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Host a Chocolate & Cheese Pairing Party

Posted on December 23, 2009 9:23 AM by Erin

Every year, it seems like more and more people are hosting their own New Year's Eve party instead of spending the night out on the town.  But with entertaining comes a lot of planning and hard work.  What will you do?  What will you serve?  One way to both keep it simple and have fun while you wait for the ball to drop is to have a chocolate & cheese pairing party.

Arrange different combinations of chocolates and cheeses around the room (with cards identifying each) for guests to sample and discuss.  Have them start with the mildest pairing and then work their way up.  You can even print out instruction cards, with advice on how to taste like a pro.

For guests to cleanse their palates between pairings, you might want to serve a dry sparkling wine such as Presecco (it is the holidays after all!).  Sparkling water, plain crackers, or baskets of fresh bread also work nicely.

Our friends over at the Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery came up with a few pairings to help you get you started (you can also watch Allison Hooper, owner/cheese maker, demonstrate these pairings on VPT Cooks Chocolate):

• Fresh Goat Cheese (Chevre) with Dark Sea Salt Caramels

• Sharp Vermont Cheddar with Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger or Ginger Lemon Organic Truffles

• Blue Cheese with 70% Dark Organic Truffles

• Hard Sheep’s Milk Cheese with Organic Honey Fig Truffles or with Organic Milk Chocolate Sea Salt & Almonds

• Bijou with Spicy Aztec Organic Dark Chocolate

• Bonne Bouche with Champagne Truffles

These are just a few suggestions; you could also browse your local cheese shop for other ideas and recommendations.  Just remember, as Allison says in the video, there are no absolute right answers for pairing...just have fun & enjoy!

Switchback Dooley’s Belated Porter (5.8%) with Lake Champlain Chocolates 54% Dark Chocolate Square  

 For locals, Switchback’s Unfiltered Ale is what you order.  Walk into a Burlington bar or restaurant, you’ll see 90% of the beer drinkers with a murky, amber colored potion in front of them.

I’ll admit, sometimes I go for a Belgian White Ale (I love how it’s served with an orange slice) or will order a house beer if I’m at a microbrewery, but almost always, I go for the Switchback. 

The Switchback Brewery reminds me slightly of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – mysterious, very few people work there, yet they create incredible beer, readily available on tap at restaurants and bars around Vermont.  

Our fourth and final beer paring at Brewfest combined Switchback’s Dooley’s Belated Porter, a 5.8% alcohol by volume porter, with our Signature Dark Chocolate.  The flavor profile for our dark chocolate includes brown fruit (think cherries, dates, raisins), vanilla, baked brownie and brown spice. 

Porters, like stouts, have chocolate undertones, which in this pairing, brought out those subtle flavors in the chocolate, like brown fruit and baked brownie.  Mmm… 

Beer Pairing No. 3

Posted on August 19, 2009 9:24 AM by Allison

American Flatbread's Zero Gravity Extra Stout with Lake Champlain Chocolates' Organic Mango Truffle

American Flatbread epitomizes Vermont’s general food ethics – use local ingredients, keep it simple - yet inventive – and always delicious.  And of course, brew good beer to go with it. 

A trip to the Burlington restaurant will offer you literally hundreds of beer options to go with your hearth-fired flatbread.  Their own microbrews are brewed in-house and include intriguing varieties such as Boognosh Brown Ale and Grisette.

For Brewfest, we paired our Organic Mango Truffle with American Flatbreads Zero Gravity Extra Stout.  Like really, really dark beer?  This one is for you.  The word “opaque” doesn’t even begin to describe this darkly roasted malt beer. 

It pairs well with the light tropical fruity flavor of our dark chocolate Organic Mango Truffle.  The flavor of the mango emerges even more and flirts with the chocolate flavor that is oftentimes found in stouts.

Beer Pairing No. 2

Posted on August 13, 2009 1:01 PM by Allison

Wolaver’s Organic Brown Ale (5.7% ABV) with Lake Champlain Chocolates Organic Dark Chocolate Spicy Aztec

Wolaver’s is one of my favorite local microbrews.  Ok, I think I would call all Vermont microbrews “one of my favorites”, but I’m really impressed with Wolaver’s commitment to sustainable and organic brewing methods. 

All of their boilers are powered by biodiesel, they too, boast using primarily Vermont ingredients in their beer, and all of their spent grain is repurposed to feed local livestock. 

