Wine and cheese. Bourbon and bacon. Beer and candy?
Americans are expected to break Halloween spending records this year with an estimated $2.7 billion in candy sales, according to a 2017 survey by the National Retail Federation.
As candy purchases continue to rise this month, Boulder County breweries are encouraging adults to join in the fun by offering tips for pairing local brews with some of the season's most popular treats.
"For Valentine's Day, we do a beer and cakeball pairing," said Taylor Wise, owner of Longmont's Grossen Bart Brewery. "We've done some sweet pairings, but Halloween candy is new for us."
Whether you're pillaging candy from a Halloween night bounty left unattended or searching for creative ways to make holiday leftovers disappear, these expert tips from Boulder County breweries will provide a new take on the traditional treats.
Milky Way is the most popular Halloween candy in Colorado, according to a 2017 report from national candy dealer candystore.com, and one of the more difficult pairings for brewers.
Upslope's marketing manager Katie Hill said the Boulder brewery's brown ale would enhance the chocolate-coated nougat and caramel candy bar. But Wise suggested another take on the pairing. He said the nougat made it a "tough one," but he recommended the brewery's Anker Beard Amber Ale, which provides a hoppy finish to tame the sweet chocolate and caramel candy.
The fruit profile of Skittles made this the preferred candy pairing for brewers at Upslope and Grossen Bart. Brewmaster Walter Bourque said the hops in Grossen Bart's Chin Curtain IPA cut through the sweetness and enhanced the fruit flavors of the candy. But the best part about the pairing is that the individual Skittle flavors provided a fun experiment.
Bourque recommends a mix of flavors to pair with the IPA or picking out the lemon-flavored Skittles that better suited the lightness of the brewery's Stubble Kolsch.
Hill said Skittles pair best with the Blackberry Lemon Kettle Sour, which is available only in the brewery's taproom. The candy shares the beer's berry and citrus profile, enhancing the bold flavors of both.
Ranked third among Colorado's most popular Halloween candy, according to the candystore.com report, the chocolate morsels can heighten chocolate-malted beers like stouts or balance a brew that features a hoppy finish, brewers said.
Brewmasters from both breweries agreed that darker, maltier beers pair well with chocolate. Hill suggests Upslope's brown ale, while Bourque said Grossen Bart's I Must Break You Whiskey Barrel Aged Stout is the way to go.
"This is a dessert pairing for sure," Bourque said. "It's total decadence."
The most controversial Halloween candy of the group is hated by brewers at Upslope and Grossen Bart but a beloved favorite at Boulder's Asher Brewing Co.
Emily Hawkins, sales manager and candy corn lover, said the roasted, dark malts and coffee undertones of Asher's soon-to-be-released oatmeal stout would mellow some of the sweetness of the marshmallow-flavored candy.
But no need to wait for the seasonal release. Asher's Tree Hugger Amber offers a lighter alternative to balance the heavy sugars in Hawkins' favorite candy.
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Wise's personal favorite is the Anker Beard Amber Ale paired with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. The beer's hoppy finish cuts the sweetness of the chocolate and allows the peanut butter to enhance the nuttiness of the malt.
Peanut butter is great for bringing out the nuttiness in a beer, but the best way to find your favorite pairing is to experiment, Wise said.
"I'd say just pick a candy you like and a beer you like and go for it," Wise said. "You'll never know until you try it."