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Libations: Craft Beer and Chocolate Pairings

Libations: Craft Beer and Chocolate Pairings

It’s not hard to see why chocolate and craft beer make the perfect one, which is a two punch come February. With the extensive variety that craft beer has to offer, it’s easy to find the perfect beer to pair with just about any chocolate you can pick out of your chocolate box this Valentine’s Day. These two guilty pleasure favorites are seemingly made for each other, both sharing a rich history in fermentation and flavor profiles. They provide a myriad of combinations to delight your palette. It’s just a matter of research and delightful experimentation.

To learn what makes a great pairing, we first must look at what goes into each of these potential mates to provide the needed chemistry. Craft beers have long embraced strong flavors ranging from delicately spiced saisons to boldly hopped barley wines. Similarly, chocolate runs the spectrum from smooth to bitter, dark to bright and malty to acidic. The playful interaction between chocolate’s richness and beer’s carbonation coupled with limitless flavor profiles of each medium provide the one-two punch to finding that perfect pairing. The rich, fatty feel of the cocoa butter that coats the palate, followed by the lively bite of carbonation, creates a round and full flavor experience that can accentuate the chocolate’s fruit and bitter characteristics. These combinations lead to a moment that is quite simply a chocolate beer bliss on your tongue!

Thanks to the versatility both craft beer and chocolate share to accommodate and complement many flavors, there is room for a lot of creativity in imagining how the two can pair together. Below is a list of some of the best pairings we found with a few of our Candy Factory favorites along with tips for hosting your own chocolate pairing party at home.

Candy: White Chocolate Pretzel

Craft Beer: Bur Oak DeVine IPA or Oskar Blues Dream IPA

These two seem like an unlikely match, but the hoppy bitterness calms the hyper-sweet white chocolate, which allows the salty pretzel and rich malt flavors to come to the forefront.

Candy: Lemon Cream Dark Chocolate

Craft Beer: Lindeman’s Framboise or Founder’s Rubeaus

These beers are extremely carbonated, but this sensation helps to cut through the bitterness of the dark chocolate. What is left is a nice blend of sweet and tart between the raspberry and lemon fusion.

Candy: Chocolate Covered Cherries

Craft Beer: Breckenridge 72 Chocolate Cream Stout or Ska Estival Cream

The sweetness of the beer balances well with the tart, semi-dried cherries, but the chocolate in both create a luxurious baseline throughout the pairing.

Candy: Dark Chocolate Covered Candied Ginger

Craft Beer: Rogue Double Chocolate Stout or Young’s Double Chocolate

These beers have a heavy cocoa powder flavor with a dry-mouth feel, but the candied ginger allows the bitter chocolate flavors to emerge and leaves an indulgent experience that is a must for those who love dark chocolate.

Candy: Mint Mudslide Bites

Craft Beer: Founders Imperial Stout or Schafly Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout

Although mint is a flavor that often overpowers everything else on the palate, this chocolate goes well with the strong dark chocolate and slight smoky flavors emerging in the beer, creating a nice, but intense, experience.

Candy: Cheesecake Bites

Craft Beer: Charleville Box of Chocolate Belgian Quad

These sweet beers are bold with strong chocolate flavors overtaking the palate, however, the graham cracker crust and cheesecake filling help to restrain some of the over-the-top chocolate flavors. Neither the beer nor the chocolate overpower the palate.

Candy: Maple Cream Chocolate

Craft Beer: Free State Old Backus Barleywine or Avery Hog Heaven Barleywine

This English-style barley wine is not lacking in its own sweet toffee, caramel, vanilla, and molasses flavors. The maple cream adds an extra layer of sweetness, which makes this a must for those with a serious sweet tooth.

Candy: Kahlua Cream Chocolate

Craft Beer: Rogue Hazelnut Brown or Hebrew Nut Brown Ale

The nuttiness that is prevalent in these beers goes well with the creaminess and sweetness in the chocolate, which creates a smooth, decadent experience.

Tips For Hosting Your Own Chocolate and Beer Pairing At Home

  • For a varied tasting that won’t induce palate fatigue, pick a mix of flavors and textured chocolates including toffee, fruit chocolate, bon bons, bars and barks paired with five or six different craft beers.
  • Beer and chocolate are both a delicate balance of sweet and bitter flavors. You’ll often discover that “wow” moment when the flavors in the beer balance and showcase the flavors in the chocolate.
  • Consider both contrasting and complementary flavors. A stout, typically a bitter profile with chocolate notes, pairs well with both a fruity chocolate (sweet/contrasting), as well as a coffee-flavored chocolate (bitter/complementary).
  • Aroma can tell you a lot about both beer and chocolate, so take time to smell everything. Often, things that smell good together will taste good together too.
  • As with any culinary experience, finding a pleasurable craft beer and chocolate pairing is an entirely subjective endeavor, so allow yourself to like whatever odd marriage of beer and chocolate you discover. There is no right pairings, and it’s beer and chocolate — indulge a little!

Jonathan is a beer evangelist, entrepreneur, and devoted husband. Jonathan spends his days as IT guru for State of Missouri, co-owner of Craft Beer Cellar and aspiring photographer.

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