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Help name Big Storm's new toffee chocolate stout, made with William Dean

Collaborations between brewers are not new. Nor are collaborations between brewers and distillers. Or beer brewers and coffee brewers. It makes sense: Use a barrel for one thing, then it in turn imparts interesting flavors to the next thing that's aged in it. Sometimes the same barrel has been known to go back and forth — a spirit infusing a beer, and then vice versa. But here's something that seems all new.

Big Storm Brewing in Clearwater approached Bill Brown, the owner and chief chocolatier at the justly famous William Dean Chocolates in Belleair Bluffs. What if the two companies teamed up to make a chocolate-inflected specialty beer? Bill Brown, not a huge beer drinker, was intrigued. And then, he thought, what if I produce chocolates that are infused with Big Storm Brewing beers?

Cross marketing, mutual back-scratching or a tasty quid pro quo — call it what you will, but it's a great idea. Big Storm released the beer, a toffee chocolate stout, on Oct. 28, World Chocolate Day. It pours black with a creamy head, deep garnet highlights giving it an appealing jewel-like luster. The nose is toasty caramelized sugar, sweet toffee and a just-bitter chocolatiness lingering on the finish.

This is not for shrinking violets, 7.4 percent alcohol by volume bottled in 650 ml bottles. But wait, what's the beer called? Right now the label shows Big Storm and William Dean's logos, between which is a blank black box. A blank you could help fill. Through Monday, beer lovers, or just those with a savvy product marketing sense, can submit name suggestions at [email protected] On Nov. 16, the winning name will be chosen at a VIP event at the brewery with a Q&A with Brown and Big Storm head brewer Joel Moore.

Brown, for his part, will be talking about his beer-infused chocolates. The company that made the chocolates featured lavishly in the Hunger Games movies is now producing chocolate macarons filled with a buttercream made from a reduction of Big Storm's American stout, not too sweet, crumbly with a sumptuous filling, as well as a red chocolate demisphere truffle filled with a caramel made with Big Storm's award-winning Tropic Pressure Florida Ale and another pyramid-shaped milk chocolate truffle with a ganache made with Big Storm's American stout.

That's a sweet collaboration. Oh, and the person who names the beer receives a private Big Storm Brewery tour, a tap handle for the new beer, a 20-piece box of William Dean chocolates and a supply of the new Big Storm-William Dean beer.

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.

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