Chocolate and wine might sound just fine, but the notion of pairing chocolate and beer is an altogether more unusual prospect. Yet it’s one that’s going down as nicely as a chilled pint on a hot summer’s evening – whether the brew’s in the bar; the chocolate’s in the brew; or the two are just imbibed side by side.
For the latter matter, it’s wise to treat your tastebuds to a crash course delivered by those who know that combining chocolate and beer is nothing to fear. Paul A Young and Brewdog, perhaps; or Rococo and The Craft Beer Channel’s Johnny and drinks expert Rupert Ponsonby – who believes that the notion that beer and chocolate can’t combine is sheer and stupid snobbery.
Mr Young, for one, is no stranger to the strange pairing, having used beer in a special-edition Ginger Pig black pudding and ginger biscuit truffle about which the Mostly About Chocolate blog said, ‘I feared this chocolate so I thought – just do it!…A very nice truffle’. At tasting evenings, he’s successfully paired chocolate with beer including Brewdog’s Shipwrecker Circus and Tokyo Bottle and Pressure Drop’s Freimans Dunkelweiss.
The Marylebone Journal found Rococo’s choc’n’beer evenings as refreshing as the tipples they sipped; declaring the events neither pretentious nor exclusive, and claiming that ‘no more knowledge of beer is required than of chocolate’ in order to relish brilliant bedfellows like Belgian Duvel and cardamom-ed white chocolate or Innis & Gunn Original and salted caramel ganache.
Rococo’s salted caramelised almond and rosemary milk chocolate reportedly works wonderfully with a caramel-ly, toffee-nosed Hogs Back ale – and now that same brewery has released a full-on chocolate beer in collaboration with Montezuma’s.
You can’t just chuck in the choc, as the fat content plays havoc with the brewing process. So Hogs Back has instead added an infusion of its Hogstar lager with Lordy Lord – Montezuma’s 70% Peruvian cocoa-nib studded chocolate bar, yielding a light drink that’s light years from how you’d think a chocolate beer would appear – and one that’s really rather refreshing.
Dea Latis specialises in introducing women to beer in refreshing, innovative ways… like choosing brews for chocolate. The ‘It Comes In Pints?’ team enjoyed inspired combinations like Everards’ Tiger with Green & Blacks butterscotch milk; Adnams’ Solebay with Montezuma’s fruited, white ‘Peeling Amorous’ bar; and Thwaites’ bittersweet Tavern Porter with super-sweet chocolate cake.
You can even put beer IN that chocolate cake to give it an earthy, intense underpinning – see Nigella’s classic Chocolate Guinness cake, the Cambridgeshire Black Dog stout chocolate cake from The Nutty Tarts, and this Bon Appetit recipe which uses a syrupy stout reduction (and is even more excellent made with red fruit brews).
Belgian company Carre Chocolates has a nine-strong range of liquid-centred beer chocolates resembling miniature beer bottles. The patent-pending ‘ChocOBeer’ chocolate beer bottles feature fillings including blonde and brown ales and cherry kriek, all sourced locally from Brewerie BOCKOR, Brewerie De Halve Maan and Palm Breweries.
But if you just want to sink a drink that has already captured the cocoa, you’re spoilt for choice. A Bury St Edmunds brewery was commissioned by Hotel Chocolat to create the company’s Cocoa Beer – a porter which Brewshed’s David Marjoram says uses cocoa shells to simply enhance the existing flavours rather than dominate the drink; merely seasoning it like chocolate in a chilli con carne (in a rather more sophisticated manner than Iceland’s chocolate chicken curry).
Speaking of meat, there’s even a Chocolate Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda on the market – although it did not impress A Review A Day one bit. Afforded more accolade is Rebel Brewing Co’s ‘Mexi-Cocoa Stout’ – an award-winning chocolate and vanilla brew which uses products from the Chocolarder – an organic bean-to-bar maker – that the brewery shares space with.
There’s South American spice along with sweet- smoky cocoa notes in Ilkley Brewery’s ‘The Mayan’; a chocolate chipotle stout. York Chocolate Stout, made with nibs, got a robust review from Mostly About Chocolate, who was ‘blown away’ and described it as ‘gorgeous…rich and not sickly sweet, enhanced perfectly by the cocoa.’
Stout is the base of choice for many chocolate beers, and it’s fair to suppose it goes well with rich cocoa flavours. Young’s Double chocolate stout earns its name by using a mix of real chocolate and essence, whilst Titanic’s occasional brew adds chocolate and Madagascan vanilla to the mix. In Samuel Smith’s Organic stout, cocoa couples up with roasted chocolate malt.
The Harpoon Brewery also opts for dark, aromatic malt; adding just a touch of chocolate to the stout to perfect the profile. A combination of 80% chocolate and the brews’ own chocolate-y malts give Meantime’s Chocolate Porter its fulsome flavour, whilst the legendary Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout contains no cocoa – just rich roasted malt, made in the historic Imperial Stout style.
To make ‘Chocolate Marble’, the Marble Brewery carefully combines chocolate malts to yield a mild/porter-style pint with bittersweet coffee, cocoa and licorice flavours. Samuel Adams’ Chocolate Bock is no spring chicken, slowly aged on a bed or Ecuadorean cocoa nibs. Robinsons’ teamed up with chocolatier Simon Dunn to create Chocolate Tom – a full-bodied, cocoa-laced strong ale.
Floris’ Chocolate Weissbier lightens things up a touch, blending a classic pale Belgian wheat beer with chocolate essence. There’s more citrus sipping to be had from the Downton Brewery, which offers its ‘Chocolate Orange Delight’ old ale as a seasonal special as hotly anticipated as a Terry’s Chocolate Orange in a Christmas stocking.
Whether you eat chocolate and taste beer or drink beer and taste chocolate, there’s are delicious discoveries aplenty to be made. Dea Latis’ Annabel Smith told the Marylebone Journal that the carbonation of beer cuts through the fat chocolate leaves on your tongue, acting as a palate cleanser. And if that’s not excuse enough, I don’t know what is. Dig in and drink up.
Thirsty for more chocolate beers?
- More chocolate beers reviewed here.
- American chocolate beer round-up here.
- Piece Love & Chocolate on an American pairing event here.