Just (Beer) Desserts
Everyone loves dessert. Just about everyone loves beer. With the same creativity that created the great concoctions of all time, like the chili cheese dog, chocolate covered pretzels and fried chicken and waffles, brewers are creating dessert-inspired beers that make a festive finale.
It all makes sense when you dive into the DNA of beer. In the dessert world, many bakers use flour as a base and add sweetness with sugar and fruits and richness with butter, plus spices and other ingredients that add nuance. Brewers haven’t adopted the butter part – yet – but many of the other ingredients are mirrored in a brewery. Brewers use grain as their base, add sweetness with caramelized malts and sometimes sugar, molasses, honey or agave. The addition of fruit to many beers adds another level of complexity to the brew. The regular use of other ingredients like cocoa, vanilla beans, anise, clove and cinnamon, to name a few, have become commonplace. The German brewers over the past 500 years who have honored the Reinheitsgebot (the 1516 German beer purity law decreeing that all brewers use only barley, hops and water to produce beer) would be disgusted by this trend. But many American breweries and craft beer drinkers are delighted to experiment and taste.
Open Your Pie Hole
There is something amazingly nostalgic about pies. Brewers have begun making liquid homages to these delectable desserts. They’re using the right ingredients, like biscuit malt to add a toasty quality to the beers and maybe some vanilla to mirror the flavors of the crust. Add the filling and you’ve got a pie beer. Funky Buddha has created a few signature beers with this mindset, like Lemon Meringue and Blueberry Cobbler. Playalinda in Titusville created a little buzz with their Key Lime Slice blonde ale, which tastes just like this iconic South Florida dessert. Cigar City Cider and Mead is best known for their Homemade Apple Pie Cider: apple juice, with just the right sweetness and a hint of cinnamon, create a gluten-free liquid version of the good ol’ American pie. We’ve all seen the shelves around September. There are a long list of craft breweries creating pumpkin beers, which are brewed to recreate the flavors of pumpkin pie, including pumpkin spice, pumpkin, anise, clove, cinnamon and sometimes molasses.
Let Them Drink Cake
You don’t have to wait for a birthday to indulge! Angry Chair Brewing in Pinellas Park first made a name for themselves with German Chocolate Cupcake beer, a delightfully rich chocolate cake stout. Shorts Brewing in Michigan, one of the first to experiment with beers in this way, created Carrot Cake Beer. Funky Buddha’s Strawberry Shortcake is a big Wheat Wine clocking in at 9% ABV with real strawberries and vanilla. Cigar City also came out with their Strawberry Shortcake lager in 2016, which at 5% alcohol was much more sessionable. The UK’s largest private brewing company, Wells and Young’s brought the banana into the beer game and created their Banana Bread Beer. At the same time, two breweries are producing their take on the Red Velvet cake. Ballast Point will be releasing their Red Velvet in nitro bottles early in 2017. Funky Buddha’s Red Velvet is available on a limited basis.
Cookies and Cream
Breweries have taken on this dessert beer trend fearlessly. Cigar City’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Brown Ale has been a favorite for years. Wells and Young’s launched Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale, the liquid form of this quintessential British dessert. Hardywood Park Brewing in Richmond, Virginia, debuted Gingerbread Stout a few years back. This Imperial Milk Stout, brewed with milk lactose, oats plus some gingerbread spices, tastes so much like the popular holiday cookie, it makes you feel like you should be decorating the bottle with icing. Evil Twin’s Imperial Biscotti Break Imperial Stout is brewed with coffee, vanilla and almond and packs a 11.5% alcohol percentage. Southern Tier’s Crème Brûlée Imperial Stout is almost as rich and delicious as the dish itself. New Belgium takes it a step further, partnering with Ben and Jerry’s to create a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale, a blonde ale with chocolate, sugar and brown sugar, no doubt destined to become a beer float. Among J Wakefield’s dessert offerings is a collaboration with RAR Brewing: Gimme S’more, an Imperial Stout brewed with marshmallows, cocoa nibs and graham crackers.
Although these will never replace the refreshing pilsner or bitter, hoppy everyday IPA, they are surely a treat to enjoy after a meal or to share with friends and family on a special occasion. You may need to supplement these amazing brews with some extra sit-ups, but they’re well worth it!