Ultimate 6er | Chocolate Beer: Perfect Any Day of the Year
Valentine’s Day has its chocolate hearts and Easter its chocolate eggs, but chocolate beer can be enjoyed all year. And why not? Chocolate and cocoa are more than additions to dessert, they a delectable ingredients that enhance a multitude of savory dishes such as mole sauce, chili, barbecue and ravioli. Granted, chocolate beers tend to lean to the sweet side, but has anyone ever had a chocolate shake in the summer? Chocolate exists as a diverse, adaptable and downright delicious ingredient, and brewers have mastered its integration into beer. Here are six noteworthy examples of chocolate-infused beer (even if it’s been a while since the release date, the beers can be found on shelves, or in your beer buddy’s cellar).
Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti Imperial Stout | Great Divide Brewing (Colorado)
A true symphony of flavors, hitting on bitter, sweet, earthy and a bit of heat … yeah, #Ibelieve. The 2013 Gold-medal winning Great American Beer Festival Yeti variant is a shining example of why Great Divide often makes a presence at bottle-share parties. The chocolate serves not to bring out the sweetness of the beer as much as it provides bitterness, aided a bit by the hops, though one would never confuse this with something akin to a black IPA, to be sure. The oakiness and the vanilla notes exuded from the barrels play the starring role, and proves to play against the chocolate superbly. But, what ties it together is that touch of cayenne. That oh-so-subtle touch is like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men; sometimes the small roles are the most memorable.
Chocolate Stout & Double Chocolate Stout | Rogue Ales & Spirits (Oregon)
Rogue describes Chocolate Stout beer as having a “rich chocolate truffle finish,” which captures the essence of the beer superbly. Meanwhile, the Double Chocolate recipe involves an additional bonus of imported Dutch bittersweet chocolate that offers a touch of bitter to go with the extra chocolate-sweet punch. I’d argue the Double’s bitterness offers drinkers a bit more balance than the original. Either way, the astounding depth of flavor one discovers in both beers is something to behold. Along with chocolate, or double chocolate, one finds a bit of smokey char, perceived coffee notes and even a little hops character. Still, this is all about the chocolate!
But, don’t take my word for it. Chocolate Stout has won World Beer Championship gold the last three years while the Double took two silvers and one gold during that same span. Yeah, it’s that good. Play this fun Instagram video for a good look at the Double.
Maple Fun Size Milk Stout | Pollyanna Brewing (Illinois)
I picked Maple, but the “Fun Size” Milk Stout series also includes such variants as coffee, toasted coconut, toasted marshmallow and Bourbon Barrel Aged. Though the chocolate is a more of a bit player in this series, the cocoa nibs remain noticeable in each sweet, decadent Fun Size brew. Make no mistake, if you don’t like sweet beer, this is not the brew for you. But, if you do, you’ll love it. Indeed, the Maple version is a sugar bomb. The milk stout gets a healthy does of maple syrup along with peanut, vanilla bean, cocoa nib, and sea salt.
I could describe to you the nuances of this beer, but this is what you should know: drink the Maple Fun Size while also consuming breakfast sausage and a mound of bacon and you will no longer care about any of your problems. Embrace the indulgent side of the force, Luke. Do it.
Xocoveza Imperial (Mexican Hot Chocolate) Stout | Stone Brewing (California)
Stone enjoys offering bold flavors, as most beer geeks know., demonstrated by the Stone take on chocolate beer — Xocoveza has a lot going on. Inspired by Mexican hot chocolate, the slightly roasty Xocoveza is comprised of cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla and earthy spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. So smooth, it truly reminds one of a chocolate coffee or hot chocolate in terms of mouthfeel, but the complex flavor notes bounce from one taste bud to the other and remind one that this beer is anything but simple — it’s a work of complicated, beautiful art.
Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter | Moody Tongue (Illinois)
Who doesn’t love a churro? Not only does this beer differ than most because it’s not a stout, it’s also my favorite type of lager — the Baltic Porter. The Churro name crystallizes the beer eloquently as substantial caramel flavor hits the tongue on each sip, complimented by lovely notes of vanilla. Unlike deep chocolate-flavored stouts, it doesn’t wreck the palate. Thus, the Moody version accompanies an array of meal choices, ranging from Mexican food and steak to pies and a lovely, simple bowl of vanilla ice cream.
Candi Stout | Brewery Ommegang (New York)
The brewery that has been producing Chocolate Indulgence Stout since 2007 released this beer in December (and nationally in March). The Candi Stout version lies somewhere between a Belgian Dark Ale and traditional stout. Candi Stout benefits from an infusion of roasted malts, Belgian candi sugar, bittersweet cocoa nibs and the expected Belgian Ale yeast — this is Ommegang, after all. As a result, one finds dark chocolate and cocoa aroma and flavor, along with tasting notes that include dark fruit and an earthy-spiced yeast character. The beer is a little bitter, a little sweet and a little roasty in character.
But, what is striking about Candi Stout is its light body. Pour this beer and your eyes will lie to you. Though abound in flavor, there is nothing heavy about this Ommegang treat. And at 6.7% ABV and an ability to remain flavorful as it warms (even more-so, one could argue), there’s no reason to fear opening a 22 oz. bottle.