Restaurant News & Reviews

Have a sweet tooth for stouts? These local seasonals are brewed with sugar and spice.

Concord’s High Branch Brewing Co. (325 McGill Ave. NW #148) will release Bossman, an imperial milk stout brewed with maple, cinnamon and vanilla.
Concord’s High Branch Brewing Co. (325 McGill Ave. NW #148) will release Bossman, an imperial milk stout brewed with maple, cinnamon and vanilla. High Branch Brewing Co.

As Charlotte’s days turn shorter, its stouts are getting sweeter.

This Friday, NoDa Brewing Co. and Divine Barrel Brewing will both tap THICC, a pastry stout that the two breweries recently collaborated on. As the name suggests, pastry stouts are beers that mimic or call to mind not just pastries but any number of desserts, ranging from pies and cakes to cookies and doughnuts.

Of course, milk stouts and sweet stouts are nothing new. So what distinguishes this new trend?

“I think the biggest thing with it is that it needs to be a sweet stout, but on ’roids,” said Chad Henderson, brewer and co-owner at NoDa Brewing Co. “It’s not just simply sweet, but it’s absurdly sweet. Or it’s absurdly flavored in one obvious direction with it.”

When Henderson first brainstormed the recipe with Ben Dolphens, brewer and co-owner at Divine Barrel Brewing, the two wanted to aim into the double digits when it came to the beer’s ABV.

With several big beers set to release at NoDa, the two scaled back the ABV to a more moderate 7 percent. What they didn’t scale back, however, were the beer’s adjuncts — a word that in the brewing industry can refer to the use of cereal grains like rice or corn, but in this case refers to the slew of dessert-inspired ingredients added to the beer.

The first step in achieving the sweetness they sought was in using lactose, or milk sugar (this is also the ingredient found in milk stouts). They complemented that sweetness with vanilla beans, cocoa nibs and coconut, then added coffee from Enderly Coffee Co. and a bit of spice in the form of dried ancho peppers.

To give the beer the full body expected of a pastry stout, they hand-toasted 100 pounds of oats and added them to the mash. Henderson joked that the amount of ingredients in the beer alone probably qualifies it for pastry stout status.

“When it takes eight words to say what it is, then it’s probably a pastry stout,” Henderson said.

THICC was brewed with six times the amount of cocoa nibs and seven times the amount of coconut used in NoDa’s year-round Coco Loco Porter. Henderson likens the beer to “an alcoholic Yoo-hoo and a liquified Mounds bar, with some coffee in it.” Yet despite the number and amount of ingredients, he insists it’s not too sweet.

And the lower ABV, Dolphens noted, allows for a more drinkable stout than some higher-gravity options.

“I think the result is an extremely full-bodied stout with an incredible nose and flavor that still remains pretty sessionable, all things considered,” Dolphens said. “You sort of get the best of both worlds in that it’s an extremely complex beer that you can have more than one of.”

After tasting the beer, both Dolphens and Henderson came to the conclusion that the big, thick combination of chocolate and coconut reminded them of one pastry in particular: German chocolate cake. The beer is draft-only, but will be available at both NoDa (2921 N. Tryon St.) and Divine Barrel (3701 N. Davidson St.) starting Friday.

If you have a sweet tooth for stouts, there’s another release to look forward to this weekend.

Concord’s High Branch Brewing Co. (325 McGill Ave. NW #148) will release Bossman, an imperial milk stout brewed with maple, cinnamon and vanilla. It’s a beer that brewery co-owner T.J. Creighton doesn’t personally consider a pastry stout, though he understands many might.

The brewery will sell 16-ounce cans of the beer for $7 each, and Downtown Donuts will be on hand selling their own pastries as well when the brewery opens at noon Saturday. High Branch plans to release Bossman regularly in the future, changing the adjuncts each time.

And while it’s not a pastry stout (nor even a stout, for that matter), fans of dessert-inspired beers shouldn’t overlook Birdsong Brewing Co. (1016 N. Davidson St.). For the brewery’s seventh anniversary earlier this month, Birdsong released Rich Girl, an “an imperial oatmeal raisin cookie porter.” It was brewed with cinnamon, vanilla and rum-soaked raisins, and then aged in rum barrels as well.

The brewery still has cans of this beer and their other anniversary cans, plus MexiCali Stout — the brewery’s seasonal stout brewed with coffee, cocoa nibs, cinnamon and Serrano peppers.

Event of the Week

Resident Culture Brewing Co. (2101 Central Ave) has made a name for itself quickly, largely in part to the brewery’s hazy, New England-style IPAs. Resident Culture is releasing three cans when it opens at noon Saturday.

Whatever You Feel Just Dance It is a 7.5 percent hazy IPA that’s double-dry-hopped with Citra and Mosaic, and Universal Mind is 6.5 percent and double-dry-hopped with Citra. Both of those are $17.99 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans. The brewery will also release a 9.5 percent triple IPA called Dance Till You’re Dead, which is $19.99 for a four-pack. There are no purchase limits on any of these beers.

Delirium Trio will be on hand playing live music starting at 3 p.m., and Tin Kitchen will be serving food starting at noon.