Good Beer Hunting

Fervent Few

Fervent Few — Dessert Island Beer

Stout is easily the most decadent beer style. Stouts can be roasty, chocolatey, or bursting with dark fruit notes. It's almost shocking that anyone would even think to add anything else to them. But in the last several years we’ve seen the rise of the Pastry Stout. These massive, dark beers are flavored to taste like candy bars and high-end desserts. Cocoa nibs, cinnamon, and maple syrup are just a few of the things added in endless combinations. But is there a point to beers that don’t even really taste like beer? This week we ask the Fervent Few: do you drink more or less Stouts now that so many brewers are racing to scale Sugar Mountain? What flavor profiles do you prefer in your Stout? Should we all just give in and become pastry chefs?


Travis Wannlund: “I am still on the peanut butter Stout kick. PB&Thursday from The Bruery is one of my top beers. Really looking forward to trying the PB&Jelly variant. In short, I'm in.”

Zack Rothman: “I have a huge sweet tooth, so the recent rise of Pastry Stouts has only increased my interest in drinking Stouts. In terms of my personal preference, I look for a sweet Stout with adjuncts that don’t overpower or dominate, but complement the roasty coffee or cocoa aromas and flavors often present in Stouts. One example is Inertia by Burlington Beer Company, a Stout with rotating ingredients. One [version] I tried was brewed with coffee, vanilla, cinnamon crunch cereal, and lactose. Tasted like vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup and a hint of cinnamon. Quite the treat!”

Brad: “In general I would say that my interest in flavored Stouts has decreased. I’m far less likely to seek out a flavored Stout at a release or trade unless I really feel strongly about the brewery behind it. Even [at] a lot of the local NYC breweries I don’t purchase their bottles at releases. I would definitely try them on draft or at a share, but at this point, I’m not looking to spend $15-20 on a bottle. On the other hand, breweries like Cycle & Kane pretty much have carte blanche in my book, and I’ll always try to go after their releases. I know that most of the time I can expect balanced Stouts that don’t overdo it on sweetness.”

Nate Wannlund: “This is truly a feast or famine style for me. Some of the best beers I have ever had and some of the worst. To that end, with the right brewery, the right variant, and the right  people, these beers can be the perfect ‘buds and suds’ bottle to crack.”

Dave Riddile: “I could never pound a whole bomber of these. Sometimes even a 10oz pour is tough to stomach, even if it's good. I love the experimentation involved with these beers, but generally prefer something that is dry and roasty when looking for a Stout. I will try them no matter what, though, mainly out of curiosity and appreciation for the brewer's creativity. Back to our seasonal drinking thread, unless I'm at a festival, these are things I wait to consume during our one or two cooler months. So naturally, I spend the months prior getting in elite physical condition before wrecking my body with sugar and booze.”

Brandon Morreale: “I was never a fan of huge adjuncts or even lactose-heavy Milk Stouts, but along with all these new Pastry Stouts comes a whole new level of limited releases, long lines, etc., which has mostly made me climb back into my beer brain and revisit classical styles like Belgian Tripels, Dark Ales, Pilsners, Märzens, etc. It’s given me a much-needed break from trying to stay on top of every new release of every new variant.”

Chris Sadler: “The sweetness and tendency of the adjuncts to overwhelm the flavor of the base beer make Pastry Stouts pretty unappealing to me. Even something lower wattage, like Firestone’s Mocha Merlin, I find to be too unbeer-like. (I couldn’t even finish a can of it.) However, every now and then, I’ll have one of these Stouts where the adjuncts are subtly done, the sweetness is in check, and the flavors all meld into something truly delicious, but that’s rare.  I know my palate has changed over the years, though. I used to love it, but I now find BCBS too sweet these days!”

Caldwell Bishop: “I don’t know that my interest level has changed, but I’m pretty much always willing to try Stouts of all stripes. But to convince me to buy a bomber of a big-ABV, funny-stuff Stout requires either that I’ve had something from the brewery before and like it, or I plan to share the bottle with others. I love peanut butter. I think it would be my desert island food if I could also have water to wash it down with. Oddly though, I have not had a beer with peanut butter in it that I enjoy.”

