Whatever the occasion this holiday season, Oregon craft beer paired with Oregon artisan chocolate is an ultimate gift.
While we often think of chocolate as pairing with wine on Valentine’s Day, the winter holidays are a great time to give well-made chocolate. And chocolate and beer go great together, says Bonnie Glass, co-owner of Euphoria Chocolate Company in Eugene.
“People appreciate gifts they can savor and enjoy,” says Glass. “It isn’t a thing they have to wear or put in their home. This is something they are meant to enjoy alone or with others.”
Since its founding in 1983, Euphoria has focused on small-batch craft chocolate and truffles. Over the past couple of years, Glass and her staff have also worked with Eugene-area breweries to introduce truffles made with craft beer, such as IPA and espresso stout.
Why do beer and chocolate pair well? It’s the same reason beers can accompany many heavier foods: combined with beer’s refreshing carbonation, the mix of sweetness and bitterness from both chocolate and beer cuts through the fattiness of chocolate’s cocoa butter, creating a full flavor experience.
Many beer styles pair naturally with chocolate — imperial stouts and porters are great examples. Bitter-heavy styles like IPAs, though, can be more challenging to pair.
“A crisp, hoppy IPA with a pleasant but moderate bitterness is great with a plain dark chocolate,” says Glass. “Simple flavors often don’t get their due when it comes to pairings.” Glass says people often get distracted by the bells and whistles because those details are delicious. “A simple, straightforward dark chocolate has to be balanced because there are no other flavors to mask mistakes,” she says. “It has to be perfection.”
The key is to make sure enough comparison or contrast exists between the brew and chocolate so that each enhances the other without overpowering. Lighter beers such as ESBs, pilsners or pale ales are often considered poor pairings. However, fruit, ginger or spice character can complement chocolate well. A high-cacao chocolate bar (at least 72 percent) can also create a fascinating contrast with a lighter beer, such as hefeweizen or Belgian-style golden ale.
Stouts and porters are natural go-to pairings, says Glass.
“Stout is fantastic with chocolate because it has hints of coffee and molasses, creating a rich but pleasant bitterness ending with a malty sweetness,” she explains. “Stout and chocolate go together like peanut butter and jelly which is why you see people making chocolate stouts.”
Truffles, flourless chocolate cake or other chocolate treats are perfect for stouts. “Ganache plays well with the heavy body of stout while complementing the flavors with its creaminess — a bit like a grown-up version of a root beer float,” she points out. “Porter is lovely with fruit truffles. Unlike other beers which pair better with dark chocolate, porter would be nice with a milk chocolate that isn’t too sweet.”
Of course, beer can act as more than just a great companion — it can serve as a great ingredient too. “Stout is a great addition to chocolate baked goods,” says Glass. “You can’t go wrong adding stout to brownies, cookies or cakes.”
Sour ales and barrel-aged beers can also make wonderful gifts when combined with chocolate. Aged in second-use French and American oak barrels, Raspberry Parliament (8.2 percent ABV), a new release from Eugene’s Alesong Brewing, brings tart, dark flavors, along with a raspberry tang. Or Mob Barley Imperial Stout (8.8 percent ABV) from Portland’s Leikam Brewing, is certified kosher, staying bold and strong with rich, roasty, chocolate character.
Naturally, you can combine beer and chocolate with beer truffles, too. In addition to beer truffles from Euphoria, Portland’s Moonstruck Chocolate Company features a truffle collection made with four different Oregon craft beers: Widmer Brothers Brewing Hefeweizen Truffle (white and dark chocolate), Full Sail Brewing Co. IPA Truffle (milk, dark and ivory chocolates), Rogue Ales Hazelnut Brown Nectar Truffle (roasted hazelnut praline and milk chocolate ganache) and Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter Truffle (dark and milk chocolate).
“Fruit truffles or fruit-infused chocolate are great with sour beers,” adds Glass. “Oakshire Brewing’s Sun Made Cranberry Berliner Weisse is perfect to pair with chocolates exhibiting seasonal fall flavors.”
Ultimately, pairing beers with chocolate comes down to the beers you think go best with the special person to whom you’re giving the bar chocolate, truffles or other chocolate goodness. What matters most is making sure the beer and chocolate can play well together, with maybe a little conflict to keep things interesting — and a reminder that any beer can be paired.
“Pairing beers with chocolate is about either building on similar or complementary aromatics,” says Glass. “The idea that there are beers that don’t pair well sounds like a challenge to find the right chocolate.” •
Oregon Artisan Chocolatiers
Alma Chocolate | almachocolate.com
Arrowhead Chocolates | arrowheadchocolates.com
Brigittine Monks Gourmet Confections | brigittine.org
Cloudforest | cocanu.com
Creo Chocolate | creochocolate.com
Euphoria Chocolate Company | euphoriachocolate.com
Honest Chocolates | honestchocolates.com
Jaciva’s Bakery & Chocolatier | jacivas.com
Missionary Chocolates | missionarychocolates.com
Moonstruck Chocolate | moonstruckchocolate.com
Oregon Craft Chocolatiers | oregoncraftchocolatiers.com
Pitch Dark Chocolate | pitchdarkchocolate.com
Seahorse Chocolate | seahorsechocolate.com
Ranger Chocolate | rangerchocolate.com
Woodblock Chocolate | woodblockchocolate.com