Everybody (who isn't allergic to it) likes peanut butter. What's the first type of candy to disappear from the office candy bowl on Halloween? What's the first kind to disappear ahead of all the others? Hint: it's not Jolly Ranchers—it's those sweet, sweet peanut butter cups. The allure turns anyone into a child again.
Naturally then, it made its way into beer. Though a young genre, brewers across the U.S. have been going all Skippy and Jif with their darker ale varieties for several years now. The first very successful commercial release was Sweet Baby Jesus! by Maryland's DuClaw Brewing Company in 2011.
Peanut butter isn't just spooned into the mash, though, because the oils in plain old peanuts would make the resulting beer incapable of retaining a foamy head. Instead, brewers tend to use peanut extract or peanut butter powder. (That's why the labels for these beers usually say "peanut butter flavor.")
Wild Ride in Redmond recently joined the fray with Nut Crusher, a peanut butter porter that's now widely available around the region in kegs and 22-ounce bottles. It looks like a dark, foreboding ale when first poured, but not to fear for those who are not fans of heavy porters. That's because the unmistakable aroma of peanut butter greets the senses first when bringing the glass to the mouth. Much like Southern Tier's line of heavily-flavored adjunct stouts (Pumking, anyone?), Nut Crusher is a beer that's almost as fun, if not more fun, to sniff for a while before actually drinking it. Upon first taste, it surprises with its approachability as a nice, caramel-y porter with just a twinge of peanut to it.
It's a well put-together package, but one that now has competition from one of the genre's old guard. Belching Beaver Brewery, based out of San Diego County, debuted in Central Oregon not long ago, and a few local bottle shops now offer their Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Although not as heavy as Nut Crusher (just 5.3% alcohol by volume), it shares many of the same elements—light roast and intense peanuts, with the lactose giving it a bit of a smoother mouth feel.
Doing a taste test of both might be a good idea, but keep it in moderation. Otherwise, your stomach may feel like you ate all the Reese's out of the bowl.