Just as we have been known to nod in agreement as a sommelier lists all the incredible (but to our taste buds, non-existent) flavours in the wine we’re sipping, sometimes we’ve been disappointed when a beer promising all kinds of chocolate delivers nothing like the cocoa hit we were after.
But no more: the craft beer scene is growing constantly and there are several dessert-in-a-bottle beers on the market these days offering proper smack-you-in-the-face flavours.
With the help of two boozy connoisseurs – Brody Rossiter, beer guru at HonestBrew, and Sunday Brunch beer expert Sarah Warman of Brewdog (as well as our own extensive research in several pubs of course) – we bring you a list of 12 stonking beers that do what they say on the tin.
These, friends, are special. Pecan mud pie, salted millionaire’s shortbread, espresso, ice cream and even liquorice flavours abound – scroll through our gallery below for the bottles, cans and pours we think you should keep an eye out for in taprooms, bottle shops and craft beer bars.
Because if a beer says it tastes like a brownie, we want it to taste like a bloody brownie.
Millionaire, Wild Beer Co
This chocolate and salted caramel milk stout (had us right there) “wraps you in a velvety cocoon, dresses you in a smart suit and takes you out for a special night on the tiles” according to Wild Beer Co. According to beer expert Sarah Warman, it’s “like a liquefied hardcore millionaire’s shortbread blended into a gloriously decadent, overwhelmingly indulgent chocolate caramel dream of gooey awesomeness.” Sold and sold.
Kriek Boon, Boon
Warman recommends this Belgian style from Boon for those after something with a real fruit kick. “This is a Kriek, which is a spontaneously fermented cherry beer,” she explains. “It's delightfully fruity and decadent – sweet and sharp and delicious! It’s got shedloads of cherry, so it’s the perfect replacement for sugary liqueurs. It’s also particularly amazing paired with chocolates.”
So, so coffee. This imperial stout from London’s Beavertown (a collaboration with Caravan Coffee) is dark, roasty and – unlike many coffee-based beers –not overly sweet: it’s rich, but with the bitter edge of a spiky espresso rather than the softness of a milky latte. At 9.5%, we probably can’t really recommend it for breakfast though.
Stay Puft, Tiny Rebel
Recommended by both of our experts independently, this marshmallow porter from Welsh brewery Tiny Rebel is definitely not to be missed – the first release sold out in just 36 hours. Plus anything described as “S’mores-like” gets our vote. Warman says: “This is great for those with a super sweet tooth. The marshmallow adds a really light sweetness and a beautiful smooth finish to the porter, mellowing any roasted bitterness from the style itself. Lovely stuff.”
Abstrakt AB:21, Brewdog
This Brewdog stout is definitely, undeniably, intensely, darkly liquorice. There’s a hint of spice and blackcurrant, but the rest of this full-bodied brew is basically pure Pontefract cake. It will (and has) divided opinion, so if you hadn’t quite got the picture yet, this is for liquorice fans. (And do bear in mind that at 12%, it’s not one for downing…)
Vanilla Ice Cream Pale, Buxton/Omnipollo
Derbyshire’s Buxton Brewery worked with stylish Swedes Omnipollo to produce the Ice Cream series, which also comes in Lemon Meringue Pie, Rocky Road and Texas Pecan. HonestBrew’s Rossiter says: “This is the original Ice Cream. Brewed with heaps of malted oats and conditioned on one vanilla bean in two litres of beer, the sensation of vanilla ice cream is unmistakable.”
It’s a pretty fast seller so if you don’t manage to grab one, track it down in taprooms, bars and bottle shops.
Barrel-Aged Rain Shadow, Buxton
An imperial stout, this is a version of the Derbyshire brewery’s super popular Rain Shadow – this time aged in bourbon barrels – and packed full of big flavours. Rossiter says: “A beer geek's dream, Buxton’s pitch black imperial stout is crammed with intense, deep-roast speciality malts and bold, unflinching flavours. Expect rich coffee, bitter chocolate and vanilla notes.” It sells out quickly online, so if you miss out, try the standard Rain Shadow.
Noa Pecan Mud Cake Stout, Omnipollo
We're told it was the brewer's childhood dream to be a pastry chef and thus Omnipollo’s Noa was intended to be a creative outlet for unfulfilled baking ambition. And trust us, it hits the dessert spot. A thick, rich pour, it’s like pudding in a glass. Chocolate pudding. Dark, boozy, decadent, caramelly chocolate pudding.
Again, it always sells out quickly so set those ‘back in stock’ notifications and try a few independent bottle shops and taprooms. If you see this (or any of its variations), buy it. Edit: the brewery has added Noa to its core range, so hopefully that means bottles won’t be as scarce.
Death by Coconut, Oskar Blues Brewery
Chocolate and coconut together, oh my. This porter is from American brewery Oskar Blues so it’s not particularly widely available over here (plus it’s released annually), but if you come across it, give it a try. The chocolate and coconut flavours are pronounced and it’s not too sweet thanks to the toasty edge (even though all you can think now is ‘mmm, Bounty’).
Crème Brûlée, Dark Star
How could we not include a milk stout called Crème Brûlée? Brewed using vanilla beans and plenty of roasted malts, by all accounts it’s a caramelly, custardy experience, pretty sweet and pretty much like liquid crème brûlée. This is a seasonal release so take-home cans might be hard to get hold of but keep an eye out for it on keg (or buy your own 5L keg from the website).
Cocoa Psycho, Brewdog
Beer expert Warman says of this Brewdog number: “So. Much. Chocolate. There are notes of vanilla, coffee and toasted oak chips, but just bags and bags of chocolate for days. Russian imperial stouts were originally brewed for the Russian monarchy, so you can imagine how decadent and boozy they must be!”
London Mead, Gosnells
OK fine, not a beer, but we couldn’t resist including this from Peckham-based brewery Gosnells, which uses traditional methods to create its meads – in the case of London Mead, that means using nothing more than water and citrus blossom honey. Thus, it’s really, properly honeyish, but not cloying – a light and refreshing bottle. The brewery also has a couple of seasonal variations on the theme and a hopped mead, available from the website.
£18 (for six), gosnells.co.uk