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Resurgence Brewing Sponge Candy Stout: Brewed locally, drank locally

What's in a Beer?

As the mercury levels drop, the alcohol-by-volume of beer rises as beer drinkers turn to bigger brews such as stouts, porters and barleywines to help combat the chilly nights.

Here in Buffalo, where the temperatures have already dropped and risen and are sure to drop again, one beer that can help you cope with the Queen City’s oft-subzero temps is Resurgence Brewing Company’s Sponge Candy Stout, a beer brewed with local sponge candy from Watson’s Chocolates.

Sponge Candy Stout stems from an old homebrew recipe from Resurgence Brewing owner Jeff Ware, who admits that this was something he had wanted to create for a while because he was never able to get too far with the base recipe. Ware says that Sponge Candy Stout started out as a stout he would serve with a piece of sponge candy simply placed in it.

“Sponge Candy Stout is a beer I’ve thought about making for quite some time,” he says. “It really stemmed from when I was eating sponge candy and thought to myself, ‘wow this would be great as a beer.’ So we really went backwards with it. One of my favorite stouts out today is Left Hand’s Milk Stout, and Breckenridge also makes an awesome Vanilla Porter, and when we thought about our stout, we wanted to make something that had a strong local flare to it. I thought that stout would go well with sponge candy, and there’s not anything much more Buffalo than sponge candy.”

“We went up to Watson’s, and they were nice enough to give us some sponge from the candy and from there it was a difficult beer to make. We ended up doing about 15-20 test batches of it, mainly because we did not know what we were getting. We didn’t know if the sugars were broken down enough to ferment properly. We didn’t really know what we were doing because this had never been done before. Actually, our first experiment ended up fermenting like crazy and we were left with a 14% imperial chocolate stout. We were finally able to find the right balance of sponge and chocolate malts to produce a nice stout taste that drinks really smooth.”

On a side note, Ware says that the brewery is planning on putting Sponge Candy Stout on nitro, possibly sometime next fall.

Assistant brewer Erik “Moonlight Graham” Greiner adds that even today Sponge Candy Stout is one of the brewery’s more difficult beers to create, but he believes that the beer is better off because of it.

“The grain bill for this beer is way more complex than most of our other beers but I think that’s what gives the beer its unique character and distinct personality,” Greiner said.

“A complex, sweet stout that’s very well balanced,” Greiner says of the stout, which he adds can be a challenging beer due to the array of flavors fighting for real estate on your palette. “The challenge is to balance the roasted, toffee and chocolate notes with the sweetness of the sponge cuttings so that one thing does not overpower the other.”

Ware says when making Sponge Candy Stout it was very important to keep every aspect local as much as possible.

“Watson’s has been awesome with us. When they are cutting down their sponge, they save all of the shavings for us and we store them in our cold room after we pick them up.”

An imperial version of the Sponge Candy Stout will also be available in the coming weeks, as will a bourbon barrel-aged version. The former will be sold at the brewery starting Saturday, December 13 in 22oz bottles beginning at noon. Ware says they will have about 4,000 bottles available, first come first serve (there will be a bottle limit).

“As soon as we made this beer we knew we had to make a big version of it because the flavors lend themselves perfectly to a higher gravity beer. This imperial version will be perfect for the holidays when it’s cold out and you’re sitting around the fire and are looking for a nice big beer to stand up to your holiday meals. It’s a perfect stocking stuffer and the perfect thing to bring to a party. Also, the imperial version should age well if you want to buy a few and lay them down in your beer cellar.”

The barrel-aged version of Sponge Candy Stout sees the beer aged in bourbon barrels purchased from West Virginia. Ware wasn’t so sure when that will be ready, but did say that it will be bottled in 22oz. bottles when that time comes.

“Those barrels will sit as long as they need to. It’s one of those things where there’s no rule book on it. As the barrels warm and expand, whiskey is sucked into the barrel and when it gets colder it contracts and pushes it back out. So the brewery will work well for that because it gets warm and cold in here quite a bit.”

If you were to ask Ware how we would describe Sponge Candy Stout, he would say it’s “A nice balanced stout that has a big chocolate flavor from the use of chocolate malts, a hint of roasted nuts and sweet toffee notes from the sponge candy, which complements the nose.”

But don’t take my word for it. Simply go to Resurgence Brewing, walk right up to the bar, order a pint of Sponge Candy Stout and ask him yourself.

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