Chocolate stout and porter could use more love, and not just because that beer seems like a natural holiday fit as Valentine's Day approaches.
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 54.8% of consumers will celebrate Valentine's Day, with 50% of those shoppers planning to pick up some chocolate. Consumers told the NRF that they intend to spend an average of $26.22 on chocolates this year, bringing total Valentine's Day chocolate and candy spending up to $1.76 billion this year. Considering overall chocolate sales hit $12.9 billion in 2009, according to the Census Bureau, Valentine's Day is a huge portion of the annual chocolate take.
Chocolate stouts and porters wish they were that popular.
According to IRI, stouts and porters combined were just 4.7% of all craft beer sales at bars and restaurants. By comparison India Pale Ale alone takes a 19.2% stake, pale ales account for 10.6% and seasonal beers fill 4.3% of all pint glasses. The story gets worse for packaged goods sales, as Nielsen says bottles and cans of porter alone constitute only 1% of all packaged beer sales.
So, with 4,100 U.S. breweries to brew them, why are stout and porter (and the chocolate subsets of each style) getting the short end of craft beer growth that's made it 11% of the beer market by volume? Well, it's partially because they're part of an overall beer market that just keeps shrinking. Beer makes up 47.8% of all alcohol sales, compared to 34.7% for spirits and just 17% for wine, according to the Distilled Sprits Council of the United States. Yet beer's share has actually fallen from 55% in 2000 thanks largely to U.S. light lager's collapse. Meanwhile, craft beer has latched on to India Pale Ale and made it 27% of all craft beer sales in 2015 after it was just 8% in 2008, according to IRI.
There's also the pervasive believe that porter and stout make us fat quicker than any other beer. Stouts and porters are tarred as “heavy” beers because of their malt content, full body and dark color, though little of that has to do with its caloric content. A typical 12-ounce Guinness draft, for example, clocks in at 128 calories, according to parent company Diageo. By comparison, 12 ounces of Samuel Adams Boston Lager clock in at 175 calories, while an AleSmith IPA packs in 210 calories per 12 ounces.
As with any beer, caloric content is more tightly tethered to alcohol content than anything else. In the brewing process, yeast devours sugar and basically excretes alcohol. The more sugar the yeast has to eat, the more alcohol content your beer will have. However, that added sugar has roughly the same effect as sugar in just about anything else you consume: It adds caloric content that's increasingly difficult to burn off.
Finally, there's the fact that few people other than beer judges know the difference between porter and stout. You can blame Arthur Guinness, whose recipe for Extra Superior Porter eventually became Guinness Stout. Meanwhile, porter existed in the U.S. prior to Prohibition didn't really return as a style until the initial U.S. craft beer boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Judges at beer competitions insist stouts are darker, use roasted barley and use less water than porters, but look at the Beer Judge Certification Program's style guides for stouts and porters: until you get into the specialized styles for each, the differences can be tough to discern.
With chocolate stouts and porters, there's the added burden of being sweet, smooth and biscuity at a time when the craft beers of choice are bitter, light and citrusy. However, considering that there are millions of varied palates across this land of ours, there's likely someone who wouldn't mind an assortment of chocolate porters and stouts for Valentine's Day. Here are just a few to get you started: