Chocolate and Beer is Nothing New
The pairing of beer with chocolate by chefs and beer specialists is an increasingly common occurrence. They may toil over what to pair with fiddleheads, artichokes or pickles, but chocolate pairing is almost too easy.
• Banana split with chocolate and coffee ice cream, chocolate sauce, all the extras, and Schneinder Aventinus (a German wheat dopplebock).
• Fresh fruit over a custardy tart decorated with caramel sauce paired with a North Coast Old Rasputin (hoppy imperial stout).
Successfully pairing chocolate with beer can be based on any or all of the three tenets of pairing: matching intensity of flavors, seeking complementary liaisons, and creating contrasts.
For the first, use a full flavored chocolate with lots of subtleties and some bitterness. Pair that with an equally intense beer. Beer intensity can be judged in terms of alcohol content, bitterness, and aroma/flavor.Complementarity between chocolate and beer occurs when any of the flavors of bitter chocolate, milk chocolate, caramel, sugar, fruitiness, nuttiness or cookies appear in both the food and the drink. Doubtless there are other complements, depending on the specific flavors of the chocolate and the beer. Lastly, there is the contrast. Pairing a fruity wheat beer with a rich chocolate dessert is a common example. Pairings that both complement and contrast can be most interesting. I’m impressed by the idea of a dark chocolate praline infused with Earl Grey tea paired with a Belgian wit seasoned with Curaçao orange peel. Here the bergamot flavor and tannic mouthfeel of the tea pairs with the bitter orange peel and coriander seed in the beer, while the effervescent and grainy witbier lifts the rich chocolate off the tongue.
Chocolate was a Beverage First
Chocolate and beer have both been around far longer then we might release. Let me propose that chocolate and alcoholic fermented beverages were associated over thirty centuries ago in early mesoamerica. This isn’t too hard to swallow when you consider that both are mild sedatives and both have reputed aphrodisiac properties.
With the sophistication of early Central American cultures, it is not surprising that the indigenous peoples were drinking beer-like beverages. Primarily ceremonial, these drinks might have been a corn-based beer called chicha, primarily associated with Peru, or a honey-wine called xtabentun (pr: shtah-ben-toon) made from a narcotic green honey and perhaps seasoned with herbs, including anise (was this Mayan absinthe?).
You don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to realize that if chocolate and fermented drink can each get you closer to Quetzalcoatl, then both together must be better. Speaking of better, the National Geographic reports that the early chocolate beverages were indeed fermented and comprised a primitive beer. Those Toltecs knew in 1100 BC what we’ve only just re-discovered: that chocolate and beer are a natural combination. TPJ.