St. Valentine’s day: the tribute to love, friendship… apart from a very commercial undertone of this day, it is a day of good feelings… and good food :). In other words, it is a day of pleasure. Following this very stereotypical way of thinking, having in mind red hearts, chocolate, balloons, and red roses, we have been thinking about what would be the perfect, indulging combination for him and her…
How about chocolate and beer? We must admit that the idea, although exotic, is not THAT innovative… with craft beer booming, combining chocolate with the beer is more and more popular, given the number of tasting events advertised.
During my wine sommelier course around twenty years ago, I remember for one of the modules, the teacher brought dark chocolate as a teaching material (I love this type of lessons) to understand the power of pairing with wine and spirit, such as grappa. Tasting of such a royal combination was nicely surprising: melted chocolate in the mouth smoothened the aggressive taste of grappa. The smoothness of these tastes’ symphony was enhanced when they are consumed together.
Years later, as my interest shifted into beers and crafting, I discovered that beer was working even better when paired with chocolate.
From the very technical perspective, the cocoa butter melts in the mouth covering the tongue, while the beer carbonation activates a nerve (the trigeminal) that is key in the perception of the taste.
It means that sipping the beer enhances the whole sensorial experience while eating chocolate.
But here is the thing: an insane amount of chocolate types and beer styles are available. How to navigate in this crowded space?
Indeed, not any beer goes well with any chocolate!
Both have a bitter taste depending on the amount of cocoa in the chocolate and the type of hops in the beer.
Now, let me propose to you some of my favorite combinations of beer and chocolate:
(a) White chocolate: White chocolate is the sweetest and contains no cocoa, which results in no bitterness.
We found two ways for pairing it.
Firstly, we have tried it with two sweet lambic Belgian beers of a strawberry and cherry flavor. Very fruity and light, they match very well according to the complementary principle of sweet going well together with more sweet :).
Secondly, according to the contrast principle, we tried various IPA beers. Their strong bitterness and aroma contrasts brilliantly with sweet and light chocolate, and surprisingly the more bitter the IPA, the better.
(b) Milk chocolate: Milk chocolate (29% cocoa) has some mild cocoa taste and pairs decently well with Bohemian Pilsner. This beer has a very mild bitterness that contrasts the strengths and creaminess of the milk.
On the other hand, milk chocolate with nuts of higher cocoa level (46%) complements greatly the taste of Fermento Amber Ale. The bitterness of both is considerably low, and therefore they balance well. Furthermore, the flavor given by the nuts harmonizes superbly with the hop aroma of this beer.
(c) Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate (with at least 60% of cocoa) will fancy old ale beers. Interestingly, the notes of caramel and toffee in such beer, and made with specialty grains that confer aroma and dark red color. Brewed with oats or wheat to add mouthfeel, and therefore they match with the chocolate creaminess.
Dark chocolate with even more cocoa (above 70%) is more astringent, bitter, and with a persistent taste. Try it with equally intense beer of a high level of alcohol. The royal choice here would be a classic black: stout or imperial stout (the latter having more alcohol), which are characterized by a coffee taste with chocolate aroma notes.
I am convinced that soon we will hear more about the godly combination of chocolate and beer. The two together are a perfect match, and the taste of love, where sweetness meets bubbles. So why not celebrating this St.Valentine’s day, with a toast of great beer and a gourmet chocolate?
Tell us about your most preferred combination.
Cheers to love!!