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Pairing Chocolate and Beer in Beer City USA.

When creating a new website there are all kind of things one has to develop.  Some things you expect like new product pictures and descriptions.  Some are a bit unforeseen like what picture am I going to pair with the word Fetish in the dictionary? (We’re still working on that if you have ‘appropriate suggestions’)  Most things end up taking more time then you expect, some are easy, some are difficult, and some are downright fun.  Case in point writing the Beer and Chocolate pairing section.
The first step was to do some research to find out what the experts suggest.  I was surprised to find so much information out there about pairing beer and chocolate.  After compiling a list of about eight different beer styles and the experts suggested chocolate pairings I began to identify items in our product line that may work well for the pairings.  For instance the experts suggested that a dark chocolate with spice would pair well with a Peach Lambic.  Knowing that a Peach Lambic has a sweet fruity flavor I determined that a spicy chocolate like our Ancient Pleasures (dark chocolate + cayenne) would probably not pair well, but perhaps a piece of chocolate covered crystallized ginger would go well?
Finding the perfect beer and chocolate pairing at The Bier Garden.

Finding the perfect beer and chocolate pairing at The Bier Garden.

The next step was to grab a beer loving co-worker (and chocolate loving but that’s a given for anyone that works at The Chocolate Fetish) and head to the nearest bar.  We choose to begin at The Bier Garden for our first round of pairings.  The Bier garden is the closest bar to The Chocolate Fetish and they also offer a large selection of specialty beers so I knew we would have no problem finding all the different beer styles we were looking for.  The Bier Garden is also home to Jackson Zoeller who has been voted as the best bartender in Asheville for multiple years so I knew we would be able to pick his brain for lots of beer details.  The proximity to The Chocolate Fetish proved helpful, as I was able to run back when a flavor I hadn’t anticipated was needed.

It’s recommended that when paring chocolate and beer that you start with the lighter beers and work your way to the darker so we started with a Peach Lambic.  When I was in Belgium I actually had the pleasure of visiting a Lambic brewery where the brewing process uses wild yeast fermentation!  An interesting process that includes letting the beer sit in giant open vats in an historic building with slats for a roof that allow the wild yeasts in… but that’s a whole other blog post.  This pairing turned out to be pretty delightful.  I wouldn’t say that either product was really enhanced by the other but they did pair quite well.  The slight spiciness of the ginger complimented the sweetness of the Lambic and all the flavors worked well together.  A refreshing pairing that would be great at the end of a hot summer day.  My tasting partner said that when tasting the Lambic and ginger together it really reminded him of drinking a hard cider, but better.
Next on the list was a dopplebock with subtle spice notes.  The only thing the Bier garden had to offer here was a rather large bottle that we didn’t feel like taking on at the moment (I can’t let a good beer go to waste) so on the suggestion of one of the bartenders we tried a wheat beer that was listed as having subtle spice overtones of cinnamon and banana peel.  It was recommended to pair this with a sweet spiced chocolate so we tried it with our Chai Moon Truffle (White and milk chocolate with Chai Tea Spices, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, etc) and with our Diamond Griottine (dark chocolate with a French brandied cherry and white chocolate ganache).  After taking a couple of bites and sips I looked over at my co worker’s tasting notes to see “No! No! No!” written boldly next to this line.  Maybe they didn’t pair well because we substituted the wheat beer for the dopplebock, maybe it just wasn’t a good pairing, either way I wholeheartedly agree neither of these were successful.
Moving into beers with a bit more color next on the list was a brown ale.  We stuck with the classic and readily available Newcastle Nut Brown Ale here and the recommended pairing was almonds and dark chocolate.  Thankfully we had a little more success with this pairing.  Almond Caramel Cups are one of our lesser known products that are high on my personal favorites list.  A delicate dark chocolate surrounds a liquid caramel accented with lightly salted slivered almonds.  We both thought this paring was quite nice.  A little of the rich chocolaty flavor was lost when pairing with the brown ale but the saltiness of the almonds went quite well with the sweetness of the caramel and beer.  We both thought that when tasted together the chocolate really brought out the complexity of the beer.
The final beer for the evening (by the way we were sharing so total consumption was about two pints) was an Imperial Stout.  Here we went with a classic micro brew imperial, Old Rasputin.  This beer has a rich dark color – as dark as our dark chocolate – and a strong heavy flavor.  This is the kind of beer that connoisseurs love and that makes others swear off beer altogether.  The recommended pairing was Raspberries and dark chocolate so I had selected our America’s Best Raspberry Truffle to taste.  While doing my research I had read that when tasting beer and chocolate together to try taking a sip of the beer then the chocolate and then taste the chocolate first then the beer second.  In no other paring was the ability of the order in which one tasted to change the flavor more apparent!  When I started with the Old Rasputin and then tasted the truffle it was actually quite pleasant.  Somehow the raspberry flavors did compliment the rich dark earthiness of that beer, but when I did it the other way around, chocolate first then beer it was, well gross.  I would have left this pairing on our recommended pairing list but didn’t feel in good conscious that I could since it was so dependent on the order in which one tasted the chocolates.
I am planning on stealing another co-worker away early next week to taste the final four pairings on our list, which include an IPA, a pilsner, a raspberry Lambic, and an oatmeal stout so stay tuned for the continuation of our beer and chocolate pairings!.  We may consider trying a dooplebock as well since we missed it the first time.  If you have ever had a great chocolate and beer pairing we’d love to hear about your experience and suggestions!

