This article originally appeared in the February 2017 edition of Forever Young Magazine.
The “craft” of craft beer is in the experimentation, creativity—and sometimes consumer trends—that let brew masters play with palates and ingredients to come up with new and interesting beers. Among the latest flavors to grace taps around the country and here at local breweries: chocolate. And the combination is surprisingly delicious.
While some chocolate beers are brewed with actual chocolate or cocoa nibs, most rely on chocolate malt. Chocolate malt is a kind of malted barley, a quintessential beer ingredient, that has been malted (baked) at higher temperatures to give the grain a dark brown color and a deep, rich chocolate flavor, sometimes with coffee or bittersweet notes as well. The resulting brews are certainly beer first, chocolate second (as in, stick with chocolate martinis if you don’t like beer), but are pure bliss for people who love both.
An important note: these brown beauties seem harmless on the palate, but they can give a whole new meaning to the term “punch-drunk love” —many have a high alcohol content at 8% ABV or more (that’s double the alcohol of a Labatt Blue or Genny Light).
These dark, bold beers are perfect for sipping while snuggling in front of the fireplace, for enjoying along with (or instead of) dessert, or as a tie-breaker for that nagging “beer or hot cocoa?” question following a day out on the slopes. Here are a few treats to try:
Southern Tier Brewing Company, 10% ABV
This imperial stout is brewed with bittersweet Belgian chocolate and chocolate malt. It tastes like a dark chocolate mousse with just the right balance of sweet-bitter with boozy finish. It’s part of Southern Tier’s Blackwater Series, which also includes Choklat Oranj (brewed with chocolate and orange peel) and Mokah (brewed with chocolate and coffee), both of which are available in the spring.
Chocolate Cherry Bomb
Ellicottville Brewing Company, 8.2% ABV
One of the sweetest-tasting chocolate beers around, this imperial stout is brewed with chocolate malt and Oregon sweet cherries. Its fruity, maraschino and milk chocolate flavors make it drink like a candy cordial minus any hint of alcohol (but beware the high ABV).
Chocolate Milk Money
Rusty Nickel Brewing Company, 5% ABV
Rusty Nickel brewers call this sweet, creamy stout “chocolate milk for adults” because of a cocoa malt flavor that’s devoid of any bitterness. It’s a staple in many of the brewery’s “mixologies,” which blend beer with liquor and other ingredients to essentially make beer cocktails (like the Vanilla-Bourbon Milk Stout).
Community Beer Works, 5.9% ABV
A CBW signature, this American brown ale is brewed with two types of chocolate malt for a complex and easy-to-drink beer boasting layers of cocoa, roasted coffee, and malt flavors.
Big Ditch Brewing Company, 5.8%
A rye brown ale that is brewed with huge amounts of chocolate malt, this multi-layered smooth beer has notes of bittersweet baking chocolate and a little zing from the rye.
Grave Concerns Double Stout
12 Gates Brewing Company, 8.4%
A big beer with bold flavor, this American double stout drinks like a rich dark chocolate milkshake with a thick, creamy head.
Coffee Milk Stout
New York Beer Project, 5.8%
A good example of the coffee trend that’s also hitting beers these days, this mocha-dark chocolate flavored beer has a pleasant sweetness with comforting toasty notes and is brewed in partnership with Niagara County’s New Day Coffee Roasters.
Hamburg Brewing Company, 10%
Named for railroad slang that means being “derailed,” this boozy Bourbon barrel aged American imperial stout hits your nose with chocolate and roasty coffee aromas, and your tongue with a veritable drunk chocolate bar of vanilla, toffee, and chocolate.
Flying Bison Brewing Company, 6.5%
This storm-worthy, seasonal beer is a classic German-style dunkel bock with subtle chocolate notes amid a lot of rich, toasty malt flavor. Think malted milk balls.
Sponge Candy Stout
Resurgence Brewing Company, 5.5%
OK, this beer doesn’t have any chocolate, cocoa, or chocolate malt in it, but your tongue will swear it does. Brewed with Watson’s sponge candy trimmings, this dark malt-forward beer starts sweet with toffee flavors and finishes like bittersweet chocolate. The Imperial version is aged, boozy, and 10% ABV.
Asylum Robust Porter
42 North Brewing Company, 6.8%
This aptly named hardy beer is bursting with strong malt, coffee, and dark chocolate flavors, which are underscored by notes of dark fruit and a satisfying bitterness.
Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, 4.5%
Smooth, sweet, and easy to drink, this dark stout is about as classic and cocoa-y as it gets. This is the brewery’s toasty and black coffee-forward Street Brawler Oatmeal Stout with the addition of chocolate.