Cheers to Chocolate

By Peter Bailey.

If it ain’t chocolate, it ain’t dessert. What about apple pie, you ask? Crème brûlée? Ginger cookies? Surely you agree these would all be much better drizzled with chocolate?

My chocophilia comes from both sides of my family and can be traced back to their English roots. As a teen, dining in Lancashire with English relatives, I quickly realized that the main course was just something to be endured in order to get to the sweets. Alas, this often meant something appalling like trifle or spotted dick (pudding), but the follow-up was always solid, sensible — and delicious — British chocolate. At her first Christmas dinner with my family years ago, my wife was stunned to see a big box of chocolates go round and round the dinner table until they were all gone. No shame in eating ten After Eights in one-go in my family.

My chief enabler was my English-born grandmother, Gring. Her annual Christmas gift of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange started me on a path from which there has been no turning. Nowadays, I simply combine my love of chocolate with my love of beer. Of course, for some people, beer and chocolate seem to go together like chalk and cheese.

In fact, chocolate and beer go back a long way. Recent archeological research dates the first use of cacao to 1100 B.C. in Central America. Back then people were enjoying a fermented beer made from cacao — essentially chocolate beer.

Beer and chocolate actually have things in common. Cacao beans must ferment before chocolate can be produced from them, and the resulting raw chocolate isn’t sweet but bitter, like hops in beer. Likewise, chocolate-like flavours and aromas are present in porters or stouts, coming from the roasted malts used. Some brewers go a step further, actually adding cocoa or chocolate to their beers. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout from England and Phillip’s Longboat Chocolate from BC are delicious examples of brewing with chocolate. Other brewers add coffee, as in Yukon’s Midnight Sun Espresso Stout; or fruit, as in Wild Rose’s Cherry Porter.

A few years ago, I managed to get my hands on a single bottle of Alley Kat’s one-off holiday gift to their friends, a Chocolate Orange Porter. A trifecta of awesomeness: a great local brewery plus chocolate orange plus porter ale. I’m told it is delicious. But to this day, the bottle sits unopened in my beer cellar.

It simply makes me happy knowing such an ideal beer exists in the world, and one sits in my house. And sometimes wishes come true: Alley Kat has once again produced their Chocolate Orange Porter, this time for everyone!

Black as night six pack

Six scrumptious stouts, all as black as Alberta bitumen. Pair with holiday chocolate from your favourite local chocolatier.

All beer available at Sherbrooke Liquor or Keg n Cork.

townsiteTownsite Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout, Powell River, BC

Breweries are growing like kudzu in BC, popping up in unexpected places like Tofino and Powell River. Townsite brews some great dark beers, like their Pow Town Porter and this rich, round, roasty oatmeal stout. Brewed big for the winter season with flaked oats, roasted barley, and chocolate malt.

vacheCharlevoix La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout, Quebec

Milk in beer? Not quite. Lactose, or milk sugar, is added to this stout for sweetness and a creamy mouth feel, balancing the bitter chocolate and burnt caramel. The Charlevoix brewers advise that “this dark brew is meant to be discovered slowly, lying down on your favourite couch, with squares of dark chocolate.”

obsidianDeschutes Obsidian Stout, Portland, Oregon

One of the beer highlights of 2013 was the long-awaited arrival of Deschutes beer in Alberta. Based in Bend, Oregon, Deschutes has done things their own way, such as brewing dark beers when their colleagues were brewing pale ales. Obsidian is a wonderful, deep and robust stout with chocolate and espresso notes.

dragonOrkney Dragonhead Stout, Orkney, Scotland

Dark beer from the dark island of Scotland. At 59º north, Orkney is further north than Edmonton (53°), and so Orkney’s brewers know exactly what sort of beer is needed for the long, dark winter. Brewer Norman Sinclair suggests pairing this roasty, full-flavoured stout with venison or chocolate pudding.

malkaMalka Dry Stout, Israel

Back in the Biblical day, there was a Jewish man in Galilee making wine from water and other miracles. Two thousand years later, we can celebrate the birth of that man with a beer made by Jewish men in Galilee. This delicious, Irish-style dry stout from the Israeli desert may not be miraculous but it sure is marvelous.

Renaissance Craftsman Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, New Zealand

New Zealand was a hot spot in 2013, with many Edmontonians paying a visit. While most of us will never make the trek south, we can enjoy many of the new Kiwi beers making their way to Alberta. Here Renaissance takes their tasty porter and adds oats for smoothness and cocoa nibs for a chocolate nose and taste.

Peter Bailey agrees with Flann O’Brien: “When life looks black as the hour of night, a pint of plain is your only man.” He tweets as @Libarbarian.