Oregon Chocolate Festival (and Chocolate Stout) – Savor a Preview
We look forward to the first weekend in March since it brings the Oregon Chocolate Festival to Ashland, OR. This annual celebration of all things chocolate unites chocolatiers from across the state with bakers, brewers, wine makers and coffee roasters.
This year’s fiesta takes place on March 2-4, and includes two days of sampling, vendors and workshops, a Chocolate Makers Dinner and Art Walk, menu specials at local restaurants and more. You can get full details on the event website.
At Standing Stone Brewing Co, we’re offering a Chocolate Stout (brewed with cacao nibs, or cacao bean pieces), menu specials and cocktails. Our bartenders will satisfy your sweet tooth with some of our favorite Oregon distilleries’ chocolate-inspired creations, such as New Deal Distillery Mud Puddle Chocolate Vodka and our house-made steamed hot chocolate infused with Bendistillery’s Cofia Hazelnut Espresso Vodka. We’ll announce menu specials and Chocolate Stout tapping on Facebook and Twitter so connect with us there. The Chocolate Makers Dinner will feature our Chocolate Stout, too.
Beer lovers can also enjoy a chocolate and beer pairing workshop with Ginger Johnson of Women Enjoying Beer, featuring our Chocolate Stout, and a “Bean to Brew” event at Lillie Belle Farms in Central Point. If you’re attending the festival, visit Southern Oregon Brewing for a taste of their excellent craft beers, too.
Chocolate, like beer, is the result of an alchemical transformation. Here’s a peek into the magic to whet your palate for the Festival. Chocolate starts with cacao beans, the seeds of the Theobroma Cacao tree. It grows within 20 degrees of the equator and loves lush rainforest environments that provide moisture and shelter its delicate flowers. Cacao pods grow all over the tree and hold about 40-50 beans. It takes about 200 beans to make a pound of chocolate.
First, cacao farmers harvest ripe pods and scoop out the pulp covered beans, which are fermented for about 3-7 days to develop the beans’ chocolatey flavor. Then, beans are dried in the sun (or energy-powered driers if it’s rainy).
Chocolate makers roast the beans, shell them with a winnower, then grind them into a thick paste (cacao liquor). This liquor can be pressed with a hydraulic press to make cocoa butter and powder, or refined into a smooth consistency then blended with sugar (and milk, if used) in a melangeur to make fine chocolate for bars, truffles, drops and other delectables. Lillie Belle Chocolates makes chocolate starting from the bean, and is a must-try at the festival!
Of course, there’s variation in chocolate, just like craft beer. Not all chocolate is refined or made from roasted beans. In cacao producing countries, roasted beans are ground by hand and rolled into balls for rich hot chocolate. Raw chocolate, made with ingredients that haven’t been heated above 118 degrees, is growing. Don’t miss Ashland’s Zorba’s Chocolates, which makes incredible raw chocolate, at the festival.
Our mouths are watering just thinking about the Oregon Chocolate Festival. Indulge, and stop by Standing Stone for some Chocolate Stout and menu specials to top it off.
Cacao photos: M. A Schweisguth