Chocolate: A Natural Fit for the Craft Beer Lover

by Billy Broas

Beer and Chocolate PairingThere was a time in my life when my idea of pairing beer with chocolate was drinking a Natty Light with a Kit Kat Bar.

Ok so I haven’t evolved much. My beer choices have improved but the chocolate I eat isn’t exactly artisanal. That will soon change, and I will tell you why a little later.

But back to my choice of Kit Kat Bars, I think this is where craft beer drinkers can be hypocritical. Do I have any right to judge someone for drinking Bud Light when I’m eating Halloween candy and they’re eating gourmet truffles? Can I judge someone for drinking Coors when I drink Folgers and they drink organic fair trade coffee?

We shouldn’t judge, we should only present them with opportunity. Should they reject it, so be it. We’re beer geeks not beer snobs.

The truth is that we can only indulge so much. For better or for worse, craft beer has opened my eyes to other artisanal food products. Artisanal pizza, artisanal cheese, artisanal coffee, and now artisanal chocolate.

You have to pick and choose because it’s tough to do it all. But chocolate, oh sweet and heavenly chocolate, I choose you.

Why I’m a Good Boyfriend

Besides my ability to grab the remote control off the ottoman with my feet and gracefully toss it into my outstretched hand, I’m pretty good at picking out presents for my girlfriend. This is the story of how I’ve decided I need good chocolate in my life.

I met Jenny Thamer of Lioni Chocolate from her article at CraftBeer.com. Sarah loves chocolate and when I saw that Jenny lives just up the road in Boulder I knew that a great anniversary present wasn’t far away.

I gave Jenny a call and we talked about what type of chocolates to make Sarah. Jenny wanted to customize the chocolate to Sarah’s palate, so she quizzed me on what foods she likes. I honestly don’t pay a lot of attention to what food she likes (oops) so I went with what I did know – beer!

Stouts, porters, brown ales (especially nut browns) – these are all Sarah’s favorites and Jenny could mimic the flavors in chocolate. That’s when it struck me. Being a chocolatier is a lot like being a homebrewer. You use food preferences to drive your recipes. You find what people like and weave that into your beer recipes.

The result was two types of truffles: a dark chocolate truffle with a milk chocolate wildflower honey ganache, and another dark chocolate truffle with a dark chocolate ganache topped with cocoa nibs. Oohhh yeaaaa…

But here is where Billy’s present came in. Jenny is a fellow beer nut and the truffles paired amazingly well with the De Dolles Extra Export Stout she recommended. I knew I had to get more into chocolate, and especially pairing it with beer. There are just so many complimentary flavors between these two fermented foods.

Chocolate Truffles

My present to Sarah - truffles from Lioni Artisan Chocolate

Expert Advice

If you feel the same way, here’s what Jenny has to say about beer and chocolate:

My rule is to try a lot of beer with chocolate and get a feel for what you like — whether you want to find balance between opposites (white chocolate with a hoppy fruity beer) or similarities (like the caramel:bitter in the truffles and the Export Stout). I generally prefer my high % dark chocolate with a beer that is not too carbonated, a little bitter too, rich, thick and chocolately (of course). For me, the head is a good indicator — often darker the head, the darker the chocolate. Also, I always take a bite of the chocolate first and let it melt a little, then follow it with the beer.

Another good source for beer and food pairings is the little talked about, but fantastic book by Sam Calagione and Marnie Old, He Said Beer She Said Wine. From my autographed copy (had to say it), Sam tells us:

There is probably no dessert pairing more simply perfect and decadent than a roasty stout and dark chocolate….Because the brewer can change the volume and types of dark grains for infinite variation, more bitterness, more roastiness, and more chocoalte nuance within the beer itself, there is just more opportunity for perfecting the marriage between bitter and sweet than there is with wine.

