Inspired by dinosaur-shaped s’mores from the brewery’s opening in 2013, Off Color’s Dino Smores features an interesting list of adjuncts. The Chicago-based brewer flavors the beer with marshmallow fluff, molasses, vanilla bean, cocoa nibs, and graham flour, which is used to make graham crackers.
While the idea is to mimic the flavor of the campfire favorite, that’s where Dino Smores falls more than a little short. It’s a beer that is simply too heavy on one addition in particular, while neglecting the signature flavors of the classic s’more.
Off the pour, there is nothing amiss. Dino Smores has the appearance of a standard imperial stout with an opaque body that is dark brown—almost-black. A minimal, light brown head quickly fades, leaving what looks like a glass of flat Coke.
At first, the aroma is pure, sugary sweetness. Take two reveals cloying vanilla. Not until my third try does the graham cracker, molasses, and cocoa emerge, and even then, Dino Smores’ aroma is extremely sweet. But why wouldn’t it be? It isn’t like s’mores are known for their balance and complexity.
Dino Smores is too heavy on the vanilla and far too light on the graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow—which are, you know, the actual ingredients in a s’more.”
I wouldn’t call vanilla the signature flavor of s’mores, but that is absolutely the dominant note in Dino Smores. It’s so sweet and strong it detracts from the other flavors. As the beer warms, the graham cracker and chocolate creep into the picture, but they still fall well behind the lead vanilla flavor. The finish is boozy and somewhat bitter—a much needed reprieve from all that sugar. Dino Smores is a beer that feels out of balance, with some dials turned up way too high (sweetness, vanilla), and others all but ignored (graham cracker, chocolate).
I so badly wanted to like Dino Smores. I mean, I love s’mores. And while my sweet tooth is virtually unrivaled, I simply cannot get there with this beer. Dino Smores is too heavy on the vanilla and far too light on the graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow—which are, you know, the actual ingredients in a s’more. To me, Off Color would be better off leaving out the vanilla entirely and seeing what was left, but as it stands, Dino Smores is one beer of which I don’t want s’more.