In case you missed the title, this post is all about the union of two of the best food groups in the world -beer and chocolate. To honour this joining, my sweetie and I attended Firefly Fine Wines and Ales beer and chocolate tasting and (over)indulged in a flight of eight beers paired with a trio of chocolates from Cocoa Nymph Chocolates & Confections.
Now wait a minute beer and chocolate? Together? Can that work? Survey says a resounding yes. If you stop and think about it beer and chocolate are not that dissimilar with their composition of sweet and bitter elements. Chocolates can be sweet and milky, bitter and roasty, enhanced with herbs and spices and this is equally true for beers. We already know how well chocolate works when it is brewed into robust stouts and coffee porters so it was fun to see what happens when you put the two together in a tasting session.
The Chocolate Line-Up
Classic Dark Nymph – 64% dark chocolate with a subtle bitterness.
Sea Nymph – 64% dark with fleur de sel and toffee.
Twilight Nymph – 45% creamy milk chocolate.
Urban Nymph – 45% milk chocolate with coffee and caramelized cocoa nibs.
Garden Nymph – Rich white chocolate with tart dried cherries
The Beer Line-Up
Coney Island’s Albino Python – Lager meets hefeweizen; strong notes of ginger and fennel balanced with malt.
Tin Whistle’s Chocolate Cherry Porter – Light bodied Porter with lots of fruit on the nose.
Mort Subite Framboise –Bright, sweet lambic with a hint of tartness.
Youngs Double Chocolate – Rich chocolate nose and roast flavour with a bitter finish.
La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout – Lots of malt and yeastiness on the nose with a creamy mouthfeel.
Rogue Hazelnut Nutbrown Ale –Ton of nuttiness on the nose, clean and sweet to drink.
Cannery Brewing Maple Stout – Way too syrupy for the amount of body. Intensely sweet.
R&B Brewing Spirit Coffee Porter – Subtle coffee nose, tepid with a bit of a bitter finish.
Each taster glass was sampled with three pieces of chocolate chosen to draw attention to how different qualities in the beer are altered when paired with chocolates. At times I had difficulty discerning whether I did not like the taste of a particular beer or particular chocolate or the combination of the two but through some trial and error I perfected the technique of sipping the beer, then water, a bit of chocolate, then water, and finally the two together. It was hard work but someone had to step up!
Some of the pairings that worked particularly well include: Chocolate Cherry Porter and the Urban Nymph, Albino Python and Twilight Nymph, Mort Subite Framboise and Garden Nymph, Youngs Double Chocolate and Urban Nymph, Imperial Milk Stout and Twilight Nymph, and Hazelnut Nutbrown Ale and Twilight. A notable few that did NOT work well include: Spirit Coffee Porter and Garden Nymph, Hazelnut Nutbrown Ale and Urban Nymph, and Albino Python and Garden Nymph.
Overall thoughts on the evening: Some beers like the lambic and the maple stout are so flavourful that pairing is challenging since the beer can completely dominate the chocolate. White chocolate was particularly tough to pair successfully while the dark chocolate went well with everything but did little to enhance any of the beers. When pairing beer and chocolate complementary elements seemed to work best as opposed to drawing out bitterness with sweetness. The heavier the beer the more amicable it was to various pairings while the flavours in the lager were noticeably altered by each chocolate. Some pairings just did not work diminishing the tasting experience of both the beer and the chocolate but when it worked it was fantastic.