If you live outside the state of Indiana but recognize Upland Brewing Co., it’s probably because you’re a devout Parks & Recreation fan. The town of Pawnee may be fake, but Upland’s very real brews have appeared many times on the beloved NBC show, which went off the air in 2015.
Since then, Upland has developed a reputation for experimentation with sour beers while continuing to churn out more traditional year-round and seasonal styles. Among its extensive beer list, one name immediately jumps out: Teddy Bear Kisses, a Russian imperial stout ready to be cuddled.
Despite the name, Teddy Bear Kisses isn’t trying to be cute. Appearance-wise, this beer looks as black as the bottle label when in a pint glass—only a thin foam head, the color of coffee ice cream, breaks up this malty monolith. The same occasionally goes for a few bubbles clutching the side of the drinking vessel after each sip.
Everything about Teddy Bear Kisses feels big, including its scent. The beer delivers a massive aromatic head—a result of being aged on Fair Trade cacao—with just a touch of malt accompaniment. Taking a quick sniff of the bottle post-pour for verification, Teddy Bear Kisses’ aroma most closely resembles chocolate baked goods. A fresh brownie would pair well.
This beer’s chocolate flavors will make it appeal to people who might otherwise shy away from such an imposing, heavy style.”
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. Amid a growing sea of chocolate beers, this particular brew is a fudgy chocolate layer cake delivering unrestrained chocolatey-ness. The high IBUs indicate bitterness, but that’s confined to flavors that only lightly sit on the tongue after that initial, velvety rush.
Beer nerds love Russian imperial stouts. They deliver deep, rich flavors that tickle the senses, but always keep beer at the core. Through that lens, Teddy Bear Kisses isn’t typical of the stye—it may have the high ABV and sensory experience, but a pleasant bitterness is not the priority here. At the same time, this beer’s chocolate flavors will make it appeal to people who might otherwise shy away from such an imposing, heavy style. One sip should be enough to tell you whether or not you’ll want to take this teddy bear in your arms.