Nobody can can deny the mood-altering ability that chocolate gives us, butwe shouldnt forget that it has more history as a drink than as a confectionery snack.
If we look back to Mesoamerican history, chocolate was a gift from the gods, and used as an offering back to the gods and was reserved only for royalty and the military and ruling. This is similar to the role that beer played throughout Europe during the Middle Ages.
It's true that beer and chocolate are in different camps, but they do have complementary flavours and they are both the product of fermentation.
Beer is flavoured with three things: grain, hops and yeast and when heated malted grain can have notes of honey bread caramel toffee raisin and many others.
Fine chocolate has up to 1500 aromas some of which are described as grassy, floral, yeast, nuts, caramel, woody, spicy and fruity, so it shouldn’t be so surprising that they pair well together.
Chocolate begins with the cacao tree, which grows in the tropics of (for example São Tomé), the beans of this small tree are fermented, roasted, husked and ground into cocoa nibs.
The nibs are then pressed to separate the natural fat, (cocoa butter) and cocoa mass.
Beer is an alcoholic beverage made by the fermentation of grain and, for the vast majority of the world’s beers, the grain base is barley.
The brewing process starts with malted barley, or ‘malt’, which is then milled. Next, the brewer steeps it in hot water to extract their flavours; the malt is heated with water in a large kettle called a ‘mash tun’. At the end of mashing, the starches in the malt have been broken down into simple sugars, resulting in a sweet liquid ‘wort’.
The malt is rinsed (‘sparging’) and strained to get the last of the sugars into solution. The used malt is now considered to be ‘spent grain’, but still great for baking. The wort is then piped into the next large tank, the brew kettle. Here, hops are added and boiled with the liquid, providing bitterness and aroma. After boiling, the wort is quickly cooled 24C to add yeast. The yeast is pitched in to the sweet wort, where it feeds on the sugar, releasing alcohol and carbon dioxide.
After a while, the food runs low, and the increasingly alcoholic atmosphere becomes unfriendly: the yeast slows down. Fermentation is complete. The young beer is transferred to conditioning tanks to age, a process that can go from a few days to several weeks (or, occasionally, years) depending on the style.
Not surprisingly, adventurous chocolatiers and brewers are finding ways to include cocoa in some of their more inspired recipes.
There are a couple of things we need to be aware of when using cocoa in brewing:
One, cocoa is bold not shy, so be careful.
Two, not all ales are man enough to cope with the intense flavours that cocoa brings.
Balance! ease off on the dark malts at the same rate at which you add the cocoa and the results should be good.
Cocoa can be added to beer in four ways:
Chocolate syrup, Cocoa powder, Chocolate bars
All four are relatively trouble-free and can be used at different stages of the brewing process.
The chocolate bars that are available in the shops don’t always work well with beer, it usually has too much sugar, oils and other additives and the brewer needs to decide what and how much of any ingredients go into our stout.
So here we are using organic, fer mented, dried cocoa nibs from Sao Tome & Príncipe.
Nibs are essentially cocoa beans that have been roasted (for hygiene and flavour).
Taste and smell them before using and trust your instincts, aroma is always the brewer’s and the chef’s best tool.
Lightly roasted nibs work well in a brown ale or porter, but the fuller roasted nibs more at home in an imperial stout.
Nib are about the same size of a barleycorn so can be used directly in the mash, the boil, or suspended in conditioning beer like hops or spices like you would coffee beans – roasted, crushed like a specialty grain, and added in small amounts as a steeping grain or in the mash.
We are also going to be using chocolate
malt. (Chocolate malt is malted barley, kilned to a dark brown colour).
It gives the beer a chocolate-like aroma and taste, many brewers use the word chocolate in the names of their beers, but only a few of us actually use real cocoa nibs.
I find that the flavour is fully extracted in the mash, adding another roasted dimension to the brew.
If used in conditioning beer, simply fill a small mesh sachet with nibs and suspend in the beer with a string. Since the extraction will be lower and mellower than if it is mashed or boiled, you will find that this approach will give a softer edge to the finished beer.
There are many great recipes online for stout and porters have fun experimenting.