Chocolates for your valentine? Sure, but give the gift in a more spirited form—a chocolate stout. In the tasting room of Death of the Fox Brewing in Clarksboro, “our most popular beer is Stout Heard ’Round the World,” says founder and president Chuck Garrity. “It’s made with 20 pounds of cocoa nibs, plus lactose for a milky mouthfeel.”
Garrity’s stout also contains what brewers call chocolate malt, a roasted barley that contains no chocolate, but is roasted dark enough to produce profound cocoa-like flavors. You’ll find it in many chocolate beers, which may or may not contain actual chocolate. Lower Forge Brewery in Medford makes its Irish Twins Chocolate Stout with chocolate malt, but no actual chocolate.
When Augie Carton of Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands set out to produce Cupid, a chocolate stout, he used cocoa nibs and powder, but it didn’t work. Finally, he took those out and subbed chocolate malt, retaining the rose petals that had been in the formula (for their aromatics) from the start. Bingo! (On the other hand, two Carton beers, Cosmonaut and Sundae, each made with freeze-dried chocolate ice cream, work just fine.)
My favorite chocolate beers are Mexican-style stouts, inspired by Aztec-style hot drinking chocolates. Eight & Sand Brewery in Woodbury won a silver medal for its chili-spiced Bad Hombre. Conclave Brewing in Flemington makes its Mexican Morning in limited quantities year-round. Ship Bottom Brewery in Beach Haven makes its Mexican Stout only in winter. Both are made with chocolate or cocoa nibs; Ship Bottom’s also contains coffee. “It hits you with waves of coffee and cinnamon,” says Ship Bottom president Robert Zarko, “and then moves onto the peppers and vanilla beans as the stout warms.”