Craft Beer and Chocolate Pairing
Ready to have some fun?
There is certainly a long history between wine and chocolate. Beer and chocolate though? Well this might be a whole new world to explore. Let’s test out a few combinations and see what happens.
First, a few things..
The chocolate used in this post are all products that were purchased from a local grocery store. It’s not a must to use a specific, higher end chocolate. We do believe a higher quality chocolate would create a better taste experience but it’s certainly not a must. Again, it’s beer and it’s chocolate, so have fun and enjoy.
Please note, we made the decision to go with craft beer and not traditional bigger market beers such as Budweiser, Corona, or Coors. Many tend to draw a line in the sand on when it comes to this subject. They are either:
The old school, traditionalists, that despise the concept of craft beers and are rooting for the downfall of their entire market. They are men among men and any beer that has words and phrases like “smoked applewood” or “honey wheat” on the label.. well hell no, they ain’t a beer and they ain’t having it. Grab a Labatt’s and suck it up buttercup. No room for any of this micro brew nonsense in the beer drinking world. Or..
Love the craft beer scene and there’s no going back. Since they have been to the top of the mountain, and tasted a pumpkin spiced, toffee, brown ale blend made with hops that have flown through the hands of the pure off the coast of mystical islands. There is no way they are going back to a neanderthal way on consuming a less sophisticated beverage. They have seen the top of the mountain and it is good. Damn good.
Once again, this is beer and chocolate, so just have fun. Two fine pleasures we are blessed with in this world, embrace them as such. If you prefer the more traditional style beer, have at it. If you want to follow the theme of what is happening here, go with craft beer.
With all this out of the way, let’s get move forward..
Ok so you want to create your own pairings but you’ve never done the wine and chocolate thing. You’re in the grocery store, ready to select your beer and chocolate. How do you make your pairing decisions?
One strategy to keep in mind, is to not to create too much of a contrast between the two tastes. Do not pull from opposite directions, so to speak. For example if you have a darker, heavier beer stick with a darker chocolate. On the flip side if you have a lighter beer, try a milk chocolate. This is not written in stone, however it can be a guideline when unsure.
Remember we are pairing, not matching. In other words, if there is a blend of coffee flavor in the beer, it might not be a good idea to use a coffee flavored chocolate. The coffee taste in both products could overpower all other tastes and it simply becomes too much coffee. You lose the potential for other flavor bursts and blends you get when there is contrast.
With that said, a matching strategy could potentially work if the coffee taste is light enough in both products and there are other stronger tastes present. Trial and error can come up with some unexpected results and it’s worth trying some different things.
Bottom line, when unsure, remember the you don’t want one taste to overpower the other, simply complement one another.
Unleashing the flavor
So, you have your beer, you have your chocolate. Your pairings have been determined and you’re ready to let the games begin. How do you get the most flavor out of the pairings?
A simple strategy is to go beer, chocolate, beer. Take a swig of the beer and savor it for a few moments. Once the taste settles and begins to dissipate, take a bite of the chocolate. You do not need a huge piece of chocolate. Just a full bite. Taste it, and savor it.
Once you have consumed the chocolate it’s time to go back to the beer. Take another swig. This is where the flavors should fully emerge. Don’t rush the process. Allow the tastes of the pairings to take their course and fully develop. Take mental (or even written in you like) notes enjoy the experience.
Also, be conscious of what you have consumed prior to doing a pairing. If you just ate a pasta dinner with heavy garlic in the sauce, and still have the tastes and smells fresh in your senses, it is likely to hinder your ability to fully experience all the tastes you’re capable of. Something as simple as drinking room temperature water will cleanse your palate and allow for a better experience. This can even be done between pairings.
Let’s Do Some Pairings
Enough educational stuff, let’s pair some beer and chocolate.
Niagara Lager by Woodcock Brothers Brewery (5.0%) paired with a Tiramisu Gingerbread Artisan Truffle by Annasheas.
This is going to be a unique pairing, but we’re going for it anyways. This is on the seasonal side of “artisan truffles” as we are using a Tiramisu Gingerbread, but don’t let that stop you any other time of the year. The artisan truffles do not have the same chocolate base and volume as a traditional truffle or a typical chocolate bar, for that matter.
These are more delicate, and tend to be more about the design and unique feel. They are certainly amazing in taste (yes, I am absolutely biased), just not sure how they will do in the world of craft beer pairings. For this reason, I chose a lighter beer to pair with this truffle.
For this pairing I grabbed a Niagara Lager (Traditional German Style) by Woodcock Brothers which is based in Wilson, New York. The beer is significantly lighter than our previous pairing. I tend to gravitate toward lighter beers, brews, and ales. A bit more my taste and seems to be less filling.
Again, this is uncharted territory for me as far as using this style chocolate in a pairing. Here goes..
Sip of the Niagara Lager. Clean and crisp, off to a good start. Took a second sip. Light aftertaste. Time for the truffle. One bite gets half of the truffle. Distinguishable coffee and gingerbread flavors emerge just as I remember with these. Another sip of Woodcock Bros. finest. Noticeable flavor burst.
The tastes of the truffle, held strong throughout the pairing. My original concern with the base and volume of the truffle, didn’t materialize. It goes to show, that high quality ingredients and a well-made truffle or chocolate is what makes for a quality product and pairing.
Thumbs up on this pairing!
Good results with one artisan truffle. Let’s try another.
Brooklyn Brewery Pilsner (5.1%) paired with a Tiramisu Milk Chocolate Dessert Truffle by Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate.
We have a real tiramisu thing going on here. We’re also going on the lighter side of the beer again. Some pilsner action this time. I have seen the Brooklyn Brewery label around, and I’ve enjoyed their lager and American ale. Now it’s time to test their Pilsner.
