What are Pastry Stouts – Big Boy Brewing

Today we are going to answer the question what are pastry stouts? We’ll cover this subject today, due to one of my latest articles about “brewing boiling tips“, I happened to mention pastry stouts.

One brewer got back to me, and ask about the beer style. With craft beer spreading around the world, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all that is going in brewing.

What are Pastry Stout - Not Guiness
Guiness isn’t a big stout

For example, I only recently heard about Catharina Sours. This beer style is for Brazilian kettle soured fruit beers, which I want to research further and eventually try brewing myself.

Also, I am still waiting for China, where I’m based to have their own unique beer style too. Although I do have ideas about that, which, I want to explore as well.

Well, I digress, so let’s get started…

What Are Pastry Stouts? Where do we Get the Term From?

Now, the term “pastry stout”, it seems is attributed to a well-known and sarcastic beer-blogger Don’t Drink Beer. When brewers started to put all sorts of candies, sugar treats (think donuts, cookies and cakes) and chocolate mints in beer, there needed to be a term to cover all these brews.

Now these beers are not always loved, with some craft beer lovers hating on brewery’s that jump on the “hype train”. Although, we also have people queuing around the block for limited releases of these beers paying $50+ for a four-pack.

Well if it was Don’t Drink Beer, or not, the term pastry stout was coined and used for these big beers, being produced by US craft breweries. They do seem appropriate when you see the names they’re given:

Names Given for Some Pastry Stouts

  • Tiramisu Funeral Bar – by Surly
  • Original Maple Truffle Ice Cream Waffle – Collab Omnipollo and Buxton
  • Beer Geek Vanilla Maple Shake – Mikeller
  • Caramel Fudge Stout (Bourbon BA) – Kees
  • Seven Island NY Blueberry Cheese Cake w/Chocolate & Maple Topping – Also by Kees
  • Swedish Fika Biscotti Break Cinnamon Bun – Evil Twin

Well, you’re starting to get the idea. What these beers are trying to achieve; are our favourite sugary treats in strong alcohol liquid from. Sometimes, it does feel like a sort of one upmanship. With people trying getting wackier and wackier…

Drinking Beer

However, the processes involved to get the desired flavour in the brew, can be quite technical (sometimes) and should be applauded, looking beyond the name.

Now, when we think about pasty stouts we imagine; thick, sweet liquid beers; tasting of cakes, candies, marshmallows, chocolate and sweet baked goods.

It seems like the name coined for the style, has led to how the trend has progressed, and the ingredients used to make them. The majority of us like sweet things, plus many of us also like beer.

Now if you can combine the two, and it says “Pastry Stout” right there on the label. Then people are going to embrace it. Thus, explaining why these beers have a loyal following.

Why Are They Different?

What are pastry stouts? How are they different to say, a stout that is made with vanilla, cocoa husks or nibs? Well sweetness is the key.

Some traditional beer drinkers would consider pastry stouts too sweet. Many of those same drinkers would call them unbalanced beers. However, pastry stouts aren’t always about balance, that’s for other more traditional styles.

The clue is in the name “PASTRY”, pastries are often sweet. Think of an apple danish with the almost candied sweetness of the cooked apple. If the beer was balanced you could almost say it was against the true foundations of the style.

A pastry stout isn’t meant to be a session beer. You could drink maybe 2 or 3 chocolate stouts; but drinking multiple pasty stouts would be pretty hard. People want sweetness from their pastry stout. The beer has to be bold.

What are Pastry Stouts – In Your Face

The style calls for all the elements to be front a centre. If you’re going to make a beer with pineapple, coconut and chocolate.

All the elements have to standout and the drinker needs to be able to taste and identify the pineapple, coconut and chocolate individually.

If people can’t pick-out all the elements then they will not enjoy the beer…you really need to nail those flavours.

What are Pastry Stouts - Cloying

I Cheated Making A Beer One Time

Confession time; I once made a cheat beer. It was for a beer festival in Shanghai, it was prominent one with some of the big American brewers there. I had some basic core beers like my stout.

It was a great session stout, but for the festival I needed something more. So, I kegged a few of my session stout and added a natural chili extract I made, but also…

Rooses chocolate extract…I cheated to get the chocolate flavour.

It was a chocolate chili stout and it went down VERY well. When I told fellow brewers what I had done they scoffed but laughed and said fair play. The crowds loved it and we sold out pretty quickly.

I still get people talking about that beer now 4 years later…

What are Pastry Stouts – What Goes in a Pastry Stout

To make these pastry stouts taste like they say on the bottle or can, you sometimes need to use flavorings. The real versions of them say marshmallows are just mostly pure sugar.

So, if they were added to a brew, the marshmallows wouldn’t give the taste the brewers were looking for. Please note; many of these beers do use the real stuff.

Brewers will look for suppliers that make these flavors trial them out and if they like them add directly to the beer after fermentation. It is lazy? Maybe, but does it give the customer what they want? YES.

Stout Sign

In the end that’s what a brewers’ job ultimately is. Give people what they want, they’re happy and the brewer is happy (most of the time) as he makes a sale. It might mean he/she can make that Helles they like funded by the pastry stout sales.

Adding flavourings goes against what many brewers were taught on their way up. However, with the advancement in food technology, many of these flavourings taste like the real thing and not “chemically” or artificial as they once might have.

Texture is Important Too

Before, I spoke that most people can’t drink large volumes of this style of beer. They are usually very sweet and high in alcohol (10%+ ABV). They are often sold in smaller volumes when on draft, say 150 to 200ml pours.

These beers are thick bordering on being cloying to drink. They can coat you tongue. This fullness comes from adding of other sugars that are unfermentable like lactose (milk sugar).

What are Pastry Stouts - Thick Beers

Unfermentable sugars are one’s yeast can eat through so are left in the final beer. The viscousness can also come from the fact they’re brewed to a high original sugar content. So, yeast can’t work through all the sugars to bring down the final sugar-level, like in more common weaker beer styles.

Pastry stouts have their fans and also their detractors. I’d don’t have the drinker demographics but speaking with other brewers this beer style appears to younger beer drinkers. It might be because they want to drink flavors they like and know.

A pastry stout is going to be more familiar to a young drinker than say a triple hopped IPA or a funky saison. They don’t need to know how it was brewed, what the history of the beer style is…they want to know it tastes like raspberry chocolate cheese cake.

What are Pastry Stouts – A Conclusions

Pastry stouts are beers that are thick, sweet and should taste exactly like described on the tin. They a big, bold with all flavor components in your face.

They have their detractors and they have their fans. Do all brewers like to brew them? Maybe not but they can the bills. Ultimately, we as brewers like to see people enjoy the beer we make so if a pastry stout goes down well, then all is good.

I personally say “live and let live. I do brew beers I don’t like myself personally. However, I enjoy the process of making different beer styles; as they have their own challenge, giving me enjoyment every brew.

Are pastry stouts here to stay? I’d say yes, but they will fall in popularity over time and some new “hype” beer will take its place… Catharina Sour anyone?

Neil Playfoot

Neil is a brewer with 25 years international brewing experience. Based out of China (first came in 2010) he works as a brewing consultant helping brewers with their projects and brewing processes. To find out what services Neil can provide your brewery please click here. If you'd like to contact Neil you can email at neil@asianbeernetwork.com.
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