Behind the Beer: Borderlands German Chocolate Cake Porter
The Beer: German Chocolate Cake
The Style: Porter
The Brewery: Borderlands Brewing Company
The Author: Adam Ledford, GM and Partner at Borderlands Brewing Company
Borderlands Brewing German Chocolate Cake is a sweet porter that pours thick and dark, with a decadent coconut and praline aroma. Caramel and toffee notes give way to a bitter chocolate finish, with a smooth, rich mouthfeel throughout.
What started as a one-off cask has turned into one of our most popular beers. Cans and kegs are shipping out to our Tucson and Phoenix distributors as fast as we can fill them. Despite it’s AZ-only availability, we’ve seen reviews from a dozen different states. We hear stories of customers who stride purposefully up to their favorite craft beer bars, fix a wild-eyed stare upon the server, and say “CAKE?!” in a tone that implies more than a small measure of comic desperation.
Since many of this website’s readers have already had the opportunity to try this beer over the last two “winters” (it’s 87 degrees as I write this article), rather than simply describe it, I’ll go behind the scenes to share how this beer came to be.
In early 2016, Borderlands Brewing was experiencing positive change on a massive scale. I had recently been brought on as a business partner to help the founders, Mike and Myles, streamline our operations and enrich the taproom experience. We also had hired a new brewer (Landon Swanson) to improve the consistency of our beloved legacy brands, and to bring some new brews to market that were innovative, modern, and appealing. We were excited to get the word out about the “new” Borderlands, and the amazing work that Landon and the production staff were doing.
With this in mind as we were getting ready for the Real, Wild, and Woody Festival, Landon told us that he had made a special cask variant of Noche Dulce Vanilla Porter, adding praline pecan cacao nibs and coconut to the base porter instead of the Mexican vanilla we use in our flagship beer. Calling it German Chocolate Noche, we served it at the festival and the response was overwhelming. Folks were lining up 50-deep to get a taste, Untappd check-ins were off the charts, a Phoenix-based blogger ranked it their #1 beer of the event, saying “Hands down my favorite beer I had at the festival, and maybe even the best beer I have had, ever.”
We were thrilled, and inspired to turn this great feedback and press into something sustainable for the brewery. We bottled 200 bombers and it sold out in 20 minutes online. We scaled up a batch and launched it as a winter seasonal and it sold extraordinarily well. We took it to the 2016 Tucson Born and Brewed Beer Battle and it won the People’s Choice Award. (And repeated in 2017!) We went through the season and realized that there was an opportunity to do even more in 2017.
At the same time, we had been experimenting with some one-off cans and seeing some tremendous success in that area. Hats off to our friends at Pueblo Vida who pioneered the process and proved that Tucson would support one-off canned beer releases. Bringing any beer to market in a new format is terrifying, due to the initial cost and the overall risk, but having ironed out the details with a couple of these limited release beers, we partnered again with the local design firm of Cirrus Visual to develop the can art, and we committed to launching the beer in cans for the entire season. We went away from branding it as a variant of Noche Dulce, because we all felt that the beer was different enough that it really needed to be its own standalone brand. The can was inspired by the diamond-checked flag of Bavaria, and we were so pleased when the sample arrived from the manufacturer. All fear of risk and return-on-investment aside, when the first cans rolled off the line, all of us felt a pervasive sense of joy, that magical feeling of “We made this beer, and it’s really good”.
Flash forward to today: The cans are a hit! I swear I’ll never get tired of hearing “OMG it really tastes like cake!” We’ll never get tired of congratulating Landon and the production team for surpassing our expectations. We’ll never get tired of living and working in a state where there is such a passionate, supportive craft beer community, whose members have done more to promote this sweet, tasty elixir than any paid advertising ever could.
16oz cans of German Chocolate Cake can be found in 4-packs at many of your favorite bottle shops across the state, and Total Wines in Tucson and Phoenix.