Maybe you’re gearing yourself up for the family’s visit over the Easter holidays and wondering how to stock your fridge, or perhaps you have lots of chocolate eggs calling your name and need something to wash them down with. No matter the pickle you’re in, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you pair local beers with not-too-fancy chocolates you can pick up at your local supermarket.
Most people would never think to eat chocolate while drinking beer. I certainly have never thought to myself – cold glass of bland commercial lager in hand (not that I actually ever have it in hand, but you get my drift) – “Self, some chocolate would pair nicely with this!” However it definitely is a thing. And with such a variety of styles, flavours and techniques in both beer and chocolate, the possibilities are endless.
Without further ado, our top beer and chocolate pairings using Queensland beers:
White Chocolate: Initially we tasted Cadbury Dream and Wayfarer USA Wheat Beer from Green Beacon, and it was perfectly smooth and complimentary, with hints of fruit from the beer balanced by the creaminess of the white chocolate. Problem was, when we went to buy more, only Lindt was available. It was still good, but the chocolate tended to overpower the subtle flavours of the beer, which wasn’t quite bitter enough to cut through the richness.
For our second option, we went straight to the Lindt, pairing it with the new Pilsner from Balter Brewing. While the chocolate is sweet and creamy, the beer holds up and more of the doughy, yeasty characteristics are picked up. Imagine that fluffy dough from a pork bun that’s been slightly sweetened with chocolate and you’re close to the mark.
Hazelnut Milk Chocolate turned out to be one of the heroes of the beer-pairing world, with the chocolate sweetness combined with the soft nuttiness that just worked with so many beer choices. The first to blend beautifully was The Mayne Thing Golden Ale by Newstead Brewing Co, with underlying hints of honey that was emphasized by the chocolate but not overpowered. The hazelnuts brought some body and savoury character to the pairing and it was smooth and delicious.
Bigger and bolder, bursting with fruity and piny flavour bubbles, was the 3 Bolt Pale Ale by Green Beacon. This beer comes in with many layers and depth of flavour, so there was a slight fear that the hazelnut chocolate would get lost in the background, but the roundness of the nuts softened the effervescence of the beer and the two formed a perfect pair. It’s a case of opposites attracting.
Dark Chocolate and varieties thereof provided many happy samples that ran the gamut of style pairings. Because there are so many fruit-infused dark chocolates, it’s a no-brainer to find one that complements (or contradicts) the style of beer you’re drinking.
-Chili Chocolate was paired with Saison du Balise at Green Beacon (not available in cans). With the spicy chili already countered by the bittersweet dark chocolate, it would be possible to take the flavour experience too far by adding tart and funky esters from the farmhouse-style yeast, but there was something about it that just worked. As saisons become more popular in the beer scene, going down especially well during the hot Queensland summer months, the freshness and funkiness are more refined, offering an ideal divergence from golden lagers for regular beer drinkers.
-Dark Chocolate w/Raspberry isn’t one for anyone wanting to keep their chocolate and fruit separate, but that’s not what we’re about. While the big flavours of these two ingredients can become cloying, paired with Pink Mist (a raspberry saison) from Black Hops Brewing, it should be a party staple. Even Eddie (Oldfield, of Black Hops) didn’t think we did too bad with this one. Sweet, tart, balanced and the bitterness of the beer cutting through the sticky chocolate is a bit of heaven in your mouth. Try it now.
-Dark Chocolate w/Orange is divisive: people either love it or hate it. Teaming up with a beer that’s not shy, the Tangerine Dream IPA from Balter Brewing (not available in cans), this combo is your worst nightmare or your happiest dream. The Tangerine Dream is a citrus-heavy IPA that balances tangerine and mandarin tartness with the balanced bitterness expected from this sort of beer (and brewer), which enhances the orange in the chocolate beautifully.
-Dark Chocolate w/Roasted Almonds is the kind of chocolate that pleases most people. Bittersweet chocolate, roasty toasty almonds that add the satisfying crunch, and a wave of pleasure that brings you back for more. Oddly enough, even though we liked the hazelnut chocolate with pale ales, we went down a slightly more expected and traditional route with the darker option, starting with the Alt Brown at Balter Brewing. Also described as “roasty and toasty”, this malt-forward, light-bodied brown ale is home to so many subtle nut and tobacco flavours that are magically enhanced with the bitter chocolate and roasted almonds. Absolutely gorgeous.
