mouth, and I love chocolate, so I would never complain about this beer! Thanks Belikin, and thanks Belize. My beer-life for the last year and half did lack in variety, but I made it through thanks to the adequacy of the brewers at Belikin.

And in keeping with the spirit of things around here, how about a poem in the form of the Belize National Anthem:

O, Land of the free by the Carib Sea,
Our manhood we pledge to thy liberty
No tyrants here linger, despot must flee
This tranquil haven of democracy
The blood of our sires which hollows the sod,
Brought freedom from slavery oppression's rod
By the might of truth and the grace of God.
No longer shall we be hewers of wood.

Arise! Ye sons of the Baymen's clan,
Put on your armours, clear the land!
Drive back the tyrants let despots flee-
Land of the free by the Carib Sea!

Nature has blessed thee with wealth untold,

O'er mountains and valleys where prairies roll;
Our fathers, the Baymen, valiant and bold
Drove back the invaders; this heritage hold
From proud Rio Hondo to old Sarstoon,
Through coral isle,over blue lagoon;
Keep watch with the angels, the stars and moon;
For freedom comes to-morrow's noon.


  1. This is terrific. It is great to get the lowdown on beer from regions that we never get to read about. Imports seem to be getting a bit more coverage over the past year, but rarely are there any Latin American beers that fall into the craft realm.

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