Fearlessly Pairing Beer with Christopher Elbow Artisan Chocolate

 Beer and chocolate together sounds like a fraternity snack however when you pair artisan beer with just the right fine chocolates you have a gastronomic delight that should please any foodie.

The Christopher Elbow name is famous among top of the line artisan chocolate confections and I suspect his popularity is just about to rise a few more notches. The gem-like chocolates he creates are as beautiful as they are bold with flavor combinations that aren’t found anywhere else. Mango Ginger, Winter Spice Caramel, Brown Butter Molasses and Banana Curry (described as an Indian Bananas Foster) are just the beginning of the list. As if the fine chocolate pairings aren’t enough to satisfy any palette, Elbow is letting his creative juices run wild in a couple of new culinary directions.

Experience around the globe.

Elbow has always been fascinated with food. As a child he favored cooking shows above Saturday morning cartoons. His career path spans the globe working with Emeril Lagasse in the Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian in Las Vegas to the Paris Resort and Casino and the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in France. While working as a pastry chef Elbow started making chocolates as a special way to end the meal for restaurant patrons. He soon realized making chocolates was his favorite part of the day. Now his chocolates are sold only in his shops (Kansas City Missouri and San Francisco) and few exclusive chocolate shops who must promise to keep only the freshest truffles available for sale.

I met Elbow in person when he led a beer and chocolate pairing at Seattle’s Chocolopolis, one of the few chocolate shops in the Northwest to carry his chocolates and one of my all time favorite places. Beer and chocolate pairings are gaining popularity all across America yet as much as I love chocolate this was the first pairing of this kind I had attended. I assure you, this experience fell well within the culinary delight category as eager, yet still slightly skeptical, chocolate loving tasters produced “ooohs and aaahs” between each expertly paired bite and sip.

The beer he poured and the chocolates he paired.

Elbow showed off his expertise and his diverse chocolates by pairing with a wide range of beer. We tasted a dopplebock, porter, stout, and ale. Thinking of hosting a pairing yourself? With the vast array of high quality artisan beer and fine chocolates available these days where do you start? Follow the Elbow’s pairing examples and you’ll be well on your way to impressing your friends at your own successful event.

We started with Elbow’s favorite combination. Celebrator Dopplebock by Ayinger Brewery paired with his Venezuelan Spiced Caramel. The chocolate and caramel flavors of the confection were followed by cinnamon, then a bit of heat; all complimenting the rich, strong flavor of the beer.

Next Elbow paired Silver City Brewery’s Panther Lake Porter with the most amazing truffle I have ever tasted. A fresh goat cheese truffle that he had just made hours prior and hand carried on the flight from Missouri to Seattle. The goat cheese was a light, mousse like, ever so slightly sweet and salty cloud, surrounded by a delicate shell of Venezuelan dark chocolate (Chocolopolis sold out within hours). The truffle perfectly balanced the smoky and dense Porter. Elbow noted “Porters usually pair well with dark chocolate”.

The final pairing: Boulevard Brewery Dark Truth Stout paired with Elbow’s Raspberry. The dark and malty stout stands up to the tart and sweet raspberry confection described as “A layer of fresh raspberry pate de fruit topped with a dark chocolate-raspberry infused ganache”. Bold flavors and excellent choices, not because they blend, but because they are so different. It turned out to be my favorite paring of the day.

The last beer that we tasted was not a pairing with chocolate but chocolate ale. The Boulevard Smokestack Brewing Company Chocolate Ale is a collaboration with Elbow. Lovely and delicious. Seems to be chocolate scented rather than chocolate flavored. It is sold out for now but is scheduled to be released again near Valentines Day. Watch for it and stock up. Of the chocolate beers that I have tasted this is the only one that I would recommend and is by far the best.

Elbows chocolate and beer pairing tips

While sipping and savoring I picked up a few more tips from to share.

  • The goal is not to have one element or quality railroad the other.
  • Darker and maltier beers work best with chocolate.
  • Hoppier beers don’t work well with chocolate most of the time, just too much bitter.
  • The sweeter the chocolate the more it will bring out the bitter in the beer.
  • For some reason a bit of cinnamon works with beer.

Following Elbows Future

What’s next for Elbow? His passions are chocolate, beer, and ice cream. We’ve seen what his cleverly gifted palette can do for chocolate and beer; ice cream is clearly the next adventure. He recently opened an ice cream shop in Kansas City Missouri where Elbow will be changing out flavors and spinning fresh French custard style ice cream daily.

I’ll continue to savor Elbows chocolates watching for the next new bold flavor while waiting for my opportunity to visit the mid west for a new epicurean scoop.

Christopher Elbow Artisan Chocolates can be found at Chocolopolis and elbowchocolates.com.


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