Beer and chocolate is a match made in heaven. But don’t take our word for it, try our tasty recipes below and see for yourself!
Matching beer with food is a deeply rewarding and delicious activity. When paired, certain flavors bring out the best in each other and many top chefs now recommend beers as part of their restaurants’ tasting menus, keen to expand the expectations of diners beyond matching food with wine.
But of all the infinite pairings available, why is it that beer and chocolate are now considered to be such consummate companions?
The answer lies in their raw ingredients; it is the similarities between cocoa and malt that makes them perfect partners. Their kinship has its origins in the production process of both substances, where gentle, slow roasting draws out their inherent darker, richer flavors and adds warm tastes of toffee and caramel or more toasted, smoky notes. Even the language used to describe both products shares a common vocabulary: words such as ‘chocolate’ or ‘caramel’ are frequently applied to beers, while ‘bittersweet’, ‘dark’ and ‘malty’ are often applied to cocoa.
All beers have characteristics that partner well with chocolate, although perhaps the easiest beers to pair with cocoa products are the darker beer styles such as stouts or porters. Originating in 18th century London, these dark brown beers were first popular among street-market workers known as ‘porters’, and were named after them. In the 19th century, some variants became darker and stronger, with the strongest beer in a brewery known as a ‘stout’.
All dark beers are brewed with a portion of deeply roasted dark malt, which gives these drinks their distinctive chocolate notes. Adventurous drinkers keen to match chocolate with a dark beer should first carefully consider the sweetness of their chosen chocolate, ensuring they avoid unbalancing the partnership with too much sugar and perhaps opting for an equally dark cocoa-based confectionery.
Some experimental brewers have taken this pairing to its logical conclusion and created beers using cocoa as an added ingredient – which is precisely what The South African Breweries did when they created a special limited edition chocolate-infused version of the hugely popular Castle Milk Stout.
Despite Castle Milk Stout’s title, it’s brewed with lactose sugar rather than milk itself, which helps to give the beer body and a residual, luxurious sweetness. Made with a slightly different base recipe from the regular version of Castle Milk Stout, the limited edition was developed further by adding real cocoa during the brew house process. This created a rich chocolate stout, reminiscent of coffee laced with chocolate liqueur and best paired with wintery, comforting desserts such as sticky toffee pudding or tiramisu.
As everyone’s flavor palate differs, the only real way to discover a match is by personal experimentation. A good place to start is considering the three ‘Cs’ – complement, contrast or cleanse – which define how drinks of all kinds can work with food. Beverages should match the flavor profile of your foodstuff with similar flavor notes or tastes; contrast completely, such as pairing sweet drinks with sour or salty foods; or cleanse the palate so you’re refreshed for the next course.
Chocolate aficionados should pick a beer that best complements their own chocolate of choice. A good milk chocolate will go well with an amber lager, or a darker chocolate with a bock for both bitterness and sweetness. Dark beers are often sweet and rich in body and taste, so can accompany fruit puddings, chocolate, coffee or toffee ice gelato.
Exploring more artisanal chocolate creations could lead you to an unexpected discovery – why not attempt to pair your favorite beer with salted chocolates, chocolate saturated with citrus notes of orange zest – or perhaps even chocolate spiced with notes of red chili?