Editor’s Note: Welcome to a new series where we pick one of the over 250 styles (including cider, mead, and non-alcoholic) on Untappd, finding which rated the highest over the entire twelve-year history of the world’s largest beverage social networking app in its “Top Rated” section.
For others in the series:
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, maple syrup, coconut truffles, oh my. Cacao nibs, marshmallow fluff, nuts galore, and even pies in the sky. When it comes to decadent imperial pastry stouts, the entire candy aisle, cake case, bakery shelf, and even cereal aisle are not off limits. The key to a successful pastry stout is to make a beer that tastes like dessert, often tapping into those nostalgic vibes we’ve had with different after-dinner sensations—ice cream, brownies, cakes, pies, cookies, and any number of candy bars. We’re only scratching the surface here, giving you a little glimpse into how crazy brewers can get here, especially when you amp up the ABV and volume with an imperial version.
So far this year, Untappd users have checked in the category “Stout – Imperial/Double Pastry” a whopper (?) 300k times, falling just outside the current top ten styles of the year.
A fair few breweries have claimed the candy crown (gobble up the crumbs, named to the upper crust). A few that spring to mind…Corporate Ladders’ Dessert Station series, WeldWerks’ many Medianoche variants, all of Horus Aged Ales’ imperial pastry stouts, Long Live Beer Works, Moksa Brewing, 3 Sons, Angry Chair, The Eighth State, Bottle Logic, and Toppling Goliath’s Assassin series, to name a very few.
Sure, we have our favorites. But to rise to the occasion (yes, that’s a baking pun), we’re just rolling with the dough, letting all of your Untappd check-ins show us which imperial/double pastry stouts are a crust above the rest.
You know what they say: Beauty is in the pie of the beholder! Here’s a baker’s dozen of the crème de la crème imperial pastry stouts.
Untappd’s All-Time Top-Rated Double/Imperial Pastry Stouts
Please note that this is an all-time list, so some of the below-mentioned beers are no longer in production. Although, these are excellent cellaring beers, so maybe you or some of your friends have these squirreled away. In case of a beer no longer in production, we’ll suggest recent releases from that brewery that could sub in dutifully.
Starry Noche (2020) – WeldWerks Brewing Co.
Brewed to celebrate WeldWerks’ fifth anniversary, Starry Noche artfully connected the dots between blazing bourbon character softly rounded by a muted glow of toasted tropical and nutty undertones.
Aged for eighteen to twenty-two months in freshly emptied seven- to twelve-year-old bourbon barrels, this imperial pastry stout gets dunked with three pounds per gallon of toasted coconut flakes, raw coconut chips, and toasted hazelnuts.
Like a melted dark chocolate Almond Joy, Starry Noche paints your tongue with swirls of indulgent cocoa and squiggles of creamy coconut.
We may always look up at the sky in awe of the ever-expanding galaxy above our heads, but it’s no wonder this imperial pastry stout ranks as the best of all time on Untappd (and landed on Craft Beer & Brewing’s list of 20 Best Beers in 2021).
Barrel Aged Imperial German Chocolate Cupcake Stout – Angry Chair Brewing
Angry Chair helped drive a craft beer renaissance of sorts in Tampa, pushing out epic pastry stouts (and more).
If you’re not from Florida and have heard of Angry Chair, it’s probably because of beers like Double Stuffed Oreo Fudge Bucket and Barrel Aged Imperial German Chocolate Cupcake Stout, which turn decadent desserts into liquid.
The latter is one of those rich and flavorful beers you can’t finish even though you want to, thanks to the indulgent addition of cacao and Madagascar vanilla. Expect cake batter with a bit of bourbon from the barrel and a subtle finishing of nutty toastiness from the coconut to round everything out.
Medianoche Reserve (2021) – WeldWerks Brewing Co.
WeldWerks released its first Medianoche to fanfare and lines galore on Father’s Day in 2016. Since then, the imperial pastry stout series has skyrocketed to the stratosphere of this style. But the beer has humble beginnings, born in WeldWerks Co-Founder Neil Fisher’s basement, where he experimented with a barrel his wife gifted him. The idea? Make a recipe for beer all about the barrel. That homebrew, called Alexander the Blessed, won Fisher a gold in a local home-brewing contest, inspiring Medianoche (the Spanish word for midnight).