If that’s not enough to impress you, give one of their brews a try.

The Organic Brown Ale is 5.7 % alcohol by volume.  The beer is mild, a deep amber in color and very smooth, with a slight malty flavor.  Cherries and black currants also lend some flavor to this well-balanced ale.

At the Lake Champlain Chocolates Brewfest Tent, we paired our 55% cocoa content Organic Aztec Squares with Wolaver’s Organic Brown Ale. 

Our Aztec squares add cinnamon and cayenne pepper to an organic dark chocolate.  Keeping with a South-American flavor profile, we’ve added in pepitas, or Mexican pumpkin seeds.  The Aztec squares will give your mouth a little kick, complimenting the dark chocolate and creating a wonderfully unique tasting experience.

Tasters found that the Brown Ale really brought out the spices in the chocolate and the sweet fruit flavors in the beer complimented the spice nicely. 

Check out last Friday’s Burlington Free Press to hear more about the event!

Chocolate & Beer Pairings from Brewfest

Posted on August 5, 2009 10:36 AM by Erin

For those of you who missed out on our Chocolate & Beer Pairing at this year's Vermont Brewers Festival, here are the first of the tasting notes as promised.  The event seemed to be a big hit, even despite the weather.  Gary Coffey, our Retail Sales Director, led a crowd of approximately 100 people first through the steps in how to taste chocolate & beer and then through the actual pairings themselves.

Gary started off by explaining to the crowd the first rule for pairing chocolate & beer is...that there are no rules! What tastes good to you may not to your neighbor, so just go with whatever floats your boat.  Just be sure to take your time and to enjoy the craftsmanship that goes into producing each of the fine beers & chocolates.

So without further adieu, here is the first our chocolate & beer pairings...bon appétit!

Pairing #1
Harpoon Leviathan IPA (9.3%) w/ Dark Chocolate Covered Orange Peel

This big beer by Harpoon has a powerful hop bitterness up front and just enough caramel malt to provide a balance to the hop intensity.  Its generous citrus tropical fruit notes make it a perfect match for our deliciously sweet candied orange peels drenched in 54% dark chocolate.

*This one was a favorite at the Vermont Brewers Festival!

Stay tuned for our other 3 pairings....

Chocolate and Beer Pairings - Combination #5

Posted on August 7, 2008 10:58 AM by Admin
We’ve come to the final chocolate and beer pairing in our series. Keeping in mind that this will be the most intense pairing in terms of flavor and body of the beer, don’t be afraid. You’ve come through the four previous pairings and you’ve reached the pinnacle. You just need to trust one more time. Here it is:

Pairing #5
Wolaver’s Organic Oatmeal Stout (5.9% ABV) and Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle (54% cocoa content)

The Oatmeal Stout is extremely full bodied and very dark. It is a little imposing at first glance but once you taste it, you’ll be met with these wonderful roasted notes reminiscent of chocolate and coffee – very filling and extremely satisfying. It’s in perfect balance with the strong fruity profile of the Dark Raspberry Truffle with it’s rich dark ganache and fresh berry flavors. Combine the comfort of oatmeal and the brightness of raspberry and you have a win-win combination.

So, there you have our final installment. All were very well received at the Vermont Brewers Festival and will definitely make more appearances at other events. Hey, armed with this info, they can certainly make an appearance at your events. While unsure at first, your guests will love you for it and you’ll look like a hero! And if you know of any cool chocolate and beer pairings, please send them along. Slainte!
We find ourselves at the fourth of our five chocolate and beer pairings and in keeping with proper tasting fashion, the beers have increased in intensity while the chocolates have kept in lockstep. This isn’t to say the beers are not palatable to those of us who aren’t beer aficionados. In fact, I was becoming a little skeptical at this point (as I tend to gravitate towards the beers that are lighter in color and body) but I was pleasantly surprised with this pairing and very glad I didn’t pass it up. So, here we are.

Pairing #4
Rock Art Ridge Runner Ale (7.2% ABV)  and Organic Dark Chocolate Spicy Aztec (55% cocoa content)

The Rock Art Ridge Runner Ale is a Barleywine ale with a strong flavor and a beautiful dark color. While it’s extremely smooth, there’s nothing shy about this beer. Thus, its perfectly paired with an equally unshy chocolate such as the Organic Dark Aztec chocolate with is cayenne, cinnamon and pumpkin seeds. The warm spice of the cayenne holds up to the hops (including Cascade) while the sweet and bitter blend of the chocolate complements the chocolate malty flavors hiding in the beer.

