You’ve likely heard of pairing wine with chocolate, port with chocolate and of course there is no shortage of liquor infused chocolate treats on the market these days, however pairing chocolate and beer is one of those things that may seem a bit odd at first. Many craft beer enthusiasts however, know that chocolate is a plentiful tasting note in a variety of beer styles out there and that pairing chocolate and beer can be quite a natural and incredibly pleasurable thing to do. Now whether you are looking for a gift of chocolate and beer for your sweet heart or you want to satisfy your own sweet tooth please read through the following beer and chocolate pairings for some ideas on how to pair two of the most wonderful things on this earth being both chocolate and craft beer.
Pairing #1 – Belgian Dark Ales Deserve Dark Chocolate On the Side
The words Belgian Style are often added in front of beer, chocolate and waffles to denote an expected level of quality and unique flavours based on the reputation of so many high quality Belgian versions of each product. Odds are you’ve likely had a Belgian style beer at some point in your life and you’ve most certainly had Belgian chocolate, however have you ever tried putting them together to see what happens? To get you started I suggest a simple dark chocolate and Belgian strong ale pairing that is always are sure thing.
I picked up a Belgian Style beer called Abandoned Abbey by Big Rock Brewery in Calgary, Alberta to pair up with a 63% Organic Dark Chocolate heart from Vancouver based Denman Island Chocolate Company. The beer was full of dark stone fruit flavours like plums and cherries, with cloves, toffee and candy sugar on the finish, while the chocolate was simply a rich and very slightly creamy textured bitter dark chocolate that I like to let melt on my tongue in order to savor it further. When put together, the fruit in the beer is amplified noticeably, especially the plums whereas the rich cocoa mass in the chocolate heart was more profound and increasingly savory. Overall this was nice, just a nice example where chocolate and beer work together to highlight some of the best characteristics of each individual part of the pairing.
Pairing #2 – Coffee and Cookies Go Together Like Bread and Butter
Coffee shops always seem to have display cases full of treats like biscotti, cakes, muffins, loaves and of course lots of different cookies that would pair up nicely with the variety of specialty coffees they brew. Biscuit textures, nutty treats and the specific flavours in chocolate go together well with the earthy cocoa notes often found in coffee itself which is why a quality Café Mochas made with real chocolate tastes so darn good. In this particular union my goal was to recreate that delicious coffee and cookie combination, but of course using a coffee craft beer instead of the java.
I opened up a French Press Vanilla Stout from Double Trouble Brewing in Guelph, Ontario to pair with some heart shaped organic dark chocolate short bread cookies from a local bakery nearby. The beer was infused with real vanilla and had tasting notes of coffee, cream, strong vanilla with hints of chocolate malt. For the cookies, they were flaky and buttery with some nice dark cocoa coating on half of the cookie. When combined, the shortbreads were noticeably flakier in texture revealing much more pronounced butter notes in the cookies. The beer managed to kick up the earthy coffee flavours while unexpectedly hiding the vanilla almost in its entirety. This was quite good, for other pairings to try, mix up any coffee stout or porter with a biscuit or wafer cookie of your choosing.
Pairing #3 – This Peanut Butter Goes Stout to Your Heart
I love chocolate and peanut butter, it’s one of my favourite combinations in a candy bar, ice cream or basically any way in which they can be combine them together. As craft breweries are trying to experiment with seasonal offerings and attempting to differentiate themselves from each other, we are starting to see all kinds of creative takes on certain styles of beer. One of the more unique examples of this is the Peanut Butter Stout, which I have only had a few different versions of in the past year and always found to be an intriguing tasty beer. Naturally, it only made the most sense to try double down on even more chocolate and peanut butter to see if they complemented each other even further.
British Columbia brewer Dead Frog recently released a beer called Nutty Uncle which is a Peanut Butter Stout that I paired with a Purdy’s Chocolate Filled Heart. The beer it has a creamy mouth feel, with dark chocolate, espresso and of course peanut butter notes that kick in near the end of each sip. The Purdy’s chocolate heart had a smooth and creamy texture, loads of sweet peanut butter and some nice milk chocolate notes that finished a but bittersweet. Combined, this was particularly fascinating to me, since the first thing to go away was any sense of peanut butter in the beer, which was instead replaced with enhanced earthy coffee and cocoa notes. For the peanut butter filled chocolate heart, it tasted a bit saltier and significantly richer than it already was which was pretty spectacular since they are already top notch chocolates to begin with. For alternates try a nut brown ale and maybe some chocolate covered almonds for another variation on this intriguing combo.
