You’ll be hard pressed to find Westbrook Mexican Cake in any store. The imperial stout, a craft beer holy grail to some, was released with little promotion at local stores on May 19 and 20 and flew off shelves within a few hours at most Midlands locations.
Mexican Cake, originally made as a one-off anniversary brew for Mount Pleasant’s Westbrook Brewing, has become a hotly anticipated item each May, when it is released in kegs and 22-ounce bottles in strictly limited quantities. The dark chocolate-colored beer is aged over cocoa nibs, cinnamon sticks and fresh habanero peppers to produce a smooth stout with hints of chocolate, followed by a spicy finish with just enough heat to balance out the initial sweetness, but not so much as to overwhelm the average palate.
Columbia stores that got Mexican Cake didn’t have it long; Green’s Beverages on Assembly Street sold out its 72-bottle stock in just three hours, with only a post on Facebook and Twitter as promotion. Whole Foods sold out in four hours with no promotion on social media, and Morganelli’s Party Store, which sold out in less than three hours, had a line when it began selling after promoting the beer on Facebook.
While getting your hands on a bottle might be close to impossible, there’s still hope. Mexican Cake is a hot item for bars as well, and those that can get it sometimes stagger the release of their kegs. Others keep kegs from previous years to age and release at a later date.
Many announce the tapping of Mexican Cake – both aged and fresh – on social media only a few hours in advance, so keep an eye on your favorite bar’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.
If you miss this round of Mexican Cake, don’t worry. Westbrook typically releases a barrel-aged version later in the summer or early fall; the first barrel-aged release was in July 2013, and last year’s release was in mid-September. Bottles of the barrel-aged version will only be available at the Mount Pleasant brewery, however. The release has become an event that attracts beer enthusiasts from around the country.
The brewery has previously aged the beer in tequila, cabernet, apple brandy and bourbon barrels. Westbrook drinkers have learned to expect creativity and keep a close eye on Twitter.
Amanda C. Coyne