Ballast Point Mocha Marlin recently the rank of the brewery’s “enhanced’ bottle lineup. That’s our way of describing the expanding line of core beers that have extra ingredients, like grapefruit, Thai chili, or pineapple. Mocha Marlin starts its life as the brewery’s year-round Black Marlin Porter, and is then infused with heavy doses of coffee and chocolate. The coffee Ballast Point used for this beer was roasted by Caffe Calabria.
Caffe Calabria was chosen because a bunch of the crew lived in the neighborhood and were big fans of the coffee they roast. The brew master worked with the roaster to get the right beans, roasted to the right level, to avoid as much bitterness as possible.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Mocha Marlin, from Ballast Point Brewing Company in San Diego, California. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Valle de Cauca, Colombia // Tarrazu. Costa Rica
elevation: 1600 – 1700 // 1800 meters above sea level
cultivars: Various // Bourbon, Caturra, Typica
process: fully washed, patio dried
style: English Porter
Mocha Marlin pours a very, very dark brown—nearly black, but with a red hue around the edges of the globe when held up to the light—with a frothy milk chocolate brown head that quickly settles to a much lighter layer and leaves behind spotty lacing. The aroma, unsurprisingly, has heavy scents of roasty coffee and bittersweet chocolate, but also has a very sweet nuance of vanilla and toffee.
The flavor is a bit more unbalanced than the nose, but features the same players. The beer’s mouthfeel is really thin and light bodied, and there’s a fair amount of carbonation, but overall the body is acceptable for an English porter. I am not finding any sweetness to speak of up front, though there is an ample helping of coffee and dark chocolate. As the flavors develop, however, there us an acrid, burnt toast note, roasted malts, very faint dark fruits, and a little bit of vanilla, and these flavors continue to develop through the finish.
I went into Ballast Point’s Mocha Marlin with really high expectations; not just because Ballast Point consistently produces some of the best beers on the market, but because their other coffee-infused offerings—Victory at Sea Imperial Porter and its Peppermint variant—are two of the best coffee-beers I’ve sampled here at the Table. Unfortunately, I came away from this tasting disappointed.
It’s pretty well-known that when it comes to coffee-infused stouts and porters, I prefer the body to be pretty full. Mocha Marlin’s profile was pretty thin and carbonated. Considering this is an English-style porter, that sort of mouthfeel is perfectly fine; however, the beer’s thinness unintentionally exposed this roasty’s coffee’s flaws. And when the coffee’s roastiness and oils mixed with acrid burnt toast and bitter malt notes of the beer… It didn’t make for a pleasant drinking experience. Now, if this were a stout with a really full, heavy, viscous mouthfeel, it might have concealed those flavors a bit better.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.