Chocolate, much like beer, is a treat to be savored. It has a reputation of being paired with strong emotions like love and sympathy, and for good reason. It releases feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine, creating a feeling of well-being that can be shared between lovers or help bring you out of a slump. Good beer can have a similar effect, relaxing and bringing cheer to the drinker. So it makes good sense to combine the two. If you aren’t sure on where to start, or what chocolate might pair well with your favorite brew, look no further than this guide on how to pair the two.
Stouts and Porters are the simplest way to start your foray into chocolate and beer pairing, because many of them include the roasty flavors that are in chocolate. Your first instinct might be to go with a dark chocolate for these dark beers, but milk chocolates actually complement the bitterness better by adding sweetness to the palate and allowing the strong flavors of the drink to play on the subtler notes of the chocolate. The milk in the chocolate will also play on the creaminess of milk stouts. Try DAGOBA’s milk chocolate with Old Dominion’s Morning Glory Espresso Stout to round out the flavors of both.
Brown ales can be paired with nutty chocolates, either those that actually contain nuts like almonds or hazelnuts, or those that simply carry nut-like characteristics. This will bring out the earthy tones in the beer that can sometimes be lost under its sweetness. Ghiradelli’s Intense Dark Hazelnut Heaven Bar will pair perfectly with Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar.
Sometimes you need something to sweeten your bitter, dark chocolate, and in that case, it’s best to pair it with a Belgian-style Dubbel or Tripel. Chocolove’s Strong Dark Chocolate has enough bite for Troegs’ Jovial.
Wheat beer can be great in combination with a citrus-accented chocolate. Darker chocolates will bring out more contrast in the two flavors for a great complement. Lindt’s Lemon EXCELLENCE Bar would go well with Hoegaarden’s Original.
It may not seem intuitive to pair something hoppy like a Pale Ale or IPA with chocolate, but there is a whole range of flavors that can work with the complexity in these beers. Chocolates containing citrus rinds like orange or lemon can bring out these flavors in the hops, and the same goes for floral notes. Alternatively, dark chocolates with chiles can be a wonderful combination with an IPA. DAGOBA Organic Xocolatl Dark chocolate is a good spicy chocolate to go with Goose Island’s IPA.
The highly alcoholic and quite varied Barley Wine can be the perfect partner with a strong chocolate that can compete with its flavor. This includes both sweet and bitter chocolates, depending on the profile you are looking for. Try Chocolove’s Ginger Crystalized in Dark Chocolate with Victory’s Old Horizontal as a good nightcap.