Valentine's Day is fast approaching with the first turn of the calendar this year. That means that stores everywhere will be slammed with chocolate from floor to ceiling. I don't know how chocolate became associated with Valentine's Day, so I looked it up. Go ahead and google it if you are really that interested. I can wait.
Welcome back, or if you didn't leave, Congratulations on your high level of self-restraint.
It's no secret that I love beer, craft beer to be specific. My wife knows it’s the way to my heart. For Valentine’s Day, she ordered me a beer cap map that should be arriving soon. Usually, this day is associated with other alcoholic beverages, but why can't beer be a part of it? Here are 6 beers that pair perfectly with chocolate.
Coastal Empire - Midnight in the Garden
Pair this beer with bitter chocolate to compliment the same in the beer. Another complimentary flavor would be to eat some chocolate and dark fruit. This past weekend my wife made a chocolate cake from scratch with red wine mixed in both the actual cake and icing. It was delicious! Pairing “Midnight in the Garden” with the cake and blackberries made it even better! The only way to make it even better will be when Coastal Empire releases their version of this aged in red wine barrels, which is happening soon. Possibly even the week leading up to Valentine's Day! I can't wait!
Weyerbacher Brewing Company - Riserva
One of my favorite recent pairings was the cake I described above- red wine and dark chocolate- with this wild ale from 2012. The sour and tart raspberry beer really stood up to the richness of the boozey chocolate, and they mixed together oh so well. I felt that the wine in the cake helped bring out the vanilla and maybe even a oak aged caramel flavor.
Cigar City - Hunahpu (I love a little heat in my chocolate)
One of my favorite pairings- not only in chocolate-but in all foods, is a little heat. The spiciness of the Hunahpu hits my palate in all the right places! What better beer to pair with a sweet chocolate bar or cake than Hunahpu. The velvety smoothness and perfectly placed pepper heat is a great place to find a contrasting pairing to go with the chocolate.
Perennial - 17th Anniversary (mint chocolate stout)
I saw the Perennial on a list on Beer Menus in a store near my parents in Maryland, so I asked them to bring me one down. Another pairing my taste buds crave is mint and chocolate. Immediately, I thought this beer would go well with one of my favorite Girl Scout cookies, the Thin Mint. Unfortunately, this beer is hard to come by, speaking from personal experience. Apparently I’m not the only one with this idea! Luckily, I’ve been able to get my hands on a few bottles, and because I reside in Savannah, which is the birth place of the Girl Scouts, I have an endless supply of Thin Mints at my disposal. Jealous? Next best thing to minty cookies? A dark chocolate bar with chili power/flakes. Yes!
Southbound Brewing Company - The Reaper
This local favorite is aged on cocoa nibs and cherries. Once again, this is another nice pairing with some chocolate with fruit in it. Maybe try it with a more bitter chocolate to bring balance to the malt that’s used in this Belgian Quad. Could this even work with a spicy dish? You know, I would give it a try.
Bell's - Hopslam
Wait, an IPA to pair with a chocolate? Not every beer and chocolate pairing has to be a one that has notes of chocolate. The bitter hops associated with an IPS can be overpowering for a bitter chocolate, so it is better to pick a less bitter (less cacao) or a spicy chocolate. (Bitter, Batter, Butter, Better! It’s funny!)
What better IPA to pair with chocolate than a fresh one? This beer from Bell’s will be coming to Savannah area in the very near future. Down here in the Coastal Empire, we get things much later than most of you in the rest of the country, but that's another story.
Anyways, Hopslam is one of the silkiest imperial IPAs out there. The nice malt backbone would pair perfectly with the smoothness of a rich or sweet chocolate. If you happen to have an aged Hopslam, the enhanced matiness might even be better with chocolate than a fresh one. I will have to experiment!
A hop bomb IPA- like Hopslam-can also pair well with a spicy chocolate just like it does delectably with a spicy dish. Again, I couldn't help myself…I had to more spice into the mix!
Whatever you drink on Valentine's Day/weekend, think about what notes the beer hits on your palate and what chocolate- or even candy- you think it would pair with. There are no wrong answers, because at the end of the day you've consumed some tasty brews and delicious chocolates! That’s a good day in my book! Now get out there and challenge your taste buds. I'm going to go find that Red Wine Barrel Aged Midnight in the Garden from Coastal Empire.