Wicked Weed takes a break from the sours and IPAs in crafting Hop Cocoa, a porter that is an attempted play on the familiar sweet and rich flavors of hot cocoa. It's a great idea that ultimately falls flat on execution, with Wicked Weed missing the hot cocoa mark and delivering an entirely average hoppy porter instead.
Simply put, Wicked Weed’s Hop Cocoa looks like a porter. It’s totally opaque and nearly black in the glass, but the pour and edges reveal rich brown color. A small light brown head quickly forms and fades away, hanging on only around the collar of the glass.
Hop Cocoa’s aroma has very little of the sweetness I associate with hot cocoa. Leaning into the glass reveals a mild aroma that mostly features cocoa powder rather than true chocolate. Light roastiness finishes off an aroma that is hot cocoa-esque at best.
Hop Cocoa doesn’t have the cocoa flavor of the best chocolate beers, nor the kind of oomph required of the best fireside sippers.”
When I think of hot cocoa, I think of big, sweet flavors and sips over gulps. But Hop Cocoa is mild and easy drinking, lacking the flavor punch of its signature ingredient. Easily the most interesting aspect of the beer is actually the hops, which provide a bit of citrus and much stronger bitterness than most chocolate-forward brews. Everyone knows the best hot cocoa (at least from a mix) is made with milk in place of the water, and maybe an extra packet/spoonful of the chocolate goodness. Hop Cocoa tastes more like a batch that skipped the milk and skimped on the chocolate.
With Hop Cocoa, it feels like Wicked Weed tried to create a versatile porter that could compete with the flavor and drinkability of a good chocolate milk stout, while packing enough of a punch to fit in next to fire on a cold winter night. In trying to do both, Hop Cocoa doesn’t excel at either. It doesn’t have the cocoa flavor of the best chocolate beers, nor the kind of oomph required of the best fireside sippers. With better options readily available—not to mention a myriad of high-quality beers in Wicked Weed’s own portfolio—Hop Cocoa is one I’ll leave out in the cold.