It is rare for a seasoned beer drinker to find a beer that can be described as "perfect." This is a word that one is hesitant to throw around too liberally lest it lose its impact. I'm certainly not here to proclaim the Mole Temptress perfect... but its predecessor might have been.
Lakewood Brewing's Temptress, their flagship sweet stout with the 9% ABV kick, has proven itself remarkably versatile as a base for a variety of flavor additions. It has been aged in bourbon barrels and at various times served with infusions of mint, vanilla, chicory, raspberries and now the traditional Mexican blend of mole spices. To me (admittedly, a big Mexican food and mole fan to begin with) this is the flavoring for which the Temptress was destined from the start.
The Mole Temptress made her first appearance last fall as a small-batch release to just a few Dallas-area locations. It was served in a firkin (a quarter-barrel container) and primed with yeast instead of CO2, which left it just a little undercarbonated compared to regular draft beers. It was filled with cocoa, spicy dark chocolate flavors, cinnamon, light on the sweetness and almost dry in the balance. The smokey dried chile flavors came through beautifully without overpowering the other spices with a very light heat arising in the back of the throat as you sipped a glass. Other than its low carbonation from the serving style, it was utterly flawless.
I am assured by the brewery that the current release of the Mole Temptress is the same recipe as before, containing four chile additions (ancho, chipotle, guajilo and pasilla) along with vanilla, cinnamon and local chocolate from Dude, Sweet Chocolate. But scaling beers to full production-sized batches can be tricky even for the best of brewers as flavor components do not always increase linearly with ingredient portions. I fear some subtle element this year has been lost along the process.
The current Mole Temptress is undoubtedly a great and unique beer but it hasn't yet reclaimed its original perfection. Sipping the most recent iteration, the spices dominated with plenty of cinnamon, cocoa and vanilla up front, so much so that it was more winter warmer than cerveza mexicana. The chile flavors are present but overwhelmed by the other spices which drown out the subtle smoke and char of the dried chiles that made this beer classic. There was barely any perceptible buildup of heat, even after a couple of pints. What was once a symphony of tastes has become a collection of elements that, although still premium, have lost a little harmony.
However, the concept remains golden and will surely be successful, just not yet again perfect. Here's hoping the Lakewood crew can continue to hone the recipe for years to come and make me adore this beer once again.
Availability: Currently released throughout Dallas and Fort Worth at better beer bars, draft only. A bottled version is expected next year.