Pairing food and drink is a common practice. I’ve intentionally tried some pairings and others were a pleasant surprise. The great thing about pairings is that you can be creative, cater to your own unique palette, and, when you’ve found a great pair, it clearly lets you know.
I was invited to a chocolate and beer pairing at Equal Exchange Cafe on May 9. Entering the cafe for the first time, I was excited to see a table set up for our group – cups were ready to go and we were all given a tasting form to record our experiences.
Equal Exchange is located in West Bridgewater, MA. Some of their products include chocolate (their 71% Very Dark Chocolate is my favorite), coffee, tea, hot chocolate, sugar, and bananas. Equal Exchange’s mission is to “build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.” Now that should make you happy to eat chocolate!
Harpoon is in Boston and, as you know, they make beer. I started drinking Harpoon in college – my boyfriend and I would buy the Harpoon UFO Explorer variety pack at Whole Foods because it contains our favorites – the original Hefeweizen UFO, UFO Raspberry, and UFO White.
We sampled four pairings at the event:
– Dark Chocolate with Almonds (55%) & UFO White
– Milk Chocolate (38%) & Maple Wheat
– Dark Chocolate with Caramel Crunch and Sea Salt (55%) & Dark
– Orange Chocolate (65%) & Rye IPA
We followed the same three steps for each of the four pairings: the first step is to identify the aroma (smell) and flavor (taste) of the beer. Next we explore the aroma and flavor of the chocolate – in the image above you can see Emily from What Emily Cooks sampling the aroma. The third step is to pair the chocolate and beer. To do this, we put a small square of chocolate in our mouths, allowing it to become slightly soft. Then we take a sip of beer, combining the chocolate and beer. The texture of wet chocolate took a little getting used to, but by the second combination I felt like a regular!
My favorite pairing was the Dark beer and Dark Chocolate with Caramel Crunch and Sea Salt. As we realized in our tasting group, everyone recognizes different aromas and flavors during a tasting. These are my impressions of the dark beer with dark chocolate:
On its own, the beer has a bitter aroma with undertones of cranberry and an espresso flavor. The chocolate has a black pepper and smoke aroma and flavors including sweet, salt, caramel, and smoke. They were each great on their own (as were all of the samples we tried), but this pairing was my favorite because the combined flavor was amazing – I tasted almond and cherry, and the beer made the chocolate creamier. The aftertaste was much sweeter than either of the individual components.
I hope you’re inspired to try some of these pairings. Want to follow along the way I did? Check out the pairing guide here, or invent your own!
My involvement was made possible by a complimentary invitation from Terry at Antler, Equal Exchange Cafe, Equal Exchange, and Harpoon. Thank you – I had a fantastic time!