Editors' Picks: Pastry Stouts | Craft Beer & Brewing

Editors' Picks: Pastry Stouts

Here are five imperial stouts that combine indulgent sweetness with chocolate and roast balance, managing that elusive “drinkability” despite big, bold, lush flavors.

Editors' Picks: Pastry Stouts Primary Image

Moksa Brewing Mostra 5th

Imperial stout with coffee, vanilla beans, and maple syrup. Light chocolate and marshmallow nose wafts with sweet vanilla and a hint of rich vanilla tannin over maple. A brief roasty bite on the sip is quickly braced by maple sweetness, but it’s the 60% cacao chocolate-bar s’more with a touch of biscuity graham that makes it so compelling.
ABV: 15.6% Location: Rocklin, California

Finback Heinous

Imperial stout with coffee, chocolate, and hazelnut. Peanut brittle on the nose is backed with some hot cocoa, which leads to a sweet-but-not-too-sweet sip that’s a mocha with a 50/50 mix of milk and dark chocolate and a shot of hazelnut. The coffee, thankfully, appears only on the finish, as a bit of roast that scrubs the palate. It’s deliciously decadent without being overbearing and sweet at all the right moments.
ABV: 12% Location: Queens, New York

Seventh Son Fox in the Stout

Imperial stout with vanilla and cacao nibs. Inspired by a salted chocolate brownie made by a neighboring bakery, this beer showcases layers of dry cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate on the nose while the sip is perfectly balanced—artfully riding that line between burnt-sugar sweet and bitter sharp cocoa with a touch of dark malt roast.
ABV: 8.9% Location: Columbus, Ohio

Surly Tiramisu Funeral Bar

Imperial stout with vanilla, cocoa, and molasses. Creamy with a roasty coffee-cocoa sharpness, this dessert stout is highlighted by glimpses of molasses sweetness but remains firmly structured by a rich dark chocolate bitterness that keeps it from cloying. It’s odd to describe a 10% imperial pastry stout as “drinkable,” but this fits the bill.
ABV: 10.2% Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Alvarado Street Biggie’s Bon Bon Bonanza

Imperial milk stout with vanilla and cacao nibs. The strong vanilla nose softens the roasty chocolate notes with an herbal and enticing sweetness, and the sip reflects balanced sweet and vanilla layers. It’s an ideal expression of dessert beer, not cloying while embracing a complex, nuanced, and thoughtful approach to “pastry.”
ABV: 10% Location: Monterey, California

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