“Beer and chocolate are two pleasures that should be enjoyed and savored.” – Samuel Adams
It’s not known whether Adams intended both substances to be relished together. But today’s craft brewers and imbibers alike have embraced the commingling of these delights. Although commonly marketed most aggressively for Valentine’s Day, chocolate beer has become much more than a holiday novelty, steadily rising to new heights of critical and consumer acclaim.
The numbers and variety of beers containing chocolate elements or exuding chocolaty essence seem proof that satisfying such boozy cravings can pay off. Virginia alone currently boasts no less than 57 such craft brews. From full-bodied stouts to milder ales, they run the gamut from subtly suggestive, to borderline bitter, to “pureed brownie” sweet.
Craft and home brewers alike have developed unique ways of enhancing their beer with chocolate, via syrups, powders, bars, or cacao nibs (coffee-bean-sized cacao fruit bits).
To embark on your own chocolate beer sampler, here are a few to whet your appetite:
Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout – Foothills Brewing, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
A Valentine’s Day inspiration created by then University of Georgia college student Jamie Bartholomaus, named for a fictitious band in the Eddie Murphy classic flick “Coming to America,” Sexual Chocolate was relaunched when he began Foothills Brewing in 2005. Today, the “dark, delicious concoction” has achieved acclaim and near cult status, with fans conducting an overnight outdoor vigil to await and celebrate each Release Day (winter for the original brew, late summer for the bourbon barrel-aged variety).
Theobroma – Dogfish Head Craft Ales, Milton, Delaware
Translated as “food of the gods,” Theobroma is one of Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales, a line developed with Dr. Patrick McGovern, a renowned primeval beverage guru. It’s crafted from Aztec cocoa powder and nibs sourced from the artisan Askinosie company, along with honey, chilies, and annatto. The surprisingly light-colored brew’s recipe is steeped in prehistoric significance, based on chemical analysis of pottery shards unearthed in Honduras. The fragments’ deciphered residue divulges a ceremonial draught regarded as the “earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink.” In fact, scientific data reveals that chocolate itself was discovered as an early brewing byproduct, thus confirming the natural linkage of the two sublime substances.
Dark Persuasion German Chocolate Ale – Icicle Brewing Company, Leavenworth, Washington
Icicle Brewing was the gold medal awardee of the 2015 U.S. Open Beer Championship’s Chocolate/Cocoa category. The Icicle Brewing website proclaims Dark Persuasion as the veritable equivalent of delightfully being able to “have your German chocolate cake and drink it, too,” featuring flavors of “delicate dark chocolate with a whisper of coconut.” Aaron Swaney, craft beer blogger for Everett, Washington’s, Daily Herald, declared it a rich dessert beer, with coffee/stout notes pegging its porter cred. As if the brew needed any more bragging rights, Swaney couldn’t help raving over the company’s rebranded bottle artwork, evoking iconic national park posters. With Icicle now bottling and shipping its brewpub specialty, its notoriety is likely to grow.
Organic Chocolate Stout – Samuel Smith’s Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Disciples of digestive pure goodness seeking to feed their inner chocoholic spirit need look no further than Samuel Smith’s vegan-certified Organic Chocolate Stout. Brewed with water from the original well sunk in 1758 and still operating, the double-gold-medal-winning beer apparently requires only organic barley malt, organic hops, organic cacao, organic sugar, and yeast to reach the pinnacle of chocolate beer virtuosity. Tadcaster locals can even have their brew delivered organically, via Samuel Smith’s shire horse-drawn carriage.