Crux Fermentation Project released its latest seasonal beer, Coco(a) Stout, in bottles and on draft in mid-January. Billed as a “dessert-like” beer, the brewery didn’t specify whether it was intended for Valentine’s Day… but it didn’t specifically say that it wasn’t, either.
“This triple-chocolate stout is the adult’s answer to hot cocoa on a cold night,” reads the brewery’s description. “As smooth and full of character as a fireside velvet painting, this roasted revelation was brewed with chocolate malt, infused with cocoa powder, and then ‘dry-hopped’ with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, and toasted coconut for a decadently layered sipping experience that beats any dessert.”
Crux provided me with a bottle of Coco(a) Stout to sample, which I shared with my wife. We both agreed that it would be an excellent beer to enjoy together on the upcoming holiday.
It pours opaque and black in the glass, with an ample head of brown foam that takes on a creamy, lacy appearance. The aromas alone indicate that this is a dessert beer, with cocoa powder and sweet toasted coconut reaching the nose first, followed by roasted malts and a touch of coffee. Underlying it all is a bittersweet chocolate syrup character.
My impression upon first sip was of chocolate ganache sauce, or perhaps a dark chocolate truffle dusted with cocoa. It’s rich and roasty and would not be out of place if poured over ice cream; the coconut and vanilla elements emerge midway through and become more pronounced at the back.
Notably, it’s not cloyingly sweet, however: The roasty and slightly dry stout character balances those sweeter elements to a mellow finish. The end result is a pleasantly rich sipper exhibiting layers of complexity, rather than a bottle of coconut chocolate syrup.
Don’t get me wrong. There are undoubtedly beer drinkers out there seeking those cloying syrup-like dessert libations, and the industry has even coined a name for such beers: pastry stouts.
These are typically imperial stouts that are infused with adjuncts and ingredients such as exotic sugars, coffee, chocolate, and spices in such a way as to taste more like a dessert and less like beer.
Southern Tier Brewing out of New York is perhaps the best-known brewer of such beers. Its Blackwater series of dessert stouts, which you can find in Central Oregon on occasion, include beers inspired by Girl Scout cookies (Samoa This and Thick Mint), Choklat Oranj Stout and Creme Brulee Stout.
These taste, and are as sweet, as advertised, and are terrific beers to share.
If you’re seeking out other dessert-like beers to enjoy for Valentine’s Day, here are several other suggestions to try.
• Sunriver Brewing Cocoa Cow Chocolate Milk Stout — This rich stout is brewed with two types of chocolate malt and lactose (milk sugar) which adds residual sweetness and a creamy texture to the mouthfeel. The addition of roasted Ghana cocoa nibs completes the process, and the result is reminiscent of chocolate milk.
• Three Creeks Brewing TenPine Chocolate Porter — A double-strength version of Three Creeks’ award winning FivePine Porter, TenPine features a hefty dose of chocolate malts and Belgian chocolate added to the boil. The brewery adds 4 pounds of chocolate per barrel (31 gallons) for a roasty and silky finish.
• Cascade Lakes Brewing Salted Caramel Porter — Caramel is the highlight here, with background notes of vanilla and chocolate (a bit like Tootsie Roll candy). The sweet elements are balanced by dark and dry coffee-like malts and a savory character hinting at salt.
• Wild Ride Brewing Laughing Face Imperial Coconut Porter — This new seasonal from Wild Ride, also released in January, is perhaps a not-so-subtle nod to Almond Joy candy bars. Chocolate malt and over 50 pounds of shaved coconut went into this brew, which is a shareable 9 percent alcohol by volume.
• 10 Barrel Brewing Double Chocolate Stout — Just in time for Valentine’s Day, 10 Barrel’s latest entry in its Barreled Series was brewed with cacao nibs, cacao powder and Madagascar vanilla beans and aged in bourbon barrels.
• Lindemans Fruit Lambics — This line of sour, spontaneously fermented beers from Lindemans Brewery in Belgium is best-known for fruit-infused offerings such as Framboise (raspberry) and Peche (peach). The puckering tart character of lambic blends with the sweet fruit for a flavor profile quite unlike most other beers. The Framboise and newer Strawberry versions are terrific for dessert pairings, with rich and jammy qualities that will play well off a wide variety of foods.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try blending a bit of Lindemans Framboise with Crux’s Coco(a) Stout for a taste akin to a chocolate raspberry coconut cordial.
And try pairing these beers with chocolate and other desserts for a sinfully decadent Valentine’s Day.
— Jon Abernathy is a Bend beer blogger and brew aficionado. His column appears every other week in GO!