This pairing is full flavor and while it’s not for the feint of heart, those feeling slightly trepidacious (Is that a word? The debate continues…) shouldn’t be. It’s such a fun pairing, it’d be a shame to miss out. Muy caliente!
Moving to a bit of a darker beer and the third pairing in this set of five pairings, the next beer up is one that is made locally and probably not going to be found anywhere outside the area but if you ask your local beer expert, they will most likely be able to find something with a similar profile.

Pairing #3
Switchback Dooley’s Belated Porter (5.8% ABV) and Lake Champlain Chocolates’ 54% Dark Chocolate

Upon first tasting this beer, you note the roasted malt. Based on its dark color, you expect the smoky notes found within as well but a truly nice surprise is the slight bit of sweet you also get. With its strong, smooth flavor, it’s perfectly paired with our clean and pure 54% dark chocolate – both being slightly sweet with baked and roasted notes. When combined, it’s as if the flavors work together to increase your experience exponentially where as other pairings may work by contrasting flavors.

While you might not find this exact beer in your area, don’t be afraid to try other dark, malty porters with dark chocolate. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Trust me. Really.
In continuation of our Chocolate and Beer pairings from our Brewers Fest presentation, we move on to the next coupling in terms of going from light to dark. When hosting a tasting, you always want to increase in intensity so as not to overload the palette too early. This holds true whether it’s beer, chocolate or even coffee. So, the next chocolate and beer pairing is:

Pairing #2
Orlio Organic Beer Company Common Ale (5.0% ABV) and our Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds (54% cocoa content)

This combination is perfect for those doubting Thomases out there who are apprehensive about the idea of pairing beer with chocolate. Of course you have some sweet with the chocolate but it’s a dark chocolate and nuts so you also have a little bitterness, some salt and a nice nutty flavor.

The light-to-medium body of this Vermont-made golden ale starts with a creamy malt but moves to a clean but not overpowering hoppy finish which makes it a perfect partner to the dark chocolate covered roasted almonds. The almondy roast and light salty flavors mix with the bitterness of the dark chocolate and complement the malt and hops of the ale. There’s just enough savory to balance the sweet in this chocolate and set off the beer nicely.

This combination can easily be recreated at home with any true golden ale or even a Steam Ale or a California Common Ale if you’re unable to get your hands on this particular beer. And if you can’t find our dark chocolate almonds, try your local Whole Foods Market where you can get your hands on our Dark Almond Chocolate Bar. It may not be the exact same experience but the dark chocolate is 54% cocoa content as well so it won’t be that far off.

Bottoms up!

This is the first in a series of beer and chocolate pairings that we have explored over the years. You can find more chocolate and beer pairings here.

Earlier I wrote about our in-house chocolate and beer pairings done in preparation for the Brewers Fest held last weekend in Burlington. In the end, five beers were paired with five chocolates and presented in a SRO tasting session at the Vermont Brewers Festival.  Each combination was specifically designed to bring out the best features of each and tasters were asked to first sample the chocolate and then follow with the beer. Since I know all of you are extremely curious to know what went with what, I will feature each different pairing in upcoming blogs. Armed with this info, perhaps you can host your own chocolate and beer pairing, maybe even find some new combinations.

Pairing #1 –
Vermont Pub & Brewery’s Forbidden Fruit (6.0% ABV) and our Dark Chocolate Honey Caramel (54% cocoa content)

VPB’s Forbidden Fruit features an incredible raspberry flavor in its profile. So incredible, in fact, you’d expect to find raspberry seeds. It’s a great combination of bitter, tangy and sweet which pairs perfectly with the Honey Caramel in 54% dark chocolate.

The sweetness of the Honey Caramel plays off the bitterness of the beer, setting up the tanginess of the raspberries to an even higher level of flavor. Once the beer is gone, the aftertaste you’re left with is a light combination of bitter from both the beer and the dark chocolate as well as the clean flavor of the chocolate itself. Some describe elements of our dark chocolate as having a “Baked brownie” taste (you know, the parts of the brownie around the edge of the pan that are well done) and that flavor is very apparent at the finish of this pairing. Truly delicious.

Looking for other beer and chocolate pairings? You can find more of our suggestions here.