Easter's choc full of possibilities

06 April, 2007

With the year's first big festival comes the excuse for retailers to overindulge in all things cocoa-related

Ah, Easter, how welcome you are. Festival of the resurrection of Jesus and celebrated today by a long bank holiday, lots of chocolate and the first big party weekend of the year.

Coming as it does after the abstemiousness of Lent (no, I didn't give up anything either), it is an excuse for a bit of a blow-out . In fact, here in West Yorkshire, it's almost a week off, as Thursday afternoon is a wind-down period and the Tuesday seems to be also taken as a statutory leave day .

Of course, it's not just chocolate eggs that will be getting scoffed this weekend. The trade in chocolate beer goes up as well; interested punters take a plunge on (Wells and) Young's Double Chocolate Stout and are always pleasantly surprised that a) it doesn't taste too much of chocolate and b) it doesn't taste too much of stout either.

Well, that's a little unfair - it is dark, smoky and roasty, and actually drinks fairly dry and clean .

Unlike Floris Chocolate, a slightly sickly Belgian wheat beer-based confection that, given it s low percentage abv and it s high sugar content, is clearly designed to attract women and children (am I ­sounding too Jeremy Clarkson ).

The unfortunately-named Old Engine Oil from Harviestoun Brewery is also a chocolatey delight, although many people are put off by the name and the strength - goodness knows how we ever sell any. Actually, having just checked the sales figures, I see that we don't really - it's outsold by all manner of Belgian arcana.

With all this chocolate, it's easy to get carried away on a heady sugar rush. If you want to add a bit of dignity to your overindulgence, then I suggest you dress it up as gastronomy. Pairing chocolate with a variety of beers allows you to indulge, but with the air of a hedonistic research scientist. Will Liefman s Kriek go well with this? Or would an aged bottle of Coppers Best Extra Stout be a better foil? Perhaps you want to try several different sorts of chocolate? The possibilities multiply endlessly.

As a retailer pushed for time, space and finances, a beer and chocolate pairing is the easiest (and perhaps best) event that you can put on. In fact, I'm glamorising it by using the word "event" - just grab some decent choc, open a couple of different beers and away you go.

The suggestions above will work a treat, or you can carry out rigorous research of your own. Many years ago, a favourite of mine was a pint of Tanglefoot and a Mars bar; I'm pretty sure this helped to make me the fine figure of a man I am today.

But, as the saying nearly goes, life's not all beer and chocolates. In a move that seems calculated to illustrate the meaning of the phrase "from the sublime to the ridiculous", not only has our main supplier run out of my favourite prestige Champagne (Gosset Millesime 1989, should you be curious), but it's also managed to run out of commodity vodka. I love that fact that we sell fancy fizz at £55 and cheap vodka for £9; it's indicative of our wide and colourful demographic.

But to stock up for the party weekend, the cash and carry beckons. I wonder if it's marked down the Easter eggs yet?

A dark chocolate egg, a bottle of kriek and a bottle of stout; now that's what I call a gift pack.

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