Beer Guide: Chocolate & Beer, Some Random Suggestions

image courtesy of our Flickr page What thoughts are conjured in your mind when you ponder the words, food pairing. Do you envision something esoteric where a glass of wine rests on a table, backlit by candlelight? Or do you ponder chocolate dipped strawberries on a white ceramic plate, while an uncorked bottle of sparkling wine rests in a bucket of ice? If either of these thoughts come to mind you aren’t alone, since this is the image that the majority conjure up in regards to a food pairing.

Fact is, a food pairing isn’t just wine and steak. It can be anything from what flavors you want in your Blizzard or maybe why so many of us blend our Slurpees together.

But rather than bore you to death with a lecture built around the history of food pairings we will jump right into an example, beer and chocolate. Believe it or not beer when compared side-by-side with wine or spirits or the most versatile when it comes to chocolate. From a caramel sweet amber ale to the dark coffee or chocolate porter and stout, there is something for everyone.

Here is what Pike Brewery who is hosting a chocolate and artisan beverage pairing had to say regarding the history of chocolate.

Though not as old as beer, wine or mead, cocoa trees, from which chocolate is created, were used in the Amazon more than 4,000 years ago to make a drink which was seasoned with herbs from the forests and countryside.

Early people attributed fertility to the pods, which are said to resemble human genitalia. By 600 AD, the Mayans began to cultivate the earliest known cocoa plantations. They had faith that chocolate was the god's favorite food. The Aztecs agreed, adding that it was the ultimate aphrodisiac. Love itself may be free, but chocolate has always been a luxury and has even been used as currency.

So much for free love, the pleasures of a luxurious Central American brothel were recorded to have been purchased by Hernando de Oviedo y Valdes, a member of a Spanish expedition in 1513 for 10 cocoa beans! Legend tells us that Emperor Montezuma drank upwards of 50 goblets of thick red chocolate daily, throwing the solid gold goblets away after each use.

Though today such conspicuous consumption is politically incorrect, Valentine chocolates are still wrapped in red paper, often presented tied in golden ribbon. Cortez, who was the first Westerner to cultivate cocoa, sent a gift of American cocoa beans, back home to Charles the First. In order to make the bitter sweet, he added sugar and vanilla, nutmeg and other spices, all exotic imports at the time.

Charles fell in love. So did the Pope, who approved its consumption on Fridays. The chocolate craze was revolutionary, soon spreading to France, Italy, and Switzerland. Thirteen years before the Declaration of Independence was penned, New England business people signed on to build this country's first chocolate factory.

The 19th century saw solid growth and by 1830, the English introduced the first chocolate designed to be eaten as a confection.

The Swiss, Belgians. Italians and Dutch all have legitimate claim to chocolate's hall of fame, but as quick as you can say "cocoa nibs", in the 21st Century, Seattle, dripping in truffles, caramels, gelato, pralines, and cocoa has become "chocolate central" rivaling Europe's chocolate capitals.

We focused on one chocolate confectioner rather than submit individual chocolate types. Locally produced and recognized for their organic, fair trade ingredients, Theo Chocolates, since 2006, seemed the best choice. Below you will find a list of their Chocolates that we procured from around the area, including descriptions and suggested beers.

Coffee Dark Chocolate: will bring out and compliment roasted, malty notes in many dark beers.

Toasted Coconut Dark Chocolate: can bring out tropical sweetness in dark beers without losing toasted notes

Rich 70% Dark Chocolate: pure dark chocolate with no flavor inclusions (not surprisingly) compliments dark beers that have chocolate, cola, or coffee notes.

Spicy Chile Dark Chocolate: a surprise that often is a nice compliment. Works particularly well with creamier dark beers.

image courtesy of our Flickr page Our Thoughts, look for the following beers.

Orange Dark Chocolate: brings out fruit in any beer. Clean and bright flavor.

Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate: often works as the classic combination of spicy heat and cool refreshing beer. With 11 different spices in the bar, different beers will help to either clean up those flavors or highlight specific spices.

Chai Tea Milk Chocolate: warming spices work very well with beers that have crisp apple or pear flavor notes

Spicy Chile Dark Chocolate: similarly, cool refreshing beers reduce the heat while letting the chile come through as bright, clean fruit.

image courtesy of our Flickr page Our thoughts, look for the following brewery beers.

