Have you ever thought about pairing beer and chocolate? Want to know more about it? Here are some things I learned from Cheryl Cade beer sommelier at The Thirst Consultants (yes real job who knew) when we sat down with a group of chocolaholics to pair 16 chocolates and 6 beers at Brew Dog in Norwich.
Fine chocolate is like fine wine, with subtle flavours and aromas that make enjoying them a multi-sensory journey and with the recent explosion in craft beers and craft chocolate these two pleasures can now enjoyed together. Pairing beer and chocolate isn’t really a new idea, but what Cheryl and I discovered is that Chocolate and beer are both are very versatile foods. Each on its own can complement a wide range of flavours and characters, resulting in endless opportunities for interesting matches right across the flavour spectrum and recipe ideas for the chef.
The Basics of Pairing
Whether it’s wine and cheese or beer and chocolate, the aim is to find two that taste good together and highlight different aspects of each other.
That can be easier with wine, because we have been doing it longer and much more has been written about wine.
Chocolate’s 1500 and wine's 500 flavours includes elements (floral notes, wood notes, fruit notes, etc.), making them harder to pair. Beer tends to feature a smaller number of stronger flavours so fewer tastes to worry about whereas chocolate is quite often a complex blend of subtle diverse flavours.
How to Taste Beer and Chocolate Together
In order to taste chocolate and beer together we need to first remember our sensory analysis for both items.
But We Have a Couple of Problems:
- One: chocolate and water doesn’t mix the chocolate seizes and the texture becomes chunky and cold liquid also affects the texture of chocolate negatively.
- Two: often beers should be served at the ideal temperature which is too cold to make pairing them with chocolate easy the cold makes our taste buds contract.
To taste chocolate and beer together enjoyably these problems have to be solved.
To do this, place a piece of chocolate in your mouth and chew it until it has melted completely, working the chocolate with your tongue to incorporate some saliva from your mouth. The idea is to mix in enough warm liquid so that adding cold liquid -beer won't be such a shock to the chocolate and cause it to seize.
When the chocolate has a thin consistency, take a sip of beer- about the same amount of beer as the amount of chocolate in your mouth.
Mix the beer and the chocolate together in your mouth by gently swishing, paying attention to the taste and texture sensations in your mouth before swallowing the wine and the chocolate.
Wait at least 10 seconds after swallowing the chocolate and beer before taking a small sip of beer to rinse any leftover chocolate from your mouth.
Pair Inexpensive With Inexpensive
It can be difficult to pair chocolate with many mass-produced beers. Most American beer has a high sodium content and a diffuse flavour that doesn't always mix well with others. When pairing with American beer, go with inexpensive chocolates. The saltiness of the beer can cut through the richness of the chocolate a bit but works well, as we know with salted caramel chocolate, loves salt.
Pairing With Dark Beers – i.e. Porters and Stouts
Made from malted barley that’s been roasted to give deep hues giving lots of stouts a chocolate or espresso notes in their flavour, which is perfect for chocolate pairing – coffee, toasted, nutty, caramel, toffee notes, all can be found in chocolate. Chocolates with a higher percentage of cacao pair well with stout, which in turn will make them darker and bitterer. The bitterness of the chocolate should bring out inherent sugars in the beer.
Pairing With Bitter Ales
Bitter ales include brews like IPAs, can have bitter notes. If you mix bitter chocolate with bitter beer it can become overwhelming. Choose a 50 to 70 percent chocolate. There will be more sweetness in the chocolate, which should, offset the natural bitterness in the beer, and allow the chocolate to stand up to the beer's flavour.
Pairing With Lagers
Pairing with lagers, pilsners and bocks, is a matter of personal taste or finding specific notes in one specific beer. This means, sadly, you're going to have to drink more beer to find the perfect pairing. Some people are going to want a darker chocolate to go with their lager, while others want something sweeter. For the most part, about 50 percent cacao chocolates are going to be the best choice.
Pairing With White Ales
Also called unfiltered wheat, are light, crispy and refreshing. White ales tend to have citrus undertones and an acidic finish. When pairing chocolate with white ale, try to avoid highly acidic beer since acid and chocolate aren't good friends. If you can find a less sharp beer, look for chocolate with citrus notes or that has been blended with orange peel as a starting point.
Belgian fruit Lambic, etc. If you are a fan of the intermingling of tart and sweet, than a bubbly and crisp framboise (raspberry) or kriek (cherry) Lambic paired with a molten chocolate cake or even a gooey chocolate covered cherry should hit your spot. The choice of chocolate are easy to make fruit with fruit.
German wheat beer and Belgian saison’s and strong ales (dubbel, tripel) These beers carry aromas of banana and cloves apple, apricots and peaches seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg. A rich 38% milk chocolate should carry these flavours.