Chocolate and Beer Pairing
hillary — 3 years ago
When most folks think about the perfect pairing to chocolate, the plain Jane’s or traditionalists head straight to the fridge for a tall glass of milk. Boring! And then we have our connoisseurs, who start thinking red- wine that is. But what about beer? That’s right, its not just salted peanuts that go nicely with beer anymore but chocolate too! I headed down to a local pub, Highway 61
to learn the science of ‘Beerology’ at a chocolate and beer tasting workshop.
To my surprise, it’s wasn’t just men sporting beer bellies at this bar but I found myself at a classy women’s only event. Yes, women drink beer too. On each table was a plate of mouth watering truffles, yet all eyes were on Mirella- the groups leading lady into chocolate and beer 101. Mirella regularly conducts fun and informative beer tasting sessions through her company, Beerology
and has joined ranks with the sweet and sassy ‘Barley’s Angels’ beer enthusiasts. Barley’s Angels
is not just a social, beer-drinking club for women but local gals that have a respect for beer and a thirst for education. They have gathered here together to debunk the myth that chocolate only goes well with wine. Besides what lady doesn’t love chocolate?
Mirella’s the first to admit that beer and chocolate isn’t exactly mainstream, but when you start exploring the flavour profiles there are so many similarities. It’s almost absurd that someone didn’t think of this sooner! You see both chocolate and beer are very complex foods. Yet, they often have flavours that mirror each other. Beers have nutty flavours, chocolate, coffee notes or sweetness to them. Mirella explains, “With beer you get a sweetness and a bitterness. The malted beers will give you a nice sweetness that will pair up nicely with chocolate. And then the bitterness and the carbonation will come in at the end and cleanse the pallet.” Beer goes well with chocolate because of its carbonation. These tiny bubbles not only lift the oils off the palate but it also rinses away any rich food left behind. Essentially, it freshens the palate between every bite.
There are a few simple rules to follow (in case you want to try this at home):
The beverage should be sweet or as sweet as your pairing.
Use complimenting flavours
It’s all about a contrast of textures
Wipe the slate clean and cleanse baby cleanse
O.K. so hurry along will ya! What chocolate goes well with what beer? With milk chocolate, you want to find something that will cut through the richness. Mirella paired it with a pale ale, the Hoptical Illusion by Flying Monkey’s brewed in Barrie, ON. This beer is described as a deep caramel with a toffee aroma and some nice piney notes. Already you can see with a description like ‘toffee aroma’ we already have a winner. Yup, it was a perfect match to a milky and creamy chocolate ganache.
The Maple Porter by Nickel Brook came around next. A dark, ruby porter, brewed in Burlington, ON. Infused with pure, dark maple syrup and with a smooth creamy finish made it a beer we were proud to call Canadian. With this coupling it was almost like a new buttery chocolate essence appeared. Some people said the milk chocolate actually highlighted the citrus flavour in the beer. For others, the beer started tasting like hazelnuts with the milk chocolate ganache. As you can tell the crowd was really warming up to this new pairing experiment. Little sip of a beer here, little nibble of a chocolate there.
And then we entered the dark side. Out came the dark chocolate. I was most excited to see a dark chocolate with a beer and I wasn’t alone. Dark chocolate is also Mirella’s favourite. “I love my dark chocolate. And with dark chocolate you need a higher alcohol beer. Dark chocolate is more dry and direct, so I like to contrast that with the voluptuous and fullness of a higher alcohol beer,” says Mirella. I also heard a rumour that if you take a fruit beer with dark chocolate, you get a black forest cake effect. Count me in. Mirella choose an Imperial Stout from Wellington Brewery in Guelph. A stout is along the lines of a Guinness. Think beer milkshake. And paired with chocolate, it’s a match made in heaven. Someone in the room felt that a sip of the wellington mixed with a bite of the dark chocolate tasted like smoked meat or bacon and another tasted salt and whiskey. There are worse fates in life.
Mirella also brought out a sample of the ominous ‘Pan-Ontario’ beer. This special little beer is the result of a little provincial experiment. Mix four Ontario beers together, pour it in an aged bourbon barrel and what do you get? A concoction of Ontario goodies and a whole lot of flavours to go around. It’s a party in your mouth and chocolates invited. This special treat was just released for Ontario Craft Beer Week and for beer connoisseurs was quite a surprise! The beer itself was full of flavour- dates, vanilla, kinda fruity, almost like a black cherry note, all the while remaining a surprisingly light beer. With a little bit of chocolate on your tongue there was suddenly a mango taste and even a hint of coconut. I think this is where the black forest cake flavour Mirella was talking about took full effect. After a show of hands most ladies preferred the Wellington with the dark chocolate and about a third of gals went for the Pan-Ontario.
Last but not least came the white chocolate. Now, I am of the crowd who believes white chocolate is not real chocolate. It contains no cacao beans, so sorry it’s not chocolate. Mirella sort of agrees, but it is sugary and delicious. So it’s on the menu. Mirella recommends white chocolate with beers with a nutty character or a caramel sweet note. She chose the King Vienna Lager. Put the two together and what do you get? Almost like a butterscotch sundae or a caramel macchiato. White chocolate, you might have just won we over. With the help of beer, of course.
Mirella wants people to get excited about beers and adventurous about exploring new brands and flavour combinations. And with chocolate as her aid, let’s just say it was a smashing success.