Beer and chocolate are two of humanity’s greatest creations, so it’s no surprise that tasting them together results in good times, flavour revelations and even spiritual epiphanies.

Over the past decade the chocolate industry has experienced a ‘craft’ revolution, much like the beer industry, though it’s still early days and public awareness of craft chocolate is far behind that of craft beer. At the heart of craft chocolate is the ‘bean to bar’ movement — the act of making chocolate from scratch, starting with roasting cacao beans, then going through a very complex process of grinding and refining cacao into silky smooth chocolate. Most small chocolate companies buy pre-made chocolate (known as couverture) from big European manufacturers, but craft chocolate makers are doing everything themselves, on a small scale. 

A key difference you’ll find with craft chocolate is the range of flavours coming purely from the cacao beans. Just like malt, hops and yeast, cacao can taste like thousands of different things, with a potential flavour spectrum that goes far beyond the traditional ‘chocolatey’ flavour we’re all familiar with. Pairing craft chocolate with beer is more complex than using mainstream industrial chocolate, and therefore more fun.

It isn’t always easy to pair beer and chocolate, as there are lots of potential palate clashes, but that makes finding a great pairing all-the-more satisfying. Here are some tips to help you make some delicious discoveries:

Pairing chocolate with beer

It takes a long time — and lots of experimenting — to learn what does and doesn’t pair well. When you’re starting out, a good basic method is to pair lighter chocolate with lighter beer, and darker chocolate with darker beer. This definitely isn’t a golden rule, but it’s a suitable starting point for exploration. Another important thing to note is that sweeter beers are a lot more likely to pair well with chocolate — matching a sweet and malty dark beer with dark chocolate will almost always be amazing, whereas pairing super bitter or acidic beers can be a challenge.

Every chocolate has a perfect beer partner and your job is to play matchmaker. The aim is to find a match that is more than the sum of its parts, i.e. the combined flavours help to reveal something that cannot be sensed when tasting the beer and chocolate separately.

beer and chocolate

While cacao offers an incredible world of nuanced and subtle flavour notes, the more delicate notes can be overwhelmed by the powerful flavour of beer. It’s best to pair ‘straight’ dark chocolate (made with just beans and sugar) with an easy match, like a traditional milk stout or English porter. Chocolates with added flavour ingredients tend to shout a bit louder, so they can complement a broader range of beer styles.

Think of pairing a little bit like cooking or baking. If banana and cinnamon work well together in a dessert, there’s a strong chance a banana-y beer will pair well with a cinnamon chocolate. Or if coconut and chilli combine beautifully in a salad, then a coconut chocolate will probably go well with a chilli beer.

When you’re trialling pairings, remember there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, just fun and inspiration. Don’t be afraid to try crazy combinations because the magic can be found in surprising places.

Tasting your pairings

Take your time tasting and give everything room to breathe. It’s best to start with your piece of chocolate — have a good look at it, then smell the aroma to prepare your tastebuds. Place the chocolate on your tongue and move it around your mouth, letting it melt slowly, and notice how the flavours develop over time, as the chocolate melts. When the chocolate’s almost finished, smell your beer and see how the aromas and tastes mingle. 

Now it’s time to take a sip of beer. Roll it around your mouth and see how it interacts with the aftertaste of the chocolate, then have another nibble of chocolate and notice how it affects the aftertaste of the beer. Are these flavours and textures complimentary or do they clash? Take some notes (if you’re feeling particularly studious).

Suggestions for pairings

There are infinite pairing possibilities and the true joy is discovering them for yourself, but here are a few tried and tested combinations:

Light wheat beer with white chocolate

Badass Beverages Hefe Metal with Lucid Chocolatier 34% Blonde

Belgian-style Tripel with salted caramel chocolate

McLeod’s Tripel with OCHO Salted Caramel

Fruity hazy pale ale with citrus chocolate

Parrotdog Birdseye with Shirl & Moss Hazelnut, Orange & Sea Salt

Milk stout with deep and malty single origin dark chocolate

Cassels Milk Stout with Foundry Chocolate Malekula Island, Vanuatu 70%

Fruity sour with fruity white or milk chocolate

Duncan’s Raspberry Ripple Sour with Wellington Chocolate Factory Raspberry Milk Chocolate

Bourbon barrel-aged beer with vanilla chocolate

Liberty Brewing Prohibition Porter with Wonderland Chocolate Cannonball Cam (Coconut & Vanilla) 

Beer and chocolate pairing is a fun way to enjoy your beer from a different perspective and it’s a great social activity. I hope you’re now inspired to embark on a beer and chocolate adventure!