Pairing Beer with Chocolate

The art of pairing food and drink lies in contrasts, complements, counterparts, and bridges. Hold on… counterparts? Bridges? What is this, an engineering class?

pairing beer with chocolate
Credit: colin leong

Before we lose the reader, let’s get into the basics. Contrast and counterparts is nothing more than what two things go well together. Think peanut butter and jelly. Salty peanuts are contrasted against the acidity of grape jelly. The sweetness of both are counterparts.

Flavor bridges are merely logical comparisons. We all know that herbs go with citrus. With herb-filled dishes, one would do well to pair a chardonnay with citrusy notes.

And here you thought food pairing was only for snobs.

Now, let’s dive in to dessert!

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, pairing chocolate with alcohol is a lovely way to add even more romance to an already sumptuous affair. You know about dessert and wine. Did you know you can also pair dessert with beer?

With the recent craft beer explosion, there are more varieties of great beer available than ever before. Here are some truly sinful pairings to get you started.

1. Chocolate marquise with crème anglaise – Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, Rogue Ales
A traditional French dessert gets a crafty sprucing-up when paired with Rogue’s multiple award-winning stout. The roasted coffee notes on top complement the richness of the marquise and soften any cloying sweetness brought on by the crème.

2. Moelleux au chocolat – Kriek, Santa Fe Brewing Company
This delicate cake filled with molten chocolate dances with the sweet-tart complexity of Santa Fe’s brilliant Belgian lambic. Brewed with sake yeast, Michigan cherries, and aged in oak barrels, the beer has a nice, crisp finish that lends a fruity balance to the cake.

3. Chocolate and cherry brandy trifle cake — Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic, Brasserie Cantillon
This beer’s cherry tartness gives way to a full-on cherry explosion on the palate. After the cherry brandy in the dessert is smoothed out, a pleasing alcoholic warmth from both the dessert and the beer complement the heavenly chocolate.

4. Belgian chocolate mousse – Sherbrooke Chocolate Cherry Ostiarius, Alley Kat Brewing Company
What is it about chocolate and cherries? Is it the delicate equilibrium of sweet against bitter? Or mild against acidic? Who cares! Belgian chocolate is the perfect match for Alley Kat’s eclectic, ruby-hued brew. Savor its smokiness and dark cocoa notes, pitted against a surprisingly intense cherry flavor. When combined with the dessert, the dark cocoa notes meld seamlessly with the mousse, while the cherry intensity becomes delightfully muted.

5. Chocolate baumkuchen – Allagash Curieux, Allagash Brewing Company
Imagine a hundred tortilla-thin layers of cake swathed in decadent chocolate. That’s baumkuchen, a German specialty. Paired with Allagash’s bourbon barrel-aged Belgian-style tripel, baumkuchen’s rich complexity marries naturally with the beer’s hints of vanilla and a subtle oaky character.

6. Chocolate cassis cake — Anchor Old Foghorn, Anchor Brewing Company
Arguably the granddaddy of the craft beer industry, Anchor scores again with their take on old English barleywine. Cascade hops lend a nice spice that cuts the sweetness of the cake, while the malty richness and warming alcohol competes with the cassis for domination of the palate.

7. Dark chocolate crème brûlée – Maduro Brown Ale, Cigar City Brewing Company
A surprising twist on an old foodie favorite. Pairing it with Cigar City’s lusciously silky brown ale forms a perfect flavor bridge that is to be savored slowly over candlelight.

8. Assorted chocolate liqueur truffles — Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale, Goose Island Beer Company
The beauty of Goose Island’s barleywine is its versatility. Try it with an assortment of fine chocolate liqueur truffles, and see for yourself how its delicately complex profile complements the variety.

9. Flourless Espresso Chocolate Cake with Espresso Mousse – Liberator Doppelbock, Thomas Hooker Brewing Company
Spicy Czech Saaz hops take a back seat to Vienna and other roasted malts in Thomas Hooker’s smooth doppelbock. The sweet, robust malt character along with the warmth from the 8.5 percent ABV holds up extremely well against a double shot of roasty espresso.

10. Chocolate Blintzes with Chocolate Whipped Ricotta-Almond Filling and Warm Cherry Sauce — Hyper Dog, Pipeworks Brewing Company
Illinois’ own Pipeworks offers us a chocolate brownie in liquid form. Keep that in mind as you picture the smooth nuttiness of Ricotta and almonds and warm cherries. The beer’s slightly bitter bite at the end balances its own sweetness, while its coffee notes round out the dessert like a chocolaty dream come true.

The great joy to be found in food and beer pairing lies in experimentation. Thankfully, there are so many great craft beers out there. All you have to do is open your eyes and expand your horizons.

Remember, always drink good beer out of a glass, share it with those you love, drink responsibly, and above all, pair well!

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