As with any list, there are some obvious omissions based on seasonality and such.  But for those of you who can’t make a decision on whether you are looking for something sweeter or something darker, we invite you visit the Pike Pub & Brewery for their Third Annual Chocofest.

Here is what the brewery had to say about this almost sold out event.

Pike's 3rd Annual Chocofest is a romantic and educational way to discover the wide variety of chocolate treats from here and around the world. Stations set up throughout the Micro Brewery Museum and Naughty Nelly Room feature different chocolate treats, each presented by an expert (often the producers themselves). Adjacent to each chocolate table is a drink table staffed with experts to sample and explain their beverages. This year more than two dozen different chocolates will be sampled along with more than 20 different beers, wines, mead and spirits. Please join us for this fun and educational event.

Why Seattle? people ask when they learn that "Portland and Seattle are the top two craft beer markets in the world," according to the Eyewitness Companion to Beer, edited by Michael Jackson, and published posthumously. And it's not just beer! With more than 800 local wineries to choose from, we are a wine haven that few other places can rival. When the White House recently entertained Chinese president Hu Jintao, a Washington State wine was chosen. Think coffee? Think Seattle. Love cheese? Seattle's annual Seattle Cheese Festival is our country's best! In 2010, The National Cheese Society chose Seattle as the site for their annual conference. When the law was changed a couple of years ago making craft distilling a viable business model, would-be distillers jumped on the band wagon. Our state now has more craft distilleries: thirty-five, with another twenty applications pending, more than any other state. Bread? Names like Macrina, Columbia City, Tall Grass, Grand Central, Essential, and La Panzanella are fresh on our minds, No Wonder! Then there's chocolate, which like coffee, won't grow here because of our climate. Perhaps because of our weather, the Emerald City could be called the "Cocoa City". Fran Bigelow, with her extraordinary salted caramels, favorites of President Obama, put Seattle on the chocolate map. A tour of Theo's, our "bean to bar" organic chocolate maker located in Fremont, is both educational and delicious. Local chocolate truffle makers, like Carters and Trevani abound, and not surprisingly, Seattle is the home of the importer of one of the world's best chocolates, Claudio Corallo, estate grown in the tiny African country of Sao Tomé. Leonidas, the best chocolates of Belgium, along with a phenomenal selection of that country's great beers, are available at Bottleworks in Wallingford. And just around the corner from Pike, The Chocolate Box offers locals and tourists alike a world class selection that makes every guest a winner of Willie Wonka's golden ticket!

For more information we have posted the details below.

Thursday February 10th, 2011 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM $25 per person (206) 812-6604
The Micro Brewery Museum and Naughty Nellie Room
1415 1st Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101
RSVP to Tara, tshuttleworth@pikebrewing.com

About Theo’s Choclates

Theo produces premium organic and Fair Trade specialty chocolate. Our founder, Joseph Whinney, pioneered the supply of organic cocoa beans into the United States in 1994. Joe always dreamt of building the first organic chocolate factory in the US, as prior to Theo’s inaugural chocolate run in March of 2006, all organic chocolate was manufactured in Europe and imported into the US market. As the first and only organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory in the country, all of our ingredients are carefully screened to ensure they meet our standards for social and environmental responsibility. Theo’s standards and practices include:

Using only pure ingredients that are grown sustainably. We source our ingredients locally whenever possible.

Partnering with our growers by ensuring they earn a living wage and have access to education for their families.

Honoring and respecting our employees and suppliers. This is possible due to the unique fact that we control every step of our own manufacturing process.

Using green energy sources to power our factory.

Using sustainable packaging and printing methods.

Educating about social and environmental accountability 7 days a week through public tours of our artisan factory.

About Pike Brewery

Charles and Rose Ann Finkel founded the Pike Brewing Company in 1989 in the La Salle Hotel in the Pike Place Public Market. In 1996 they moved Pike to its current location on First Avenue between Pike and Union and opened the Pike Pub. The Pub features local, sustainable pub fare. Housed within the Pub is the Pike Microbrewery Museum.

Happy Valentines Day

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