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Beer vs. Wine ThrowDown: A Chocolate Pairing at Alewife Bottleshop; Oh, Sweetheart .... Love a Glass of Beer with that Chocolate

Indulgence. Decadence. Cupid. Love. Hearts. Flowers. Sensuality. Chocolates. Wine. Beer.  

Beer?  At first blush, one might not immediately include beer in such a list of provocative elements often reserved at this time of year for Valentine's Day and the extravagance of the holiday of love. It's probably not every day that your taste buds experience the (over)indulgence of delectable and almost sinful flavor combinations. Like chocolates with wine, right?  Hold that thought....






Lovely presentation: Peterbrooke chocolates!

Last night (Thursday), Alewife Craft Beer Bottle Shop and Tasting Room, located in the Five Points area of Jacksonville, hosted the "Beer vs. Wine Throw Down," a friendly (more on that below) competition to determine which libation -- beer or wine -- pairs better with chocolates. What better time of the calendar year to pose that question than a few days before Valentine's Day?  This was a ticketed event, which sold out a few days earlier, capping the attendance at 30. The group included some of the "usual suspects" around the Jax beer scene, and, generally, the attendees were all beer-and/or wine-loving enthusiasts, and maybe some who also wanted a chocolate fix. But, the group also had a job to do: vote on the beer vs. wine pairings, such that either Team Beer or Team Wine would emerge the winner.  


Recognize anyone?


In pairing food with beverages, three main concepts are generally considered: 1) Match Strengths or Intensities (delicate, strong/assertiveness, richness); 2) Find Harmonies or Commonalities (for example, nuttiness, roastiness, fruitiness); and 3) Find Contrasting Elements (sweet-bitter, spiciness-richness, balance-emphasis). The challenge here, then, was to decide which beverage ultimately paired better with the given chocolate.  Each chocolate was a Peterbrooke chocolate. (You're familiar with Peterbrooke; is your mouth watering yet?)

I have to admit at the outset that I'm partial to beer, and I was skeptical of the wine. Nonetheless, I kept an open mind. 

The event consisted of four rounds. And, here's how the Throw Down went down, round by round (no undercard, just the main event):

The Promoters: Representing Team Beer was Carolyn Graham of Brown Distributing Company.  On the other side, John McCarthy, from GOS Wines, repped for Team Wine. As each beverage was presented, Carolyn and John offered descriptions, including taste profiles. 


Friendly competition, remember?
The gloves were off. I think John has a height advantage.
But, I wouldn't dismiss Carolyn's reach.
(Photo from Alewife social media)
Round 1: 
The Contenders: Sunshine City IPA (Green Bench Brewing, Florida) v. Greenstone Point Sauvingnon Blanc (New Zealand). The Chocolate: Key Lime Chocolate (key lime and toasted coconut truffle covered in chocolate lime shell). The action: IPA - citrus, tropical, fruity flavors. Chocolate - quite tart (pucker up!). Wine - grapefruit, lemon lime, tropical, fruity. This was a close call. The wine was delicious (open mind!). Overall impression: the chocolate seemed to make the IPA sweeter; the chocolate dominated the wine, and the wine accentuated the already-tart chocolate. Vote: Beer.


The dark side: Round 2. Espresso beans in chocolate.
Round 2:
The Contenders: Imperial Coffee Milk Stout (Left Hand Brewing, Colorado) v. Boland Cellars Cappuccino Pinotage (South Africa). The Chocolate: Chocolate-covered espresso beans in a chocolate shell. These were intensely awesome ("chocolate fix"). The action: Stout - intense coffee aroma, but pleasant non-overpowering coffee flavor without acidity. Wine - dark fruit aroma and flavor. Overall impression: the chocolate stood out more against the wine; the chocolate blended in with the beer and was very complementary. Nonetheless, I went with the harmony here, as I thought the chocolate accentuated the dark fruit aspect of the wine too much for me. I absolutely loved the beer, but, then again, I tend to have an affinity to the dark side, especially coffee beer. Vote: Beer.


