But it’s so Sweet! Oh…it’s Dessert!

5 Sep

Until the other day, I had trouble understanding why so many beer geeks rate chocolaty and sweet beers so highly.  In reviews online and in magazines, I would read things like “X stout is chocolaty and evokes a homemade brownie” and wonder why the reviewer gave the beer a 97 rating.  Sweet beers must be like sweet wines I thought: they must be for amateurs and beginners. I did not understand the dessert-y beer’s role in “beerdom” until I read a review of one such beer in All About Beer magazine.  The reviewer wrote of Buffalo Sweat Stout, “I enjoyed [Buffalo Sweat Stout] with chocolate chip cookies…”  Eureka! I thought–some beers are best for pairing with desserts!

Now, I feel like a dumb-ass admitting that I never thought that way before.  Of course I enjoy pairing beers with food; in fact, I even eschewed serving wine with cheese at a tasting I once did because many beers matched the cheeses better.  I guess I just never contemplated having a beer with dessert.

Beer’s role as a dessert pairing is underused in the world of food and beverage, now that I start to think about it.  Unfortunately, I went 18 years without realizing dessert wines must have an equal on the beer side.  Although many bad wines and beginner wines are too sweet, there are also an infinite number of delicious and well-made sweet wines in the world.  And, hence, the beers that taste sweet, heavy, and of dessert-y flavors can be equally prestigious.  Just the other night, I tried a delicious Gewurztraminer ice wine that I swore tasted like Fig Newtons in liquid form.  So what’s wrong with drinking a beer that tastes like mocha ice cream in liquid form?  Nothing!

The only reason I may prefer more complex and less blatantly chocolate/coffee beers is that they have more nuances and can bring out a little more in the food pairing (if there is a pairing).  For instance, Rogue Brewery’s Chocolate Stout is really just wrong to me.  I love many of Rogue’s beers, but the chocolate stout struck me as a Hershey’s chocolate syrup impostor dressed up in a beer bottle disguise.  On the other hand, beers like Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout offer a more complex palate and can be paired with savory or sweet foods.

What this all really boils down to, for me, are two things:

  1. Sweet beers with dessert flavors can be high quality…and
  2. Because many beers have a tinge of sweetness at least, I prefer pairing them with savory foods.  For me, flavor pairings that work by contrast are more interesting than those paired by similarities.

Hence, while a new way to look at beer has revolutionized my way of judging beer qualities by flavor, I still believe that beer and savory food will always beat beer with desserts for me.  Well, most of the time–right about now I could go for a scoop of vanilla ice cream floating in a glass of Nogne O Brewery’s imperial stout.  When a beer screams quality, its sweetness is welcome, and sometimes it can really amp up a dessert.

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One Response to “But it’s so Sweet! Oh…it’s Dessert!”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Stout « underBEVERage - February 19, 2011

    […] Success!  After some soul-searching, I recently decided to attempt to get the flavor-profile of an oatmeal raisin cookie into a bottle of stout.  I’m not much of a sweet beer-drinker, but I decided if I was going to make an oatmeal raisin cookie beer, I was gonna have to stick to authenticity, and let’s be real–oatmeal raisin cookies are sweet.  I would go ahead with this beer idea as a dessert beer; after all, I have become enlightened, over time, as to when and where sweet beers are appropriate. […]

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