The most glorious time of year has arrived. That’s right: it’s Girl Scout Cookie season. (Just in time for Lent! I think this year I’ll give up NOT gorging myself on Girl Scout Cookies.) It’s personal for me this year, because my very own six-year-old is peddling them. Her cuteness by itself basically sells the cookies, but one thing I can add to the marketing strategy is recommendations for local beer pairings. So, without further ado.
Thin Mints: Wander Correspondent Extra Stout
Let’s start with the classic flavor, the one everyone loves to love, the one whose serving size (if we’re being honest) should be “one sleeve”. What to drink with this minty chocolate wafer? Well, when it comes to pairing beer with chocolate, you’ll rarely go wrong with a stout. Around here I’d go with Wander’s (GABF gold medal) Correspondent Extra Stout: rich, roasty, and with delicious chocolate notes of its own. Synergy at its best.
Samoas: Structures Dream Reaper
They tend to play second-fiddle to Thin Mints (at least among the people I like best), but there’s no denying that these rings with caramel and toasted coconut sell extremely well, too. The roastiness of a stout would threaten to drown out the more delicate sweetness of the caramel, and the coconut needs something it can play a duet with anyway. So I’d recommend Structures Dream Reaper, an almond vanilla porter. Clocking in at 7%, it’s a bit warm for your typical American porter, but that sweet chocolate/vanilla combo harmonizes with the caramel in the cookie while the coconut and almond get acquainted.
Tagalongs: Kulshan Transporter
These are my personal second favorite, and they only come in second because their richness means they aren’t as crushable as the Thin Mints. Still, you can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate. But what beer goes well with the best flavor combo ever invented? That, my friends, is a tough legume to crack. I might reach for Kulshan’s Transporter, which is an English-style brown porter. Whereas American beers tend to be amped up, English-style beers tend to be more reserved, with sweeter tones and softer roast. That’s what the Tagalong needs, lest its nuttiness get overwhelmed.
Do-Si-Dos: Chuckanut Dunkel Lager
I’ll be honest: even I’ve stopped reading this article by now because the three cookies worth breaking your New Year’s Resolution for have already been covered. But for the sake of completeness we should press on. Whereas the Tagalongs are peanut butter and chocolate, the Do-Si-Dos are just naked peanut butter. That means I’m going to leave the dark ales behind and look for something clean and crisp that can lift the fatty peanut butter off the tongue and get you ready for cookie number two. Ideally it would be something reminiscent of toasted bread, which is always a happy host for a smear of peanut butter. Guess it’s gonna have to be Chuckanut Dunkel Lager, then, which is one of my favorite beers in town anyway. Go ahead: dunk in that Dunkel. You won’t be disappointed.
Trefoils: Boundary Bay Scotch Ale
This one is easy. Trefoils are shortbread cookies, and shortbread hails from Scotland. Ergo de facto: Boundary Bay Scotch Ale is calling. But this match is more than geography, because the flavor combinations make sense too. Shortbread is butter, sugar, and flour, so these cookies are quite sweet but also quite delicate. What they need is a delicately sweet and malty beer to generate a virtuous feedback loop. The caramel tones of the Scotch Ale will resonate perfectly. Do dheagh shlàinte!
Savannah Smiles: Stones Throw Raincountry Liquid Sunshine
We’ve now moved away from pure sweetness and toward tart, with these crunchy, crumbly lemon cookies. I don’t know about you, but to me, lemon tastes like summer. And thinking of summer makes me want to be outside. And when I’m outside I want to be in the backyard at Fairhaven Stones Throw, refreshing my taste buds with a pint of their Raincountry Liquid Sunshine Lager. That’s exactly what this lemon cookie needs: a beer that won’t overpower or interfere with the delicate citrus as it crumbles in your mouth. Lemon refreshes; lager refreshes. So swallow some liquid sunshine, Savannah. It’ll make you smile.
S’mores: Aslan Bham Brown
Graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow is almost as classic a combination as peanut butter and chocolate. The trick is finding a beer that will work well with all of those flavors mixed together. Maybe you’ve noticed that so far the main pairing principle has been resonance: find a beer whose flavors are in the same general neighborhood as the flavors in the cookie, but that won’t get in the way of the cookie, either. That same principle leads me to recommend a pint of Aslan Bham Brown. American brown ales go notoriously well with barbecue (and the hoisin sauce in Aslan’s Hawaiian bowl), since the relatively high IBUs balance out the sweetness of the sauce while the roasty and chocolatey malt character integrates well with the smoke and spice of the sauce. It’ll work similarly paired with the S’mores cookie: the IBUs will help stop the marshmallow from getting too sickeningly sweet, and the roast/chocolate combo might even make you feel like you are sitting around the campfire yourself. Kumbayah.
Toffee-tastic: Menace Best Bitter
These buttery cookies packed with bits of toffee are the only gluten-free cookies on the Girl Scout roster. But I can’t in good conscience recommend a gluten-free beer in this case, especially since Bellingham has so many glutenous beers that pair well with toffee. In this instance I’d head up Meridian St. for a pint of Menace Best Bitter. Although it has the word ‘bitter’ in the name, don’t be misled: this is an English-style pale ale, and Britons love a malty pale ale. In this case Menace has balanced the hops nicely with bready and caramelly malt, exactly what you need to get those sticky chunks of toffee off your molars. And at 4.4%, why not have two?
Notice that not a single IPA has made its way onto this list. That’s because extreme hop bitterness doesn’t pair particularly well with desserts (though carrot cake is a notorious exception to that rule). But I can’t resist making one last recommendation, specifically for the IPA lovers among us. If you pick up a box of Savannah Smiles (the crumbly lemon tea cookies), head down to Wander and ask for a pint of their She Wore a Cranberry Beret IPA. It’s hard to think of a snappier, more mouthwatering combination of summer flavors than lemon and berry, and this fruited IPA is distinctively wonderful even by itself. Prepare for a fruit explosion in your mouth.
Did you miss pre-orders and now you’re desperately wondering where you can buy Girl Scout Cookies? Check out the list of upcoming booth sales here. Need more pairing suggestions? The Tap Trail has tackled this perennial question before.