It’s been 20 years since the late, great Whitbread Brewery in Great Britain introduced its Fuggles Chocolate Ale. The brew, flavored with cocoa extracts, was soon followed by Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.
Craft brewers today splurge on the finest chocolate in brewing: Sprecher Brewery’s special limited-release Generation Porter was brewed with Dutch cocoa and raspberries. Boulevard Brewery last year collaborated with premium chocolatier Christopher Elbow on a seasonal Chocolate Ale.
More brewers are experimenting with all forms of chocolate, from dark-roasted cocoa nibs, to cocoa powder as well as confectionary dark chocolate and natural chocolate extracts. Also, new varieties of dark-roasted barley malts provide more chocolate flavors without extra bitterness, says Penny Pickart of Briess Malts in Chilton, Wisc. Here’s a roundup of this year’s batch of chocolate-infused beers.
Choklat Imperial Stout, Southern Tier Brewing Co.
This super-rich infusion of Belgian dark chocolate and malt tastes like a liquid candy bar; it’s perfect served as a dessert beer in a snifter or tulip glass. A warming 10% ABV, packaged in 22-oz. bottles and sixtel kegs, it’s a seasonal release for November 2012.
Chocolate Chipotle Stout, DuClaw Brewing Co.
Available as a seasonal limited release, the Hero Chocolate Chipotle Stout is a silky yet spicy stout, brewed with chocolate and roasted malts and accented with smoky chipotle peppers. The mélange of savory, smoked pepper and sweet malts makes it an excellent foil for Mexican and South American foods, especially stuffed poblanos. A 7.5% ABV, in limited draft and 22-oz. bottles.
Sam Adams Chocolate Bock, Boston Beer Co.
Smooth, rich, and dark, finished with the robust flavor of cocoa nibs. The beer begins with more than six malts brewed with Bavarian noble hops. The bock lager is aged on a bed of dark cocoa nibs that create complex aromas and flavors from chocolaty to fruity, nutty, earthy, and citrusy. Smooth and not too sweet, at 5.8% ABV, look for seasonal release in November.
Chocolate Indulgence, Brewery Ommegang
Chocolate Indulgence ale is brewed with Perle hops, complementing the dark malt flavors, while rich Belgian dark chocolate brings up the cocoa and dark, dried-fruit flavors of raisin and plum from the special Belgian yeast strain. At 7% ABV, a drinkable chocolate stout that’s best presented in a snifter to concentrate aromatics.
Serpent’s Stout, The Lost Abbey Brewing Co.
A black stout with a caramel colored foam, with small, fine carbonation, the Serpents Stout is full-bodied with full-on chocolate flavors. Thanks to barrel aging on cacao nibs, it has a rich nose of chocolate and vanilla, plus hints of mocha from roasted malts and finishes, with a lingering cocoa bite. At a robust 10.5% ABV, this stout will match with roasted meats or chocolate toffee desserts. A winter release in 2012.
Rogue Chocolate Stout, Rogue Ales
The Rogue Chocolate Stout gets its creamy mouthfeel from the addition of roasted oats, as well as six different varieties of barley malts, plus real chocolate. Not overly sweet, the stout also features Cascade and Perle hops for the gentle sensory re-creation of the mix of chocolate and citrus on the palate, excellent with Cheddar. Available in 22-oz. bottles.
Vanilla Porter, Breckenridge Brewery
An ale that has all the chocolate and roasted-nut flavor of a classic porter, with a splash of real Madagascar vanilla to heighten the chocolate taste. The chocolate aromatics become more pronounced as it opens to warmer temperatures. And at a lighter 4.7% ABV, the porter makes an excellent pairing with grilled lobster or roasted mole-spiced pork loin.
Bison Organic Chocolate Stout
This dark black stout has a delicious chocolate bar and cocoa aroma, with a medium body—not overly thick or bitter. This stout is all about the chocolate, with a mild hint of hops, and energetic carbonation to cut through the sweet taste. A good pairing with ice cream and desserts. Available on draft (Sixtels or half-barrels) and 22-oz. or 12-oz. bottles.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn Brewery
Despite the name, there’s no form of cacao in the beer, but the slight tang from malted wheat echoes the bittersweet edge of natural chocolate. Crisp, mocha-colored foam, moderate carbonation, and a deep black color make this beer best presented in a tulip glass. Aromas meld espresso, chocolate and the peppery notes of alcohol at 10% ABV. Available in 12-oz. bottles and draft.