Pair beer and chocolate like a pro with these tips

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It’s just one word: Batch.

You’re forgiven if, like me, you’ve made the mistake of calling them Batch Chocolate. While turning bean to bar has been their primary focus lately, founders Tamara LaValla and Zan Maddox are both artists who want Batch to reflect a maker’s mindset.

“Batch is about making … small batches of things,” LaValla says. “It could be a small batch of paintings or drawings, but right now it’s just been chocolate and people are super excited about it. Chocolate is some of what we do.”

The two made their first batch of chocolate in early 2014, after Maddox posed a fairly innocent question: “I wonder how chocolate is made?”

They’ve been experimenting ever since, using beans from countries like Ghana, Trinidad, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Brazil. And though they source their beans from faraway places, they also work with local companies like Pure Intentions Coffee and have held several pop-up beer and chocolate pairings at Main Street Bottle Shop in Rock Hill.

Batch will hold a beer and chocolate pairing from 7-9 p.m. at Free Range Brewing this Friday, Feb. 10. Tickets are $25 each and include a guided tasting through three chocolates and three Free Range beers: a 70% Maple Pecan Bar with a maple pecan beer brewed in collaboration with Pure Pizza; a 75% Cherry Rosé Bar paired with Hee Haw Got Musty Wild Ale; and an 80% Dark Brazil Bar paired with Hello Darkness imperial stout.

 

Guests will likely hear LaValla’s standard disclaimer.

“Before I do any tasting, I always tell people there’s really no right or wrong,” said LaValla. “If you like it, then you like it. Then it’s good. I’m not here to say that’s wrong.”

That being said, LaValla and Free Range Brewing’s Jason Alexander do have some advice for those looking to pair beer and chocolate this Valentine’s Day.

  1. Play matchmaker. One general approach to pairing chocolate with beer would be to match intensities. Pair sweeter chocolates with sweeter beers, like a milk stout or Belgian quad. More bitter dark chocolates might be better suited to a more assertive imperial stout.  
  1. But opposites attract, too. Pairing like with like ensures neither the beer nor the chocolate is overpowered, but contrasting the two can bring forth subtleties you might otherwise miss. Alexander notes that farmhouse ales with some minerality or pepper or citrus notes can be used to balance or brighten. “That takes it more into the realm of culinary, when you’re finding ways to accentuate flavors and then balance flavors,” he says.
  1. Go big. Higher-gravity beers usually stand up better to the cocoa butter in the chocolate, says LaValla. Many high ABV beers are often sweet, too, and their richness helps complement the chocolate. Consider malt-forward styles like porters, stouts, barleywines, old ales and barrel-aged beers.

Photos: Courtesy of Batch

Sip Charlotte is a weekly email newsletter for beer, wine, and cocktail enthusiasts across the region. Click here to subscribe. Have a story idea? Feedback? Connect with editor Caroline Portillo at cportillo@charlotteobserver.com. Cheers!

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