5 Beer & Chocolate Pairings for Valentine’s DayFeb 13, 2017 Comments (1)
I eat a lot of chocolate. I drink a lot of beer. But I’ll be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever really sat down and had them both at the same time, at least that I remember. It just seemed a bit weird for some reason. Sure, there are lots of chocolate stouts and porters out there, so I get that the basic ingredients can go together, at least for dark beers. But what about sitting down and eating a chocolate bar with a pint of IPA? Can that even work?
Like a bottle of great beer, a chocolate bar is best when shared with friends. We put the word out around the brewery that there was a beer and chocolate tasting going on and it didn’t take long before we had a crowd. I tried to encourage people to go into it with no biases: pour themselves some beers and sample around the chocolates to see what worked and what obviously didn’t. We came up with some very clear winners, found some that didn’t really work at all and were very pleasantly surprised by a few combinations.
Helles Belles + TCHO Hazelnut Chunk
Going into this I had a hunch that it would be pretty easy to find chocolates to pair with our darker beers, but I was a little worried that we wouldn’t be able to find something for the lighter beers in our lineup. Most of the dark chocolates have a flavor that is way to bold and bitter to stand up to the Helles Belles. So I wanted to try it with a softer milk chocolate. The Hazelnut Chunk bar from TCHO proved to be the perfect mate for it.
Why it works?
The soft, creaminess of the milk chocolate melds perfectly with the body of the lager. The light toast on the hazelnuts match the light roast on the German malt. This pairing is a beautiful harmony that lingers on the palate for just the perfect amount of time, leaving you wanting to keep nibbling until the whole bar is gone.
Believer Double Red + Chocolove XOXOX Chilies & Cherries in Dark Chocolate
One of my favorite things when pairing beer with spicy food is how much the spicy heat can either be increased or cooled by beer. I wanted to see how this would work when chocolate was in the mix. The Chilies & Cherries in Dark Chocolate bar from Chocolove XOXOX was what I chose to go with for this experiment. It’s a sweeter dark chocolate that gets a hint of tartness from the dried cherries and a slight lingering spiciness from the chilies that usually dissipates fairly quickly. I decided to try it with our latest seasonal release, Believer Double Red Ale.
Why it works?
The dark, dried fruit notes from the malt meld perfectly with the cherries. The high hop bitterness of the beer enhances the chilies in just the right way. It takes the chocolate bar to new heights.
Vanilla Oatis Oatmeal Stout + Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Almond Sea Salt
Lately at the store the chocolate that has been popping out (Literally popping! Check out that fun packaging!) is Tony’s Chocolonely. The packaging isn’t the only thing pretty about these bars, they break apart in such a unique way that gives you all different size options for whatever your snacking needs are. I find their dark chocolate to be a bit sweeter and smoother than some of the other ones out there, which makes it a very approachable one for people who are squeamish about the super dark stuff. Their dark almond sea salt bar is one of the staples in my home pantry and it does down real smooth with Vanilla Oatis. If you are looking for comfort in the form of chocolate and beer, do yourself a favor and sit down with these two and you will not be disappointed.
Why it works?
The sweetness of this chocolate bar and the addition of the toasty almonds harmonize really nicely with the dark, roasty malt of the Vanilla Oatis. The salt enhances the chocolate notes and the vanilla helps to soften the finish and gives this pairing a really smooth, almost chocolate cake-like flavor.
Velocihoptor Double IPA + Theo Salted Toffee Dark Chocolate
But what about the most popular craft beer style? There are lots of foods that I can find to pair with an IPA, but I didn’t really know how it was going to turn out trying to find a chocolate to pair with our IPAs. It seemed like it might be too much of a clash of flavors to try to make the two work together. But we actually found two pairings that were pretty exceptional. The salted toffee dark chocolate bar from Theo was a stellar choice to go with our most recent double IPA, Velocihoptor.
Why it works?
The roastiness of the darker malt in this IPA worked perfectly with the dark, buttery toffee chunks and the sweetness from the chocolate helped mellow out the bitter finish of the beer.
Total Domination IPA + Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
The other winner with an IPA was having Total Domination IPA with a Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cup (one of my personal favorite chocolaty snacks). This was also a surprise to us because I wasn’t really expecting there to be a good beer match for this chocolate. Of all the pairings we found, this was one of my personal favorites.
Why it works?
Think of this kind of like eating bar nuts while drinking a nice cold beer. The salt and fat from the peanut butter was instantly cut by the bright hoppy bitterness of the beer and helped to cleanse the palate.
Test it out for yourself!
If you are looking to try these pairings out for yourselves, or looking to explore your own chocolate and beer pairings, try to keep these things in mind:
- Look for similar elements to create a harmony between the chocolate and the beer. Example: pair chocolates with dried fruit or toasted nuts with darker, malt-forward beers.
- Match similar flavor intensities. Think sweeter dark chocolate with a sweeter stout.
- Look for contrasting elements to complement each other. This can look like hop bitterness cutting the fattiness or sweetness of a chocolate with caramel or peanut butter. Whatever you go with, I don’t think you can really go wrong as long as there is beer and chocolate involved.
About the Author
Ben Prescott knows all things food, beer and wine. As Ninkasi’s Assistant Tasting Room Manager and a Certified Cicerone®, Ben’s knowledge extends far beyond beer styles. Want to learn more? Keep an eye out for his Beer 101 classes hosted monthly at the brewery!