If you live around the sunny climes of, say, San Diego or Puerto Vallarta, this list might not be for you right now. But for October’s editors, located in our twin bases of New York and Chicago, mid-February is goddamned freezing, and we’re not thinking much about tropical IPAs or fruity saisons when temperatures are dipping below freezing. Instead, we want something sweet, something satisfying, something to prolong the dessert course just a few minutes longer before we have to put our six layers of sweaters and hoodies and coats back on to brave the cold outside. And sure, dessert beers don’t have to have a season—you can enjoy a pastry stout any day. But if ever there were a time to hygge the hell out with something a little on the boozy-sweet side, it’s now.
“Just in case you didn’t think this was a dessert beer, the first sniff will end any questions,” writes Nathan Mattise of this boozy update on the campfire classic that “delivers a surprisingly clean sip considering the intensity of the advertised flavor—this is a familiar, drinkable Shiner beer at the core and is in no way syrupy.” While this “well-orchestrated symphonies of sweet flavors” steers clear of cloying territory, it still manages to pack in the nostalgia-tinged trio of “chocolate, vanilla, and graham cracker flavors to emulate a s’more."
“Imagine sleeping in and waking up to your significant other in the kitchen, baking cookies and brewing a fresh pot of coffee. That’s Wake-n-Bake’s aroma,” writes Charlie Crespo of this “dark, well-balanced” imperial oatmeal stout where “coffee—specifically bitter espresso—is the flavor at the forefront,” while the aroma also has a subtler “sweeter side with notes of chocolate chip cookies and syrup.”
“It’s apparent from the strong aroma what Sexual Chocolate is all about: booze and chocolate,” says Tucker Anders of this award-winning Russian imperial stout that he praises as “decadent and luscious,” not to mention “silky and smooth, and yes, a little bit sexy.” In a nutshell, “It tastes like a bitter dark chocolate truffle filled with bourbon-and-espresso-flavored chocolate mousse. So, yeah, it’s really damn good.”
Inspired by the Puerto Rican answer to eggnog, this “pillowy soft” and “well-balanced” rum barrel-aged imperial milk stout smells like “warm banana bread” thanks to its heady aromas of “rum, eggnog, cinnamon, and hazelnut,” says Charlie Crespo. “Its flavors complement each other, as opposed to one particular component overshadowing the others.”
“If your favorite food group is chocolate, Upland has created the ultimate beer for you. That first sip of Teddy Bear Kisses delivers an immense, deep chocolate flavor, complemented faintly by some caramel and toffee notes,” writes Nathan Mattise of this Russian imperial stout aged on fair trade cacao. “Amid a growing sea of chocolate beers, this particular brew is a fudgy chocolate layer cake delivering unrestrained chocolatey-ness.” Fortunately, “Teddy Bear Kisses isn’t trying to be cute” and the high IBUs balance it out with a restrained bitterness.
“Bamburana is a serious but sweet dessert stout that’s a dream companion to a dessert course or sipped slowly as a nightcap,” say Tom Thornton of this barrel-aged number with notes of “cinnamon and vanilla lead here, along with big fig, date, and raisin flavors” plus some “oaky spice from the barrels,” all of which add up to the beer equivalent of “sticky toffee or rum raisin bread pudding.”