Chocolatier lures men with beer


Pairing beer with chocolate is counterintuitive. “Chocolate doesn’t like cold or wet, which is exactly what beer is, so you’re already fighting the physics,” Columbia chocolatier Joseph Vernon explains. Yet the combination makes perfect sense to Vernon, who wouldn’t mind diversifying his customer base.

“The overwhelming majority of my customers are female,” Vernon says. “I do all kinds of flavors: They’re not gender-specific. But when you talk about crystallized ginger, Bob Vila is not running down there to crank up the saw.”

To be clear, Vernon doesn’t have any complaints about the women who buy his truffles. But four years ago, he started organizing beer events as a way of making men more comfortable with his product. Currently, men account for just 15 percent of his customers.

“I’m not saying guys can’t enjoy a wine pairing,” he says. “But it’s less of a populist feel.”

The pairings planned for an Apr. 30 event at Frothy Beard Brewery include a bacon truffle with Creekside and an espresso truffle with Mikey’s Dry Irish Stout. Vernon credits the craft beer industry with coming up with complex flavors that lend themselves to sophisticated chocolate couplings. That said, he hasn’t tasted any of them: He doesn’t drink, and he generally avoids chocolate.

“I’d just be a legless diabetic,” says Vernon, who eight years ago started making chocolate because he liked it so much. Vernon says his innate sense of flavor is so strong that he can skip the sampling step.

“It’s the Scarface rule: Don’t get high on your own supply,” he says. “I just can’t get into that.”

Vernon does make a point of surveying event attendees for feedback: He claims one chef overcame a lifelong aversion to chocolate and mint together after tasting an Evolution Through Chocolate truffle (Vernon apparently wasn’t being metaphorical when he named the company.) More recently, a woman was so pleased with a truffle’s flavor that she started crying.

“The chef’s story doesn’t carry a candle compared to making someone burst into tears,” Vernon says.

Frothy Beard, 7358 Peppermill Pkwy., is hosting Vernon from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Evolution Through Chocolate truffles aren’t retailed on a regular basis, so the pairing party represents a rare chance to try what Vernon’s doing with bittersweet Belgian chocolate and vanilla he makes from Tongan beans. For more information, search for Evolution Through Chocolate on Facebook.