The Gingerman Dallas held a Valentine’s Day Beer and Chocolate Pairing on Saturday and I somehow managed to convince my significant other to attend with me. Not only that, but she got into it, ordering a Spaten and brats with mustard. It’s a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Supplying sheets with the beer and brewery information, as well as which chocolate to pair with each, the Gingerman did a great job of encouraging the participants to pay attention to what they were drinking and to take tasting notes.
The turnout was pretty good and the place was just about full, upstairs and down. With a seat by the window, we had good natural light to look at each brew. There were a couple of reps on hand, though a few got waylaid by the weather, and a roof collapse at the Rahr brewery kept their reps understandably occupied (apparently, everyone at Rahr is OK).
Spaten Dunkel Lager
Riesen Chocolate Caramels
Spaten’s Dunkel is a deeper-than-cola brown with nice red tones. A slow, fine effervescence and an off-white head create a nice looking beer in the short glasses. The nose is mellow with soft notes of caramel and corn and a touch of brown sugar. The mouthfeel is semi-full and not too sweet. This pairs well with the Riesen which brings out some of the more subtle toffee flavors and the beer’s clean finish washes out the slightly cloying sweetness of the candy. Both the beer and chocolate here were pretty mellow, on the whole. A good start.
Brooklyn Brown Ale
Brooklyn’s Brown Ale is a stalwart in their line of year-rounders. The clarity is good, and the color is also cola brown, though a bit redder in the light than the Spaten, with a tanner head, and considerably livelier carbonation. The nose has a fairly strong aroma of floral hops and some nuttiness – hazelnuts and almonds. The start is very malty with chocolate notes, some brown bread, and a strong, fruity hop finish. This all coupled perfectly with the chewy, molasses-like sweetness of the brownies. The slightly cooked edge to the brownies also helped bring out a certain amount of depth to the brown ale that was then cleansed by the tart hops.
Summit Oatmeal Stout
Summit Brewing Co.
St. Paul, MN
Dark Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans
This is a nitrogen-pushed stout, and provided an all-but-opaque blackness with some bruised purple on the edges when held to the light, and a tan head. The nose is very roasty with some coffee notes, as well as almond, vanilla, and smoke. The mouthfeel is surprisingly thin, though not necessarily in a bad way. With such a strong aroma, this should come across as an aggressive stout, but the nitrogen system imparts a softness and creaminess. The dark chocolate and the espresso beans help elicit some of the complexities of the beer, but the texture of the beans as they’re chewed does more to create balance than the flavor alone.
Blue Moon Belgian White
Blue Moon Brewing Co.
White Chocolate Cake Balls
This was not a pairing I was eager for; neither white ales nor white chocolate are necessarily my favorite, and I was perplexed by the choice of the M-C’s Blue Moon over something like New Belgium’s Sunshine Wheat which Gingerman had on tap, but I wasn’t so disappointed with the results. Predictably, the beer has a hazy hay-color, with some more lustrous edges of orange straw, all topped with a fine white head. The nose has a lot of lemon, bright orange, and hints of coriander and mustard seed. There is a decent mouthfeel, with lemon and orange being the predominant flavors, but there is no real tang to the beer. The cake balls were like lemon cake iced with white chocolate. They had a real sponginess with a slight bitter edge from lemon or orange juice. They were a bit heavy, but all the flavors worked well together and the beer was light enough to accommodate some sips after eating.
Rahr Bucking Bock
Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.
Ft. Worth, TX
Chocolate Chip Cookies
A maibock, this beer has ruddy hints of amber in its core but leans more towards pure gold in color. The carbonation is slow and steady and the head is just off-white. There is sourdough bread on the nose, along with something a bit sweeter, like honey or confectioner’s sugar. The flavor also touches on some of that faint sweetness, though a smooth buttery feeling is the main thing with just the slightest grassy hop kick towards the end. There is some warmth here, but this is a very subtle 7.5%ABV. The butter and brown sugar of the cookies helps accentuates this mellow brew and perhaps serve to dampen the alcohol kick that it possesses, even if you hardly notice it at first.
New Belgium Ranger IPA
New Belgium Brewing Co.
Fort Collins, CO
New Belgium Chocolate
This is a brand new release from New Belgium and deserves its own full review, which I’ll try to do this week. The beer is deep gold with a fine white, billowy head that rises from the pearl strand effervescence. The nose is all West Coast hops, definitely Cascade (plus Simcoe and Chinook, as I learned) with florals and more pine than citrus. The mouthfeel is full, and dry, while the flavor is peppery with some strong grapefruit touches. The chocolate is a dark chocolate with the New Belgium logo. You take a bite and get bitter dark chocolate as expected, but a slow onset spiciness rises up. Cayenne pepper in the chocolate helps you appreciate the spiciness and the sere quality of the hops.
Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds
As expected, this beer is almost entirely opaque, with a deep, dark plum tinge to it on the edges. The head is dark tan and full. Coffee and a woody roasted quality take over the nose, but this is mellower than the Summit. The mouthfeel is very full with tart coffee that hits on prune, with warming alcohol that brings out more prune and rich cherry. The deep dark chocolate is a bit too sweet, though I see what they were trying to do with the almonds to try to bring out the roasted notes of the brew. You’ll need more than a couple of almonds to help soak up the over 9% ABV here.
Great Divide Wild Raspberry
Great Divide Brewing Co.
Hershey’s Raspberry Bliss
Ah, fruit beer. While it flouts my sensibilities, it also shows the versatility and range that beer has. The color of this beer is beautiful – very red and deep amber with a lot of touches of crimson, and a white head. The nose is fruity, like a bowl of berries, but also pleasantly hoppy. The grapefruit of Cascade comes through, and berry is definitely discernible. The mouthfeel is good, if a bit perfumy, and there is a jam-like quality to the feel of the flavor. However, this beer is impressively balanced, and the fruit flavor is ambient and is tempered by some really nice floral hops. The milk chocolate is too sweet, emphasizing the fruitiness of the beer, but the hops manage to help tamp down the cloying candy. That said, even on its own, this chocolate isn’t that great, though the beer is a very nice surprise.
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Intense Dark Chocolate
Joy of joys, a Sierra product makes the cut here. If Sierra Nevada started making laundry detergent, I’d drink it. The Bigfoot is paired with a big square of Ghirardelli (sticking to the West Coast) dark chocolate. The beer is deep orange, with vermillion and amber swaths running through it in the light, and some brown in the center. A yellowed head appears and sticks around, hugging the inside of the glass, too. The nose has the Sierra nose: strong florals, sticky pine, and ripe citrus. The mouthfeel is full and the hops certainly outweigh the malt, but some sweetness permeates the bite and accompanies the alcohol warmth which is certainly warm, but not uncomfortable. The whole thing has an exceptionally dry finish, even after the malt flavors come by, ending up with tart grapefruit. The dark chocolate is intense and mellows the beer a bit; the rich cocoa is almost fruit-like in its tartness and accentuates the hops in the back of the sip. This is a combo worth trying the next time you have some Bigfoot around.
Thanks to the Gingerman Dallas for a successful event, and for truly showing that I could live without chocolate, but never beer.