Some days my job is pretty sweet. Venturing out of the shop to do another round of research about chocolate and beer pairing is precisely one of those days. My retail manager, Joe, was a little disappointed the other day when he didn’t get invited to the first beer and chocolate pairing so knowing that he is a beer connoisseur I offered for him to join me. The Thirsty Monk seemed like a good choice, not close enough to the shop to run back and grab more chocolates but with their large selection and offering of half pours, a great place to sample and pair. If you have never been to the Thirsty Monk, I would highly recommend it. Upstairs is an American Ale House with an impressive number of beers on tap. You may have to flag down a bartender to get service but once you get there attention they are happy to make suggestions and offer samples before you commit. Downstairs is a Belgian style pub, which is always a little quieter than upstairs and has a cool cave like atmosphere that is fabulous if you want to escape a hot summer day.
Starting with the lighter beers today we started with a pilsner. There selection of pilsner’s was somewhat limited so we choose something local and readily available, Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils and paired it with the recommended dark chocolate with spice. I was actually surprised at how many times the ‘experts’ recommended dark chocolate with spice for so many different styles of beer. We do offer a few different spicy flavors so I attempted to pair a different one with each different beer. I thought that the rich spiciness of our Ancient Pleasure truffle would be a nice compliment to the refreshing flavor of the pilsner. The combination brought the spice in the Ancient Pleasures to the forefront in a very pleasing way. I think Joe would have been happy to end the tasting here and just throw back a few more Pilsners and Ancient Pleasures but I reminded him we were still working.
The next beer on the list is a personal favorite, IPA. The experts recommended an IPA with crisp hoppy bitterness and we decided to go with the bartender’s suggestion of the Green Flash Citra Session IPA, which fit the bill perfectly. Again here the recommendation was a dark chocolate with spice or salt. Unfortunately I forgot to bring a Sea Salt Caramel although I think that would have been a successful pairing so we tried our Chili Cocoa Nib Round with the IPA. The Chili Cocoa Nib Round is a thin disc of dark chocolate accented with pasilla and ancho chilies and finely ground cocoa nibs. This was delicious and one of my favorite pairings so far. I was surprised at how much the beer really enhanced the flavor of our Chili Cocoa Nib Round.
Our final beer upstairs (we were sharing half pours so total beer consumption was pretty minimal) was a Stout. Last week we had tasted an Imperial Stout but didn’t come up with a successful pairing so we wanted to revisit the stout category and I am glad we did. Another successful pairing! The experts suggested coffee with chocolate so we tried our Dark Chocolate Espresso Round and our Mocha Magic Truffle with a rich stout that had undertones of tobacco. While I am normally a dark chocolate fan I found the sweetness of the milk chocolate in the Mocha Magic to pair very well with the bitterness of the Stout, the dark chocolate was much less successful.
Next we headed downstairs to tackle a few Belgian style ales. Initially we were planning on trying a Dopplebock and another Lambic but were quickly steered to other flavors on the suggestion of a very excited bartender that seemed to know what he was talking about. We discussed the chocolate flavors that were left in our box and he made a handful of suggestions. First we tried the Merry Monks Belgian Triple with our Mountain Sunrise Ecstasy Elite Truffle. The classic flavor of dark chocolate and orange in this truffle paired very nicely with this classic Belgian style ale.
Finally we tried the bartender’s suggestion of Nostradamus, a Belgian Strong Ale. This paired very nicely with two of our pure dark chocolate truffles, Velvet Sin and After Midnight. Perhaps the 9.5% alcohol content was starting to get to me because the only note I took down was that it was good… I guess you’ll just have to try it yourself.
My conclusions after more than a dozen chocolate and beer match ups? Beer and chocolate pairing is an art that is defiantly worth exploring. If you plan on embarking on a beer and chocolate tasting I would recommend taking a large variety of chocolate and finding a bartender that has the time and knowledge to make suggestions. You can repay them like we did with your leftover chocolates (and a generous tip). I’ve also created a handy chart that you can reference for some starting points but I encourage you to explore and find what works for you… and let us know what you discovered!
|Style of Craft Beer/Characteristic Flavor||Type of chocolate recommended||Chocolate Fetish Product Pairing|
|IPA with crisp hoppy bitterness||Dark with spice/salt||Chili Cocoa Nib Round, Sea Salt Caramel|
|Pilsner||Medium body dark chocolate||Ecstasy Ancient Pleasures Truffle|
|Brown Ale||Almonds + dark chocolate||Almond Caramel Cup|
|Oatmeal Stout||Milk chocolate with coffee||Ecstasy Mocha Magic Truffle|
|Fruit Lambic with peach||Dark chocolate + spice||Crystallized Ginger in Dark Chocolate|
|Belgian Strong Ale||Dark chocolate||Ecstasy Velvet Sin TruffleEcstasy Elite After Midnight Truffle|
|Belgian Triple||Dark chocolate + citrus||Ecstasy Elite Mountain Sunrise Truffle|