Pairing #4 – Turn Up The Heat in The Beer Room
Chocolate and chili pepper combinations go back to the ancient Aztec civilization in the form of a hot dark chocolate like drink often referred to as Xocolatl (meaning bitter water), of which the word chocolate originally stemmed from – and thankfully chocolate itself was also introduced to the world. I’ve always found this dark chocolate and chili mixture to be stimulating as when it is done well it is quite pleasingly spicy and flavourful, highlighting the bitter cocoa and heating up the spices like an IPA and spicy food combo. My intention in pairing a chili spiced beer with chili spiced chocolate was to take that chili and chocolate combination to a whole new level and I wasn’t left disappointed!
I poured The Hobbit Smaug Stout by Central City Brewing into my stout glass and paired it with a Dagoba Xocolatl 74% Dark Chocolate and Chilies bar in order to really turn up heat in these two. The craft beer had notes of black licorice, dark coffee, caramel, cayenne, chili powder and dark chocolate while the Dagoba bar has loads of bitter dark chocolate, slightly branchy cocoa nibs and some pretty spicy chili peppers in it already. When joined , I found the beer got a creamier texture highlighting superior dark roast coffee and chocolate flavours while producing an intensified chili powder spiciness. The cocoa nibs in the chocolate bar got very branch and earthy, revealing lots of dry cocoa bitterness while the chili’s swelled up considerably . I’m talking nostril cleansing hot here, it coated my palate and then swiftly cleansed it up after each sip of beer. If you like spice, this was quite the ride and I recommend trying to look for other spice and craft beer combinations, or even try an IPA with a chili infused chocolate for what is likely to be an interesting experience.
Pairing #5 – Fruit, Salt, Chocolate Will Make Your Taste Buds Go Nuts
Salted chocolate in my opinion is just amazing in general, especially in very high quality organic fair trade chocolate bars as the salt really enhances the rich chocolate notes and oily cocoa mass, giving that sweet and salty combo that hits right where it counts. Even better, toss some organic nuts in there and you have a pretty interesting treat put together to enjoy as is. However, in the name of food and beer pairing experimentation, it is important to try and take these amazing combinations even further and to find a unique beer that can handle an already intense flavour amalgamation.
The beer I chose to pair with a Salted Almond Chocolate Bar by Theo Chocolates was called Winter Beard by Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge, Ontario which is an annual Christmas release that was cellared for a year before hitting the market. This beer was incredibly balanced with cranberry tartness, nuts, rich cocoa blending together towards a dry cocoa powder finish while the chocolate was a rich, savory, salty, nutty delight of a delicacy. Put together, these came ever so close to overloading each other, thankfully walking that fine line perfectly by stressing the cranberry, coffee and earthy bitterness of the beer and adding even more savory saltiness and earthy nuttiness to the chocolate bar. Wow, what a great pairing! Look for any high quality salted chocolate and pair up with a beer style like a Dunkel in order to create a massive flavour fusion you won’t soon forget.
Pairing #6 – Just Put The Beer Right in The Chocolate OK!
Granville Island Brewery teamed up with a local chocolatier ‘Chocolate by Gaya’ to make 4 unique beer infused chocolate truffles which are each infused with a different beer meant to pair up with the truffle nicely. For each chocolate, the beer was reduced in order to intensify the flavours and mix into each truffle to get the right balance of beer, chocolate and other enhancing ingredients. These were simply amazing, like mouth watering and salivatingly good chocolates that were clearly made by a talented chocolatier. In the white chocolate truffle, the passion fruit puree worked well with the banana hefeweizen notes, while the rich chocolate Coco Loco beer infused truffle was super rich tasting hinting at the booze ever so slightly. The Barleywine infused treat had some nice toffee characteristics in it while the Loins Winter Ale added a nice touch to it the vanilla infused truffle. I found in each piece, the malts in the beer were noticeable enough but not over powering which is perfect. What a great idea this was and it gave me even more ideas of potential beer and chocolate pairings for the future!
In order to pair chocolate with beer successfully, I suggest following a few ground rules. First, start off with a stout or porter to understand how chocolate flavours interact with the darker malts and coffee flavours in these styles of beer. Second, be sure to buy quality chocolate (organic fair trade if possible) in order to avoid stuff full of sugar, wax and other chemicals that can create off flavours and lead to the consumption of bland chocolates. Third, if you are enjoying a treat that does have a lot of sugar in it, do try to dissolve the sugar in your mouth before drinking the beer as it will fizz up a bit in your mouth and can make it difficult to taste anything. Fourth, don’t be afraid to go beyond the dark beers!