Real chocolate beer is either brewed or fermented with cocoa or, less often, some other form of chocolate. It's a popular adjunct that adds flavor to the beer, though the degree of chocolate taste depends on when it's added during the beer-making process. When introduced early, the beer has subtle chocolate flavors, but when it's added during fermentation, the beer is super chocolaty. Any style of ale or lager can become chocolate beer, though porters and stouts are most common. Some beers use chocolate malt or brewed in ways that produce chocolate flavor notes, but neither relies on actual cocoa.
- ABV: 2.5–12%
- Bitterness: 15–40 IBU
- Color: 12–50 SRM
What's the Difference Between Chocolate Beer and Chocolate Flavors in Beer?
Chocolate beer is most often brewed with cocoa powder. Other forms of chocolate contain some measure of cocoa butter, and the fat can cause issues with the final beer. These cocoa-brewed beers range in flavor from an earthy hint of chocolate to rich, full chocolate flavors.
Since chocolate is such a familiar flavor, professional tasters use the word often to describe subtle undertones found in beer, wine, and distilled spirits. Just because there are hints of a particular flavor in the finished product does not mean that an ingredient was used in making it.
There are several "chocolaty" stouts and porters that do not have a trace of real chocolate in them. These chocolate-like flavors are produced when the right blend of dark roasted barley results in a distinct chocolaty taste and aroma in the final beer. Many of the typical stouts, such as Guinness, have notes of chocolate.
Chocolate plays an interesting role in the brewing process. There are no style guidelines or rules to chocolate beer, so each brewer will take a different approach to obtain the flavor. Beyond beer brewed with cocoa and those with chocolate notes, there's also beer brewed with chocolate malt.
Real Chocolate Beer
Ales or lagers of any style may become chocolate beer. Porters, stouts, and brown ales most common, and there are many fine beers brewed with chocolate.
Early in the brewing process, brewers mash the malted barley. Mashing introduces hot water to excite enzymes in the grain and breakdown some of the starches and proteins in the barley kernel. Adding chocolate at this stage places it deep in the heart of the beer, so minimal chocolate flavor—and even less aroma—will translate into the pint glass. Instead, the chocolate adjunct contributes a deep, earthy quality.
Most brewers add the chocolate adjunct after mashing and while the beer is boiling. The process takes from one to two hours. Adding chocolate at the beginning of the boil is much like adding it to the mash. When brewers wait to add it until the final fifteen minutes or so, the chocolate has a strong presence in the beer's flavor and aroma.
To get the richest, most chocolaty taste in a beer, brewers add chocolate to the fermentation or conditioning tank, well after the boil. When added at this point, it contributes a huge chocolate aroma to the beer and a significant chocolate taste.
Chocolate Malt Beer
Chocolate malt is a special barley malt often used in porters and stouts. The name refers more to the color of the malt than the taste because it has the appearance of dark chocolate after roasting. It lends a roasted or nutty flavor to the beer as well as a deep red color.
Chocolate malt alone will not create a beer with a chocolate-like flavor. It's often combined with lighter and sweeter malts, and the resulting bitterness can, in many instances, resemble a chocolate flavor.
How to Serve Chocolate Beer
Since chocolate beer is typically dark, it's often best served at cellar temperatures, or between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Generally, chocolate beers are poured into a snifter or similar wide-bowled, stemmed glass. Tulip pints are a popular option as well.
Pour chocolate beers slowly, tilting the glass at a 45-degree angle and bringing it upright as it fills. The head should be about 1 or 2 inches.
Though it sounds tempting, any chocolate drink is not the best pairing for chocolate food. Beer is no exception, and the richest chocolate beers can replace dessert. Dark beers tend to be tricky pairing partners in the first place.
Raspberries are one of the best chocolate pairings. For chocolate beer, keep desserts on the lighter side with something like a raspberry walnut torte or vanilla bean ice cream with raspberry sauce. You can also simply enjoy a snack of fresh raspberries with a variety of nuts.
For other good pairings, look to the style of beer instead of the chocolate aspect, especially when the beer has just hints of roasted, nutty chocolate. Strong cheeses, including aged goat cheese and blue cheese, are generally good picks for porters and stouts. You might try oysters with a well-brewed chocolate porter, or an aged Stilton cheese with a chocolate oatmeal stout.
Several breweries offer chocolate beer, and they're a joy to explore and compare. Though some are year-round brews, chocolate beer is typically a seasonal or limited release that's available during the winter.
- Boulder Beer Co. Shake Chocolate Porter
- Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
- Founders Brewing Co. Breakfast Stout
- Robinsons Old Tom Chocolate
- Rogue Chocolate Stout
- Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock
- Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout
- Sand Creek Oscar's Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
- Young's Double Chocolate Stout