First things first, the golden rule of tastings: whatever you experience is right, valid, correct.
Everyone’s palate is different and there’s so much that can go into influencing your experiences (what you recently ate, are the windows open and blowing in a fragrant breeze, are you immediately repulsed by a certain flavor, etc.).
If you are seeking to become a super taster or Certified Cicerone®, then there’s definitely additional learning and refining that needs to be done and more “correct” answers, but if you’re experimenting beer and chocolate, the point is to do just that: experiment and enjoy.
Speaking of enjoying pairing chocolate with beer…
What Makes Beer Great To Pair With Chocolate?
The short answer is carbonation makes beer so great to pair with chocolate. The carbonation in beer cleanses and awakens the palate, preparing you for the next bite of chocolate. Often times when you pair chocolate with another food or beverage, you need a palate cleanser in-between, but for beer it’s an all-in-one palate cleanser and pleaser.
Moreover, chocolate and beer have a lot in common from being fermented foods, offering delicately balanced rich and dynamic flavors, and, of course, being developed by remarkable craftsmen and artisans.
Now that you’re sold (though, we know you didn’t need much selling), here are some tips or guidelines to keep in mind when pairing chocolate and beer.
8 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Pairing Beer And Chocolate
1. It’s all about balance.
As it is when you’re pairing beer with anything, especially chocolate, the best experience comes from matching the intensity of each. If intensities are too far apart, one will override the other and lead to a one-sided tasting experience.
2. Order matters.
You often hear light to dark as the best way to order pairings, but what they are really saying is begin with low intensity and move to higher intensity pairings. A beer might be light, but also extremely acidic. (Just consider the mind game that a white stout plays, it looks light but it’s a heavier, mildly intense beer.)
3. Order doesn’t matter.
While the pairing order matters, the order of which delicacy you enjoy first (beer or chocolate) for each pairing doesn’t matter. Enjoy the chocolate and chase it with beer. Drink the beer first and let it coat your palate before you take a bite of the chocolate. You decide which order is optimal for each specific pairing.
4. Remember to use all your senses.
Proper pairing isn’t just a tasting experience. Get your nose in there and smell the chocolate and then the beer – and vice versa. Feel how the beer dances across your palate or how the chocolate coats your tongue. Look at the head of the beer (is it thick? Lacey? White?) and the chocolate (is it topped with salt? Does it look shiny? Thick as well?).
5. Vocalize your experience (or at least voice it in your head).
The most difficult part of pairings for people is describing the tastes, smells, sights and mouthfeel of the pairings. I encourage you to go beyond “this is sweet” or “this is smooth” – what memories does it bring up? How creative can you get with your descriptions? Does it smell like freshly cut lawn? Does it bounce around your palate like pop rocks? Does it look like the chocolate on Pinwheels?
6. Reset your sense of smell.
You can thank the carbonation in the beer for giving you the natural palate cleanse, but your nose can quickly get overwhelmed if you smell too harshly and too frequently. The best way to reset? Sniff your shirt sleeve. It regrounds your nasal passage with what it’s most familiar with.
7. Aim for room temperature.
I specifically say “aim” because I’ve found that pairings are further enjoyed when you can experience them at different temperatures. A freshly poured beer and opened chocolate will be experienced vastly different than when they are consumed at room temperature. Room temperature is optimal for the fullest flavor experience, but the journey to it is fun, too.
8. Experiment beyond the pairings.
Once you go through the original planned pairing, play around with the other combinations. Not all chocolate goes with all beer, but you won’t truly know until you try, right?
They say practice makes perfect, but I hope we never get perfect at pairing chocolate and beers, I’d rather keep practicing.
Speaking of practicing, for a limited time, we’ll be offering chocolate and beer boxes in collaboration with Ann from Infusion chocolates.
Four beers. Four chocolates.
Swing in to pick one up at Garth’s Brew Bar.
BONUS: Chocolate And Beer Style Pairing Considerations
Fruited sours –> Dark chocolate
Coffee porters –> Milk chocolate
Belgian styles like the Tripel –> Chocolate that has a little spice to it
Brown ales –> Either dark or milk chocolate that contain nuts or toffee
Pilsners –> Most chocolates that have a softer filling or caramel
Note listed here: IPAs. These are extremely tricky to match with chocolates and I have not found the perfect style to chocolate connection. If you find one, we are all ears!