Saturday, February 10, 2007

Beer and chocolate

Chocolate Truffles with StoutThis is getting to be fun: puncturing people's perceptions about beer and food. Yesterday evening, I hosted an in-store demonstration at Olney Beer and Fine Wine, where I paired Clipper City Brewing's Peg Leg Imperial Stout with oh-so-delicious chocolates from local Maryland chocolatier - Chocolates by Cacao. (All are good but I'm partial to their Light Rum Chocolates.)

If eyebrows are arched when I talk about beer and cheese, the reaction is even smirkier when I link beer and chocolate. But think about it: with a stout, you're mating the complimentary character of roasted barley malt with that of the roasted cocoa beans of chocolate!

Chef Stephanie Zonis describes the synergy effect of beer (or wine) with food, if they pair well, thus:

It takes unique pairings to find ones that I call the “one plus one equals three” effect. That is, a great chocolate and a great wine combine to create a third flavor that is better than the sum of the parts. These pairings create the WOW effect.
(Garrett Oliver refers to this harmonious accommodation between beer and food as the flavor hook.)

In her on-line article, Chef Zonis pairs different beer and chocolates. She begins with stout and dark chocolate. But soon she becomes even more adventurous than I was last evening: she pairs a hoppy IPA with a malted-milk chocolate.
This time, the two were contrasts in flavor. The malty flavors paired well together and although the bitterness of the beer and sweetness of the malt crunchies were opposites, they ended up working together.
To borrow the catch phrase used by the cartoon pitchmen for that dark beer from Ireland: Brilliant! Chef Zonis says that, in her experience, only 10% of chocolate and wine pairings are successful. She finds a much higher percentage of success when it comes to beer.

At Olney Beer last evening, many visitors did decide to purchase both the Peg Leg Imperial Stout AND the Cacao chocolates. (Truth be told: there was one customer who did not appreciate the pairing; but she did enjoy the stout.)

  • Beer cookbook author Lucy Saunders has several stout and chocolate food recipes on her website: BeerCook.com.
  • Peter LaFrance's now hard-to-find book - Cooking and Eating With Beer - has a fantastic recipe for Chocolate Imperial Stout Mousse. The beer called for is Brooklyn Brewing's Black Chocolate Stout, but, having made the recipe, I can say that Clipper City's Peg Leg Stout is a delicious substitution.
  • How to pair beer and chocolate: Brewers Association.

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