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Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier - Fine Chocolates Made by Hand

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Aran and I at our booth

This past Saturday was the 25th anniversary of the Great Taste of the Midwest! This wonderful event has been graciously sponsored by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild since 1983. It isn’t always easy to remember with an event like this, but I believe this was my 10th year volunteering and my 3rd year presenting a chocolate and beer pairing session.

For this year’s chocolate and beer tasting, I teamed up with Aran Madden of Furthermore Brewing and we paired four of our chocolates with four of his great brews. The idea is to have fun but to also see how chocolate and beer can have similar characteristics and finding the right bridge that brings out the distinct flavors and subtle qualities in both. For instance, for one of our pairings we tasted our caramel with sea salt with Furthermore’s Knot Stock, an American Pale Ale that has a hoppy zing but a nice amount of caramel malt to tame any bitterness. With this pairing, the kick for me continues to be the bit of black pepper in the beer that comes forth and plays off well with the sea salt of the caramel. In turn, our caramel rounds out the flavors of the caramel malt in the beer. The sweetness of caramel also softens any bitter hops one may experience. It is a lovely marriage of sweet and salty, and salt and pepper.

The Great Taste of the Midwest event is all about tasting great beer from the many ( >124) craft brewers in the Midwest who sample their wares (>500). The best part is getting to meet the brewers and to taste their wide selection of beers that vary greatly in styles and flavors. O.K., that being said and given the vast amount of beer there is to sample, a confession is in order: I did carry around the program this year and took detailed notes of my focused interest this year, IPAs, Belgian style ales, and some bourbon barrel offerings.

My crew and I began tasting at 11:00 a.m., before the gates opened at 1:00 p.m. (one of the perks as a presenter is to get in before the crowds), so imagine my disappointment this morning when I discovered that I had swapped programs with someone and lost all my notes! With all the great beers available and all the fun being had, I can’t be too disappointed – it just means I have to start my research on IPAs and Belgian style ales all over again! This time, though, on my own and with more time! I have a program and many of the beers are available at our favorite liquor stores around Madison, or perhaps a road trip to the breweries themselves for even more fun

If you enjoy a good brew get out and support your local craft brewery but please do so responsibly. Have fun and be good to yourself!

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