Lately, I have found myself pining for the rich, flavorful complexity and unique nuances of adjunct stouts. There are plenty of dissenting opinions about the use—and potential overuse—of adjuncts in modern iterations of stouts. However, when used in the right context, adjuncts can complement, and even enhance, the complexity of the base beer to offer a truly unique experience. In addition, as a homebrewer, I find brewing with adjuncts is usually easier and more feasible than it is for commercial brewers, given the cost and process concerns associated with certain ingredients. So brewing with adjuncts offers homebrewers another option for crafting beers that are truly different from their commercially brewed counterparts.
When you brew any specialty beer, you can either design the recipe around the specialty ingredient, or you can select the ingredient to complement the base beer. Regardless of the approach you take, balance and intentionality are essential when brewing with unique ingredients. As both a homebrewer and a pro brewer, I have had the most success by selecting the specialty ingredient or adjunct I want to feature first and then crafting the recipe around the ingredient.
There are nearly a limitless number of options when selecting special ingredients to add to a stout. For a quick reference, consider any decadent, mouth-watering dessert, and the ingredients used will work in a stout. Coffee, chocolate, vanilla, maple syrup, coconut, hazelnut, cinnamon, peppers, mint, and peanut butter are just a few of the more popular selections, but the possibilities are endless, not to mention the infinite combinations of multiple adjuncts—some of which work well together and others of which do not. Once again, balance and intentionality are key, even when using more unique, off-the-wall ingredients. Otherwise, it can be hard to target your desired flavor profile.