A B.C. brewer has made a Nanaimo Bar flavoured beer

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When I heard Vancouver Island Brewing was going to be doing a Nanaimo bar porter, my first thought was, “How has no one else thought of this yet?”

Nanaimo Bar Imperial Porter by Vancouver Island Brewing. Photo by Rob Mangelsdorf

Because, like most great ideas, it seems really obvious. Pastry stouts and dessert beers are all the rage right now, and the Nanaimo bar is an iconic B.C. confection. Put them together and it’s a slam dunk. So kudos to VI for being the first (as far as I know) to pull this off. I have a feeling in a couple years time, a lot of B.C. breweries are going to be doing Nanaimo bar porters and stouts—and I for one welcome our new provincial beer style.

I’ll be honest though, I’m not a huge fan of the actual dessert. I find Nanaimo bars to be too rich, too sickly sweet, and just altogether too much.

Thankfully, VI’s take on the Nanaimo bar avoids the nauseating extremes of its inspiration, instead focusing on the flavour profile. And the Nanaimo bar flavour notes are present and accounted for: chocolate, vanilla, roasted coconut, graham cracker; the whole gang is here.

The body is rich and creamy, but not overly chewy, and there’s a kiss of alcoholic warmth on the back end. The finish is sweet—after all, it was brewed with maltodextrin, a vegan substitute for the lactose often found in dessert stouts and milkshake IPAs. But the finish stops short of cloying.

The result is exceptionally smooth and delicious, with all the decadence of a Nanaimo bar and none of the excess.

Nanaimo Bar Imperial Porter by Vancouver Island Brewing (8.2% ABV, 473 mL tall cans)

Appearance: Inky black, with a fluffy light brown head.

Aroma: Chocolate, roast malt, vanilla, biscuit, sweetness.

Flavour: Chocolate, roast malt, roasted coconut, cocoa, vanilla, biscuit, date, marshmallow, caramel, molasses.

Body/finish: Creamy, full-bodied with a sweet finish.

Pairs with: An actual Nanaimo bar, vanilla ice cream, chocolate cake and—if you try all of these at once—diabetes.