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The Ultimate Guide: Pairing Chocolate & Beer

Posted on August 11 2016

Completely delicious on its own, chocolate can also serve as a unique catalyst to intensify or draw out flavors of other foods & beverages.

Pairing wine with chocolate is a nice, common go-to when gracing this topic. However, both wine & chocolate are extremely powerful flavor-wise, pairing the two almost creates a battle on the palate, commonly called a “palate power play”, the two dominant elements almost vie for attention.

Voyaging down another (sometimes surprising) path, let us introduce you to the world of pairing chocolate with... beer. For anyone raising noses to this notion, it’s time to drop your expectations, we’ve seen some wine-obsessed folks get wowed & wooed when pairing the two.

Below, you’ll find a guide to navigate you on how to make it all happen. If you'd like to replicate a similar experience at our Charlottesville or Richmond shop, just give us a call (information here) & we'll be happy chat with you about our private pairing parties or other options. We’re also thrilled to collaborate with Hardywood Brewery for a chocolate & beer pairing in November, just stay updated with our Facebook, Twitter & Instagram for more details.

The basics: Let’s start with why beer & chocolate make magic together. Rather than pairing two dominant flavors (like wine & chocolate), beer becomes the subtle partner to bold chocolate. Intensity is cut even more with the light & bubbly effervescent (bubbly) quality of beer, forming a match made in heaven.

The rules: It’s pretty simple, you’ll want to pair similar flavors (think “like with like”) & taste from lightest to darkest, this keeps from overwhelming your palate. With that being said, simply start with pairing lighter, milk & white chocolates with lighter-bodied beers then working your way to darker chocolates with rich & darker beers. Take a few sip of your chosen beer, notice the flavor, then take a bite of the chocolate, as it starts to melt on your palate, go for a sip of beer again. From there you might get a sensation of heightened flavors or a flavor you didn't pick up before the chocolate.

The options: Many people assume sweet & heavy-bodied stouts are the only compliment to chocolate. Wrong. While pairing dark chocolate with stout (personally, we love Hardywood’s Sidamo Coffee Stout with our dark chocolate, Criolla) is fantastic, so is pairing brown ales, lagers, bocks, hefeweizens & even ciders.

Here are some great & simple pairing suggestions ranging from light to dark (pairings are based using our chocolates & beers we adore):


Pilsners
The lighter, malt-forward & champagne-like profile of pilsners work in harmony with malty nut-forward milk chocolates.
Our pick:
My Personal Helles by South Street Brewery with Milk Chocolate Almond Bar

Lagers & Light Ales
These golden-hued brews usually captivate subtle fruit notes (commonly citrus). Aim to pair with milk or dark chocolates hosting similar fruit flavors. Two things might happen on your palate, one, flavors in both beer & chocolate may cancel one another out, so you might pick up on delicate flavors that were hidden or two, similar flavors intensify.
Our picks:
Pleasure House GLO Blonde Ale or Hardywood's Cream Ale with our Apricot Brandy
Earl Grey Brown Ale by Ardent with our Earl Grey infused dark chocolate

Wheat & Hefeweizens
This wheat forward style lends itself to hints of clove, banana & even bubblegum. We recommend pairing these brews with milk & white chocolates with similar notes.
Our picks:
Plain Jane Blueberry Belgian White by Isley Brewing Company with our Milk Chocolate & Blueberry Bar
Heifetzweizen Hefe from Three Notch'd with our Milk Chocolate Jewel Bar

Brown Ales & Bocks
These malt-forward, caramely beers make a harmonious match with caramels & toffees. The sweeter the beer & chocolate (or toffee), the more you might pick up on malt & bitter notes.
Our picks:
Lonerider's Sweet Josie Brown Ale with our Brown Butter Caramel

Stouts
Rich & powerful, these make a wonderful finale to your pairing. Berry-infused stout? Pair with a dark chocolate with berry notes. Chocolate-forward milk stout? Go for a bitter dark chocolate to stand up to the brew. Virginia’s obsession with bourbon barrel-infused stouts is on the rise & can paint a palate for some creativity when matching chocolatey confections.
Our picks:
Raspberry Stout by Hardywood with our Raspberry Zin dark chocolate
Black Me by Champion Brewery with our 73.5% Criolla
Lickinghole Creek’s Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout with our Whisky Truffle
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