Alcohol, as a vice, is pretty damned tempting. Even those who don't count themselves in the ranks of the alcoholic will admit that the pleasant buzz born of a few beers is a welcome respite from the day's woes. For some, chocolate is as ideal a diversion; with its powerful pituitary pleasing properties, chocolate churns up a good number of endorphins, particularly vital for this time of year. When these two scintillating substances join forces, woe unto thee, puny mortals! Your willpower is nothing — give in and bow before the mighty deliciousness!
Yes, chocolate beer is a real thing, and has been around for some 3000 years, dating back to the ancient Mayans practice of fermenting cacao seeds with maize and grain to make a ritual beverage used to commune with the gods. While I wouldn't go so far as to call it a religious experience, chocolate flavored beer can be just as tasty as you might expect. However, there are myriad examples, and each has its own style and characteristics. Since these beers are rather pricey, I thought I would try a few and give you guys my impressions.
Appearance: Opaque, slightly reddish black with thick, long lasting dark brown head.
Aroma: Intense cocoa and fermented fig. Very sharp, almost boozy.
Flavor: Powerful flavor of sweet milk chocolate and a noticible chalky sensation of the front. Very full bodied, with some caustic chemical flavors and malt on the midpalate, followed by a surprisingly bitter finish.
Before looking at the alcohol content, I found this beer ham-fisted and out of balance, but given its abv is over 10%, the Brooklyn Chocolate holds itself together very well. Despite the unusual chemical elements (thanks to the Brooklyn, NY water, perhaps?), this beer has a lot to offer the beer lover who loves a drink with some power. I feel like this one might benefit from a year of aging, so if you have a cellar, consider putting a sixer down there till next Christmas.
Appearance: Extremely dark, full, long lasting head (the beer overflowed its flip-top bottle for like five minutes after I opened it!). Dark burnt umber, almost black in color.
Aroma: Slightly yeasty, with notes of fermenting red apples. Definitely winey, along with some aromas of sweet rotting fruit.
Flavor: Slightly chocolately on the front, with more fermenting fruit flavors taking over in the middle. Creamy textured throughout, with a slightly sweet, chalky finish.
This Italian microbrew is definitely the most esoteric on this list, and one of the more unusual stouts I've enjoyed in a long time. The winey and rotting flavors may not sound appealing in text, but they actually work very well, and would make this beer a great compliment to a wide array of your tangier aged cheeses. Though definitely not for the neophyte, this is a great beer if you are looking to be adventerous, or if you are looking for a chocolate beer where the eponymous ingredient doesn't dominate the drink.
Appearance: Dark brown to black. Full, short lived dark brown head.
Aroma: Green, woody notes. Hint of milk chocolate and malted milk balls.
Flavor: Subtle milk chocolate and buttery flavors on the front. Fairly neutral on the midpalate, with a finish like unsweetened chocolate milk.
Though not as complicated or decadent as some of the beers on this list, the Rogue chocolate is one of the more drinkable chocolate beers out there. If you are a fan of mild stouts like Guinness Draught and Beamish, this one may have just the flavor and texture you are looking for, with just a bit of dessert about it.
Appearance: Dark brown with copper highlights; thick, long lasting foamy brown head.
Aroma: Roasted nuts, mild dark cocoa, with a slightly sweet, maple sugar quality.
Flavor: Kinda sugary sweet on the attack. Medium dry, with rich, buttery cocoa flavors on the mid-palate, along with malt and distinct caramel flavors. A lot like chocolate ice cream. Mouth filling and silky smooth with a creamy, long lasting finish.
Though rather expensive at $17 a bottle, this beer offers a surprising amount of elegance and balance. The intense sweetness on the front of the palate would make this an ideal pair with a wide range of desserts, including Black Forest cake, Tiramisu, or even just a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
Appearance: Dark brown with short lasting, dark brown head.
Aroma: Very intense aromas of fudge and baking chocolate chip cookies.
Flavor: Sharply sweet on the front, with more flavors of fudgey chocolate and malt. Medium full and creamy throughout, with a pleasant bitter element commingling with the sweetness on the finish.
This one is almost too much — it is seriously like drinking melted fudge. Though delicious in its way, this beer is obscenely decadent, and even if that sounds like your kind of thing, I suggest you split it with several friends in lieu of dessert. I only managed to drink about a third of the bottle, and will be baking the rest into beer bread this afternoon — I have high hopes!
Most of these beers are pretty easily found at your fancier beer stores, but be aware, these are low-production seasonals, and will not be around too much longer. Cheers!