Chocolate is a lot like beer. The mass majority eats M&M’s and Hershey’s kisses, while those on the inside know there is something far greater. Ditch the Halloween candy and get the real stuff. If you don’t know where to look, talk to Jenny.

Would you like more posts on beer and chocolate? Am I the only one that’s had Natty Light with Kit Kat Bars?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob June 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Billy.

That was an amazing gift. Well thought out, well planned, expert advice. While I LOVE craft chocolate, I don’t really get to try it very often. I bet if I say Toblerone, your friend would say that’s like Sam Adams. Godiva = Sierra Nevada. Or something like that (I’ve been drinking).

But I do like that matchup and I think I’ll give it a go sometime soon. Like with great beer and great chocolate.

This wont meet the craft standard, but I said a few weeks back on that mostly time-waster Twitter (where you can also meet cool new people) that the discarded Hershey’s Special Dark minis worked spectacularly with the extremely bitter Sierra Nevada Extra IPA. Was awesome. Imagine if it wasn’t the Yeungling of Chocolate!

Oh and I also signed up for email updates. Later.

Reply

Billy Broas June 11, 2011 at 9:09 am

Hey Rob, I’m in the same boat. When I do have better chocolate I love it, but I’ve never been too active in seeking it out. I guess like craft beer I’ve hit the tipping point where I want to learn more about it. Godiva is really the only one I know but you’re right it’s probably like Sierra Nevada to chocolatiers.

Oh, Jenny did give me the name of a good chocolate that’s readily available. It’s Chocolove: http://www.chocolove.com/. After looking at their website I realized that I see these bars all over town so I’m going to pick some up.

Glad you liked the post and thanks for getting the updates!

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Tony J. June 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Billy,

I have also recently discovered this wonderful pairing. One thing that I would suggest everyone to try are the bacon chocolate bars by Vosges. They sell them at the Whole Foods by me (South Carolina) and I was lucky to get them as a gift from my fiancee. Get either the milk or dark chocolate bacon bar and try it with a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout or a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. You not only get the chocolate-beer pairing but the saltiness from the bacon goes great with beer (I think all of us snack on pretzels with beer).

Reply

Billy Broas June 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Bacon chocolate bars?! Don’t mind if I do. It’s actually surprising how well bacon and chocolate go together. I had a bacon and chocolate topped cupcake recently which was amazing. I’ll look for those bars at our local Whole Foods. Thanks for the tip Tony.

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Bill June 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm

When it comes to craft chocolates, I have to make a sales pitch for my hometown chocolates. We have two wonderful chocolate makers in Vermont: Lake Champlain Chocolates and Snowflake Chocolates.

There, I’ve done my Vermonter duty.

Excellent article, as always.

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Billy Broas June 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Way to represent the hometown, Bill. Now we need local beer pairings to go with those chocolate picks.

Glad you liked the article.

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Allen June 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Hi Billy -

Love the site. I was turned on to it when trying to get a better understanding of “lacing.” I had a pretty good guess that it was about residual foam left on the glass, but your video was helpful and hilarious.

Hadn’t tried chocolate with beer till I read this. I’m currently sipping a Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, and remembered that I had a bar of Lindt Dark Chocolate infused with chili. Holy hops! Eating a bite of the chocolate followed by a sip of beer brought out a totally new flavor profile of the hops. I was amazed! I thought I was enjoying the hops before, but this is super-duper. Thanks for the ideas!

Keep up the good work.

Allen in So. Cal.

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Rob June 13, 2011 at 8:02 pm

You know my wife took the rest of those Hershey Special Darks to her work today. Shit. And I have some more Torpedo too. That is one bitter beer and I think it works great with even the bitterest of chocolates.

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Billy Broas June 13, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Torpedo and chili infused dark chocolate – I must try! That’s brilliant actually. IPAs are often paired with spicy foods (I’m too scared) for their fire inducing reactions. The chili chocolate though I think I can handle. Thanks for the tip, and glad to have you as a new blog reader!

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