Box of Chocolates 2022 Collaboration Beer Review

Box of Chocolates 2022 Collaboration Beer Review

The 2022 Box of Chocolates 8-way collaboration.

In 2020, four brewers in the western suburbs did a collaboration of sorts. “Box of Chocolates” was a series of imperial pastry stouts, each with a different addition of nuts or chocolate box fruits. I was able to try them on draft at Skeleton Key, and wrote about them here.

For 2022, the project returned. This time I was able to snag a 4-pack of 16 oz. cans, each one a collaboration by two different breweries. They just happened to be available at the “Little Key” auxiliary tap room of Skeleton Key, where they were serving more beer made with neighboring brewers, while recovering from the 2021 tornado.

Oh, I know. These beers are probably all sold out, but keep an eye peel for the brewers who took part in this project. They may put some of these cake bombs back on tap once in a while.

Miskatonic/Skeleton Key Honey Almond Nougat

Box of Chocolates Honey Almond Nougat

Brewed at Miskatonic Brewing Co. of Darien in collaboration with Skeleton Key Brewing, Downers Grove.

Imperial Stout with Cacao nibs + Honey and Almond Flavor. 11.0% abv.

Finally started my journey with these beers March 1, too late for Valentine’s Day, too Late for Mardi Gras.

I started with this because I’m a bit leery of nut flavors. But this starts off under the tab with a nice almond smell, and possibly a note of vanilla. Pours deep black, with a brief tan head. Can’t ask for much more than a honey-sweet nougat taste, and it’s here. Plus a nice cocoa thread. Has a slightly syrupy mouthfeel that lets alcohol slip on through. A growing note of roasty malt halfway through.

Riverlands/Black Lung Chocolate Creme

Box of Chocolates Chocolate Creme.

Made at Riverlands Brewing in St. Charles, in collaboration with Black Lung Brewing of Waukegan. Imperial stout with cocoa nibs. 10.3% abv.

Looks like some extra fermentation caused the beer to nearly overrun the can when opened. But no crisis caused. Pours a deep brownish black, with a dark brown, thin ring of foam. The nose has lots of chocolate, and on this one I can catch the alcohol. Yes, plenty of alcohol warming, but there’s no “hot”, alcohol in the palate. Some creamy chocolate at the top of my tongue, which makes it curl a bit, to suggest that there is still some bitterness at work. Yet the sweetness has somehow been ratcheted back so the nibs can be featured.

Oswego/Brother Chimp Vanilla Creme

Box of Chocolates: Vanilla Creme.

Imperial Stout with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. Brewed at Oswego Brewing Co. in collaboration with Brother Chimp Brewing of North Aurora. 10.5% abv.

Kicked up a lot more foam than the “solo” Chocolate Creme. In fact, it spilled out of my glass. Settled, then, to a proper black stout beer with a foamy tan head. Cocoa and vanilla equally represented in the nose, just not very strongly. Taste, though, is likely my favorite in this pack. Admittedly high in “pastry stout-ness,” but I’m liking the thick mouthfeel and the sweet stickiness on my lips. To emphasize: the taste has plenty of milk chocolate and vanilla. Plenty of warming alcohol in this case, but not “hot.” A great dessert beer.

Riverlands/Black Lung Chocolate Creme

Box of Chocolates Sour Cherry

Brewed with chocolate and black cherries. Made at Sew Hop’d Brewing of Huntley in collaboration with Wolfden Brewing of Bloomingdale.

Milk chocolate and cherry on the nose from the get go. Pours kind of fizzy, with dwindling tan foam over a deep brown-to-black body. From the glass, I could smell more of the sour cherry than before, but from farther away, I caught the impression of chocolate cake. Tart cherry really makes this a break from the usual sweet pastry stouts, although there still some sugar to stick on my lips with this beer. Cherry and chocolate at bedtime, what more could one want?

I can only recommend that you watch your local brewer or tap room’s menus on their social media. Who knows when more cans or tap handles might come this way. This was about $40 a four-pack, so a bit rich for my blood. But a portion of this, I convinced myself, might be adding to my patronage for Skeleton Key’s recovery.

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