Unsurprisingly, Medianoche won a gold medal when it debuted at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival.
From there, the imperial pastry stout grew more quirky, indulgent, and pastry-like. Variants galore abound, from ones with peanut butter to coconut and coffee.
Medianoche Reserve (2021) reflects the transformation of this transformative beer. A blend of imperial stouts aged in eight- to nine-year-old bourbon barrels for twenty-one months. Medianoche Reserve includes toasted coconut flakes, raw coconut chips, Ugandan vanilla beans, Belizean roasted cacao nibs from Cultura Craft Chocolate, and Ghana roasted cacao nibs and husks from Nuance Chocolate.
In the hands of others, this cornucopia of ingredients could easily make a mess on your palate. But at WeldWerks, they melded together harmoniously, which is what baking is all about, right?
While this beer is no longer in production, we highly recommend trying any current variant of Medianoche. For instance, Hot Cocoa Medianoche pulls on your hot cocoa heartstrings, reminding you of cold winter nights spent thawing in front of the fire with a warm cup of melted chocolate. Aged for twenty-eight months in six-year-old Weller Wheated Bourbon barrels, hot cocoa powder, and toasted marshmallows.
Eunoia Batch 1 (Peanut Butter, Chocolate, & Marshmallow) – Phase Three Brewing
Lake Zurich, IL
A timeless combination—peanut butter, chocolate, and marshmallow walks into a bottle. The punch line? Phase Three’s Eunoia Batch 1.
This imperial pastry stout is like the ultimate s’more—golden marshmallow toasted to perfection, creamy peanut butter swirled to the heavens, and luscious chocolate melting in your mouth.
Need we say more?
If you need a substitute, Phase Three just released its Curvature Batch 15, an imperial stout with, you guessed it….peanut butter and marshmallow!
Barrel Aged Distraction’s Grasp – American Solera
To make this barrel-aged behemoth (16% ABV), American Solera teamed up with the pastry stout pantheon Horus Aged Ales.
Barrel Aged Distraction’s Grasp naps in bourbon barrels while wrapped in a warm blanket of vanilla, Geisha coffee, coconut, and hazelnuts.
This imperial pastry stout reads like a distraction of ingredients but cuts through the white noise, grasping you like a sudden shock to your system. As if you touched a plug to an outlet with wet hands, Barrel Aged Distraction’s Grasp zaps you with notes of a Samoa cookie (or Caramel Delights, as we know them from growing up in the Midwest)—a layer of crunchy chocolate capped with toasted, sweetened coconut and gooey caramel. A touch of almondy marzipan adds the icing to this boozy cake.
Assassin With Coconut, Pecan and Vanilla (2023) – Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.
Sneaking stealthily through the night, Toppling Goliath’s newest Assassin hits you with long, deep slashes of coconut, pecan, and vanilla.
If you survive this killer 13.5% ABV imperial pastry stout, it’s probably because you’re an assassin yourself.
Prodigious (2020) – Angry Chair Brewing
If you make a beer called Prodigious, which literally means remarkably or impressively great, you better deliver.
Angry Chair clearly had the guts to brew a beer that loudly says we’re here, and we know how to make one of the best all-time top-rated pastry stouts.
Dig down into the recipe here, and you’ll quickly understand why Angry Chair chose this name. A blend of Barrel Aged German Chocolate Cupcake, Barrel Aged Adjunct Trail, and Barrel Aged Double Stuffed Fudge Bucket Cuvée, Angry Chair took its top-notch pastry stouts and mashed them all into one.
Now, there is still so much work to do here. As we’ve learned from some of the frenetic mashup foodie fiascos (ramen burger, anyone?), you can’t just throw a bunch of things in a bucket, barrel, or bottle and expect viral results.
You need a deft hand and probably thousands of taste tests to make sure you hone in on the harmony all these different beers bring.
