Bonjour mes amis! Madame Le Squirrel is feeling a little delicate today as she represented family Squirrel at Malmaison Birmingham’s FemALE event last night. Malhereusement, it was a ladies only event, so moi-même was not invited, but it is about time Madame Le Squirrel had a night out! So, over to the ladies . . . Yes, exactement mon petit! My friend & I enjoyed a fantastic evening of pure beer & food pleasure hosted by Beer Beauty (Marverine Cole), Purity Brewing Co’s Paul Halsey & Charles Faram & Co’s Paul Corbett. MalmaisonBirmingham provided a glamorous, red-carpeted welcome with low level lighting setting a mood of relaxed indulgence. We were welcomed with a champagne glass of German Pilsener Veltins (4.8%) & after an introduction from the above hosts & several top-ups of our glasses we began our food pairings.
Grilled goats cheese & roast vegetable bruschetta was paired with the Pilsener. Purity’s Pure Gold (3.8%) was served with smoked salmon & guacamole & their Pure Ubu (4.5%) with beef braised in the same. Maisel’s Weisse (5.2%) was a big hit with roast pork stuffed with apricot & sage for most of the audience, trumped only by Bacchus’s Kriek (5.8%) with a dark chocolate delice & Kriek-soaked cherry. Opinion was divided among the audience when it came to the final offering of Sierra Nevada Stout (5.8%) with Isle of Mull aged cheddar. I thought it was magnifique; the dark richness of the beer off-setting the crumbly saltiness of the cheese admirably. As Antoine always says though, there are no rights & wrongs when it comes to taste. Marverine was a charming host, sharing her enthusiasm for beer most effectively & encouraging the audience to contribute their thoughts about the beer & food combinations. It was great to see so many other ladies enjoying beer & to hear them share their knowledgeable insights on the subject: cheers to that! It was also interesting to hear Purity’s perspective on women in the brewing industry & fascinating to learn new facts about hops from Paul Corbett, a real hop fanatic. So, many thanks to Malmaison, Purity, Charles Faram & Co & to the Beer Beauty herself for giving us an opportunity to enjoy the good things in life! Salut, bon weekend beer & food lovers.
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is a rich, dark chocolate stout made with Chocolate Malt, dark chocolate & chocolate essence (see tasting notes below)
Hotel Chocolat’s Salted Caramels explode with flavour when you bite through the rich chocolate, the salt balancing the initial sweetness of the stout, then the sweetness of the caramel contrasts with the dry finish of the beer. The deep malty flavours of the beer enhance the flavour of the chocolate.
See what you think, enjoy!
Beer & Chocolate, Where True Love Begins Myself & Madame Le Squirrel will be getting romantic next week – in case you hadn’t noticed the TV adverts, shop displays & massive hints from your other half – it is Valentines Day next Tuesday. What better way to celebrate than to combine two of the world’s finest flavours! Following on from our experiments with beer & cheese & in keeping with the notion of romance, I think it is time to introduce another unbeatable alliance: beer & chocolate.
The relationship between beer & chocolate is an enduring one on many levels. Just as we saw that the sweetness, bitterness, acidity & carbonation in beer cut through the fat & contrasted with the saltiness in cheese, similar magic takes place in the mouth when pairing beer with chocolate. Beer makes a fantastic addition to chocolate when making desserts, truffles, cakes & even hot chocolate. Not only that, I have discovered that chocolate is sometimes added to the brewing process to make chocolate beer! Now this is really starting to become interesting . . .
An Historical Partnership Beer & chocolate’s mutual love affair goes back centuries. Researchers at the University of California have suggested that chocolate was first made as an “unintended consequence” of making cacao beer in South America around 1100 BC. By studying ancient fragments of pottery they found in what is now Honduras, the archeologists formed the theory that Mesoamericans were brewing beer from fermented cacao pulp & that the discarded by-product of this process, the fermented roasted cacao seeds, became the first chocolate drink. This, they believe, eventually became the chocolate we all know & love today.
The Girl/Boy Next Door Similarly complicated processes are involved in making beer & as in chocolate. Barley is malted, dried, mashed & steeped in hot water. The resulting water is then fermented to create beer. Cacao beans are fermented, dried, refined & blended with other ingredients to create chocolate. Both chocolate & beer balance bitter & sweet flavours & can have complex layers of taste.
Beer & Chocolate Pairing No wonder they go so well together, it’s a match made in heaven! Rich stouts, porters, fruit or whisky beers are among the beer styles normally recommended to try with chocolate, but as always, it’s never that simple! It depends on the type of chocolate, the particular beer & your own individual taste; let the experiments begin.
Cooking With Beer & Chocolate Recipes that add beer to chocolate are abundant. Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson adds porter to a recipe for truffles in his book, “Beer”. This recipe for Guinness chocolate cake is well worth a try.
Chocolate Beer Chocolatey flavours can be obtained from roasted malts when brewing beer – there is even a variety called Chocolate Malt. Chocolate itself is added to some beers in the form of pure chocolate, chocolate essence, cacao butter or cacao nibs. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (Brooklyn Brewery) for example achieves its chocolately taste from malt alone, whereas Young’s Double Chocolate Stout has Chocolate Malt, real dark chocolate & chocolate essence in the brew.
Belgium, The World Champions Once again, I know I am biased, but it’s difficult to dispute that Belgium has some of the finest selections of beer & chocolate in the world. As we often use cacao beans from Africa rather than South America, our chocolate has a more intense flavour. Chocolate producers such as Neuhaus, Wittamer, Godiva & Cote D’Or are renowned worldwide for the quality of their goods. Belgian beers, as we know are known for their huge variety of styles & flavours. Fruit beers such as Belle Vue Kriek or Liefmans Goudenband & strong Trappist beers such as Rochefort 10 or Chimay Blue create the most divine taste sensations when paired with a ballotin of fine Belgian chocolates.
With beer & chocolate creating such a divine affaire du coeur, how can we go wrong? Madame Le Squirrel, I think we are going to have a great night in next week!