The most fun part of our job is experimenting with flavor combinations. Pairing foods that may not typically go together to create unexpected new taste experiences. To test the pairings, I usually gather friends, family and staff to help me work through this arduous undertaking. In the spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day I thought a beer and chocolate tasting may be a fun one to explore. Before diving into our favorite pairings, I want to stress that the whole idea of food pairing is subjective. What taste good to you is all that matters. There is no truly right or wrong pairing as long as it delights your taste buds.
Beer and chocolate are both foods gaining flavors through the fermentation process. They also share common flavor profiles the key ones being bitter and sweet. Along with bitter and sweet flavors there are many other common flavor notes such as spice, vanilla, caramel, fruit, smoke, coffee, nuts and floral notes. When you think about chocolate you think of its luscious smooth texture and the sensation of melting chocolate coating your palate. Beer on the other hand is a great palate cleanser. Have we convinced you to give a beer and chocolate tasting a try? Great, let’s get started.
To get started you may base your tasting on your favorite beers, stouts and ales as we have done. You can also keep these simple tips in mind when beginning your pairings.
In our first beer and chocolate pairing guide we decided to find a complementing pairing for several of the most common beer types. In subsequent pairings, we hope to explore pairing our favorite dark chocolates with dark, rich beers. A common approach for those starting out is matching lighter colored beers with lower cocoa content chocolate and darker, richer beers with dark chocolates. We were not particularly successful pairing white chocolate with beer but would love to hear from you if you found a pairing that worked.
Try pairing similar flavors (like with like) and taste from lightest to darkest. In doing so you will avoid overwhelming your palate. Take a taste of chocolate and take a sip of the beer individually. Note what flavors you pick up in each. Engage your sense of smell, taste and sight. Now take another bite of the chocolate and a sip of the beer together and see if new flavors develop when the two come together. It is likely you will discover new layers of flavors you may not have noted initially and you may find flavors your originally identified become more pronounced when enjoyed together.
We began our tasting experiment with a malt forward, light pilsner which proved to pair well with the cote d’or nutty bouchees accenting the hazelnut and almond notes of the chocolate pairing. French Broad’s malted milk bar was also a great flavor combo .
These typically Belgian fruit infused beers have a generally low hop and malt flavor profile allowing the fruit to be the most pronounced flavor. Since this is my favorite type of beer I decided to indulge in two types that were recommended to me at the liquor store. The New Belgium Imperial Frambozen with Cocoa (CO) and the Framboise Lambic from Cantillon Brewery. The two beers paired flawlessly with the berry forward Amedei 70% Dark Chocolate with Cherries, Strawberries and Raspberries (Italy)
Stouts silky, full and creamy character with deep notes of coffee and chocolate paired exceptionally well with one of my favorite dark chocolate bars at Gourmet Boutique - Chocolat Bonnat’s Apotequil Porcelana . The rich, buttery texture typical of Bonnat enhanced by sweeter notes of coffee and fudge were a match for the luscious fullness of the stout. The final acidic notes of apricot and fruit gave the bar a sharper finish and allowed it to hold its own next to the rich beer.
The caramel and toffee notes predominant in Brown Ales led us to try pairing it with Vosges Dulce de Leche bar. This was a great example of pairing similar flavors to create a unified tasting experience. The touch of salt in the bar made the taste buds more alert.
When doing a bit of beer research I came across Greg Engert’s 7 Flavor Profile Categories of Beer which I thought were most helpful for a beer novice. I definitely know my chocolate but my beer knowledge is quite low so I found this video to be very useful in getting started matching the flavors of these two very complex foods.
Looking forward to more tasting experiments to come.
Please please comment, give feedback and share your favorite beer and chocolate pairings.
Anya and the Gourmet Boutique Team of Passionate Foodies