Trader Joe’s has a unique method of providing goods to the consumer. Almost everything in the store carries the Trader Joe’s brand (with notable exceptions of some of the alcohol and cereals), but it’s all made by other manufacturers for TJ’s. The store is also famously quiet about its sources, leading to some guesswork by consumers. Their instant Indian dinners are almost surely made by Tasty Bite, but what about the Oreo-esque sandwich cookies? Who makes those?
Due to labeling laws, some of the Trader Joe’s beers are pretty easy to figure out. For example, Trader Jose’s, one of their Mexican-style beers, is made by Tecate; it says so right on the bottle. Other breweries are a little more difficult to figure out, either being so small you’ve never heard of their other beers, or hidden behind a company name that exists only for marketing purposes and obfuscation.
I bought a bottle of Boatswain Chocolate Stout the other day. Like TJ’s Name Tag Lager, the stout is brewed in Monroe, WI. However, Name Tag is a product of Name Tag Brewing Company, while the stout hails from Rhinelander Brewing Company. Adding further confusion, the town of Rhinelander is actually 250 miles from Monroe. Apparently the Rhinelander Brewery initially closed its doors in 1967, but its name and recipes were later purchased by the Joseph Huber Brewing Company, which itself was later purchased by the Minhas Craft Brewery, which produces Rhinelander beer in Monroe.
Minhas is the company that produces some of the beers for Trader Joe’s, but this is hidden in the actual naming on the cans.
So the Boatswain Chocolate Stout is supposedly the same product as Minhas’ Chocolate Bunny Stout.
Did you follow all of that? But how does it taste?
The beer comes on fairly sharp without a lot of initial sweetness, almost like a pale ale. But this quickly gives way to a very definite cocoa flavor. Other reviewers have noted a strong coffee flavor, but I tasted mostly chocolate.
There is just enough sweetness to balance out the hops; the beer offers up 66 IBUs, but it is a pleasant, well balanced bitterness.
In addition, the stout offers an interesting little hint of fruitiness, something like black cherries and grapefruit.
Before I tasted the beer, I was worried a bit about texture. The bottle says the beer is brewed with cocoa powder, so I was bracing myself for a gritty, chalky mouthfeel. However, the beer was smooth throughout, down to the last drop. Overall, the beer was fairly light for a stout.
I picked up a 22 ounce bottle for only $1.99, making the Boatswain Chocolate Stout a damn good value. TJ’s has a couple other beers in the Boatswain line, and I’ll be grabbing those next time.