Our next stop was up the coast at Burleigh Brewing, where the chocolate was again paired with a malt-forward beer, their My Wife’s Bitter, which is a traditional English Bitter. With malt-driven beers, there can be a tendency for the beer to be overpowered by a sweetness that’s not balanced by hoppy bitterness, but that’s not the case here, and that underlying bitter note cuts through the chocolate and is tempered by the almond, for a rich and creamy mouthfeel.
-Dark Chocolate with nothing else. This is so bitter, so biting, that it started out for baking until the health benefits of dark chocolate (love it!) were discovered, and the higher the cocoa content, the better it is for your heart. Or so they say. It’s a pretty easy jump to make from your dark beers – porters and stouts – to your dark chocolates. Known for chocolate, coffee and a burnt flavour, both the chocolates and beers in this family have strong supporters and opponents. Too big, they say, or too bold. Together they’re a perfect match.
The chocolate that got away was Dark Chocolate with Caramel & Sea Salt, also by Lindt. Alone, the chocolate is divine, however when paired with beer (and we tried it with golden ales, pale ales and porters) there was an overpowering aniseed, or liquorice, flavour that sat at the front of our mouths and wouldn’t fade. It could be our aversion to aniseed (which isn’t listed anywhere as an ingredient of the chocolate) that we got from some chemical reaction, but on this occasion, we let the chocolate work on its own merit. No beer wanted.
There you go, a snapshot into the tough research we do to bring you the best chocolate and beer pairings around! We love to support our local Queensland breweries and had a great time sampling beers we hadn’t tried for a while as we ate our way through 8 blocks of chocolate. None of the breweries mentioned sponsored us in any way to do this – it’s all on our backs and we tried not to play favourites at all.
Just to reiterate, and to give you a handy list you can cut-and-paste in one go, our suggestions are:
- Pair Cadbury Dream with Wayfarer by Green Beacon for a sultry, silky romance party in your mouth.
- Pair Lindt White Chocolate with Pilsner by Balter Brewing for a full-bodied mouthfeel with popping subtleties from the Pils.
- Pair Woolworths Milk Chocolate w/Hazelnut with Golden Ale by Newstead Brewing Co. for a smooth and rich palate warm up.
- Pair Woolworths Chocolate w/Hazelnut with 3 Bolt by Green Beacon for a vibrant, exciting boldness, tempered by a round chocolate finish.
- Pair Lindt Chili Chocolate with Saison by Green Beacon or Black Hops for a refreshing, tastebud-awakening surprise blend.
- Pair Lindt Chocolate Raspberry Intense with Pink Mist by Black Hops for a mash-up of summer vibrancy and winter comfort in a mouthful.
- Pair Lindt Chocolate Orange Intense with Tangerine Dream by Balter Brewing to feel like you’re walking through a field full of citrus trees while sucking on a chocolate candy.
- Pair Lindt Chocolate w/Roasted Almonds with Alt Brown by Balter Brewing to release the subtle roasted nut and tobacco notes in the beer.
- Pair Lindt Chocolate w/Roasted Almonds with My Wife’s Bitter by Burleigh Brewing to feel like you should be wearing a smoking jacket and be surrounded by an old-school library while enjoying an after-dinner drink and dessert.
- Pair Green & Black’s Organic 70% Dark Chocolate with 21 Feet 7 Inches Porter by Newstead Brewing Co. for an experience that will have you rolling your eyes to the heavens in a silent “thank you”, as you wonder to yourself where all that bitterness from the chocolate has disappeared to.
Let us know what you think of the listed combinations when you try them – love it? Hate it? Think of something better? That’s ok, our feelings won’t be hurt!
Team Hop On Brewery Tours
Special shout out to the Beer Diva and her Chocolate + Beer Masterclass at Esk BeerFest in Launceston. She masterfully paired white chocolate with Little Dove Pale Ale by Gage Roads, chili chocolate with Chevalier Saison by Bridge Road, orange chocolate with Hop Hog by Feral and dark chocolate with Stout by 4 Pines, and was our inspiration to do the same.