We do like the better things in life. Chocolate, wine, but also beers. And every summer, when the chocolate season is on a seasonal low, we keep ourselves busy with small side projects. Amsterdam, where our headquarter is located, is a perfect spot to reach out to local breweries and hop on a tour to discover new taste sensations.
Why does beer go well with chocolate?
Alcohol is a flavour enhancer, helping bring out the natural flavours in food. That's why chefs use alcohol so often in cooking and why alcoholic drinks are so often paired with food. However you need to find a drink with flavours that can work with and complement the complex array of the taste and aroma of chocolate. That's where beer comes in!
Beer is made from malted barley. During malting, the barley is allowed to germinate releasing the sugars, minerals, vitamins and protein that the yeast will convert into beer. The germination is stopped by "kilning" - heating the green malt in a large oven. This not only stops the germination it also produces colour and flavour. The same "browning reactions" occur during kilning as cooking all types of food (roasting meat, making toast). Just as with making toast, the longer and more intense the heat - the greater the colour and flavour of the resulting Malt.
The malster’s skill is adjusting the intensity of kilning to produce different types of malt. There is a whole spectrum of flavours and colours from very pale golden lager malt through the rich browns to roasted malts that are almost black. There is also a vast array of malt flavours - fresh cut hay or sweetcorn in lager malts, malty toffee, Ovaltine, Horlicks, Malteser in ale malts, chocolate, coffee flavours in darker malts and smoky, burnt, roasted flavours in black malts and roasted barley. The range of malty flavours are perfect partners for chocolate. Beers brewed with paler malts complimenting milk chocolates and darker beers such as stouts matching plain chocolate.
Hops are the other ingredient which helps beer marry up with chocolate. Hops are the source of beer bitterness - which complements the natural bitterness of some chocolate.
The bitterness helps cut through the powerful chocolate flavours that overwhelm a blander drink. Hops can also give a citrus flavour to beer - and we know that citrus flavour such as orange and chocolate can be a match made in heaven!
Fruit beers, such as those traditionally brewed in Belgium, are produced by maturing the beer in casks with whole fruit (typically 100 -200 g of fresh fruit per litre of beer). The most popular varieties are Framboise (raspberry) and Kriek (cherry). Whilst the raspberry can tend to be over powered by chocolate, a cherry/chocolate pairing works absolutely perfectly.