It’s only 112 days until Christmas!

It may seem early to be thinking about Christmas but in the world of retail sales its already getting late.  In fact when I called one of our tin suppliers last week to order holiday tins I was dismayed to find that one of the patterns was already sold out for the year!  (Don’t worry we found something else that is even more fabulous!)  We started feeling the holiday spirit a few weeks ago when a couple of our chocolatiers started listening to Christmas Carols.  A few of us weren’t exactly getting in the spirit but its hard to continue being a bah humbug when others are finding so much joy in there daily dose of the Pandora Christmas station.  Not to mention with talented vocalists like Lauren Baker of Sirius B signing along who couldn’t get in the spirit?  Sirius B, an ‘absurdist gypsy funk folk band’ was recently named best local band in the Mountain Xpress Reader’s poll, check them out here http://www.siriusbmusic.com/.

Woodland Santa Advent Calender

Count down the days until Christmas with one of our heirloom quality Advent Calenders. Each one is filled with over 40 pieces of chocolate!

It was a good thing we were in the spirit because shortly after the carols began the advent calendars arrived.  For the past few years we have been offering these calendars and they are the type of thing that tends to take over our already limited space.   Each one stands about 20″ tall and is made of wood and you can imagine when receiving about 30 of them they take up quite a lot of room.  Further more each and every one had to be opened and carefully checked for damages.  We have already had customers asking about these so I’ll go ahead and let you know that we plan to have them available in October and we will have them in the shop and on our website then.  Each calendar has 24 little doors and behind each door we put two hand crafted chocolates in a variety of Christmas themed shapes.  We won’t plan on shipping until mid November so that you get nice fresh chocolate at the beginning of December when you start opening them.  I’ve included a sneak peak photo (of this year’s new design) here just to get your interest peaked.  If you want to reserve one we’ll defiantly do that for you, we usually sell out of at least one design (and I can never tell which one that is going to be).

Vintage Holiday Tin

One of this years NEW special holiday tins. This one is 10″ x 7″ and it sure can hold a lot of our delicious handcrafted chocolates!

The Holiday product pile continues to grow as a variety of special tins and adorable boxes are quickly flowing in.   My job… figuring out exactly what goes in each special assortment.   It can be difficult to build a special assortment, and in years past I have had some that have been surprisingly successful and others that have just flopped.  I usually have a certain price range in mind and I also have the limitation of the size of the packaging but after that the sky’s the limit.  I’m always torn between trying to give the customer one of everything and not giving the customer the one thing they won’t like.  In the end we usually just try to have a good mix of different things and hope that they are appealing.  Here’s where you our valued customer comes in.  What do you want to see in a special assortment?  Special holiday offerings like a hand crafted chocolate Santa or snowman, individual bite size delicacies like truffles and caramels, collections of bags of pretzels and peanut butter bites?  More variety or stick to one kind of product?  Right now we’re playing around with a variety of assortments in special keepsake boxes with prices ranging from $16.95 to $65.95, so let us know what makes an assortment appealing to you!
As we get closer to the Holiday season we will continue to highlight special holiday products and offerings here on our blog.  Check back later this week to hear the details of my recent adventures in Chocolate and Beer pairing in Beer City USA.