Today’s question for our guest panel is about beer and chocolate pairings. With the growing number of pairing dinners, where each course is served with the perfectly matched beverage, there are more and more beer-themed pairing dinners (as opposed to wine). That means more and more chefs out there trying to find the perfect beer to go with their super-deluxe dark chocolate triple truffle ganache copy of an oil rig spouting thick Brazilian chocolate sauce with white chocolate eggshell holding bittersweet pot-de-creme on the side. Don’t laugh, I have recipes.
Now, in my admittedly limited experience, I’ve had a glass of merlot with dark chocolate and enjoyed it, but it was just plain dark chocolate, not a dessert creation. To be fair to you, my reader, so you know where I’m coming from, I will say that I find most restaurant creations too sweet, and with too many flavors squished into one dish for me (and the servings are much too large). Chefs can go way overboard and not in the good way. My dessert should be simple, a final farewell to a lovely meal. Clearly, from Dave Schoon’s response below, there are those who would take issue with me on this.
I haven’t had a lot of really memorable wine and dessert pairings. Isn’t that interesting? Part of it is the overly elaborate dessert problem. Some of it – well, would you ever pair a white wine with chocolate? Red is good, but how many reds would go really well?
I have, however – and I say this as someone who favors very few beers – had some stunning beer and chocolate pairings, particularly with gueuze* or other Belgian beers. And boy, was I surprised. Something about the sour and a little dry offset by sweet and rich totally works. What I have not been impressed by: pairing like with like. A raspberry dessert with a raspberry lambic. A pumpkin cheesecake with a pumpkin ale. What works is when the two really offset each other; it highlights the distinctiveness in each.
*A gueuze is a beer made by blending young and almost-young (1-year and 2-to-3-year-old) lambics. The result is bottled for a second fermentation. Because the young lambics are not fully fermented when they’re blended, the blended beer contains fermentable sugars, which allow for another round of fermentation in the bottle. It’s a very fun word to say, and totally beer-geeky to order one.
Remember our four guest foodie/beer experts:
Dave Schoon – writes passionately about beer and food pairings at www.beerchow.com
Jay Ducote– southern Louisiana chef, radio host and TV personality; blogs about Cajun and Creole cuisine, international film festivals he attends, and other things at biteandbooze.com
As you mentioned earlier [I had, and I’ll share that bit with you later], a Mexican mole with an amber ale has worked for me in the past. I made a chicken mole and the amber ale had hops and caramel notes. I’ve found that Imperial Russian stouts work really well with chocolate-fruit desserts.
Big American Imperial reds with passion fruit white chocolate cheesecake is one for the sweet toothed, but I am more of a savoury girl so a mole with a high-quality Vienna lager is great.
Absolutely. I sat down with Patricia Tsai from Chocovivo in Los Angeles, and tasted through a bunch of different Stone Brewing Co. beers alongside her INCREDIBLE chocolates. (All organically grown and stone-ground, from a single farmer in Mexico. Seriously amazing stuff.) We were working on putting together a Stone beer and chocolate pairing for an event at some point. (Full disclosure: I work for Stone. [note: Randy is now at LA Magazine, but was at Stone at the time of this interview]) There was one that sort of surprised us all, and really jumped out. Her “Mayan Tradition“ chocolate bar is mixed with almonds, cinnamon, and a blend of Chipotle, Guajillo, and Pasilla chiles. We had it along with Stone Ruination IPA, and the citrusy notes from the hops accentuated the spices so damn well, we were all unexpectedly blown away. In fact, I definitely recall a few people saying, “Holy shit!” after this one. Having had a few beers, I brilliantly dubbed this combo “Mayan Ruins” and got big laughs. (Mainly because we’d all had a few beers by this point.)
A few month later, Patricia came down to visit us, and “Dr.” Bill sat down to pair some of her chocolates with beer and yet another epiphany came to us. She’d brought a bar with a thin layer of caramel over the top, sprinkled with truffle salt, which Bill had us sample alongside Dieu de Ciel Route des Épices, a rye beer made with black and green peppercorns. It was ridiculous how well the chocolate played up the spicy character of the rye, while the flecks of salt just managed to make all the flavors pop. Bill dubbed this one “Salt-N-Pepa” which, again, thanks to having several beers, was the funniest/most clever thing on earth to everyone in the room.
Next Up: how our experts think through pairing a beer with chocolate. So if you yourself were putting a dinner party together, how might you go about getting this bit right?
@reinitzgebot on Twitter (obviously) writes that at SAVOR a few years ago he had a Heavy Seas IPA with an orange cream filled chocolate truffle covered in sea salt. His comment: YUM!
To elaborate a little further, I believe it was Heavy Seas Loose Cannon. The citrusy hop character in the beer complemented the orange cream filling, while the sea salt on top of the truffle cut the bitterness of the beer…a delectable combination. It’s easy to go with a porter/stout when pairing with chocolate, so an IPA was a welcome addition during this tasting.