If you put a gun to my head and made me list my favorite beers at least half of them would be stouts and the majority of those would be imperial stouts. I love their velvety smoothness, the big robust flavors from the dark malts used in the mash and never think twice about drinking one aged in bourbon barrels. To a fault I get marginally offended when someone won't try a stout because they don't like "dark" beers. It's just something I can't wrap my head around, especially being that my torrent love affair with dark beer started years before I drank coffee.
OK you get it, I like big, dark beers and I don't appreciate another's lack of willingness to join the party. That all being said there is a far greater crime against stouts that I'd really like to see go away forever. Whether it be a set tasting menu with beer pairings or even the beer labels themselves there seems to be a penchant to couple imperial stouts with chocolate desserts. And usually a pedestrian chocolate confection like mousse, truffles or even worse, molten cake.
On the one hand I see where this inspiration comes from and it's a way to get people to have a beer they wouldn't normally drink. Most imperial stouts tend to have chocolate or coffee notes from the malt base alone which would seem like perfect partners for such desserts. I on the other hand know better. Pairing a big robust beer with such saccharine treats will ruin the big flavors the beer was intended to have and why would you want to do that?
If they're not to be consumed with dessert then when? What other meal would be an appropriate companion for a beer with coffee and chocolate flavors abound? Breakfast, dummy! It's perfect and not to mention the meal already has eponymous beers being produced. Sure, you might get a few odd looks at first but shouldn't it be those drinking cocktails with crap champagne or rail vodka that is deserving of those looks?
Trust me, the next time you make a big breakfast on the weekend or go out for brunch pop open a big black beer. You won't be disappointed and I bet you'll be looking for better and better beers to go with your eggs each weekend. Stouts will always have there place as winter warmers but let's please work together to remove them from the dessert course.