The brewing industry has liberated the marshmallow. It no longer must be relegated to s’mores or a flotation device in a mug of hot chocolate. It’s now an ingredient in beer.
Some consumers grumble that marshmallow-infused beer is a gimmick, but brewers argue that marshmallows — like other adjuncts — can add a unique flavor.
“We believe in expanding the possibilities of what a beer experience can be and are always searching for new ways to deliver something extraordinary,” says Mark Bjornstad, the co-owner and president of North Dakota’s Drekker Brewing Company, which frequently uses marshmallows in its Chonk series of sour beers and its imperial stouts.
Bjornstad doesn’t buy the viewpoint of traditionalists who say that brewers have gone too far by putting marshmallow in beer.
“There’s no place for thinking like that at Drekker,” he says. “We never said traditional beers should go away. In fact, we make tons of them and have a pile of medals. Why can’t we have both?”
Marshmallow can be “a fun flavor” for beers, Bjornstad says.
“It has this gentle sweetness and somehow maintains the perception of pillowy, fluffiness in the beer,” the Fargo-based brewer says. “It’s a great way to soften the edge on some fruits that can sometime come across as excessively tart or have strong tannins.”
Garrett Hickey, an owner and the managing brewer at Cincinnati’s Streetside Brewery, doesn’t understand why traditionalists would make a fuss about marshmallow as an ingredient.
“I feel that there are far stranger things to put in beer,” Hickey says. “Marshmallows should be the least of the traditionalist worries. If marshmallows are used with beer, it makes sense. Why not use something fun like marshmallow or coconut?”
The first beer Streetside brewed with marshmallows was S’More Fun Together, a collaboration with a craft marshmallow company. The beer was an imperial brown that also contained chocolate and graham cracker.
“After seeing the positive response to that beer, we started utilizing marshmallow somewhat frequently,” Hickey says. “We really leaned into marshmallow this past year when we brewed Snowball Speak of the Devil and J00S3Y, a double IPA that we infused with marshmallows.”
Marshmallows are a unique ingredient, he says, because they “add a touch of three great things: vanilla, body and sweetness.”
Will marshmallows in beer have staying power with consumers?
“Everything in brewing is a cycle,” Hickey says. “Marshmallows will eventually fall out of favor, but they’ll come back. Coconut was a super-popular ingredient in 2015 that fell out of favor and is now back.”
Bjornstad adamantly believes marshmallows will have staying power.
“Absolutely!” he exclaims. “I don’t mean to say marshmallow beers will be the next IPA, but they will certainly be a tool brewers continue to use and customers enjoy.