Being a beer writer has its upsides. As careers go, it’s not quite up there with ‘serial lottery winner’ or ‘bed-tester,’ but there’s certainly shoddier ways to cough up for the mortgage, that’s for sure.
I’m sure there are ‘proper’ journalists dodging bullets in Iraq or working undercover in the Mafia underworld whose noses would turn up at the notion of a beer writer but, frankly, I’d take my gig any day.
Rarely have I been more resolute of this sentiment than earlier this month, merrily walking through the plush streets of London’s Mayfair on my way to a day’s beer and chocolate tasting.
I may be changing my waistline more than the world, I thought to myself as I skipped down Park Lane, but I’d take flapjacks and chocolate torte ahead of flack jackets and concrete boots every time.
The setting for this hard day’s toil, this vigorous cutting-edge investigative journalism, was to be the headquarters of the Chocolate Society in Shepherd Market, once renowned as a haunt for very posh ladies of the night.
For anyone with even the modest of sweet teeth, the Chocolate Society is a thigh-rubbing and salivating place to be. Set-up to develop a nation’s taste for the world’s finest chocolate and promote the wares of cocoa-producing countries everywhere, the Chocolate Society is to fine chocolate what Tiffany’s is to diamond rings.
We’re talking proper chocolate here, not Hershey kisses or the stuff you buy in newsagents. We’re talking gloriously textured chocolate that’s chockfull with ethically farmed cocoa and not massproduced industrial chocolate bars teeming with sugar, vegetable fat and powdered milk.
Aware that it’s neither the time nor certainly the place to mention my favourite colour of M&M, I manage to bite my lip and, in doing so, avoid the embarrassment of being ejected quicker than a floozy from a convent.
To leave now would be a terrible mistake. The table in front of me is adorned with a dozen beers and a dozen slabs of chocolate, a selection of beautifully-crafted beers brazenly showing thigh and provocatively winking at some of the most mouthwatering chocolates in the world.
Shepherd Market, for one morning at least, was once again a den of vice, a gastronomic voyeur’s wet dream, and I was certainly ‘looking for business.’
Beer and chocolate may seem more of a fetish than a feasible combination to some but like a lot of mischievous indulgences, it shouldn’t be knocked before it’s tried.
Besides, the marriage between beer and chocolate is one of domestic bliss compared to the deviant relationship that is chocolate and wine. There are many wine styles and grape varieties that have a problem when drunk with chocolate, but beer and chocolate are a natural double act with many shared taste nuances.
Chocolate malt is a case in point. Increasingly popular and widely used among brewers, it’s barley that has been malted and then roasted until it is dark brown. It does exactly what it says on the tin, namely imbuing a beer with aroma and flavour suggestive of, yes you’ve guessed it, dark chocolate.