David Purgason: “Dry Stout is life.” 

Lana Svitankova: “I'm not a fan of sweet beer in general, and we don't have this trend for Pastry Stouts here yet, but I've tried these during my travels (Scandinavian mostly, some from UK). Definitely not all of them are cloyingly sweet. For me, it's not a Pastry Stout, but a ‘weird beer,’ a strange personal category, where I put all the beer with unusual ingredients I stumble upon. So, I've been interested in that kind to a certain point, but can't say my interest will increase with more beers available on the market. I'll avoid lactose-laced examples, but will go for salty caramel. It's a case of personal preference for ingredients added, not the base style. And balance is extremely important as well.”

Carla Jean Lauter: “Coffee Stouts make me wish the coffee I drink tasted as good.”

Jaron Wright: “I don't get the Pastry Stout craze (I have been steadily losing my sweet tooth as I get older and bitter as a person), but to each their own. My only real gripe with Pastry and Imperial Stouts is that they have replaced the great tasting standard Stouts that I love. But then I am usually ordering something else off the menu, so I think I’m part of the problem.”

Shannon Vinson: “I enjoy drinking my dessert because I’m not really a big cake/pastry/sweets person. I’d rather have sipping chocolate, hot cocoa, a milkshake, etc. So I like a nice Pastry Stout for dessert in beer form with the added bonus of getting to feel a little warm and gettin’ my buzz on. I had Imperial Coffee & Cigarettes (I know, I know, it’s not a Stout, OK!) from Cellarmaker recently and enjoyed it. I like Derivation, Abraxas, and the Cycle Brewing Stout series. It’s not a beer style I regularly reach for, but I’ll sip on one at the right time and place.”

James Hernandez: “Pastry Stouts are really good sometimes and way too sweet for my taste other times. I’m always happy to try [them] in small amounts with others but I rarely like drinking them by myself. Lower ABV Coffee Stouts and Stouts where vanilla is a strong component, those I dig.”

Jake Rajewsky: “I'll try Pastry Stouts here and there, but I've had a lot that are grossly sweet. I'm still just as interested in non-Pastry Stouts as I've ever been, so I guess my interest in Stouts overall has increased a little. I never buy more than a half pour of it at a bar or brewery, and I never pick any up when I'm at the liquor store.”

Nathan Taylor: “I love a good Pastry Stout. Some can be cloying, but when done well, they can be exceptional. For example, Yellow Belly [from Buxton and Omnipollo] is an all-time favorite beer, as is To Øl’s Goliat.”

Nick Yoder: “I like a well-made Pastry Stout every once in awhile, but most of the time I realize I like the base beer better than the version that gets the Pastry Stout treatment. The best versions of the style are those that are most in balance and can be enjoyed in quantities larger than a couple ounces, but sometimes I like using the really out-of-balance ones as a way to calibrate my palate to how certain adjuncts taste in beer.”

Kris Kazaks: “I am not a fan of Pastry Stouts. One of my worst beer experiences was tasting Rogue's Voodoo Doughnut Mango Astronaut. I had to try it out of curiosity, but it was a gross mishmash (or should i say miss-mash?) of non-beer flavors and textures. That said, I just enjoyed an experimental Tiramisu Porter on cask at Anchor's new taproom (made with spices and ingredients, not the actual cake). If the adjunct flavors are subtle and act to support or underline the base beer taste, it could be successful for me. However, most pastry beers are just too gimmicky.”

Jeff Wiser: “I live out here in PDX, not far from Great Notion. I remember walking in there right after I moved back to Oregon and they'd just opened. It was empty, and now, well, that's another story. Anyway, they're known for a couple of Stouts (among other beers) that would certainly qualify for Pastry Stout status. Double Stack, Stacks of Coconut, Peanut Brother, etc. They're as advertised: loaded with adjunct flavors, so much so that's it's almost hard to fathom how they're made. And, they're really enjoyable. Gimmicky? Probably. Tasty? Sure, if you want something sweet with so many maple syrup notes that you immediately crave breakfast food at 9pm. Is there room for these beers? Absolutely. Balance is great and preferred. Plus, I think it better showcases a brewer's ability. But these are still really fun.”

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