It's that time of year again — the days shorten and the weather cools, and the first Thursday in November is known among beer lovers as International Stout Day. It's the perfect time to dive into the wide world of dark beers, and as they are often used by brewers to showcase flavorful additives, there is a stout for every taste.
Coconut is an increasingly popular flavor in beer, and it fits best alongside the chocolate and roasted flavors of a stout. Here are a few options to try on Stout Day that showcase the richness of coconut.
Oskar Blues — Death by Coconut
This cult-favorite from the Colorado brewery is a deeply polarizing brew, but it seems there are far more lovers than haters. Bars and bottle shops post exuberant Instagram photos when shipments of Death by Coconut come in, and the beer's fans can't get enough. The can calls the beer an "Irish porter," and it's worth noting that the line between porter and stout styles is blurry at best. A stout by any other name tastes just as sweet, and this is a dessert-sweet brew. Brewed with Cholaca — a mixture of coconut sugar and fair trade cacao nibs — Death by Coconut is sticky with residual sugars. The deep brown brew starts off with milk chocolate flavors before the coconut clobbers everything else, and the oily, woodsy coconut essence lingers long on the palate. Even for unabashed coconut lovers, it can be too much — the finish in particular can veer into Banana Boat suntan oil territory, but if you didn't get your fill of Almond Joy candy bars this Halloween, then this is the brew for you. Six packs of 12-ounce cans are widely available at beer retailers including Whole Foods, BevMo! and your local craft beer store.
Maui Brewing Co. — Coconut Hiwa Porter (née CoCoNut Porter)
Hawaii's most recognizable brewery recently rebranded, launching new can designs and new names for some of its longtime favorite brews. The flagship CoCoNut porter is now known as Hiwa Porter, but the subtle toasted coconut flavors that made the beer a favorite are still present. Where the Oskar Blues coconut porter is sweet and intense, Maui Brewing's version is subdued and nuanced. You can still taste the roasted malt flavors alongside the toasty coconut, the body is lighter and the finish far drier than Death by Coconut. Back when it was called CoCoNut Porter, the brew was one of the few widely available coconut beers, and it is still one of the signature examples of how toasted coconut is used to add complexity to a roasty dark beer without being overwhelming. Four-packs of the beer are easy to find at major beer retailers, Whole Foods markets and BevMo! Stores, and you'll occasionally see the beer on draft at bars and restaurants as well.
Barley Forge — the Patsy
A well executed and locally brewed example of the coconut stout, the Patsy from Costa Mesa's Barley Forge Brewing takes the toasted coconut and marries it to a heaping portion of rye grain. Like the examples above, the Patsy is around 6% alcohol, but it splits the difference in weight between the thick-and-heavy Death by Coconut and the comparatively sprightly Hiwa Porter. There is a deep complexity of malt flavors in the brew, and the addition of malted and roasted rye provides a spicy counterpoint to the smoothness of the coconut flavors. There's a firm bitterness in the finish to bring the beer into balance, and a pint goes down all too easy. Hit up the brewery's beer finder online to track down a six-pack of the Patsy, or visit the Orange County taproom and restaurant. 2957 Randolph Ave, Costa Mesa, (714) 641-2084, www.barleyforge.com.
Highland Park Brewery — Coco Noche
It's the imperial stouts that really get people excited, and L.A.'s own Highland Park Brewery makes a coconut-infused heavy hitter called Coco Noche. Imperial stouts are bigger and bolder in flavor than standard strength stouts, not to mention boozier. Coco Noche is 9% alcohol, and it's got the big malty flavors to back up it up. There's a hint of umami richness from the roasted malts along with the smooth chocolate flavors, but the toasted coconut aroma takes center stage in the beer. Each batch uses 75 pounds of coconut that has been hand-toasted in the home ovens of the brewers. It's added after the beer has fermented to maximize the coconut aroma. Only available on draft, you'll have to visit the Hermosillo Bar on York Boulevard in Highland Park to get a taste, but if you're a lover of coconut and big stouts, it's worth the trip. 5125 York Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 739-6459, http://hpb.la.
King Harbor Brewing — Coconut IPA
Not a big fan of the stout styles but still want to get in on the coconut-flavored brews? King Harbor Brewing in Redondo Beach makes a limited-release Coconut IPA that matches the woodsy and smooth flavor of coconut with tropical hops in a dry and bitter IPA. It's a great change of pace from the malt-forward coconut beers. The beers are available at their tasting rooms. Multiple locations at www.kingharborbrewing.com.