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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.

What's up with the chocolate and beer?!

Posted on June 23, 2008 1:53 PM by Admin

File this under just another kooky thing we get to do here sometimes. OK. Friday was a company holiday for us (Thank you Jim!!) so Thursday was effectively Friday. Excellent. On my way out the door, Gary – our Retail Sales Director – asked if I had a second to help with something he was working on. Sure, I wanted to begin my three-day weekend and all but listen, he had a tray of chocolate and some beer in his hand. My curiosity was piqued.

So, we headed back to the break room where we often do some of our product tastings internally. There were a couple other people there already waiting to assist in this project. Apparently, Gary was looking for tasters and flavor panel people to help him with beer and chocolate pairings. Yup, you read correctly. Beer and chocolate. Move over wine, there’s a new player at the table looking to shack up with chocolate. My curiosity was now beyond piqued. I was totally bought in but a little scared as to how this was going to work.

Well, I shouldn’t tell you what brand of beer we were working with (Wolaver’s and Otter Creek this time around) or the exact flavors as it’s still a “work in progress” but I can tell you I was totally and pleasantly surprised. I never would have put beer and chocolate together in a million years but there were some really tasty pairings. Sure, you can put a chocolate-covered salty nut with nearly any beer but we didn’t stop there. We went to truffles, we went to chocolate-covered fruit. We even went to spicy chocolate. And it was wonderful.

Where are we going with this? That I don’t know just yet but Gary just stopped by my desk to ask for more assistance with the beer and chocolate. Am I in? You bet I’m in. Next time you’re sitting around with some chocolate on your coffee table and some beer in your fridge, why not give it a go?! What’s the worst that can happen?

Chocolate and Wine together. Seriously?

Posted on May 8, 2008 9:56 AM by Admin

Last night at the factory, we hosted a Chocolate and Wine pairing as a fundraiser for a local group, Queen City Police Foundation. At the event, 2 whites and 2 reds were paired specifically with an individual chocolate. Now, I know people are pairing wine with everything these days but I was still uncertain how the flavors were going to match up. I’ve only ever had solid dark chocolate with red wine.

Our local wine experts worked with our chocolate truffles and nuts to find the perfect match and here is what we had –

Prosecco with Milk Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts
Riesling with Grande Valencia Truffles
Monastrell with White Raspberry Truffles
Cabernet Sauvignon with 70% Dark Chocolate Truffles

Each wine and chocolate on it’s own was delightful, as one would expect. However, paired together, they were truly delicious. Who knew these flavors would work so well in tandem? So, here’s a tip. Next time you have a special gathering to host – bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, girls night, workplace social – why not try something new like a chocolate and wine pairing. Simply offering one or two of these to your guests will move your event from just another party to something memorable. But watch out, your guests will come to expect it!

What to get Mom?!

Posted on April 25, 2008 9:32 AM by Admin

I see my mother once or twice a week. Each time I visit, I bring chocolate gifts of some variety but they always include an organic milk chocolate bar with sea salt and almonds. I’ve mentioned it before, it’s her favorite. Sure she likes everything I bring her but we all have our favorites.

So, now that Mother’s Day is almost here, I’m a little stuck as to what to give her. I want to give her Mother's Day chocolates because I think it’s more fun than flowers as she can share them. You know how moms are with that whole sharing thing. Besides, she has a huge flower garden and once spring hits, her house is already filled with fresh flowers. So fine chocolate is the gift of choice. But since I always bring her gourmet chocolate and I work in a chocolate factory, do you think it’s a cop-out?

And just what chocolates should I give her? I never treat her to the pretty seasonal boxes of chocolates like this year’s summer Selection. I just never think of it. And I don’t think she’s had the chocolate dipped apricots so maybe she’d like that. I don’t know. I just don’t know. I’m open to suggestions. What are you getting your mom?

Five Star Bars in the Morning!

Posted on April 10, 2008 4:44 PM by Admin

So we’ve discovered a trick here at the chocolate factory. In our break room, there is a window that looks out at one of our enrobers. It’s about 10 feet away. If you come in early, you see the folks in production in full swing and often they’re enrobing one of our Five Star Bars. Usually we all watch for a minute or two while we make a cup of tea.

Here is what we’ve discovered. If you stare for a while and you’re expression is one of enough longing and pity, there’s a good chance they’ll bring some fresh seconds out on a plate to the break room for snacking on. Mind you, there’s rarely a time when there isn’t chocolate around to snack on but the opportunity to gobble down a freshly made Five Star Bar is one I can’t resist.

And this morning, they were making Caramel Five Star Bars. And on a day when you’re not quite sure if it’s going to be a good one or a bad one, a fresh bite of Caramel Five Star Bar is enough to tip the scales in favor of good. (But maybe I should find a better word to use than “scale”…)

Easter Memories

Posted on February 25, 2008 1:18 PM by Admin

One of my fondest Easter memories derives from a fight that I had on my elementary school playground with fellow second grader, John H.  This event remains clear in my mind due to its tragic ending; it was my first and last trip to the principal’s office.  Trust me… I made quite the everlasting impression on all involved that cool spring afternoon.  How embarrassing!   

So how exactly does the goody-two shoes of the second grade class end up in the principal’s office? Well during lunch recess, I happened to discover a leather egg left over from an Easter egg hunt.  Instead of keeping it to myself, I decided it was a brilliant idea to wheel and deal the egg with none other than classmate (and, might I add, villain) John H.  Boy, was that ever a mistake.  I remember after I made the trade- a dime for the egg- I desperately wanted the egg back.  As you may have already guessed, John H. was totally done with the deal and refused to give up his new prized possession.  I was forced to take the situation into my own hands and broke out some mad WWF wrestling moves on good ol’ Johnny boy.  Needless to say, my stunt did not go over well with recess monitors or my parents because both John H. and I ended up in the principal’s office.  Worst of all, in the end neither of us ended up with the egg. 

I clearly learned a lesson: who CARES about a stupid leather egg?  I mean, who would ever fight over that… smile.  Incidentally, the whole conflict would never have happened if the egg had been chocolate.  I mean seriously, make your Easter egg hunt worthwhile for participants - gourmet Easter Eggs and Chocolate Bunnies from Lake Champlain Chocolates makes the perfect gift for a child's Easter Basket.  Trust me, you will be the hit of the Easter holiday with these delectable treats!  

Valentines Day. Chocolate Hearts. It’s simple word association. You say one – you think of the other. At least I do but I doubt I’m alone. With the shopping done and the heart shaped box of chocolate bought (right?!) what’s left? Did you make a sweet little card with pink and red hearts and lace doilies? Come on, that’s fun and it’s really a nice surprise when you receive it. I promise!

Here’s another idea – bake something. I’m going to make our Ultimate Chocolate Cake. I know I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth repeating. You’ve got to try this recipe! It’s fun, it’s simple and it’s delicious. Anyone can make it! I know you think it’s easier to grab a box of mix, throw in a couple eggs and some oil and you’re done but with hardly any additional effort, you can wow your friends (and yourself) with this easy chocolate cake from scratch. Give it a shot. You might just find a new calling but at the very least, you’ll end up with some wicked tasty cake!  To ensure your cake is a masterpiece, also don’t forget to also use our famous Unsweetened, Organic Baking Cocoa Powder.