Kids don’t have to be the only ones getting a sugar rush from their candy loot on Halloween.
Beers, with their array of flavors, have proven to be apt pairings to all the kinds of foods we love, from cheese to holiday cookies, and they’re similarly complimentary to many of the sweet treats that our little ghouls and witches get during trick-or-treating.
Pairing craft brews with candy works much the same way as it does with other foods, according to general manager Delaney Rose of the new Brass Tap location at the Domain. Oftentimes, he says, we’ll want to pair similar flavors with each other to enhance them — but other times, seemingly contrasting elements are the way to go, to bring out nuances in the flavor that we didn’t know existed.
Candy like Snickers, Three Musketeers and others with cocoa goodness are best with the dark, rich and malty brews that satisfy our sweet tooth.
“I think with Snickers, going with the same kind of palate would be really good,” Rose says. “With Snickers, having the chocolate, the peanut butter, the nougat chunks in there, a good local craft beer that would be great is Infamous Sweep the Leg, which is a peanut butter and chocolate stout and has similar elements to it.”
Although Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups also have peanut butter, he suggests considering factors like texture and mouthfeel (the physical sensations produced by a particular food or drink) that will influence the pairing — making other local beers better for these round, smooth morsels.
“It’s not like in Snickers where you’re crunching on peanuts; Reese’s are really soft and easy to bite into,” he says. “With that, you’d want the same type of mouthfeel that comes from brewing a beer with either milk — lactose sugars — or some oats to get a sort of viscous feel.”
He recommends Zilker Brewing’s Coffee Milk Stout (on nitro, if possible) for this pairing. Another option is Independence Brewing’s Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout.
Rose has gained his expertise on pairing and beer in general after having worked for the Brass Tap since 2013, first at the original Round Rock location. He switched to the Domain location about eight months ago with plans to open the brewery side of the business early next year: a two-barrel system that will serve up Brass Tap-branded beers in a taproom separated by a wall from the main room of the bar.
His goal is to make beers like a hoppy doppelbock that aren’t typical of their styles, in the hopes of offering “something new in an area that’s very saturated with people trying to do something new,” he says.
In the meantime, he serves as general manager at a bar that regularly hosts beer and food pairings and other events to lure people out.
On Halloween, Rose recommends a lambic-like beer if Sweet Tarts are your treat of choice — Live Oak Berliner Weisse, perhaps, or Independence RedBud, another Berliner Weisse (easy to find now in cans). Jester King’s fruited sours are the closest to the tart Belgian beers known as lambics, but these are so coveted that you probably don’t want to ruin a taste of one of them with candy.
For the seasonal candy classic — candy corn — try a light lager like Live Oak Big Bark. Or, if you’d prefer to keep the beer seasonal, too, a pumpkin ale like Infamous Brewing’s Pumpkin Massacre is just the ticket.
A Hot Tamales fan? Go with a hoppy IPA like Pinthouse Pizza’s Man O’ War, which will have the right balance of tropical fruits and resinous pine from the hops to handle the spice of the little red candy.
Those brightly colored, rock-shaped Nerds would go best with Hops & Grain’s 78702 Kolsch “because it has the bright character to it from the kolsch yeast, bringing out the way that Nerds react on your tongue,” Rose says.
Not all candy will match up with a beer, however. My favorite, Junior Mints, are one of those odd ducks thanks to the peppermint, which adds a “weird cooling sensation,” he says, “that takes away from the beer experience.” But he notes that’s a personal preference; an IPA with notes of strong pine might offset the cooling feeling.
Another favorite candy of mine, Tootsie Rolls, thankfully does have a sudsy counterpart. Many big beers full of chocolate and roast will work, but go with Oskar Blues Ten Fidy for a “pretty bang-up match.”
And even if you don’t want candy — or your kids won’t share their stash — you can still sip on a beer that will give you much the same effect. Oskar Blues Death by Coconut, a semi-sweet porter made from pounds of dark chocolate and extra dark caramel malt, tastes like Almond Joys in liquid form and is therefore a ready-made pairing with the coconut-flavored chocolate bar.
“It’s basically candy in a can,” Rose says.