What it is: There aren't many beers I remember tasting for the first time, but my first sip of Boulder Beer's Shake Chocolate Porter is seared in my memory. It was on tap at Bad Apple bar and restaurant in North Center, and I believe the scientific name of the sensation it evoked was "chocolatey deliciousness heaven." Shake was so chocolate forward, so easy to drink and so tasty, I was almost embarrassed by how much I liked it. Founded in 1979, and claiming to be Colorado's first craft brewery — quite a claim in a state with 250 of them — Boulder Beer goes all in on the chocolate with Shake, an American porter that features chocolate wheat malt and cacao nibs.
In the bottle: Shake smells like chocolate syrup, chocolate malt, chocolate chips and did I mention chocolate? While the dominant flavor is indeed chocolate, it also offers echoes of caramel and light char, and is delivered in a light-to-moderate body. The key wrinkle is that Boulder Beer ups the hops just a bit to lend a mildly bitter finish (think of it as a touch of baker's chocolate), which makes the chocolatey sensation linger only lightly after each sip. That finish is the true genius of Shake. Too sweet or too cloying and this beer would become a gimmick after a few sips. But its components tie together so smartly that even people put off by the idea of a chocolate beer may well be impressed by Shake. It's an ideal decadence for the holiday season.
Alcohol: 5.9 percent
Drink it with: A stealthily good food beer that pairs with rich and hearty dishes with roasty overtones, such as a dark mole or gumbo. Or else just pair it with dessert — from creme brulee to pecan pie.
Find it: Available in six packs of 12-ounce bottles at better beer stores.
More information: boulderbeer.com/shake