In 2017, Modern Times Beer released the first incarnation of a very ambitious stout that was meant to replicate the flavors found in Mexican hot chocolate, a traditional beverage that has historically been made with real milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon, chili powder and bittersweet chocolate.

Named Monster’s Park Mexican Hot Chocolate Edition, the 14.6 percent ABV imperial stout was aged in bourbon barrels and conditioned on bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout brewed with cinnamon, cocoa nibs, chilis and vanilla before being packaged in 12-ounce cans. About a year later, the San Diego-based brewery released a variant of the same concoction that had been conditioned on the same ingredients, but with the base beer aged in Nicaraguan rum barrels. That version was packaged in 22-ounce bottles instead of cans and also came in at a much higher 15.8 percent ABV.

Fast forward to April of this year, when Modern Times once again sold 12-ounce cans of Monster’s Park Mexican Hot Chocolate Edition. The newest incarnation features the lowest ABV of the series so far—14.2 percent ABV—and was priced at $16.25 each. However, unlike the previous two releases, there were 3,000 cans filled, some of which went to limited distribution to retailers.

The Modern Times Monster’s Park Mexican Hot Chocolate Edition pours ink black with a finger of tan head that dissipates very quickly, leaving behind a thin ring that sticks around for quite a while. Aroma from the glass is full of strong notes that include bourbon, oak, chilis, sweet vanilla and a touch of cinnamon.

From the first taste, cinnamon and chilis are the star of the show on the palate, while the finish is chock full of bourbon, sweet vanilla and bitter dark chocolate. There is a bit of heat from the chilies on the finish as well, but certainly not as much as I was expecting, and all of the flavors are balanced extremely well, with none really overpowering the others in any significant way.

As the stout warms, the profile changes noticeably, with the bitter dark chocolate note overtaking both the cinnamon and chili notes, although the latter two easily remain strong enough to affect the profile. The finish also adds a distinct graham cracker flavor that combines very nicely with the bourbon and vanilla sweetness that are still present.

Modern Times Monster's Park Mexican Hot Chocolate Edition (2019)
BREWERY: Modern Times Beer
LOCATION: San Diego, Calif.
STYLE: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
ABV: 14.2 percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: $16.25
RELEASE DATE: April 2019
AVAILABLE IN: 12-Ounce Cans
When adding chilis to a stout, balance is the name of the game, and I am happy to say that the newest Monster's Park Mexican Hot Chocolate Edition has that attribute in spades. There is some spice on the finish that provides some heat, but it is nicely balanced by the bourbon and vanilla sweetness that are also present in the profile. There are a number of different chill stouts on the market—Prairie Artisan Ale’s Bomb! is probably one of the most well known, and for good reason—but the Modern Times is one of the better examples I have tried in quite a while and one that I would gladly purchase more than the five cans I have, despite the fairly high price being charged for it.
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