Chocolate and Beer- a shared history
The origins of chocolate have been traced to Central American Indian brewers over 3000 years ago!Chocolate today is made from the seeds of the cacao tree, which form inside large seedpods. Ancient brewers used those seedpods, which were only a bit smaller than a football, to brew their beer—fermenting the cacao pulp in the pods and throwing away the seeds.
However, about 300 years later,some innovative brewer discovered a use for those discarded seeds and began producing a non-alcoholic, bitter beverage that became highly valued. This predecessor to today’s sweet chocolate was taken to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, spreading the love affair with chocolate worldwide!
Beer and Chocolate pairing- where to start?
Dark Chocolate-Dark chocolate is defined by its high cacao content, usually around 60 to 80 percent.Dark beers, like stouts and porters, with their deeply roasted notes, are a natural pairing with dark chocolates because their bitterness is complementary.
Barley wines and other big beers pair nicely with the darkest of dark chocolates.The fullness of a beer higher in alcohol contrasts nicely with the dry, bitterness of the chocolate. A rich dark chocolate and our Imperial Barley Wine Ale make a very handsome couple.
For a contrast, try paring slightly sour or fruity beers like lambics and krieks with dark chocolates. Lambics are usually sweetened with fruit during fermentation, and the tartness of the fruit will add a refreshing twist to the heavy chocolate notes.
Milk Chocolate-These chocolates have more sugars than dark chocolates and pair well with an IPA or a pale ale. The hops and citrus notes of our White Hawk IPA will help to offset the sweetness of the chocolate and wash the palate clean after each bite.
Amber ales, with their pleasant malt character, also go well with milk chocolates. The subtle caramel notes of an amber ale, like our Eye of the Hawk,will add a new dimension of fullness to the chocolate without being overpowering.
Fruity Chocolates– Citrus slices are already a common garnish for wheat beers, and these beers will also pair well with fruit-accented chocolates. The citrus notes of the beer will contrast with the chocolate’s bitterness while complementing the tartness of the fruit. For chocolates containing darker, sweeter fruits, such as raisins, the malty fullness of an amber ale makes for a better match.
White Chocolate– Although not technically chocolate because it has no cacao solids, white chocolate still deserves a beer! Because it is so sweet, pair this chocolate with a beer dominated by nutty or caramel tones, such as browns or ambers.
Don’t skimp on quality!
For the best results and true variety of flavors, high grade craft beers should be paired with good quality chocolates. Some highly recommended chocolates include:
• Chocolove, found at most Whole Foods Stores
• Trader Joe’s Box, filled with an assortment of flavors
• Cadbury, a well-known standard of affordable, quality chocolates
Let your taste be your guide
As always, your own preferences should be your guide with any pairings. There’s a lot of chocolate out there, and we’d love to know what chocolate and beer pairings worked—or didn’t work—for you.
Let us know in the comments below!
(Image courtesy of Caro Scuro, via Flickr)