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Where Craft Meets Craft: Beer Chocolates @ Nunu

Meet Nunu, the neighborhood chocolate, wine, and beer haven you never knew you had (except those who did). Don’t live in Boerum Hill? No matter. Once you step into the cozy space, with its chocolate-stocked counter, rough-hewn wooden tables, and hand-scrawled chalk listing of the day’s beers on tap, you’re sold. But wait — is that a box of beer chocolates on the counter? Why yes, yes it is.

Nunu Chocolates wasn’t originally in the business of putting beer into chocolate. It was born as a chocolates plus-beverages kind of place where 14 to 16 hours a day went into chocolate production, and the rest into careful beverage selection. But once husband and wife team Andy Laird and Justine Pringle started successful beer and chocolate pairings, they figured “let’s cut out the middle man.”  Thus New York’s first (and finest) “beer chocolates” were born. (Add this to Nunu’s Booze Boxes, with rarer selections like Scotch and Sake, and you’ve got alco-altruism-by-chocolate.)

The Chocolate: Andy and Justine already had their bean, a hybrid cross between Trintario and Criollo, raised sustainably in Colombia.  “There’s a nuttiness to it,” says Andy.  The couple settled on 53% cacao for their beer ganaches. “It’s the most versatile, good for playing around,” says Andy. “It doesn’t hijack the flavor; it’s never too bitter or too sweet.”

The Beer: Versatility in their chocolate is key, because Andy and Justine will try a ganache with any beer they have on tap.  And what they have on tap tends to be great.  “We only have three taps,” says Andy. “We don’t carry things you can find down the street.” When we visited it was Barrier Sanity IPA (NY), RJ Rocker’s Black Perle Ale (SC), and Maine MO Pale Ale, a beer so precious Andy still wonders “how the hell did I get that?” (Good news for Nunu –  beer makers tend to seek them out.)

The Beer Chocolates:  Nunu’s Six Pack Beer Box is like a mini-symphony of six beers, playing separate melodies with the same exquisite chocolate.  Our box (made with two weeks’ worth of rotating taps) had Ithaca Ground Break Saison, Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Maine MO Pale Ale (lucky us), Barrier Lights Out Stout, Avery Maharaja Imperial IPA, and Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye—which was rich, barky spice, playing up the earth and fruit of the chocolate.

The Rules: The coolest thing about beer ganache? It changes after you make it. “The first thing we learned,” says Justine, “is the initial taste of the ganache is not the final product. It’s still growing.”  A few rules: don’t lose stout in a too-tight love embrace with ganache; wheat beer can coax out banana; Saisons like to poke through with spice; and sours kick up cherry and fruit.  The basic beauty: beer brings out chocolate, and vice versa. “It’s designed to be its own pairing.“

Availability: In craft and conscience, Nunu is Brooklyn to the core (“we were at Brooklyn Flea from the beginning”), but the chocolates are online and available at Bierkraft, Greene Grape Provisions, Union Market, Fette Sau, City Bakery, and a host of other places.  And it’s not unlikely they’ll tread more ground soon. Heck, they made it across an ocean, to a Parisian gallery at that. “We flew there and made chocolates,” says Justine. “We became a living exhibit.”  However you do it, pick up some edible art today. Observe, respect, and consume. Just don’t wash it down with wine. 

- Liz Scott

Andy and Justine Relax at Nunu

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