Dogfish Head Theobroma: A TV Show in a Bottle

As many of you know, Dogfish Head honcho Sam Calagione has a new TV series coming out on the Discovery Channel called Brewed. You know, the TV show Don and I almost got.

Anyway, part of the show will feature Sam traveling with his archeologist pal Pat McGovern to recreate ancient ales from the remnants of pottery found at archaeological digs around the globe.

If you can’t wait for the TV show, go to your beer store and pick up a bottle of Theobroma.  You see, Pat and Sam have been at this for a while and have collaborated on a handful of very interesting and unique brews. 

Here’s how Dogfish Head describes these ancient ales:

The first beer we created together is our Midas Touch. This recipe is based on molecular evidence found in a Turkish tomb believed to have belonged to King Midas. The beer is brewed with honey, white Muscat grapes, and saffron.

The second beer to come about from this partnership is our Chateau Jiahu. Jiahu’s ingredient list was unearthed from a 9000 year old tomb in China. The Jiahu discovery represents the oldest known fermented beverage evidence in the history of civilization! That means that drinks made from fermented grain (beer) have a longer history than beverages made from fermented grapes (wine). Chateau Jiahu is made with hawthorn fruit, sake rice, barley, and honey.

Theobroma was the next Dogfish Head collaboration with Dr. McGovern. This unfiltered, 9% a.b.v. beer is brewed with honey, ancho chilies, ground annatto seeds, cocoa nibs, and cocoa powder from the acclaimed artisanal Askinosie Chocolate company in Missouri.

All three of these beers are interesting in different ways, but my personal favorite has to be Theobroma (with Midas Touch a close second). There’s just something a little mystical about this brew that always gets my imagination going.

Long before people ate chocolate, they drank it.  Theobroma, which translates to “food of the gods,” is a recreation of an ancient ale enjoyed by the Aztec elite.  Drinking Theobroma is almost like reaching across history to experience the best their culture had to offer.

The pour is a lively golden amber, not what you expect from a beer brewed with cocoa.  The beer has a thin white head that dissipates rather quickly and leaves no trace of lacing.

Theobroma is one of those beers that let you know it’s special before it hits your lips.  The nose is a bit like a peppery Belgian trippel with hints of chocolate sprinkled in.

The first sip surprises in just how delicate this beer is.  The mouthfeel is lighter than you might expect, and the ancho chili peppers dance on your tongue like some alien form of carbonation.

The flavor of the peppers mixes with those of light malts and honey, providing the beer with a sweet canvas upon which to paint with the tastes of sunflower seeds and bitter chocolate.

The pepper heats up in the finish, leaving a slight and bright burn across the palate.  As you continue to drink the beer, the pepper sensation continues to build much in the way the spice from buffalo wings might.  It never gets too hot, but it certainly serves as a reminder that this is no ordinary beer.

It’s this kind of creativity and natural curiosity that sets Dogfish Head apart.  And it’s the same thirst for things that are unique and interesting that will make Brewed a very cool show to watch.

Until then, grab a Theobroma or a Midas Touch, close you’re eyes and let your imagination run wild.

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Categories: Beer, review


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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11 Comments on “Dogfish Head Theobroma: A TV Show in a Bottle”

  1. July 30, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    Well, finally we agree on something, LOL! I adore Theobroma, and in fact just had a bottle a couple of days ago. It’s my favorite of the Dogfish Head bottlings, followed by (interestingly enough) Midas Touch. I’ve got Sam’s Extreme Brewing book which includes a recipe for Midas Touch, but not for Theo. I actually just dropped them an email to ask if they’d be willing to share the recipe because I’d love for it to be the next thing I brew with my son….ambitious, I know! The first time I tried Theo I expected, much like you, something darker and more brooding, so it was refreshing to see how light it was on the palate, while still delivering on flavors and aromas. I honestly didn’t get that “buildup of heat” you mentioned, but that could just be cuz you’ve got a white-boy tolerance for peppers….I, on the other hand, barely noticed them 🙂

    • July 30, 2010 at 10:16 am #

      Yes, perhaps I have a sissy mouth, Katie. OR maybe my palate is just a more sensitive instrument than yours. No…definitely the first thing!

      And Theobroma is a very ambitious brew indeed. Here I am still fumbling with brewing kits and you’re talking about cocoa nibs and annatto seeds. I gotta step it up.

  2. July 30, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    Second comment: I can not WAIT for Bitches Brew to come out….not that I’m even sure how the hell I’ll get my hands on any, but man would I love to!!!!!

    • July 30, 2010 at 10:17 am #

      If I get my hands on one I promise to share.

      • July 30, 2010 at 10:23 am #

        Same here.

        • July 30, 2010 at 10:25 am #


  3. Rob Crozier
    July 30, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    Your timing is uncanny – Theobroma was on my shopping list for the weekend!! Now I am really looking forward to it!!

    • July 30, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

      Enjoy and make sure to let it warm up a little. The party doesn’t really start until the chill starts to fade.

  4. September 5, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    I know this is an old post but I just tried the Bitches Brew this weekend. It was interesting with lots of layered flavors, coffee and chocolate with fruit–I’d say fig if I had to pick. I’m still thinking about this one. Did anyone else get to try it yet?

    • September 5, 2010 at 9:49 am #

      Not yet. I have two bottles in the garage, but I’m waiting to record a “Bitch Session” podcast with Don where we drink/review beers with “bitch” in the name and complain about the stuff that bugs us in the world of craft beer.

  5. September 7, 2010 at 8:20 am #

    Have a bottle as well (gave one to my jazz-loving dad, good daughter that I am!) but am waiting for a calm, quiet moment to share the bottle with its namesake, Miles Davis’ landmark album. Actually wanna try to grab it on vinyl as I only have the CD for a really cooooool experience.

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