Chocolate stouts are some of the most sublime drinks on planet earth. They are ever so decadent, so sweet and yet so sophisticated. If memory serves, I’ve never met a chocolate stout I didn’t like – I adore the offerings from Young’s, Rogue, Stone, Ommegang, Amber, Sanktgallen, and now Svaneke.
It smells of malted milk, toffee, butterscotch, vanilla, figs, and chocolate chip cookies. I tastes of espresso, dark chocolate, grapefruit, and caramel. It is sweet but well-bittered with burnt grain and hops; it is exquisite!
Beer geeks often recommend chocolate stouts, or any rich, sweet stouts, as a pairing for chocolate. Personally, I think this convention ought to be called into question. Sometimes the pairing works beautifully, but in my experience, more often that not the chocolate in the beer and the chocolate in the dessert cancel each other out, interrupting the overall impact of both food and drink. It’s akin to Pollock’s turbulent masterpiece, “Choko Convergence.”
Just like our sense of sight, our sense of taste responds to contrasts and struggles with similitudes. When you pit chocolate against chocolate, they lose focus, they get all muddled up and sometimes even clash. So I tend to avoid pairing chocolate stouts with actual chocolate. Instead, I pair them with foods that are quite different but still complementary, like desserts based on vanilla, nuts, berries, or caramel, or even strong cheeses. Tonight, I’m drinking Svaneke Choko Stout with Danish marzipan, and the match is superb! The sweetness in the marzipan contrasts with the beer to emphasize its bitter cocoa and coffee notes, while the beer somehow makes the marzipan taste more nutty, more like actual almonds. The taste sensation is something like Klimt’s classic “Choko Kiss.”
(With apologies to Pollock and Klimt.)