Session 501 began on a Friday afternoon in July as a familiar group shuffled together to sample delicious suds made by our friends at various Vermont breweries. Many of you could probably say the same week in and week out, but this gathering’s unlikely setting (the Lake Champlain Chocolates’ kitchen) has an auspicious sidekick – chocolate. The plan is simple, the task is large – develop a new pairing menu for the 2010 Vermont Brewers’ Festival.
The best of our fresh chocolate confections entice; alongside is an ample supply of bottles and growlers from 6 Vermont microbreweries – LongTrail, Wolaver’s, Magic Hat, Trout River, Rock Art, and Switchback - enough to clutter the island table in the LCC kitchen. It was a sound check of sorts as anticipation of prospective pairings settled into unexpected flavor rifts: Belgians, Wheat, IPA, Fruit-fusion, Oatmeal Stout. The seemingly hodge-podge of trials included Organic Sea Salt & Almond Milk Chocolate squares, Milk Chocolate Macadamia Nuts, Caramelized Almonds, 80% African Blend Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Dipped Orange Peels, Ethiopian Coffee Truffles, and more. Since the factory was empty for the weekend, we had free range on the possibilities!
The challenge this year is to create unexpected pairings that test your palette. Dark beers naturally pair well with chocolate as they have many similar profile notes: earthy, malt, coffee, tobacco, leather, roasted – oh, and chocolate. Expect one, but don’t think we settle for passing grades. Just like last year’s walk-off winner of Harpoon’s Leviathan IPA paired with our Orange Peels, we are striving for top of the class.
It wasn’t until later in the tasting that we met our surprise pairing this year, a soon-to-be hit at this year’s festival. If you can’t make it down to the Burlington waterfront this weekend, be sure to check back for the pairings next week. Cheers – Eric