Cordial Terms | Forbidden Root
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Ah yes, the “holiday”-specific beer. It started out with seasonal beers, then expanded to Christmas Ales, pumpkins beers and the like. Now every event on the calendar can get its own specific release. Some really stretch to make it work (hey! Green beer!), but other holidays lend itself nicely to certain beers. Case in point – Valentine’s Day. Stouts or things with chocolate in them can naturally go with it. Forbidden Root takes this one step further by collaborating with an actual chocolatier for their Cordial Terms chocolate stout.
Vosges Haut Chocolat does the honors for this beer. (Longtime listeners might remember Vosges on our “what-turned-into-target-character-drift” 2015 Goose Island Bourbon County show). Forbidden Root then took this chocolate and used it to make a beer meant to invoke a cherry cordial. To achieve this, Forbidden Root gives me the label scares. The label scares happen when it takes bullet points (or a line or two) to list the ingredients used in the beer. For Cordial Terms:
- Cocoa Nibs
- Cherry Stems
- Cherry Seeds
- Rose Hips
- Vanilla Extract
- Natural Chocolate Flavor
With so many additions, a lot of things could go wrong (see Narrative Fermentations’ Epoch). Could go too sweet on the chocolate and/or the cherries; too much vanilla could overpower the beer; rose hips could make it too flowery, etc. If there is one brewery in Chicago that can handle all these additions, it’s the botanical one.
Cordial Terms pours a light brown color with a nice finger of khaki head. That head slowly recedes to a thin layer resting nicely atop the beer. The beer skews more towards the brown end of the stout spectrum as opposed to the pitch black side in the glass, with slight red highlights when held up to the light. Good looking beer.
Aromatically, Cordial Terms succeeds at being both familiar and unique. The addition of the Vosges chocolate adds depth to the chocolate aroma. You get both a bitter baker’s chocolate and a sweet, sugary chocolate, reminiscent of Goose Island’s “triple chocolate” Proprietor’s in 2018. Lovely dark cherry notes back those chocolates up nicely, with what I would assume are the rose hips adding a nice floral note to everything. A sliver of vanilla comes in as well, but that could be because it’s on the can and I’m looking for it. I wrote it down twice in my tasting notes for some reason so I’m obliged to mention it – Cordial Terms has a pleasant aroma. Nothing too extreme either way and everything works together. Pleasant.
Moment of truth. Time to drink it. Cordial Terms immediately succeeds where other beers (ahem, Epoch) failed – it’s not too sweet. Heck it’s not sweet at all. A very bitter chocolate absolutely dominates the palate – so bitter it almost comes off as ashy. I’ve had that taste before, and it comes from chocolate that has a high cocoa content (90% cocoa in my case). The cherries cut and balance that bitterness with some sweetness that perfectly complements the bitter chocolate. The vanilla notes back up those flavors, adding a hint of marshmallow that doesn’t overpower the dominant two flavors. Vanilla can certainly – and easily – be overdone, but not in Cordial Terms. Even some root beer and cinnamon notes present themselves when digging deeper.
While those 7 ingredients on the can scared the hell out of me, the brewers at Forbidden Root balanced everything out perfectly. The bitter chocolate hangs around on the tongue a bit, making you want that sweet cherry hit even more. Be careful – this does not drink the 11% ABV it says on the can. You could easily kill two 16 ounce cans without even realizing it.
The big star here is the balance between the bitter chocolate and the sweet cherries. The vanilla is subtle and adds some extra depth to the flavor, while the rose hips added some lovely aromatics. Just like Phase Three’s Pressed: Tiramisu, Cordial Terms would pair exceedingly well with a dessert like a brownie or cheesecake. (Note – I think cheesecake is the chicken of the dessert world – it pairs well with everything.) I’m hoping Forbidden Root decides to make Cordial Terms a yearly thing – maybe with a different chocolate? But why mess with such a good thing?
Forbidden Root’s Cordial Terms is available from the brewery here, along with some delicious food, including one of the better burgers in Chicago.