By Steve Graham
Sean Nook just can’t stop pouring sugary breakfast cereals into his milk stout.
The founder and brewmaster at Black Bottle Brewery in Fort Collins launched his Cerealiously line two years ago, and famously caused a local shortage of Count Chocula cereal. He has since made six other beers with kids’ cereals, and debuted his French Toast Crunch milk stout in March. The brewery also hosted a Cerealiously March Madness tournament, with beers competing in brackets.
Nook homebrewed for nearly a decade before opening the brewery and restaurant in central Fort Collins. The bar has 40 taps, serving at least a dozen of their own brews, and top-notch craft beers from around the country and the world.
Like many of us, Nook grew up eating sweetened cereals, and the inspiration for his cereal beers came early one day.
“I was eating cereal one morning at work and I said to myself I want to make a milk stout series and put real cereal in the beer,” Nook said. “I decided right then to call it Cerealiously.”
So far, the milk stout has been infused with Golden Grahams, Honey Bunches of Oats, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, Reese’s Puffs, Count Chocula and Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch.
The cereal is added late in the brewing process, pouring dozens of full boxes for each batch into the hop back. The beer flows through this container between the boil kettle and the chiller, which is typically used to add specific hop flavors — or perhaps the essence of chocolate crunchies and marshmallows.
The resulting beers are not overly sweet, but definitely carry the flavor of the cereal.
“A finish and aftertaste of bittersweet chocolate and sweet cream win out and sell those Count Chocula flavors reasonably well,” wrote one veteran reviewer on BeerAdvocate.com.
For the last two years, Black Bottle has used Count Chocula cereal, which is only available around Halloween. To make enough for the Great American Beer Festival last fall, Black Bottle bought up all the Count Chocula at several local supermarkets, making national headlines.
Sean Nook said he worried about a General Mills lawsuit regarding their cereal trademarks, but the company has been giving Black Bottle cases of free cereal.
“They embraced us,” Nook said. “It has been a great partnership.”
Black Bottle is working on other creative brews as well. The brewery recently hosted the staff of a local waxing studio to guest brew a wheat beer made with pineapple and chocolate. They called it “A Brazilian Times Better.”
Steve Graham is a Fort Collins writer who enjoys the outdoors and great beer.