Beer is one of the most magical drinks on earth because it has flavour profiles that run through the entire spectrum of known flavours. That might sound like a big claim but even a quick look at the beer style family will provide easy matches for our five senses of taste.
Dubbels are sweet, lambics are sour, pilsners are bitter, the gose is salty and brown ales are packed with rich, nutty umami.
There really is a beer style for everyone and every kind of chocolate to match. One of the reasons beer and chocolate work so well together is because they are both a marriage of bitter and sweet.
Cacao beans are very bitter on their own but when tempered with sugar and fat we get chocolate. In beer, malt is sweet and hops are bitter and when combined in the brewing process we get a pint of liquid gold.
Another two things that the chocolate and beer share is fermentation and roasting. Once cacao beans are picked and cleaned they are left to ferment. The fermentation process tones down the inherent bitterness and develops the chocolate flavour we know and love. From there the beans are dried and roasted.
Depending on the intensity of the roast, the beans will have different flavour profiles. Lighter roasts will enhance the floral and fruity flavours of the cacao while darker roasts intensify the caramel and coffee-like flavours.
In beer, the barley is malted or germinated to allow the starches to convert to fermentable sugars during the brew. After the germinating, the barley is dried and roasted. Roasting can range from a light toast to pitch black.
Malted barley can also be roasted from wet which caramelises the sugars to give sweeter caramel flavours. The intensity of the roast produces different aromas and flavours. They range from bread, toast, biscuit, nuts, malt and honey to sweet and bittersweet caramel, toffee, plum, chocolate, coffee and smoke.
So with all this in mind, you can begin to see how beer and chocolate and beer have a lot in common. They have tons of complementary chocolate and malted barley flavours to work with and at the risk of sounding like a cheesy salesman, but wait there’s more!
Beer also has hops which add bitterness as well as massive aromas and flavours. Hops can be everything from citrus, stone and tropical fruit to floral, piney, earthy, herbal and spicy. This opens up a whole new avenue of contrasting sweet and bitter pairings, or complementary pairings of chocolates laced with fruit.
So where to from here?
Well, if you’re looking for some homework then I suggest you get a big old box of good quality chocolates (milk and dark) or a variety of really good slabs. Pair those with a selection of different and interesting beers, think IPAs, fruit beers, dubbels, tripels, amber ales, porters, stouts, imperial stouts or anything barrel aged.
You want beers with enough body to stand up to the mouth-coating richness of chocolate and try to taste them in ascending order of light to heavy.
Grab a couple of mates, find some comfy chairs preferably in front of a roaring fire and dive into the world of beer and chocolate pairing.
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