I’m trying to swirl the beer in my tasting cup, like I would wine, and can’t figure out how to do it without spilling. I say as much to Erin Biles, the pr manager at Flying Dog Brewery, who’s been explaining the best way to taste craft beer. She reassures me that she often spills while swirling. I’m not sure I believe her; she’s artfully swirling the beer in her cup without losing a drop.
We’ve gathered at the brewery’s Frederick headquarters for a pairing of beer and chocolate, which seems like an unlikely couple to me.
“Beer goes with everything,” says Erin. “You just have to find the right pairing.” And for Flying Dog, the right pairing is The Perfect Truffle. Owner Randy Olmstead has joined us with a box of the most beautiful chocolates I’ve ever seen. They almost look too good to eat.
“What’s the best approach?” I ask, wondering exactly how this pairing works. “Beer first or chocolate first?” Randy recommends beer first.
So, I swirl my sample of Raging Bitch (yes, folks these beers – names and all – are not for the faint of heart) Belgian-style Indian Pale Ale, then sniff – again, just like tasting wine – and take a sip. I think I like it at first but then I taste hops, which I don’t like. Randy mentions that his wife had the same reaction.
“Now, take a bite of chocolate,” Randy instructs, making sure I slow down and savor the chocolate instead of devouring the blood orange truffle he created specifically to pair with the Raging Bitch beer. It even has the Flying Dog logo on top.
I’m surprised that blood orange doesn’t taste like oranges at all. It’s sweet but not citrusy. I take another sip of beer and the flavor is very different. The hops are toned down. I follow this sip with the remainder of the truffle and voila, there’s the citrus! Only it’s more grapefruit than orange.
I’m amazed at how well the beer and chocolate go together. And I’m amazed at how different each tastes before and after the pairing.
We taste a total of five pairings. I LOVE the Salted Dark Chocolate Caramel with the Old Sckatch Amber Lager as well as the Old Bay Caramel with the In-Heat Wheat Hefeweizen. I’m not a fan of the Gonzo Imperial Porter and the Oatmeal Stout truffle. Randy says that’s ok. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to your palate.
And that’s the beauty of it!
Experience this unique pairing at the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick -- beer tastings are included in brewery tours; truffles are available in the gift shop -- or at home by purchasing both products. Visit www.flyingdogbrewery.com and www.theperfecttruffle.com for product information.