Dessert Beers Are Becoming The New Post-Dinner Night Cap

Beer is steadily shedding its mainstream reputation as wine's less refined counterpart. Wine enthusiasts will always be armed with their glossary of fancy terms and tasting notes, but the average craft-beer head can appear just as sophisticated before a flight of foam-topped tulip glasses as they wax poetic about color, aroma, carbonation, and body. Beer's erstwhile casual nature may also yield a lower barrier to entry than wine when it comes to tastings. 

Beer has also joined wine's ranks by proving its place beyond savory food. Those who abide by convention will be happy to know that it's now socially acceptable to enjoy a nice beer with a slice of cake or a bar of chocolate, or even topped with ice cream as an adult version of a root beer float (trust us, it's great). What's more, a new class of stout brews allows you to get your dessert fix and your night cap fix in one. 

Say hello to the pastry stout

You may have heard of a coffee stout or a chocolate stout, but pastry stouts are swooping in as beer's sweetest and most night cap-worthy contender. One such brew, affectionately dubbed the Dino Spumoni after a "Hey Arnold!" character, can be found in Connecticut, where Hoax Brewing Co.'s Sean Ricci slings a creamy slow sipper made with marshmallows, hot cocoa powder, lactose sugar, and Ecuadorian cacao.

"A pastry stout in my eyes is a big, thick, higher-ABV stout packed with tons of fun dessert flavors, most commonly imitating flavors of pastries and snacks that bring back some nostalgic effect," Ricci tells Insider. According to Hop Culture, the content creator Don't Drink Beer may have been the first to introduce the term. Still, while it's become known among craft beer community, the term hasn't yet been recognized by organizations like the Great American Beer Festival, which was the first to give a category to New England IPAs, for example.

Boozy chocolate milk

Pastry stout's lack of an official designation might be due to its hazy definition. Namely, people can't seem to agree on whether or not a pastry stout has lactose in it. J.C. Tetreault, founder of Trillium Brewing Co., told Hop Culture that pastry stout fans have "come to expect" the creaminess that lactose sugar affords, but that "there's a large audience who'd prefer it wasn't included." For now, Tetreault says a pastry stout is characterized by its "culinary ingredients that drive home the impression of rich dessert flavors."

One example is Moksa Brewing Co.'s Pastry Mode stout, which starts with a "heavy caramel malt forward grain bill" that's boiled and fermented before getting treated with raw coconut, vanilla beans, and hazelnut coffee. The Rocklin, California-based brewery also boasts several other pastry stouts, including a German chocolate cake-inspired number with toasted and raw coconut, cacao nibs, and vanilla beans. 

We imagine any pastry stout you get your hands on would be excellent as a float, but you could also just enjoy it on its own before drifting off into sweet, sweet dreams.