I’m not particularly fond of Valentine’s Day, but I can’t help noticing that every other blog, website, magazine or indeed pamphlet that gets shoved through my letterbox seems to be honouring the day, so I’m jumping on that romantic bandwagon as well.
I’ve recently partaken of a few wine and chocolate pairings. Some focused only on reds, others surprised me by throwing a few white wines in there; some used only dark chocolate, others dabbled in milk chocolate as well. But across the board, I have to say that I’m not sold on the pairing of wine with chocolate. I think it’s the meeting of tannins and bitter cocoa, or maybe it was something about wine’s acidity – whatever it was, I just wasn’t digging the combination. But what about beer and chocolate? It’s a common misconception among non-beer lovers that beer can’t be drunk with dessert – in fact, I find beer to be a far superior companion to anything creamy as the bubbles tend to cut through the richness in a way that wines often cannot. So beer with certain puddings, certainly – but what about beer and straight-up chocolate?
I imagine the first beer that would spring to mind is a stout. A dry stout. Maybe even Boston’s very coffee-ish Black River Stout. But that would be too easy. Coffee goes well with chocolate – I’m not even allowing debate on that, so a stout with mocha notes (whether from added coffee or just the natural flavours of the roasted malt) seems like an easy win. Instead I chose a range of beers to see what, if anything, would pair with the chosen chocolate. So I headed to Roeland Liquors and picked up the following: CBC Amber Weiss, Celis White, Leifmans Fruitesse, Erdinger Dunkel, Triggerfish Empowered Stout (yes, I know this is a stout, but I wanted to see how chocolate affected a sweet stout),Castle Milk Stout (ditto – and strictly speaking a lager anyway ) andWestmalle Tripel.
Just as the beers spanned the gamut from light and crisp to dark and heavy, so did the chocolate. At the sweet end of the scale was a bar of Cadbury’s Dream (white chocolate), then Dairy Milk, a giant bar of Lindt’s delectable Touch of Sea Salt dark chocolate and then at the cocoa-heavy end, a bar of Lindt 85%.
This is not a post that’s going to tell you how to pair your beer and chocolate, nor am I going to go into great depth talking about each individual pairing. The idea is that you do something different this Valentine’s Day. Whether you celebrate it or not, whether you’re planning a romantic evening in, or are hanging out with a bunch of mates, try out a few pairings. Grab half a dozen types of beer and a few different styles of chocolate and try everything with everything. Then share what you found divine and what was plain disgusting… I sat down with my husband and fellow beer lover, Shawn, to find what effect each chocolate had on each beer – and in turn, how the beer affected the flavour of the chocolate
The big shocker of the evening was that white chocolate – the overlooked cousin in the chocolate world I think – was, for both of us, the best companion for the beers. It didn’t work with everything, but was surprisingly good with the Celis Wit and it was my chocolate of choice to nibble with Castle Milk Stout. CMS, for me, was the best overall accompaniment for the chocolate – it went with almost everything, though the 85% stuff proved too bitter and bold for all the beers, overpowering every sip (and in turn, the beers did nothing for the chocolate – normally one of my favourite nibbles, but on this occasion, a chocolate I could do without). We expected the bitterness of the chocolate to bring out a sweetness in some of the beers, but all it seemed to do was make everything taste exceptionally bitter.
Fruitesse was a surprisingly good bedfellow for the Dairy Milk, but good lord, pairing it with dark chocolate doesn’t do justice to the beer (which in this weather, is probably best paired with another glass of the same). Other surprises were that the Erdinger Dunkel was pretty dreadful with everything (not a bad beer, just not a pal for chocolate) and that every morsel of chocolate seemed to ruin the awesomeness of the Westmalle.
It was far from an exhaustive study, but I guess I have to admit that there’s probably a reason people pair chocolate with dry stout or porter. On the upside, white chocolate was the shock hit of the evening – I’m not normally a fan, but if it goes well with a beer, then it’ll probably be finding its way onto my shopping list more frequently in the future.
Have you tried pairing chocolate and beer? What worked for you? What was a hit and what was hideous? Share your thoughts in the comments section below please!
This post first appeared on The Craft Beer Project.