Can you have your cake and drink it too? That was the question foremost on my mind when presented with a bottle of Barrel-Aged Mexican Cake from Westbrook Brewing Co. of Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
Mexican Cake was originally brewed to celebrate Westbrook’s first anniversary in 2012. The beer was so popular, the brewery brought it back a year later and since then it’s been an annual release. Barrel-aged versions first appeared in 2013, with variations over time including Mexican Cake aged in apple brandy, cognac, red wine and tequila barrels. As for barrel varieties, the beer has spent time in casks from Jack Daniels and Four Roses in the past, but there’s no word on what was used for the 2015 edition.
The beer was offered at a ticketed event on Oct. 3. A $180 ticket gave you four bottles of Barrel-Aged Mexican Cake and two bottles of the Cognac-Aged Mexican Cake.
On to what you can expect should you procure a bottle, the base beer is an imperial stout that’s been aged on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and habanero peppers. Whether or not it tastes like an actual cake is probably a matter of opinion, but I do get a little bit of a devil’s food kind of thing emerging from what is otherwise a decadent mixture of dark and milk chocolate.
Beyond that, the barrels infuse the expected elements of bourbon and vanilla, with each staying relatively subtle. That’s something that goes for the pepper component as well, as the habaneros provide a mild heat that, while persistent, never builds itself up to the point of trying to steal the show. That role, as it turns out, is reserved for the cinnamon, which puffs its chest out more and more as the beer warms. Even the alcohol, which comes in at 10.5 percent ABV, isn’t much more than a bit player in the beer when it comes to taste and aroma, though it certainly works with the habaneros to facilitate an overall feeling of warmth.