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Brew Blog: Pairing Stromboli with Tommyknocker's Cocoa Porter

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On this week's Brew Blog, we try out a homemade pairing.

We saw Tommyknocker's Cocoa Porter at Central Market last week and took some home, the six-pack having triggered fond memories of playing drunken pool in Colorado bars and devouring Beau Jo's pizza on the way back from ski trips in Idaho Springs, the brewery's hometown.

We also baked up a storm last week, an effort headlined by a pumpernickel loaf stuffed with spinach-artichoke dip. We thought the beer and the main course might go well together, and we were mostly right.

This is an easy pairing to try yourself, no baking required -- Central Market has pretty good pumpernickel and black Russian rye loaves on offer most days. The filling had some good complementary flavors but didn't really interfere with the beer/bread match-up.

Malty and frothy, the Tommyknocker is good, but it's not quite the winter warmer they've labeled it. The honey (also an ingredient, the bottle says) comes through clearer than the cocoa, and the result is a light porter that might even be best called a brown ale. There's certainly no burnt flavor, though a bit wouldn't be bad here.

To the point, the beer goes well with the pumpernickel loaf. The dark bitterness of the bread, tinged with sweet, corresponds well with the porter without being completely redundant or completely overpowering. Theoretically the pairing could have gone lighter on the beer, but then it risked being obscured by the heartiness of the bread. A darker beer, heavy on the coffee taste or too burnt, might have wasted the flavors in the bread. In short, this is a good pairing.

But we think it has more potential. A still mellow but more complex porter would be welcome, as would a generally stronger flavor in the bread, perhaps through going heavier on the molasses or the brown sugar.

If you get a minute to try this one, let us know what you think.

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