Round 3: Belgian Quad with
turtle truffle. Decadent.

Round 3:
The Contenders: Bourbon Barrel Belgian Quad (Boulevard Brewing, Missouri) v. Kenneth Volk Zinfandel (California). The Chocolate: Pecan Caramel Jag Paws (roasted pecans and caramel dipped in milk chocolate). The action: At 11%, the Quad was smooth and sweet, without an outrageous bourbon character. The wine was extremely sweet. Overall impression: the chocolate brought out the sweetness of the beer and tempered the bourbon somewhat. Vote: Beer.


Round 4: It's tough to go the distance (not)
Round 4:
The Contenders: Rosetta Flanders Oud Bruin (Ommegang, New York) v. St. Evasio Brachetto D'Aqui (Italy). The Chocolate: Dark Chocolate Truffle (chocolate truffle dusted in cacao powder). The action: Beer - low ABV (5.6%) fruit beer aged on cherries. Wine - cherry moscato; sweet; a buttery, sweet creaminess that I enjoyed. The chocolate was a very dark chocolate. Overall impression: the chocolate was a bit too sweet with the wine. Vote: Beer.  

The Decision: Following all four rounds, the participants marked individual ballots, voting for either the beer or the wine in each round. By a 3-1 Decision, Team Beer took the title, coming out on top in each round except Round 3, in very close overall judging. 








I was able to catch up with Kelly Pickard, co-owner of Alewife, after the event. Kelly selected the chocolates with the intention of presenting complicated and non-obvious flavors to the beverage reps. Noticeably absent: chocolate-covered cherry or raspberry. Nice creativity in the chocolate choices! I'm not sure how many chocolates Kelly taste-tested before narrowing the field, but she found a range of compelling flavors. Alewife limited the ticketing to 30, so that attendees could have an enjoyable experience with small numbers of people at each table, while keeping overall attendance and service manageable and personable. 

Guests had lively and thoughtful discussions about the beer, the wine, and the overall pairings. The voting was close, with two ballots choosing beer in all 4 rounds, and only one voting for wine across all rounds. The voting took Kelly for a bit of a surprise, because preliminary indications were that the crowd would mostly be wine enthusiasts. 

It didn't matter whether you considered yourself a beer-drinker or a wine-drinker or had a preference for one over the other coming into this event. I think everyone appreciated both. In fact, I was enlightened! 

Carolyn and John did a great job explaining the features of the beverages, and they sure had their work cut out for them in determining what turned out to be some amazing pairings for the chocolates. 

What a fun evening with a great concept ... Sweet event! So, the next time you might think that beer "won't go with that," give it another thought. With so many beer styles from which to choose, and the evolvement and creativity of beer, it goes with everything!

Taste the love. Who knows, your Sweetheart might even thank you for it...... 



If you're not familiar with Alewife, check the place out. Alewife opened last March in the Five Points area of Jacksonville. It's a retail craft beer shop featuring several hundred beers, and it's also a bar serving up six taps of craft beer selections on draft. You'll find additional seating in the back of the house, along with a couple of cornhole boards. And, if you're with someone who "isn't a beer drinker," Alewife offers wine by the glass and ciders/meads. The shop regularly hosts tappings and beer education events. New beers are continually added to both the tap lists and the retail shelves. Alewife is open six days a week, closed on Mondays. 

Lastly, if you're looking for something to do this weekend, being Valentine's Day after all, Alewife is hosting "Single & Bitter" all weekend. OK to bring your significant other. 



Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Drink some beer and have some chocolate! (Yes, I did a 5k today).

Be sure to look at the beerfests and special events listed on the BeerSphere Page of this website, and, for those of you in the Jax area, take a look at the "Tap This" Calendar Page for tappings and such!

That'll do it for now..... See ya around a beer somewhere .... Probably soon .... 
Til next time,


Peace, Love, Pints®
Linda