Certain human body parts are simply unnecessary. We need no appendix or tailbone, and dentists often extract wisdom teeth. Personally, I’ve lived a satisfied life without a sweet tooth, favoring coffee minus sugar, syrup-free pancakes, and beers that don’t make me reach for a toothbrush.
I speak of saccharine pastry stouts, a genre of rich beer that channels birthday cakes, hot fudge sundaes, salted chocolate brownies, and other cavity-licious pleasures. Of late, they’ve become popular by mining the candy aisle and childhood nostalgia. Sip a stout inspired by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and you’ll be transported back to trick-or-treating as a 10-year-old, unwrapping the candy as fast as it’s plopped into your plastic pumpkin bucket.
Halloween won’t unfold with the standard frights this fall. Given our viral moment, getting candy from strangers seems like a particularly terrible idea. Grown-up costume parties are also off the table, even if everyone does follow orders and arrive in masks. As a seasonal consolation prize, can I offer you a bottle of Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter?
Last year, the iconic Pennsylvania companies collaborated on a draft-only release that blended Yuengling’s lightly chocolaty porter with the flavor of Hershey’s chocolate. The liquid proved irresistible, a simple sell given the brands’ combined three centuries of Pennsylvania history. It’s candy beer! What’s not love?
We’ll get there in a minute.
This year, the companies again teamed up on the chocolaty porter, this time in bottles. The label features both legendary logos, plus a little red box reminding people that they need to be “21+ to enjoy.” The phrase is echoed on the bottle’s neck label and the cap too. Kids, candy sure is dandy, but this beer ain’t for you—yet.
One drawback of dessert-inspired beers is that they focus on delivering a flavor experience, not a drinking experience. Several intense ounces of a 14 percent imperial stout that mimics cherry chocolate cake is plenty, thanks. Now pass me a pilsner.
The Yuengling and Hershey’s porter is a downright dainty 4.7 percent ABV, or less than a Budweiser longneck. The scent is my favorite part: It conjures unwrapping a Hershey’s bar, setting expectations for a chocolaty beer as smooth as whole-fat milk. To the contrary, the beer is closer in color and body to a cola, and there’s no luscious mouthfeel. Instead, I’m reminded of Hershey’s powdered cocoa stirred into a porter, a bit of roasted-coffee bitterness underpinning each sip.
The upside is that this is the rare candy beer that can pair with dessert, grilled steak, or even a good chunk of cheddar. However, restrained sweetness might dismay pastry stout fiends who seek motor-oil viscosity and melted-chocolate intensity.
If this collaboration were released by a smaller brewery and chocolate company, it would probably deliver as much buzz as a narcoleptic bee. But nostalgia is one heck of a secret ingredient. All those s’mores made with Hershey’s chocolate, the Yuengling kegger in college, they set the expectations for pleasure. If you’re excited to drink this beer, you’ll likely love it. Sometimes, though, memories can be sweeter than reality.
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