click to enlarge The Fort Collins Brewery

The Fort Collins Brewery

1020 E. Lincoln Ave., Fort Collins, fortcollinsbrewery.com

Let's get one thing straight: Fort Collins' Double Chocolate Stout (around $10/four 12-ounce bottles) ain't your ChocoVine, Shirley. If you think you're buying a thick drinking chocolate, you'll be disappointed. But if you like heavy winter beer with a somewhat velvety, creamy texture and subtle flavors of mildly bitter, high-cocoa-content dark chocolate and dark-roasted coffee, with a hint of peatiness, you'll do fine.

Brewery distributor liaison Fred Winther says two pounds of Dutch-processed cocoa are used per 20 barrels, added to the brew kettle post-boil. Chocolate malts (highly toasted barley commonly used in porters and stouts) provide the color and java element. The brewery's year-round Chocolate Stout isn't brewed with cocoa, only sporting 5.3 percent ABV; this "imperialized" seasonal (sold Oct. 1 through March 1) hits 8.5 percent ABV, now in four-packs for the first time. — Matthew Schniper

click to enlarge Benny's


517 W. Colorado Ave., 634-9309

With its curvy neon sign serving as a gateway to the west side, Benny's — the quintessential dive bar, not to mention a favorite Indy spot — is mere months away from its 60th anniversary. But since ownership passed to Dana Wessels in April, there's been nothing old about it. The whole bar's been redone, with one removed wall doubling space at the counter. The once-black ceiling's now covered in soothing tan tiles to match the brown and cream walls, while large flat-screens abound.

The place is becoming downright respectable, even if its Bourbon Burger ($8.95) still caters to the drunkest of stomachs. Sticky, sweet and sourced from Ranch Foods Direct, it gets points for smoky, grilled green peppers and gooey Swiss, but is a complete mess of heavy grease and juices. The fried pickle chips ($5.95) that came with ours were actually spears, under-battered and limp at that. — Bryce Crawford

click to enlarge Bikini Xpresso

Bikini Xpresso

1821 N. Circle Drive, bikini-xpresso.com

Be honest: You aren't here for the drinks. That's OK. The girls, sometimes stripped down to just a thong and pasties, are all well aware of that. Hence theme days (Sexy Bunny Wednesdays, for example) and a posted shift schedule so you can plan to visit your favorite barista. Just be respectful, 'cause grabby creeps risk a pepper-spraying, no joke. (I don't speak from experience.)

The cash-only drive-thru, one of four in town, is committed to its coffee, though, turning to Monument's Serranos for its customized blend and nearly 30 flavorings via DaVinci and Ghirardelli. (Urban Steam, groan your heart out.) My Caramel Sweety ($4.50/16 ounces) is just that, with two shots of espresso masked by vanilla syrup and caramel sauce steamed into the milk. As liquid dessert, it's balanced enough and not overly cloying. You'll like it if toasted sugar is your thing. If not ... there's always the view. — Matthew Schniper

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