Not too long ago, we were fortunate enough to have the extremely lovely folk from Honest Brew along to Cocoa Runners HQ for a chocolate and beer tasting. Time flew by, plenty was consumed, and the Honest Brew Team very much proved that lovers of beer and lovers of chocolate are not, in fact, realms apart. They discussed and debated, and finally decided on an assortment of bars they felt were reminiscent of certain beers. Master Brewer Craig Wilmott explains to us their selection…
As brewers, sometimes we get a bit beer-centric. We obsess over grains, hops, water and yeast as if every crucial decision in our lives depended on them. In some ways they kind of do. When good old Valentine’s Day approaches, however, this reflex can sometimes get us into trouble. Our initial resort is usually to gift our amours with a nice rich chocolate stout – it’s a gift we’d love ourselves, something really coming from the heart. Until, that is, we crawl out of our beer-centrism and realise on proper reflection that not everyone is like us and wants beer for every gift-giving occasion.
So it is some consolation to know that there are others, not altogether unlike us, who are just as obsessed with the little details of another of life’s pleasures – chocolate. Enter Cocoa Runners; the bringers of damn fine bean-to-bar chocolate, and saviours of Valentine’s Day.
Recently team Honest Brew met up with the folks at Cocoa Runners to chat about our respective passions. We learnt about how cocoa beans differ from one country to the next which greatly affects the flavour of finished chocolate. Coupled with this is how the various processes which convert bean to bar – harvesting, fermenting, drying, roasting, winnowing, grinding, conching and tempering – also have their own influence on flavour and texture. It stands to reason then that bean-to-bar chocolate, like micro-brewed beer, will never be identical from one batch to the next. Subtle differences make life worth living (and gifts worth giving) right?
On that note, to help ourselves and you, fellow beer lover, with gift ideas this Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d have a crack at putting the two together. Beer with chocolate can work in certain divine ways – a black forest cake with a Kriek or smoked almonds and dark chocolate with an imperial stout for example – but here we’re talking more along the lines of “If you or your amour are fan of this beer, you’ll surely love this bar of chocolate.”
Team Cocoa Runners gave us several bars to try, each drastically – and deliciously – different from the last, and here’s what we came up with:
This is a rich, light and creamy chocolate which starts with nice dried fruit and finishes with a lingering dry citrus bite. We think it couples well with Beavertown’s 8-Ball Rye IPA.
The addition of cocoa nibs and oak-smoked sea salt makes this a real complex number. It’s only subtly salty, with creamy notes of caramel and a slight bitter finish thanks to the nibs. Give it a crack if you’re a fan of Bristol Milk Stout
Rich caramel-cream is really at the forefront of this chocolate. Hints of toffee and grain lead us to thinking a good beer to compare this one with is our Straight Up Amber Ale. Munich malt for the win!
Nothing short of ‘wow!’, it’s the method of drying the cocoa beans with open fires – unique to Papua New Guinea – that lends a powerful smokey flavour to this chocolate. It’s grainy, nutty and smokey qualities are comparable to Beavertown’s Smog Rocket Porter which is, oddly enough, a little sweeter than the chocolate itself.
Made by two French friends in the beans’ country of origin, this chocolate starts with a rich intensity followed by hints of dark red berries. The finish is grainy and bitter which, coupled with it’s intensity reminds us of Weird Beard’s Decadence Stout.
This is a pretty funky number, with the addition of pink pepper giving a very delicate hint of spice. Adding a touch of tart citrus, we reckon if you’re a fan of Wild Beer Co Shnoodlepip this chocolate will float your boat.
We’d like to thank Honest Brew once again for taking the time to come in and create their selection, and of course for educating us in the world of great craft beers.
You can now try four of these fabulous bars in one place, in our Honest Brew Collection. Curated by Honest Brew’s very own Beer Guru, Craig, this collection includes bars from around the world of small batch single estate chocolate. What’s more, each collection comes complete with tasting notes from Craig, sharing the flavours behind each bar, and the types of beers that also evoke these flavours.
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