Here I am at the Beer and Chocolate Pairing at Stone Brewing Company, a microbrewery in Escondido, CA, sipping my beer and savoring my chocolate. Pairing two types of beer (one of the brewery’s own, one from another microbrewery) with three pieces of chocolate (each from a separate chocolatier located in the San Diego area) over four courses mean eight samples of beer and twelve pieces of chocolate. For someone like me, that seems like heaven. And it is, because the quality of both the beer and the chocolate are exceptional, and the combination of the two makes my little tastebuds so very, very happy.
The event is emceed by the brewery’s own Ken White and co-hosted by the proprietors (and mastermind creators) behind three San Diego-area chocolatiers – Michael Antonorsi from Chuao, Mariella Balbi from Guanni, and Will Gustwiller from <leo_highlight leohighlights_url="http%3A//thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/highlights/keywords?keywords%3Declipse" leohighlights_keywords="eclipse" onmouseout="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOut('leoHighlights_Underline_0')" onmouseover="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOver('leoHighlights_Underline_0')" onclick="leoHighlightsHandleClick('leoHighlights_Underline_0')" id="leoHighlights_Underline_0" style="border-bottom: 2px solid #ffff96; background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 0%; cursor: pointer; display: inline;">Eclipse. Each course begins with a description of the beers and chocolates offered, as well as the best way to drink and eat them to unlock each food’s fullest experience. Then we, the eager samplers, indulge ourselves.
According to White, the brewery chooses which chocolates to pair with which beers after a “strenuous” tasting process. White admits that even the experts at the brewery were surprised to find that some pairings they thought would no doubt work actually didn’t work at all. Or maybe they said that because it meant they could do more “testing.” Whatever the reason, the combination is a success, as each pairing, though different, works on so many different levels by showcasing the intriguing flavors and subtleties in both liquid and solid.
Beer is served in snifters to increase surface area, allowing it to open up to bring out the aromas and flavors more intensely. According to White, one should never drink beer straight out of the bottle or beer that is very cold. The beer should be poured into a glass before consumption to allow it to breathe (sounds a bit like how you serve wine, no?). As for temperature, beer served too cold essentially freezes your tastebuds, so you lose the nuances of flavor (and in some cases, any flavor at all), making it much easier to ingest cheap and/or poorly made beer. Better beers are best drunk as they warm up a bit.
As for chocolate, the serving technique is actually fairly similar-don’t down the piece of chocolate in one big bite, and don’t eat it cold. Break it into pieces and let it melt on your tongue, opening up the flavor and giving your mouth a chance to take it all in.
The event attracts a variety of ages and types - foodies, beer connoisseurs and those simply intrigued by the concept of pairing chocolate and beer. We have been trained to think fine chocolate should be paired with wine, not beer, but actually, having been to both types of pairings, I personally prefer the beer/chocolate combination. The vast variety of flavors, textures and complexities in the beer really complement those in the different chocolates offered.
The brewery offers events all year long, including an upcoming women’s only brewing class on November 23rd.
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Article/Photography by The Beer Goddess contributor Gen Vitanzo