When I talk about chocolate and beer pairings, I get a few raised eyebrows. Chocolate with beer? Who does that? Well, we do. And we've been doing these pairings since 2014!
If you want to try this pairing at home, we'd like to share a few things we have learned along the way.
First rule of thumb. Steer away from industrial chocolate producers and mass produced beer. The chocolate will not provide the flavour experience you want - it will be flat and boring. Same with the beer - the flavour is monotonous. This is usually the result of poor quality ingredients and processing practices for both the chocolate and the beer.
Instead, select craft chocolate and micro brewery beer. These producers focus on using quality ingredients and fine craftsmanship to create flavourful and interesting combinations that will take you on a flavourful journey.
Next step - select an assortment. We usually do 4 pairings that offer a variety of flavour combinations to keep things interesting. You can start by selecting either the chocolate or the beer, but we recommend you start with one of the two to simplify the process.
For example, Kyle, my beer guy, and I usually consider the season first. Do we want refreshing flavours because it's summer? Do we want chocolate and beer with warm notes for a winter pairing? And because I know what chocolate I want to work with, we go to the breweries to find beer that we think will make a good pairing. You may want to start with beer and then look for chocolate to work with your choices. Either order is fine.
Cacao bean origin plays a key role in the flavour of a single origin bar. Some beans have fruity notes, or nutty profiles. Some are earthy, tangy, fudge-like, smoky or a combination of any of these and more! The chocolate maker influences the flavour with the roast, grind and further steps in the process, including determining the percentage of sugar to be added. The outcome is a chocolate bar with a symphony of flavours we can tap into for pairing.
There is also the option to choose bean to bar chocolate with infusions and inclusions and these bars and bonbons can be lots of fun to pair with beer!
With beer, the choices include the types of beer, the range of mild to hoppy flavours, alcohol content and brewer. Visit your favourite brewery or take a look at at their websites to see what they are brewing or look at a few different breweries to taste more varieties. We have done both and we recommend trying a few different brands. Just like the chocolate maker influences the flavour of the chocolate, the brewer influences the flavour of the beer.
Once you have your pairings determined it's time to invite your friends over. Everyone's palate is different so there will be lots of opinions and great conversation about the pairings.
Lastly, prepare for the pairings with a few simple instructions.
1) Serving size should be a square or 2 of chocolate (or 1 bonbon) and about 1/3 of a tall can (473ml) per person, per pairing.
2) Have water on hand for palate cleansing between each pairing.
3) It doesn't matter if you start with the chocolate first or the beer, but it does matter how you taste them. With chocolate you want to break the piece if it's a bar, to hear the snap, you want to smell it to take in the aroma and then you let it MELT to get all the flavour nuances. For the beer, pour, swirl, smell and sip. A few sips are better than a big gulp. Go back and forth between the two, focussing on the flavour of each, the textures and sensations you are experiencing and how they work together...or not! There is no definitive answer here - it all comes down to personal preference.
3) We recommend you don't finish each pairing before going on to the next one. This way, at the end, you can mix up the pairings and see if you come up with other good combos. So leave a little chocolate and a little beer of each pairing until the end and you can pretty much start over but with different combos! This will either confirm the original pairing is the best or give you other pairings to enjoy.
Here are a few pairings we have done in our past Chocolate with...Beer pairing events. Some of the beer may not be available due to seasonality but the flavour combos are a good place to start.
"Dark Chocolate Candied Orange Peel" by SOMA Chocolate with Mill Street "Tea Time Wheat" - a citrus lovers delight! Orange chocolate with lemon beer. A refreshing pair.
"Madagascar 73%" Dark Chocolate by Dick Taylor with Evergreen Ale "Don't Call Me Bitter" English Bitter. A creamy elegant dark chocolate with citrus and red berry notes. An English Bitter with light hints of caramel and bread, slightly dry, not too sweet finish. A lot of flavour notes happening here and brought together in perfect harmony. Don't expect dark chocolate to be bitter and don't expect an English Bitter to be, well, bitter! These two will surprise you.
"Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels" by Hummingbird Chocolate with Clifford Brewery "Porter" Strong Beer. Salted chocolate and caramel are the perfect companion to the Porter's notes of chocolate, coffee and roasted malt. Both the chocolate and the beer are perfectly balanced on their own and pair together for a perfect dessert!
"Honduras 70% Dark by Finnia Chocolate with Perth Brewery's Easy Amber. A creamy dark chocolate with unique flavour notes of caramel and almond paired with this medium bodied and flavourful amber. The amber is the perfect partner for this chocolate with the similar flavour notes of caramel, almonds, sweet malt and toffee. A laid back pairing of obvious companions.
"Piñole 73% Dark"by Sirene Chocolate with Covered Bridge Brewing "Walk on the Mild Side". The fudgy Mexican chocolate is sprinkled with a mixture of roasted corn and panela (brown sugar) resulting in a chocolate with strong coffee notes and fruit flavours that shine through. This unique bar is paired with the refreshing, British malt ale with a biscuit and dark sugar expression.
If even after all this info you're not ready to do your own Chocolate with...Beer, you can always join us for an in-store event. Co-hosted by Kyle Weaver, our beer guy, we pair 4 craft chocolates with 4 craft beers. Next event is Friday October 20, 2023!