While wine and chocolate seem like a natural pairing opportunity — after all, fruit and chocolate just go together — beer paired with chocolate may seem like an odd idea at first. But hear us out, your experience with so many sudsy brews — particularly of the craft varieties celebrated during Lititz’s Craft Beer Fest every September — can be enhanced by consuming the right chocolate with it.
This post offers a little background on why beer and chocolate are actually a match made in heaven, as well as some tips on how to choose the best brew — with some examples from a few of our favorite local breweries participating in the Craft Beer Fest — to accompany a variety of delectable Wilbur chocolate items and desserts.
The Best Beer and Chocolate Pairings Follow a Few Key Rules
One of the main things to remember about beer and chocolate is that they actually have a lot in common. Not only are both better when produced by master craftspeople, but beer and chocolate each also mingle bitter and sweet flavors to excite taste buds.
And some beers, like rich stouts, actually have what tasters describe as chocolate and coffee notes in their flavor profiles, which make them easy to enjoy with a variety of artisan chocolate items.
1. Balance sweet and bitter notes
One of the most important things to remember when pairing beer and chocolate is that while sweet tends to go with sweet and bitter with bitter, your beer should always be somewhat less bitter than your chocolate. Stouts are usually easy to pair with semisweet and darker chocolates depending on the brew, for instance.
Additionally, if a beer has tart or citrus notes, such as Belgian witbieren (or white beers) you’ll want to focus on pairing with darker chocolate instead of sweet, milk chocolate.
2. Consider acidity
Most beers are only slightly acidic, with pH measurements between 4.00-5.00 (remember that the lower the number on the pH scale, the more acidic a substance — and carbonation increases acidity somewhat, too).
That said, some craft-brewed sour ales may have an acidity of pH 3.30. And while you may enjoy the tangy flavor of more acidic beers, they don’t tend to pair well with many chocolate options. Some high-percentage cacao varieties of very dark chocolate might be the exception, but at that point, you could find all the bitterness overwhelming. Of course, our final rule really says you can forget the rules if you’re feeling a little more adventurous!
3. Don’t be scared to experiment
Some craft brews are a little expensive, so you might be somewhat scared you’ll waste your beer by creating a chocolate pairing that makes you wrinkle your nose. But don’t worry: Following the basic sweet-with-sweet and bitter-with-bitter rule alleviates much of the risk of a “bad” pairing.
Plus, if you love a particular beer and specific chocolate or coated treat, like Wilbur Buds or even dark chocolate drizzled potato chips, why not try them together? Just because a pairing is a little unconventional or not necessarily “recommended,” it doesn’t mean it won’t taste delightful to your unique palate.
Common Beer & Chocolate Pairings that Never Disappoint
So, what are some of the typical pairings that are guaranteed to make you wish for an endless supply?
Oatmeal Stout and Milk Chocolate
Oatmeal Stout is typically very dark in color with a roasted malt character. It’s smooth, not bitter, and absolutely delectable with finely crafted milk chocolate — perfect for dessert!
Local craft brew option with Wilbur Chocolate: Fat Dog (English Oatmeal Stout) from Stoudts Brewing Company, Adamstown, Pa. + the one-and-only Milk Chocolate Wilbur Buds.
IPA and Dark Chocolate with Spice or Salt
It’s true that there are a vast number of India Pale Ales (IPAs) in several different styles, such as Belgian, American and English. Tasting notes will vary somewhat between the styles, and — of course — between individual breweries’ specific offerings. No matter what, the earthy and hoppy flavors of many IPAs pair best with darker chocolate that’s been spiced or salted to provide more depth on the tongue.
Local craft brew option with Wilbur Chocolate: Lititz’s own Appalachian Brewing Co. has an excellently hoppy English IPA called Hoppy Trails that can’t be beaten with our Wilbur Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels with Sea Salt.
Pilsner and Semisweet Chocolate
Pilsners (sometimes also spelled “pilseners” depending on the style/country of origin) are easy to drink for those who maybe aren’t true beer enthusiasts. Slightly sweet, malty and earthy in character, pilsner brews complement semisweet chocolate that isn’t too dark.
Local craft brew option with Wilbur Chocolate: Twisted Bine Beer Co., just up the road from Lititz in Mount Joy, Pa., offers the delightfully named Czech My Pils (Bohemian Pilsner). Enjoy it with our Wilbur Plain Semisweet Chocolate Bar. (We promise there is nothing “plain” about this combo!)
Brown Ale and Dark Chocolate Covered Nuts
Not very hoppy in flavor, but with medium to high hop bitterness, brown ale — especially American Brown Ale — also features roasted malt, caramel and chocolate-like notes. The unique flavor is delicious with darker chocolates that include nuts, most notably almonds.
Local craft brew option with Wilbur Chocolate: Mr. Dynamite Brown (American Brown Ale) from Mad Chef Brewing, East Petersburg, Pa. + our fan-favorite Wilbur Triple Coated Almonds.
More About Lititz Craft Beer Fest
Presented by and benefiting the Lititz AMBUCS, a charitable organization that creates mobility and independence for people with disabilities, Lititz Craft Beer Fest has been popular from its start in 2014. In 2019, more than 60 craft breweries from all across the U.S. are scheduled to participate. Several blocks of Lititz's Main Street are closed, and a block party-style environment takes over the festival area beginning at 2 p.m. and ending at 5 p.m. Food trucks and live music join the tasting booths for a fun and delicious afternoon of indulgence.
If you weren’t lucky enough to score tickets to this year’s Craft Beer Fest — tickets always sell out lightning quick in July — might we suggest celebrating on your own at home?
Simply visit our Wilbur Chocolate Store (or shop online) and stock up on all your favorite Wilbur treats, and then check out the beer and hard cider options available from all of the participants. Many of the Craft Beer Fest entrants have tasting rooms or pubs in Lancaster County or close by elsewhere in Central Pennsylvania.