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Aug 7, 2008 12:16 PM

best dessert and beer pairings?

need some suggestions for a beer pairing dinner i'm going to have and am mostly wrought for ideas in the dessert department. what is the best dessert and beer pairing you've had?

prefer if they didn't have beer in them, i think it makes the match a bit obvious, but more something that just naturally pairs really well with a style of beer. chocolate seems to be another obvious answer so i'm hoping to get something a little more diverse.


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  1. You're going to get a lot of advice on this. My $0.02 would be to limit your choices to one of two kinds of beer. The best dessert beers, IMO, are lactose stouts or sweet (not sour) lambics.

    For lactose stouts, they pair really well with chocolate desserts, or vanilla ice cream. Mackesons is one that's usually pretty easy to find. Make sure you get lactose stout (sometimes called milk stout). It gets its name from the addition of milk sugar, which brewing yeast doesn't eat, making the beer retain some sweetness and have a richer body. You will have people suggesting Russian Imperial Stout, but I think these tend to be too high in alcohol to be a truly great dessert pairing. The hot flavors of the higher alcohol don't play well with sweet dessert flavors. I've had this pairing many times, and it's never worked for me. Lower alcohol is definitely a better match.

    Sweet lambics are the ones made by Lindeman's. They have kind of an art deco-style label. The Framboise (raspberry) Lindeman's is a total slam dunk with stuff like chocolate mousse or cheesecake.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      I was one of those people that was going to suggest a Russian Imperial Stout. Perhaps it's just the styles I have had of this but I have never found "hot" flavors like you would in a Barleywine or Double IPA. I once had a Raspberry Imperial stout that was so good I went to the restaurant just to pair it with almost every dessert they had. The best being with chocolate and the cheesecake worked really well too. Since I love the big hoppy beers I pair them like I would with spicy food and enjoy desserts like gingerbread. Last night I had a Old Ruffian Barleywine with homemade ginger bread and I was in heaven!

      1. re: scubahood10

        It depends on the RIS, I guess. Most I've had have those hot flavors, with few exceptions. But I did actually recently have a pairing of Avery's Mephistopheles stout with dark chocolate truffles, and it was very good, and that beer is 15%!

    2. It would depend on the dessert. Some Butter-rum grilled pineapple would take a different beer than double chocolate cake

      So what kind of desserts are you thinking about, lite or heavy?

      5 Replies
      1. re: niquejim

        Josh - don't have any lactose stouts at the moment... finished them off and can't say that i'm too keen on grabbing many more. they may gradually make it back into the rotation but i found them too sour. or am i think of a different style that has a milk infusion as well?

        the last lindemans i've had was a coconut and that was just sickly sweet. i've actually got a bottle of Ephemere Pomme by Unibroue, are you familiar with it? now that you mention lambics, i remembered i just picked up this one. haven't noticed it to be too sweet but nice and fermentedly fruity. what do you think of a pairing with say an ancho chocolate type dessert?

        thanks for the thoughts on the imperials... i was thinking of not opening them this time around anyway, but i agree that their intensity probably doesn't match well with something that can be as ethereal as a dessert.

        niquejim - i actually didn't have anything in particular in mind, was hoping i could hear of some interesting combos from this board. the best thing i've personally had was an ermite cheesecake with a Brooklyn barley wine.

        i'm open to anything as long as it is relatively uncomplicated to make and doesn't require a stand mixer (hand mixing is perfectly fine).

        1. re: pinstripeprincess

          Sour? You either had some bad bottles or you're thinking of something else. Milk stout is not sour in the least.

          Also, not sure what you're talking about regarding coconut Lindemans. They don't make such a flavor. Maui Brewing makes a coconut porter, but Lindemans' flavor lineup is limited to cherry, raspberry, peach, apple, currant, faro, and gueze (unflavored).

          Lindemans peach and cherry are quite sweet, but the raspberry has a good level of tartness to it which counters it nicely, and makes it a good pairing for things like cheesecake.

          Ephemere Pomme is a nice enough beer, I don't find it especially sweet. The coriander in it adds some nice spiciness. I'd probably like it with some spicy gingersnaps, or something like that.

          1. re: Josh

            it was milk something for sure and while i'm giving off doubt, i'm pretty sure they were stouts. can't think of anything else that i've had that would have had milk in it. i'll try it again.

            sorry, you're right. it was a chapeau! those were sickly sweet. and no ephemere isn't especially sweet... so that's probably not the best end though the idea of gingersnaps is great.

            i'll have to run through my bottles and see what else i've got. so far it's the ephemere, fruli, and an xo.

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              I dunno, I've had a lot of milk stouts (even judged them one year in a homebrew contest) and sour is definitely not in the flavor profile. It might be that you had a badly-made one, or one that was stored incorrectly, because the flavor should be roasty and sweet.

              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                I am glad you mentioned the Ephemere. The best beer and dessert pairing I ever had was at a restaurant in Charlotte that paired the Ephemere with a tarte tatin. Just an extraordinary pairing and highlights the way that beer can complement food in a way that is very different from wine (which primarily pairs via contrast).

        2. What state or area of the country are you located? That will help to give fresh/local rec's...

          1 Reply
          1. re: ClockworkOrange

            toronto canada. we have a pitiful selection here so i'm basing my beer choices among what i've been able to cart over the border from trips i have made and friends have made to buffalo.

          2. Try Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout with cheesecake. Think of the stout as having coffee with dessert Or, perhaps, a Trappist ale and a cheese plate (Chimay ale and Chimay cheese)

            1. ha, so i blanked over and realized you meant imperial stout... not imperials and yes that would definitely seem like an obvious pairing.

              so we threw it to chance in the end and found that we got a good pairing from a goudenbond with an ancho spiked brownie.