Prodigious absolutely lives up to its name.
TIMES 8 Bourbon Barrel Aged – LERVIG
Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway
The only beer from an international brewery on this list (albeit a collab with Stillwater), TIMES 8 Bourbon Barrel Aged transforms the brewery’s original TIMES 8 into a 16% ABV imperial pastry stout party in a can.
Yes, party pretty aptly describes this beer. Think of your best, craziest, wildest birthday party as a kid. What made it amazing? Probably the seemingly limitless amount of candy, ice cream, and cake, right?
Well, with vanilla, cocoa, maple syrup, butterscotch, and coconut all in this beer, TIMES 8 Bourbon Barrel Aged is a kid’s birthday party in a can.
But, of course, you’re a grown-up. So the Norway-based brewery ages this imperial pastry stout in bourbon barrels for the proverbial maraschino cherry on top of the sundae.
Perhaps listen to LERVIG’s recommendation, “Make sure you bring an insulin shot and a pint of pilsner to wash it down.”
Eunoche – Phase Three Brewing
Lake Zurich, IL
When Phase Three, which nabbed spots four and now nine on this list, teams up with WeldWerks, which holds down spots one and three, you pay attention.
In fact, Eunoche takes inspiration from the very adjuncts that shine in Starry Noche—toasted and raw coconut (the most Phase Three ever used in a project at the time, according to the brewery) and hazelnuts. For those observant ones, you’ll notice the nod in the name: Eu for Eunoia and noche for Starry Noche.
The imperial pastry stout nails the “imperial” part, spending time in a blend of six casks for about seventeen months. The final beer rests at 14.1% ABV, so sip on this one. Also because you’ll want to savor this chocolate truffle in a glass.
Paisley Cave Complex (2018) – Bottle Logic Brewing
Explore the dark depths of Paisley Cave Complex, a collab between Bottle Logic and Great Notion. Studded with jet-puffed marshmallows, pops of blueberry, and cacao nibs, this imperial pastry stout drinks like a chocolate blueberry muffin.
For those who decided to spelunk through this 13% ABV imperial pastry stout, gear up; you’re in for s’mores on steroids.
Proceed at your own risk!
Life After Death Star (Batch 1) – Equilibrium Brewery
In a galaxy far, far away (cough: upstate New York), a brewery with a penchant for IPAs teamed up with one serious about stouts to brew a beer that plays Jedi mind tricks.
Welcome to the dark side, Equilibrium!
For the first batch of Life After Death Star, Equilibrium includes a long boil to make a thick, decadent base stout before adding shredded raw coconut, marshmallow, vanilla, Ghost Bear Espresso Blend coffee, and lactose.
“Life After Death Star pours a viscous jet black and develops a caramel head upon pouring, releasing an olfactory onslaught of beautifully balanced notes of espresso coffee paired with flavors of big fudgy creamy marshmallow, [just-scraped] vanilla, brownie batter, and light coconut throughout,” writes Equilibrium. “This beer is extremely smooth, luxurious, and creamy. You may actually try and chew it. No question this is the biggest and best stout to come out of Middletown yet.”
El Rio – Aslin Beer Company
El Rio forks off of Bale, an imperial pastry stout collab with Casa Agria modeled off of peanut butter turtle candies. This beer spends time in Four Roses bourbon barrels for an added layer of complexity.
While a warm booziness creeps up on you like a living fire, you won’t lose all the classic flavors that made Bale—peanut butter, chocolate, caramel, pecans, and coffee.
Barrel Aged Pastry Mode – Moksa Brewing Co.
The name says it all.
Barrel Aged Pastry Mode took two years to make, spending twenty-two months in VSOP Cognac barrels before getting a dose of over 1 lb per gallon of non-toasted coconut, .75 lbs per bbl of Mexican vanilla beans, and 2 lbs per barrel of hazelnut Vietnamese coffee.
According to Moksa, Barrel Aged Pastry Mode is “a shining example of how we can marry both our nationally award-winning barrel aging program with our abilities to add layers of complexity through post-fermentation treatments.”
Go go, barrel-aged pastry mode!
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