There’s no better holiday than Thanksgiving. With the cold winter months and the consumerism-plagued holiday season on the horizon, Thanksgiving offers a secular occasion when we can take a break – on a Thursday, no less – to gather with family and friends and gorge ourselves on rich, decadent, off-putting foods that we would never consider imbibing the other 364 days of the year (I’m looking at you, green bean casserole and marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole) while only occasionally burying our faces in our phones to check news alerts and football scores and nab early Black Friday deals from Amazon.
There's no worse holiday than Thanksgiving. The very things that make Thanksgiving great are the ones that make it the most exhausting of days. Whether you begin the day with a turkey trot, painstakingly prepare dinner, or merely show up and shovel food down your gullet, few days of the year take more out of you.
And so, by the time dessert comes around, you might just need a beer that will put you down for the count. A beer to finish you off, to put you to sleep so that you can avoid your father-in-law’s political views. A beer that does so with plausible deniability. You know, like a coffee stout.
In reality, downing a coffee stout with all that alcohol and almost no actual caffeine isn’t going to keep you up if you’re dragging, but it can make the end of a long day a lot more bearable. And to those less informed, they may not realize that your coffee beer doesn't have much pick me up to it. They won't know you purposely turned the lights off.
And, anyway, they make for great dessert beers. When the taste of coffee is added to beer, it provides a wide range of flavors from rich chocolate to dark fruit to bitter roasted notes. That complexity makes coffee stouts a welcome pairing that can go well with the full range of sweet, bitter, chocolate, cinnamon, and ginger-tinged desserts found around the Thanksgiving table.
Here are a number of relatively easy-to-find coffee stouts that can help make the end (or even the beginning) of your Thanksgiving meal a bit brighter (or dimmer, if that's the goal):
It’s boozy & complex, and, as it warms up, it exposes multiple dimensions found in both coffee & cocoa nibs.”
Dieu de Ciel Péché Mortel
While coffee notes often linger in the background of many coffee stouts, that isn’t the case with Péché Mortel. This beer, which was first brewed in 2001, is all about espresso, as intense, rich coffee aromas dominate this big ink-black imperial stout.
This is a beer to sip and savor. It features intense roasty, cocoa, and smoke flavors that marry well with a creamy body. Péché Mortel translates to “Mortal sin” and that’s the perfect name for a beer that somehow toes the line between a morning pick-me-up and a boozy nightcap.
Few beers better capture the essence of a latte, which makes this beer match up well with any dessert, from vanilla ice cream to apple pie.
Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist #86
Epic has been brewing this once-a-year bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout since 2011, and while it began introducing variants last year, we’ll stick with the original. It’s everything you’d expect from a barrel-aged stout made with coffee and cocoa nibs. It’s boozy and complex, and, as it warms up, it exposes multiple dimensions found in both coffee and cocoa nibs.
Epic’s release uses Denver’s Corvus Coffee Roasters’ Dead Reckoning espresso blend that features Guatemalan coffee paired with natural and washed coffees from Ethiopia. The brewery says the blend is fruity, with notes of blueberries and pomegranates. And those elements are there in the beer which, compared to many other coffee stouts, is more fruity than roasty. Those elements go particularly well with rich, dark chocolate desserts.
Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break
Sweet almond and vanilla notes waft out of this ink-black imperial stout that, not surprisingly, is brewed with coffee, almond, and vanilla.
The net result is a smooth, sweet beer that’s remarkably easy to drink despite its 11.5% alcohol by volume. It doesn’t have the bitter espresso flavors present in beers like Péché Mortel. Instead, the coffee used in Imperial Biscotti Break adds an interesting dimension to a beer that also features dark fruit, vanilla, and almond notes. It’s ideal with malted vanilla ice cream or a milk chocolate dessert.
Prairie Artisan Ales Bomb!
Talk about an apt name for a beer. Bomb! Is a big-bodied, 13.0% ABV flavor bomb in the form of an imperial stout aged on coffee, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chili peppers.
Jet black and thick, the beer smells boozy with big hot pepper, chocolate and espresso notes.
This beer is one to slowly sip. At first, sweet chocolate and vanilla flavors stand out, but the coffee and hot pepper counterbalance that sweetness as the beer warms.
This beer is particularly good with vanilla ice cream, pumpkin or sweet potato pie or anything chocolate.
Stone Brewing Xocovera
Stone first brewed Xocovera in 2014 with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker after his recipe won the brewery’s annual homebrew competition. While it was originally meant to be a one-off release, social media clamor for the beer led Stone to make Xocovera an annual part of its winter lineup.
Stone calls the 8.1% ABV stout a mocha stout. Brewed with cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg, the stout is inspired by Mexican hot chocolate. It's ruby-hued, with a tan head, and the beer features a remarkably complex aroma with pronounced hot pepper, cinnamon, and chocolate notes.
Lighter bodied than many of the stouts featured here, Xocovera melds vanilla, chocolate, hot pepper and coffee flavors (the spicy notes stand out as the beer warms), that provide an ideal counterbalance for a one-note dessert like pecan pie.
Thanks to Remo Remoquillo for the header illustration.