What classifies as a dessert beer?
Generally speaking, dessert beers will either be a Stout or a Porter. Both beers are made using top fermentation and are dark, almost black, while Porter is brewed with a combination of roasted malt for colour, aroma and flavour, and Stout is brewed with barley, is not as sweet as Porter, and has a rich creamy head.
While there’s not a massive distinction between the two styles, you want a brew that has aromatic and flavour character descriptions that you could easily use for dessert. Think of: roasty, toasty, biscuity, nutty, chocolatey, caramel, butterscotch, coffee.
“Dessert beers that use dark, roasted or specialty malts,” says Richard Kelsey, owner of Australia's #1 Online Craft Beer Store, Beer Cartel. “They are normally sweeter and vary strongly in bitterness, from mild to high bitterness. Sometimes adjuncts (additional ingredients) are used such as coffee, vanilla and cinnamon to add extra flavour and complexity.”
How do you match a beer with dessert?
The key element to a successful pairing is matching the sweetness and intensity of your beer to your dessert: one shouldn’t overpower the other.
Richer desserts tend to pair well with any beer described as roasted. “Popular styles include brown ale, porter, stout and imperial stout,” says Richard. "You can expect flavours like toffee, chocolate, caramel and coffee.”
These beers typically fall into two categories: soft and silky, or dark and dry. Soft and silky styles tend more towards milk chocolate, hazelnut or dark fruits, whereas dark and dry styles exhibit more bitter notes of dark chocolate, espresso or dried fruits like prunes.
On the flip side, if you’re enjoying a cheese platter or fruity dessert, you want to head for beers that are more tart and fruit-driven. Beers that have been barrel aged can offer interesting characters profiles, such as sour red fruit aromatics supported by toasty oak, which make amazing accompaniments to lighter or more savoury desserts.
Just like with unconventional food combinations – dark chocolate with sea salt anyone? – don’t be afraid to trial contrasting flavour profiles to find delicious matches. Richard agrees: “Brewers are pushing the envelope to create beer drinking magic that pair perfectly with different desserts.”
Check out five suggestions below from Richard Kelsey for drool-worthy pairings!
Holgate Temptress Porter
Holgate brewery has been around 20 years, located at Mt.Macedon an hour drive from Melbourne. Their Temptress Porter is one of their classics. It is a robust porter with a mountain of chocolate notes thanks to rich Dutch cocoa and whole vanilla beans. Alongside all the chocolatey goodness are coffee, and caramel flavours which are balanced by a hint of vanilla. Enjoy this with a dark chocolate mud cake.
Moon Dog Cake Hole Black Forest Stout
When you’re looking for the perfect beer to accompany a black forest cake then the answer is a no-brainer. Choose a beer with black forest ingredients. This beer is packed full of sour cherries and cacao, it’s both decadent and delicious and perfect for filling your ‘cake hole’.
Mornington Brown Ale
Mornington Brown is an English-style brown ale, brewed using English ale malts. It has fantastic rich toffee characteristics from the malts, which provides aromas of toffee, brown sugar and raisins. On the palate you’ll also get toffee and raisins, alongside chocolate and nuts. This is our favourite Australian brown ale. It is rich, full-bodied, smooth and moreish. A perfect match with sticky date pudding.
Murray’s Wild Thing Imperial Stout
The annual release from Murray's brewery located at Port Stephens, just up from Newcastle, is big. Weighing in at a meaty 10% alcohol Wild Thing is a Russian Imperial Stout, a style made famous and favoured by the Russian Imperial Court. A massive, intense drinking experience. With bold dark chocolate flavours and aggressive hop bitterness it is a fantastic match for a chocolate self-saucing pudding.
Nail Oatmeal Stout
This classic oatmeal stout from Nail Brewing in Western Australia has a velvety mouthfeel which welcomes each sip, followed by roasted malt and rich coffee flavours, with a mildly bitter finish. Enjoy it with a delicious apple crumble.
Looking for the perfect glass to enjoy with your dessert beers?
The Spiegelau Craft Beer series has been designed for greater beer enjoyment. The unique shape of each Craft Beer glass has been developed through a series of design and tasting workshops, in collaboration with master brewers and industry professionals. The glasses successfully deliver the complexity of aromas on the nose, while delivering the optimum texture, balance, and intensity of flavour on the palate.
We recommend the Barrel Aged Beer glass for Porters, and the Stout glass for Stouts.