Valentine’s Day is up in the ranks of holidays that result in an overload of sweets, particularly chocolate. This year, forgo the usual bottles of wine and Champagne and break out some of your tastiest homebrew to pair with dessert favorites.
Caramel Filled Dark Chocolates
On their own, caramel and chocolate have very dominant flavor components. Caramel is very sugary-sweet and dark chocolate is typically quite sweet with a bit of bitterness and acidity depending on the composition. Together they create a tasty combination, with a wallop of sweetness that is perfectly counterbalanced by the dark chocolate’s acidity and bitterness.
Pairing 1: English Barley Wine
English barley wine showcases rich malt complexity and a hefty level of alcohol. While it may seem like overkill to pair a super-sugary dessert with a sweet, malt-forward ale, the result of similar sweet sensations can actually result in less perceived sweetness on the palate. Some English barley wines have more hop character than others, and subtle bitterness can also help calm some of the intense sweetness of the dessert and the ale’s malt.
Pairing 2: Carbonated Dry Cider
A well-made dry cider can offer some apple flavor and aroma and has high carbonation, similar to champagne and sparkling wines. The intense sweetness of the caramel-filled chocolates will curb some of the bitterness from the cider’s tannins, and any apple character will meld with the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate. It’s like a liquid chocolate-caramel dipped apple!
White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
White chocolate is generally quite smooth and lacks the bitter or acid-like bite you may get when enjoying darker chocolates. When paired with fruit, in this case raspberries, the delicateness of the white chocolate and berries don’t clash, but instead create a very smooth and rich dessert.
Pairing 1: Hefeweizen
Hefeweizen is a light, crisp wheat-based style with subdued hop character and a heap of yeast character (hefe in German means yeast). The sweet and fruity cheesecake dominates a lot of the lighter malt qualities of the hefeweizen, but the notes of clove, bubblegum and banana created by the yeast complement the smoothness of the desert by adding an interestingly spicy kick.
Pairing 2: Maibock/Helles Bock
Maibock is a pale lager with lots of base malt character, apparent yet restrained hop character and a gentle alcohol warming. The doughy qualities of the malt flavors and the refined hop character counters some of the sweetness of the cheesecake, and the Noble hop character creates an interesting effect when paired against the richness of the dessert.
Chocolate Covered Bacon
When bacon is coated in a thin layer of semisweet chocolate, the resulting crunchy piece of goodness embodies a tantalizing combination of salty, fatty, sweet and umami. If making from scratch, find thick pieces of bacon, don’t overdue the chocolate and sprinkle some sea salt on top!
Pairing 1: Milk Stout
Leaning on the sweeter side of stouts, milk stouts are rich, full-bodied ales with lots of roasty, chocolate notes and a boost of sweetness from the unfermentable lactose sugars. The salt and umami from the bacon allows the sweetness of the chocolate and beer to shine, while curbing some of the astringent qualities of the roasted malts.
Pairing 2: Lambic
Lambic is a wheat-based style with prominent sour qualities from the use of Belgian microbiota. The acid from the sourness of the lambic helps calm the saltiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the chocolate, while the lower level of carbonation paired with moderate alcohol allow for the fatty qualities of the bacon to withstand some of the powerful sourness.
For more information on pairing beer and food, visit Tips For Pairing on CraftBeer.com.