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A pairing whose time has come — beer and fine chocolates

By Paul Viau | Jan 13, 2016
Photo by: Carol Viau EAT CHOCOLATE, DRINK CRAFT BEER...REPEAT AS NEEDED — Heinzelmannchen Brewery and Baxley's Chocolates are teaming up for a real taste treat Jan. 21.

Several people have said to me, “All you write about is beer.” In response, I usually just smile, and start talking beer with them. After all, craft beer is enjoying a true renaissance — in America and beyond.

Craft beer is what people are talking about — and also what they are drinking. And the Buds, Millers and PBRs of the world are struggling to hold market share.

It’s a wonderful case of bigger isn’t always better. And as more and more people discover that small, local craftsmen (and women) offer fresher, better products, the more this trend will continue.

Case in point, two Sylva businesses that are making ‘small’ a huge part of their success story — Heinzelmännchen Brewery and Baxley’s Chocolates.

Heinzelmännchen (HZM) is the craft brewery that put the mountains of Western North Carolina on the beer map. The husband/wife team of Dieter Kuhn and Sheryl Rudd have been serving up hand-crafted German-style beers for 12 years, paving the way for Nantahala, Innovation, Sneak-E Squirrel, Lazy Hiker, Frog Level, BearWaters, Tipping Point, Boojum and beyond.

So if you are a craft beer enthusiast, you need to make your way to Sylva, march into HZM and give Dieter and Sheryl a hearty, “Danke.” Then enjoy some good German-style beer.

My wife and I did just that this week and were rewarded with a ‘sneak preview’ of the upcoming charity event  — a ‘chocolate and beer pairing’ at the brewery scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 21.

This is HZM’s fifth chocolate and beer pairing event, and this year, its smooth, German-style beers are sharing the stage (and palate) with a new Sylva craft chocolatier — Baxley’s Chocolates.

Baxley’s is family business story that warms the heart. For years, three generations of Baxleys have gathered over Thanksgiving weekend for a family-friendly-fun project — making chocolates as Christmas gifts for close friends.

The grand-patriarch of the family, Russell Baxley, enjoyed a career as a food scientist, working in the candy industry. He moved in Sylva later in life, to be close to his son, Steve Baxley, who worked at WCU.

Steve’s daughter, Lauren Baxley, had the idea of not only perpetuating the family tradition, but also taking it to the next level — the Baxley’s family business.

In October 2015, after three generations of family chocolate making, Baxley’s Chocolates joined the string of great, local businesses in Sylva, at 628 W. Main St., and local residents quickly became fans.

“Jackson County is crazy about caramel,” Lauren Baxley said.

Not surprisingly, Baxley’s hand-dipped, signature turtles, salted (and unsalted) caramels and its ‘carameliscious’ toffee are fan favorites. Other Baxley’s sensations include hand-dipped, candied orange peel and ginger; all-natural peanut butter meltaways; and the Baxley family’s version of sugar plums.

(Yumm — I just ate a Baxley’s version of the malted-milk ball — truffleiscious!)

Sorry for that research break.

I can tell you first-hand that the HZM-Baxley’s Chocolate pairing is 'wunderbar.'

Here’s a sneak preview:

HZM Weise Gnome Heffeweizen — Baxley’s milk chocolate dipped apricot

HZM Gnutty Gnome — Baxley’s dark chocolate toffee

HZM Black Forest Stout — Baxley’s dark chocolate peanut butter meltaways

HZM Big Amber Gnome — Baxley’s dark chocolate caramel

Two additional beer/chocolate pairing will also be included — the careful testing by both brewmeister and chocolatier is still in progress.

The important things to know is that pairing between Sylva’s long-time ‘Gnometown Brewer’ and its newest sweet spot — Baxley’s Chocolates is scheduled for:

• 6 - 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan 21, at Heinzelmännchen Brewery, 545 Mill St., in downtown Sylva;

• $10 ‘tasting fee’ must be paid in advance by cash or check at either HZM or Baxley’s;

$5 from each ticket will be donated to charity — Sylva’s Community Table;

• Attendees will be able to order chocolates for their ‘sweetheart” for Valentine’s Day.

For more information, visit:

Baxley’s Chocolates at 628 W. Main St., in Sylva, 828-631-3379 or www.baxleyschocolates.com; and

Heinzelmännchen Brewery, 545 Mill St., in Sylva, 828-631-4466 or www.yourgnometownbrewery.com.