Beer Chocolate, the Latest Candy Innovation, Now on Tap

And don’t forget the bacon chocolate, fellas

No writer attributed. From The Wall Street Journal

A growing number of confectioners have crossed what may be the final frontier in candy flavoring: candy made with beer.

They’ve worked out technical kinks — beer burns at the high temperatures used to make many kinds of candy — and developed a market for sweets they describe as “hoppy,” “malty” and “yeasty.”

It’s all part of a push by specialty chocolatiers to make candy more manly, and to get men to reach for a stout caramel or India Pale Ale bonbon as eagerly as they might grab a nice cold one.
Last month, Vosges Haut Chocolat, a chocolate company with an estimated $23 million in sales, rolled out a “Smoke and Stout Caramel Bar,” made with a beer brewed from dark-roasted malt. Gourmet retailer Dean & DeLuca sells a six pack of Roni-Sue’s black-stout and India Pale Ale caramels for $16.95. Anette’s Chocolate Factory has won industry awards for both its Beer Brittle and Firey Beer Brittle, accented by cayenne pepper., a website launched last year by technology entrepreneur Steve Casselman, sells lager caramels, stout taffy and “Hopdrops,” little hard candies flavored with hops. Sales were about $20,000 in the first year, Casselman said.

Chocolate bonbons, once considered in the category of pink roses or gushy greeting cards, have been growing increasingly macho in recent years, said Joan Steuer, president of Chocolate Marketing LLC, which advises companies on new products and trends.

The road to macho chocolate started in the late 1990s with chocolatiers who rolled out salted chocolates and caramels. “Men like salty, women like sweet,” Steuer said.

In the early 2000s, bonbon makers bumped up the dare element by introducing hot chilis to chocolate.

The apotheosis of this trend may have been in 2009 when Oregon-based Lillie Belle Farms rolled out “Do Not Eat This Chocolate,” a bar packed with hot chili peppers including the arbol and the ghost pepper — among the hottest in the world.

Bacon chocolate also played a part: In 2007, Vosges introduced its “Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar,” featuring applewood bacon and alderwood-smoked salt, and everyone from restaurant pastry chefs to specialty chocolate makers tried their hand at bacon bars.

Behind the new round of testosterone-friendly sweets is an attempt to correct a gender-imbalance in the $17.5 billion U.S. chocolate market: 90% of U.S. women buy chocolate compared to 82 percent of men, according data from Mintel Group, a market research firm.

A majority of chocolate is likely consumed by women, because women buy more chocolate for themselves than men do, and because men tend to buy chocolate to give to women, said Marcia Mogelonsky, a global food analyst for Mintel who specializes in the chocolate market.

“Men buy chocolate for women because they’re in the doghouse,” Mogelonsky said. “Women aren’t in the doghouse because they own the doghouse. We buy chocolate because we’re sad and stressed, so we need it,” she said.

Big manufacturers target women. Hershey Co. and Mars Inc. said their Bliss and Dove lines, respectively, are marketed toward women. Other products are gender neutral.

Beer candy represents an attempt to patch the gender gap by the specialty chocolate market, which represents about 10% of the industry total, Mogelonsky said.

While candy is getting more beer-like, beer is getting more candy-like, as the craft beer industry, which first took root in the 1980s, matures.

Craft beer — the kind beer candy makers use in their recipes — is usually made with much higher levels of malt (grain that has been soaked and toasted) than traditional American lager, said Ray Daniels, director of the Cicerone Certification Program, which certifies beer sommeliers.

The terminology used by brewers to describe varying levels of roasting intensity in the malting process tends to sound like words describing sweets: There are malt levels that are bisquity, toasty, caramelly, toffee-like and even chocolaty, Daniels said. Beer made from them are often given names like “chocolate stout” or “caramel porter.”

The nature of the beers used in many kinds of beer candy perhaps helps explain why some products taste more strongly of candy than, say, a Heineken. None of the candy contains alcohol, makers say, which burns off in the cooking process. While makers typically don’t test for the calorie count, most assume calories are equivalent to nonbeer candy.

Beer candy doesn’t only appeal to guys. Holly Jebb, who works as a legal secretary, hypnotherapist and songwriter, said her love of craft beer drew her to Casselman’s candies, which she sends to friends as gifts. She recently bought a bag of Casselman’s Hopdrops to put in her candy dish for holiday visitors, and they have been “going like crazy,” she says. “The Hopdrops are bitter and sweet. My mouth really likes that,” Jebb says.

Nick Chipman, a Milwaukee Web page designer who runs a blog,, that discusses “any ridiculous food that guys would be into,” such as a five-pound meatball snowman or a 25-cheese pizza, received a sample of Casselman’s caramels back in May. “I actually thought they would be terrible,” Chipman said. “But it was awesome. The beer isn’t overwhelming, but you can definitely taste it, like the beer in a beer-battered fish.”

For some confectioners, beer candy is an economic boon: Makers say they are flooded with orders around Father’s Day, the Super Bowl and at Christmas, when female clients order the candies for men in their lives.

But for Casselman, beer candy offers nonmonetary rewards, as well. He says few of his friends understand his day job in reconfigurable computing, and don’t care to chat about it.

“Most people hate their computer,” Casselman said. “The thing I like about candy is that you can give them something that tastes good and they say ‘you’re a genius.'”

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