Beer and chocolate is a match made in heaven

Matching beer with food is a deeply rewarding and delicious activity. When paired, certain flavours bring out the best in each other and many top chefs now recommend beers as part of their restaurants’ tasting menus, keen to expand the expectations of diners beyond matching food with wine.

But of all the infinite pairings available, why is it that beer and chocolate are now considered to be such consummate companions?
 
The answer lies in their raw ingredients; it is the similarities between cocoa and malt that makes them perfect partners. Their kinship has its origins in the production process of both substances, where gentle, slow roasting draws out their inherent darker, richer flavours and adds warm tastes of toffee and caramel or more toasted, smoky notes. Even the language used to describe both products shares a common vocabulary: words such as ‘chocolate’ or ‘caramel’ are frequently applied to beers, while ‘bittersweet’, ‘dark’ and ‘malty’ are often applied to cocoa. 
 
All beers have characteristics that partner well with chocolate, although perhaps the easiest beers to pair with cocoa products are the darker beer styles such as stouts or porters. Originating in 18th century London, these dark brown beers were first popular among street-market workers known as ‘porters’, and were named after them. In the 19th century, some variants became darker and stronger, with the strongest beer in a brewery known as a ‘stout’.  

All dark beers are brewed with a portion of deeply roasted dark malt, which gives these drinks their distinctive chocolate notes. Adventurous drinkers keen to match chocolate with a dark beer should first carefully consider the sweetness of their chosen chocolate, ensuring they avoid unbalancing the partnership with too much sugar and perhaps opting for an equally dark cocoa-based confectionery.
 
Some experimental brewers have taken this pairing to its logical conclusion and created beers using cocoa as an added ingredient – which is precisely what The South African Breweries have done in creating a special limited edition chocolate-infused version of the hugely popular Castle Milk Stout. 
 
Despite Castle Milk Stout’s title, it’s brewed with lactose sugar rather than milk itself, which helps to give the beer body and a residual, luxurious sweetness. Made with a slightly different base recipe from the regular version of Castle Milk Stout, the limited edition is developed further by adding real cocoa during the brewhouse process, creating a rich, heady, chocolate stout.
 
SAB’s Consumer Science and Sensory Manager, Frieda Dehrmann, says the flavour of the stout is “reminiscent of coffee, laced with chocolate liqueur. It is full-bodied and filling, with bittersweet hints around the edges.” This limited edition beverage is recommended for pairing with wintery, comforting desserts such as sticky toffee pudding or tiramisu.
 
As everyone’s flavour palate differs, the only real way to discover a match is by personal experimentation. 

For two unusual beer infused recipes, check out our infographic below.

Make your own luxurious beer and chocolate treats

Recipes contributed by Masterchef finalist, Alex Rushmer, chef-patron at the award-winning The Hole in the Wall restaurant in Cambridge, UK.
Download the recipe for flourless chocolate cake here.
Download the recipe for dark chocolate and ale truffles here.

A good place to start is considering the three ‘Cs’ – complement, contrast or cleanse – which define how drinks of all kinds can work with food. Beverages should match the flavour profile of your foodstuff with similar flavour notes or tastes; contrast completely, such as pairing sweet drinks with sour or salty foods; or cleanse the palate so you’re refreshed for the next course.

Adam Fenton, our Consumer Science Manager at SABMiller, advises eager chocolate aficionados to pick a beer that best complements their own chocolate of choice. “A good milk chocolate will go well with an amber lager, or a darker chocolate with a bock for both bitterness and sweetness. Dark beers are often sweet and rich in body and taste, so can accompany fruit puddings, chocolate, coffee or toffee ice gelato.”
 
Exploring more artisanal chocolate creations could lead you to an unexpected discovery – why not attempt to pair your favourite beer with salted chocolates, chocolate saturated with citrus notes of orange zest – or perhaps even chocolate spiced with notes of red chilli?

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