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Batman and Robin, wine and cheese, chocolate and beer… Each year, the Chocolate and Beer Tasting fundraiser invites you to indulge in this dynamic duo alongside fellow taste enthusiasts in an intimate setting. This event is organized by Speech-Language Pathologist and Parkinson Society BC Board member, Sherri Zelazny, alongside her husband and BJCP Master Beer Judge, Julian Zelazny, and Becks D’Angelo, chocolate maker and owner of Take a Fancy Chocolate.

The Chocolate and Beer tasting is a self-guided tour of local craft beers, carefully paired with local bean-to-bar chocolates. Below, Sherri Zelazny discusses how this fundraiser came about, and reveals her favourite flavour combination to date.

Can you describe your connection to Parkinson Society BC (PSBC) and Parkinson’s disease?

I have been a speech-language pathologist for more than 30 years – a field that I have loved from my first day of University. I have been involved professionally with the Parkinson’s community since the beginning of my career, providing voice and swallowing therapy to help maintain and improve quality of life and preserve the joy of communicating and eating! I have also had personal connections over the years, with friends and family living with Parkinson disease. I had been on the Board of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association before we moved to Vancouver. I knew I wanted to continue my volunteer work and involvement with the Parkinson’s community, so I contacted PSBC.  I was both honoured and humbled to be invited onto the PSBC Board of Directors. I am proud to be a part of the Society and the community.

How did you come up with the idea for a beer and chocolate pairing for your event?

My husband has been a homebrewer for more than 30 years, is a professional brewer at Moody Ales, and is a Master Level Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) – the only Master Beer Judge in BC. When we lived in New Hampshire, about 25 years ago, he taught a chocolate and beer tasting class at Dartmouth, with pairings such as Kriek style beer with chocolate covered cherries, amber style with M&Ms, and a brownie stout sundae (think root beer float – it’s a pint of stout with a chewy chocolate brownie, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream!). When we talked about hosting a fundraiser for PSBC, chocolate and beer was our first idea! We have been so fortunate to partner with Becks D’Angelo, local chocolate maker extraordinaire with Take A Fancy Chocolates and The Folly Artisan Food Shop in Roberts Creek, BC. Our goal is to introduce people to the complexity of flavours of craft beer and hand-crafted chocolate, and to create new unexpected flavour combinations when you have just the right, often unexpected pairing.

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This year's Chocolate and Beer tasting takes place on March 10 at Moody Ales.
Get your tickets today!

What sort of feedback have you received from participants of the Chocolate & Beer Tasting fundraiser? Do you have any anecdotes from past years?

No one has left Chocolate and Beer disappointed. One year, a family bought all the beers and all the chocolates, so they could do the tastings again at home! We are most happy when people learn something about chocolate and craft beer.

There have been attendees who have come on a whim with no connection to the breweries or PSBC and have been surprised at the sophistication of the pairings and unexpected sheer pleasure of enjoying chocolate and beer together.

What was your most memorable chocolate and beer pairing?

All the pairings are created by me, my husband, and Becks. We are avid supporters of local craft breweries.  All the beers used are from local breweries, different every year. We evaluate the flavour profile of the beer, and the chocolate, and look to great a new flavour combination when you have it together. Becks makes the chocolate and then the confection based on our flavour notes and we tweak until perfection. We of course love all our pairings and have favourites every year, but one stand out flavour combination was in 2016.

Twin Sails roggenweizen – hefeweizzen made with rye/peanut butter honey cups with Ecuadorian 72% dark chocolate

Beer notes: Banana aroma is predominant. Note the caramel maltiness in the taste with banana notes from the special yeast, Weihenstephan, used for this style. This style of beer hails from Bavaria.

Chocolate notes: Peanut butter honey cups with Ecuadorian 72% dark chocolate – notes of buttery biscuit and banana with peanut butter honey and fleur di sel filling. This bean is from Balao Ecuador and especially fermented to have a lower acidity than typical cocoa beans. Honey is from Jane’s Honey Bees in the Fraser Valley, and the salt is from Vancouver Island Salt Company.

Flavour combo notes: We think this is our most fun pairing – you should be thinking peanut butter banana sandwich. The chocolate from Ecuador has a breadiness to it, the peanut butter filling is peanut butter, honey and sea salt and the banana character comes from the beer yeast.

How do you hope your fundraising efforts can support the Parkinson’s community?

I hope that our contributions to PSBC will help PSBC provide people with all the resources, education, and services they need to live a full life. I want people with Parkinson’s and their families to enjoy life to the fullest with all the resources and support they need.

What do you wish more people knew about Parkinson’s disease?

From a professional perspective, I wish the medical community would put the weight on communication and swallowing impairments that they deserve. These problems are present in nearly 100% of people with Parkinson disease. There is evidence-based evaluation and treatment that, when provided early (as early as when diagnosed), will help maintain these crucial daily needs, and preserve quality of life. Early interventions support people with Parkinson’s in ensuring their ongoing ability to communicate in the workplace, with loved ones, and socially, as well as to maintain safety with eating. They also help prevent more significant consequences of swallowing disorders, such as aspiration pneumonia.

Do you have a message for anyone else looking to fundraise for Parkinson’s support services?

Volunteering and fundraising are incredibly rewarding with great health benefits! In a time when all our technology and the stresses of our own lives can prevent us from reaching out to others, remembering to give back is one of the biggest gifts we can give ourselves and the community we are supporting. And it is FUN! Find something you are passionate about and share it with others while supporting all the great work of PSBC.

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