Per the Brooklyn Brewery website, this is German style Pilsner. Impressive golden shade.
Given the lighter nature of the beer, I’ll pair it up with something in the way of a milk chocolate truffle. After glancing at the full color of the beer again, coffee was the first thing that came to mind. Tiramisu will fit the bill here. Like our first pairing in this post, this is a dessert style truffle. That means there is a lot of taste, is quite rich, and gourmet all day.
Let’s pair.. Now!
Sip of the brew and it did not disappoint. The full body color was a sign of the full body taste to come. So obviously, I’m enjoying the beer to this point.
Time for a bite of the tiramisu. Then another full taste of the beer. I had to stop and really pay attention. It felt like the beer would overpower the truffle, then in a snap, it then felt like the truffle would overpower the beer.
I bit and drank a few more times. The flavors were not overly competitive with the other another, though the truffle was the more dominant of the two. This did well being a milk chocolate truffle. Would not recommend a dark chocolate with a pilsner such as this.
Final verdict is a thumbs up here!
Imperial Stout Sponge Candy by Resurgence Brewing Co. (6.0%) paired with a Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Dessert Truffle by Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate.
Let’s go with a darker combo: a stout and dark chocolate. Ya, no messing around over here!
Now before I go any further, let me answer the question before that you may be asking.. What is Sponge Candy? Here’s a peek for those who are unfamiliar with this treat. Yes, with some chocolate laced popcorn for good measure!
This is it, the infamous sponge candy. The brand I carried is Parkside Candy, however Resurgence uses the Watson’s line. Bringing it full circle, it just so happens, that Resurgence Brewing, Watson’s, and Parkside are all located in the Buffalo, New York area.
Sponge Candy tends to be a regional thing, synonymous with Western New York. Part of the reason for the lack of national appeal, is that it is difficult to keep it stable in warmer climates. Perfect for a colder weather town.
I am told that other parts of the country call it “honey comb” due to the similarities in the center of the product. If anyone is going to do a sponge candy stout, and do it well, it’s a Buffalo brewery.
Just a quick tidbit of additional info – Scenes from the 1984 movie, The Natural, starring Robert Redford and Glenn Close, was filmed at Parkside Candy on Main Street in Buffalo. Their candy store has a very old fashioned look and vibe to it. Perfect for the 1930s plot in the movie.
Let’s get to pairin’..
As mentioned, it’s a stout, and as you can see, it is a dark beer. I’m touch and go with darker brews but I wanted to give this one a shot. I went dark on the chocolate as well. Didn’t want to go with a milk chocolate as chances are, the stout would have overwhelmingly dominated the flavor.
Now, I’ll admit that there is a lot of chocolate flavor going on here. We’ll see how that plays out.
At first I considered going with a caramel macchiato truffle, but I figured it could be too much of a coffee flavor, given the nature of the stout. Plus, I figured the sea salt would add a nice taste to the mix. If you take a good look at the image, you will see we have some good grains of sea salt on this truffle!
I took a nice big taste of the beer. Smooth and a touch sweet. I simply don’t taste a whole lot of, what my taste buds know as, sponge candy. This is likely because I’ve been around more than my fair share of it. I know the pure flavors and tastes. This isn’t a bad thing. My taste buds are simply more in tune with certain flavors.
I took a big bite of the dessert truffle that’s been staring at me the whole time I’ve been taking pics.
I bit approximately half the truffle, maybe slightly less, and onto another big swig of the stout. Good pairing. Didn’t seem to have much of a “one, two” punch. Just one burst of flavor, with a subtle ease of the taste. As I suspected, the salt really helped play a part in the flavor maturation.
It seemed to bring out a pleasant sweetness to the combo. As the flavor dissipated, I could still taste traces of the salt but it wasn’t overwhelming. I thought the salt might linger longer than desired due to the size of the grains. Didn’t happen and left a pleasant aftertaste.
Thumbs up on this pairing. As for my choice of the sea salt caramel over the caramel macchiato, I do feel this was the better of the two chocolates to pair. Maybe I’ll go the macchiato route on a non-stout sometime soon. Again, this is a winner! Would recommend.
Low Bridge Golden Ale by Big Ditch Brewing Company paired with Toffee Interlude Dark by Ghirardelli Chocolate
One more for the road. We have a golden shade of ale ready to be paired. I think I’ll go with a toffee and dark combo and see what magic I can make. Let’s get risky here and go with a lighter style beer and darker type chocolate, we will see how the toffee bits and caramelized almonds play into the taste.
Depending on the cocoa percentage and whatever other flavors are blended into the chocolate, using dark chocolate has the potential to overtake the taste of everything else, so let’s see what happens here.
The look lives up to the label, as the ale has a crisp blonde look to it. Got my chocolate squares set and I’m diving right in
Clean taste on the first sip of the golden ale. Smooth, not heavy. After the taste settles, it’s two bites, completing one square. Even with a dark chocolate, I can sense toffee taste, but not much almond.
Another swig of the beer and awaiting the taste bud’s reaction. Nice combo at first but anticipating the chocolate to be the dominant taste. The toffee seemed to work well with the lighter style beer and provided a sweet blend at first sense.
The dark chocolate did overtake the second wave burst but it was nowhere near as abrupt a shift in taste as anticipated.
Good combination and a thumbs up. Likely to implement these two into different pairings.
That’s it for this installment of our craft beer and chocolate pairing. Already gearing up for the next one. Hopefully these pairings helped spark an idea or two for anyone looking to pair up the finer things in this world.
As I always say, thank you for reading!
89 Prime Taste Test Team
Click here to check out a Craft Beer Pairing with Godiva Chocolate?