Opposites attract. But can two extremely contrasting flavors co-mingle together to give us sweet satisfaction? This answer is yes.The pairing of beer and chocolate is one of those unlikely matches that triggers our taste buds to perk up and experience a new exquisite culinary sensation. However, not just any old beer and chocolate will deliver the desired euphoria for your palate. In my quest for the perfect beer to accompany the perfect chocolate, I’ve discovered a specific match made in gourmet heaven.
(If you can’t wait to find out, scroll to the bottom of this post to see my recommendations. If you want to learn about the surprising health benefits of beer and chocolate first, read on.)
Craft Beer vs. “Beer Water”
First, let’s take a look at beer. And we’ll begin with a discussion on what should not be considered quality brews. That would be the ones that come in aluminum cans, and mass produced by mega companies that are concerned with profit more than than taste and craftsmanship. As a matter of fact, many true beer lovers consider commercial beers to be “beer water,” because they are watered down to between 2.0 – 2.5 alcohol, and taste more like dirty water than a true fermented libation of grains, hops and yeast.
Health Benefits of Good Beer
So when it comes to quality and taste, it’s craft beer that makes the grade, especially when pairing it with food. In addition to superior taste, craft beers pack in more nutrients, which help us stay healthy. Sounds good to me!
Numerous studies conducted around the world have confirmed that the bio-active compounds in craft beers have many health-promoting merits, when enjoyed in *moderation. Here are a few of the benefits:
- Better heart health. Over 100 studies have shown that moderate, regular consumption of alcohol, including beer, reduces arterial clotting and raises the “good” cholesterol, HDL.
- Better bone health. A study done in 2009 by Tufts University showed that men and women who consumed one to two beers a day had better bone density than those that did not partake. This is mainly due to the substantial amount of silicon contained in beer.Just in case you didn’t know, silicon is the second most abundant element on earth. (Not to be confused with silicone. The stuff you know from caulking or a breast implant, is entirely man-made.) Silicon is necessary for the proper formation of collagen in bone, cartilage, and other connective tissues. Besides craft beers, this mineral can also be absorbed from unrefined whole grains such as brown rice or oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, and root vegetables, such as Jerusalem artichoke and parsnip (Unsure how to eat more parsnip? Here’s a simple, delish soup recipe with parsnip and pear).
- Protection from cancer. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg have found that a powerful antioxidant contained in hops, known as xanthohumol, may help to prevent breast and prostate cancers. Beers with the highest amount of hops, such as India pale ales, ares your best choice to load up on xanthohumol.
- Healthier kidneys. Researchers in Finland found that men who drank beer on a moderate, regular basis had 40% reduced chance of getting kidney stones. One factor for this is due to beer’s high water content, as dehydrating is a major contribution factor to kidney stone formation, and the other factor is that hops used in beer making slow down the release of calcium from bones (Kidney stones are formed from salts and calcium, and other minerals).
*In order to reap the health benefits of beer, moderation is the key. According to to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Dietary Guidelines: for men, two 12 oz. beers per day, and half that amount for women.
Dark Chocolate Benefits
Well, that was quite a bit of elucidating information on craft beer. Now, onto the other half of this exciting pairing: chocolate.
Beer and chocolate have this in common: the mass-produced grade of chocolate you’d get from a candy machine will not do. Seek out a high-quality, bittersweet, dark chocolate made from between 65-70% cacao (pronounced: cah-COW).
Basically, the more cacao, the richer the taste. And it’s the cacao which contains numerous health bonuses, including:
- Theobromine, a mild stimulant which elevates mood
- Phenylethylamine (PEA), which provides a sense of well being, is the same chemical produced when people fall in love. It also helps to elevate serotonin, which combats depression
- Minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc
Beer and Chocolate in Combination
My beer of choice for this orgasmic duet is an India pale ale. I love the Single Hop Series IPA from Hermitage Brewing Company. I recommend the Citra or Simcoe, both give nuances of fruit and citrus with just the right tang of masculine bitterness to balance the voluptuous sweetness of a fine dark chocolate. (For you craft beer geeks, Citra and Simcoe are two different hop varietals.) If you can’t find brews from Hermitage in your area, then choose an IPA that provides similar characteristics.
As for the chocolate, my absolute absolute favorite is from TCHO. This company makes incredible chocolates right in San Francisco. TCHO also works directly with small cacao bean growers from Peru, Ecuador, Ghana, and Madagascar.
I’ve created a ridiculously simple, yet mind-blowing Dark Chocolate Pudding using a bittersweet chocolate from TCHO to pair with the IPA.
This is the bittersweet chocolate I used from THCO:
TCHOPro – 68% Dark Couverture 6.6 lb, OR
if that’s just too much chocolate for you all at once, then this is a good option:
Scharffen Berger Baking Bar, Bittersweet Dark Chocolate (70% Cacao), 9.7-Ounce Packages (Pack of 2)
Your Kitchen Seduction Ally,
Kondo, K. “Beer and Health: Preventive Effects of Beer Components on Life-style Related Diseases”. BioFactors, IOS Press. Volume 22, 1 -4, 2004.
Murray, Michael. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. New York: Three Rivers Press. 1996.
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