Chocolate. It’s synonymous with Valentine’s Day. It comes drizzled over strawberries and displayed in heart shaped boxes. It’s chock–full of antioxidants and known to be a mood booster. So, why wouldn’t we pair it with craft beer? Beer and food pairings are becoming very popular these days. And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought I would offer some tips for pairing two of my favorite things: beer and chocolate.
Chocolate and Stout
Beer and food pairings often work best when they share a common flavor. Dark, bitter, roasty, sweet – stouts and chocolate have many similar flavors. You can’t go wrong pairing an Imperial Stout with chocolate truffles or a Milk Stout with milk chocolate. To make for a more exciting pairing, look for chocolate with a higher percentage of cacao. The additional bitterness will help bring out the beer’s inherent sugars.
Stouts to try: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Brown’s Oatmeal Stout, Keegan Ales Mother’s Milk
Chocolate and IPA
Certain qualities of beer and food interact with each other in very specific ways. For instance, hop bitterness will always balance malty sweetness. Therefore, it makes sense to pair a bitter IPA with a piece of sweet chocolate. The hop bitterness will help to offset the sweetness of the chocolate, while the beer’s carbonation will clean the palate after each bite. Want to heat things up? Try pairing an IPA with chocolate infused with chili. The hop bitterness will accentuate the spiciness in the chocolate.
IPAs to try: Ballast Point Sculpin, Ithaca Flower Power, Saranac Legacy
Chocolate and Sour
Don’t be afraid to try contrasting flavors. Take sweet and sour, for example. On their own, both flavors can be overwhelming to the palate. But together, they balance each other out and create a unique tasting experience. I recommend pairing a Fruit Lambic, like a Kriek or Framboise, with dark chocolate. These beer styles are sweetened with fruit during fermentation. The tartness of the fruit will add a refreshing twist to the dark, chocolate notes.
Sours to try: Brooklyn Bel Air Sour, Ithaca Raspberry Soiree, Ommegang Rosetta
Chocolate and Barleywine
When pairing beer with food, it’s important to make sure that neither the beer nor the food overpowers the other. We call this matching intensities. Try pairing a Barleywine with chocolate flourless cake. The high alcohol found in the Barleywine will balance the sweet, richness of the cake, making for a very decadent pairing.
Barleywines to try: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Otter Creek Double or Nothing
This Valentine’s Day, when you and your sweetheart sit down to split a piece of chocolate cake, consider pouring an Imperial Stout or Fruit Lambic. You just might be surprised how well these beers complement your dessert.
MacKenzie Zarzycki was born and raised in Schuylerville, N.Y., where the beer flows like wine. Now a Certified Cicerone®, MacKenzie is on a mission to further her beer knowledge. When she’s not contributing to gotbeer.com, she’s nursing an unhealthy level of attachment to her dog, Kylie.