I can still remember my first discussion with a legend of the beer industry on beer and food matching, his name was Chuck Hahn (sorry, that was a blatant name drop). I was very new to the craft beer world and was pulling together a couple of beer and food matching dinners for him. I was such a newbie, it was my first time at the Malt Shovel Brewery with him and he was giving me the Beer & Food Matching 101 low down, and it went a bit like this…
Chuck: Chris, did you know that you can pair beer with pretty much any food you like? You tell me your favourite food and I will tell you the food that goes perfectly with it!
Me: Chocolate. What beer goes with chocolate?
Chuck: Oh yeah, that’s a good one…what’s your favourite beer then?
Me: (Insert the name of some major brewery mega swill, it was the days before I was enlightened to the joys of craft beer.)
Chuck: Oh geez Chris, you have a lot to learn. Just wait here…
He went off to the kitchen at the brewery and came back with some chocolate and a bottle of beer. Pouring the beer into a glass, I was surprised to see that he was pouring out a dark beer, my only experience with dark beers at the time was Guinness…I had a lot to learn.
Me: Oh shit, that’s a dark beer…it’s black!
Chuck: Oh no Chris, this is my Porter, it’s not black at all…hold it up to the light, you can see through it and the colour is kind of like the “Window panes of rub mahogany”.
Note: this last “quote” from Chuck is utter bullshit, but if any of you have ever been to one of his beer dinners, you will have heard him say this. It’s like his catch cry and every person who has ever worked with him will be able to do an impression of this line!
Anyway, I tried the Porter with the chocolate and was instantly hooked…the roasty notes of the porter just complimented the sweet chocolate as it melted over my tongue. The first course we planned for the beer and food match dinners…James Squire Porter and Chocolate Mousse with a Ganache garnish!
Fast forward to present day and my palate has matured a lot in terms of beer, but I still have the uncontrollable sweet tooth of a 10 year old! Yes, I have on numerous occasions eaten my children’s Easter eggs, Halloween lollies and birthday party loot bags! I don’t stop with my kids, I regularly eat my wife’s Easter Eggs, or polish off the block of chocolate in the fridge before she gets a chance to eat any of it…I do not share well when it comes to chocolate.
Keeping these things in mind, it will be no surprise to you that I love to explore the art of Beer & Chocolate/Lolly/Candy matching. If you are a like minded individual, read on, as I present some of my favourite sweets and the beers that I think go best with them:
Snickers Bars & James Squire Porter
I know some people would not want to include a beer form one of the big guys here, but it is a great one. Crafty Pint did a blind tasting of Porters and it beat all but one contender…a good beer is still a good beer, my friends! Anyway, the combination of the salty nuts and sweet caramel highlights the sweeter notes in the beer (chocolate and caramel), while the nice bitter roastiness in the finish cuts through for a crisp ending to the combination…I could live off this combination!
Orange Jelly Beans & Feral Brewing White
When you pair beer and food, you generally want to do one of the 3 C’s…Cut, Contrast, or Compliment…in the case of this pairing, it’s Compliment al the way! In fact, I think you would call this one a Turbo-boosted Compliment, as it really ramps up the citrus flavouring in the beer, to the point where it feels a bit like someone has shoved a full orange in your mouth and then exploded it! It’s a huge citrus bang, followed by a nice contrasting tart (but not too tart) finish.
Sour Patch Kids & Pirate Life Brewing IIPA
I can’t say that these lollies are one of my favourite, but my kids bloody love them! Occasionally I will steal my kids lollies and on the occasion that I happened to find some of these laying around I was a little surprised at how sour they were. I wasn’t sure which way to go with this pairing initially…do I double down on the sourness and hit them with my mate Will’s Hedgerow (Barrel Aged Sour Ale from Tasmanian brewery Van Dieman) from this year? Or do I go for the contrast…I decided upon the latter and chose a nice big juicy fruit citrus, the IIPA from Pirate Life Brewing. The lollies actually allowed the citrus notes of the IIPA to really ring true…an interesting pairing! You could probably substitute on some of those new Sour Mentos here…yeah, they would be good!
Milk Chocolate & Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
You can never have too much chocolate! That’s why with this one I will choose to double down on the chocolate flavour…well actually, am I really triple downing (is that a term?) because its already a double chocolate stout? I have heard Young’s DCS referred to as “decadent”, “luscious”, “indulgent” and “f##king amazing”…all of these are descriptions are accurate, and the addition of some quality milk chocolate only elevates this beer into the stratosphere of quality stouts. Another great option for milk chocolate would be a great milk stout to enhance the wonderful sweetness…can you tell I am a sweet tooth? Elsie The Nitrogenate Milk Stout from Batch Brewing Company would be a perfect accompaniment if you live in Sydney and your local serves it on tap…just rock up with a block of Cadbury Dairy Milk and take a seat at the bar…”keep em coming bartender!”.
Milk Chocolate Peanut Clusters & Moose Drool Brown Ale
I love this beer (it comes in cans)…even tried to (unsuccessfully) emulate it in my home brewery! The caramel notes, roasty flavours and nutty elements are just enhanced brilliantly by the creamy chocolate and peanuts. Note: if you shove more than 4 peanut clusters in your mouth and then try and wash them down with some Brown Ale, you will end up with it all down the front of your t-shirt…just sayin’. I am gonna try and Snickers with Moose Drool next, I reckon that would be spot on as well!
Skittles & Hawkers Saison
I am not a huge fan of saison’s, but I could appreciate what this pairing was doing in my mouth. You have the fresh and fruity side of the beer that is working with the explosion of fruit flavours from the skittles that is then balanced out by the dry finish and estery elements that cleanse the palate.
I wonder if Allens Snake’s and Saison would work in the same way…I had better try that.
BONUS: Cadbury Creme Eggs
To be honest with you, this one kind of puzzles me as to what to match with it. I haven’t actually done it yet, Creme Eggs aren’t around at the moment in Australia, but they are one of my favourite chocolate treats. I am thinking that maybe a Milk Stout to enhance the sweetness, but it could be a bit much, so maybe a Porter to add some bitterness to the combination.
I am interested to hear your thoughts on this one, actually…leave a comment here, or shoot me an email?
It’s getting pretty close to Christmas, how good would a beer and chocolate pack be for Dad this year…a couple of Porters and Stouts, a few Snickers Bars and a couple of blocks of chocolate…that sounds like a plan to me. I am going to send my letter to the big fella in red straight away to see what he can sort out for me.
Cheers to great beers and the occasional block of chocolate to accompany them!