Brown sugar, maple syrup, mocha, pear, vanilla — flavors that, in one way or another, tip their hat to the most important meal of the day. One would expect to find these breakfast mainstays drizzled atop a heaping stack of pancakes, lending a dash of sweetness to piping-hot java or playing a supporting role in a fresh fruit medley. But making a scene in adult beverages? Unthinkable.
Or so I thought, before I stumbled upon this alchemic trio of imperial stouts.
Spotting them was the point of no return — I couldn’t live the rest of my days in perpetual conjecture. Were they malty and milk-chocolatey, were they crisp and cunningly sweet? I had to know.
Dark, American-style beers, this genre of craft brews generally lean toward the rich, malty, flavor-intense side of the flavor spectrum, pendulum swinging between sweet and dry, dark fruits and Belgian yeast — or striking them all in one fell swoop, like the variety in this round.
While I’m not suggesting you trade off your morning oats and cup of Joe for a taller, stronger brew, these beers are perfectly viable for those special occasions when starting your Saturday at 12% is the only thing vying for your attention.
Sugar Shack Diaries Maple Mocha Stout
A Saturday morning with no place to be but home in your jammies, languorously devouring a stack of syrup-smothered pancakes — imagine that sensation in a single sip. Such is the Maple Mocha Stout.
As its label proclaims, the drink’s “chocolate and crystal malt sweetness” is tempered with some level of roasted malt dryness. That may sound like a lot for one’s palate to process, but it’s actually quite simple and complementary, marrying brown and Belgian candi sugar with layers of Wisconsin maple syrup, Ecuadorian cocoa nibs, Mexican vanilla beans and fresh-roasted Southern California coffee beans.
This one teetered too close to the cusp of “too sweet” for my liking, but if you’re filling your plate with more savory staples like eggs and bacon or sausage, the Maple Mocha Stout would be a complementary pairing.
Brewery: Humble Forager Brewery
Alcohol by volume: 12%Where to find it locally: Hometown Spirits, Flowery Branch
Sump Coffee Stout
With a smooth and chocolatey base embellished by notes of pecan, toffee, pear and vanilla, the Sump Coffee Stout strikes the idyllic balance between bitter and sweet, just like a Monday morning on the heels of an extended weekend or the last slice of homemade pie and the sense of urgency to ration every precious second, savoring every last crumb.
Full-bodied and heavy on the coffee, which draws its origins from Oaxaca, Mexico’s Monte Alban region, there’s a slightly fruity hint to every sip, serving a crisp punch to the stout’s velvety richness.
A sort of cacophony of flavors, this one is every bit as complicated and unique as it sounds, its aftertaste rising to an almost overwhelming crescendo. Which I find befitting — a little ironic, even — because life itself tastes awfully similar from time to time.
Brewery: Perennial Artisan Ales
Alcohol by volume: 11.5%
Where to find it locally: Hometown Spirits, Flowery Branch
Your Brain on Brunch with Coffee
You slide into a well-worn vinyl booth inside the local diner; the matronly waitress to whom everyone is some variation of “Sugar” and “Sweetheart” sidles over, old-fashioned guest checks in hand. She licks the tip of a No. 2 pencil, asks “What’ll it be?” and when you come up short on decisions, she takes the reins and makes one for you: “The French toast is really somethin’ to write home about.”
She returns what feels like mere seconds later, balancing your good confidence and a bready, beaten-egg-soaked, syrup-laden pyramid with a tray full of others just like it; you revel in the epicurean fireworks firing behind your lips with that first bite, thanking your lucky stars she didn’t steer you wrong.
That, my friends, is the sensation Pipeworks Brewing Co. is conjuring with Your Brain on Brunch with Coffee. Blending maple syrup, fenugreek, vanilla, lactose and cacao nibs, this creamy, full-bodied milk stout is one of the smoothest I’ve encountered yet — something to write home about, without question.
Brewery: Pipeworks Brewing Company
Alcohol by volume: 10.5%Where to find it locally: Jax Fine Wine & Spirits, Buford