Beer: The Most Romantic Drink of All

That high-stress relationship holiday is around the corner, and I’m sure florists, Hallmark, restaurants, and M&M Mars are poised to make a killing.  Yes, I’m referring to Valentine’s Day.  Inspired by Ms. Puckette’s article over here on her site, I feel wine is pretty well covered.  My focus will be on my first love, beer, and its ability to pair well with chocolate.

Right out of the gate, beer already has an edge over (most) wine when pairing with food- its carbonation.  Capable of cutting through rich, thick flavors and dense fat, those bubbles in beer act as a palette-cleanser.

Couple this cleansing ability with similar flavors found in chocolate, and beer is effective, versatile, and quite the complimentary beverage to chocolate.  Dark, roasty stouts and porters may contain black patent and/or chocolate specialty malts, providing flavor.  Some brewers even add chocolate itself into the recipe, as is the case with Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout made with organic cocoa.  Another option for pairing is a milk stout, such as Left Hand’s Nitro.  It’s brewed with lactose (milk sugar) which does not ferment out, leaving the beer a touch sweet.  Try milk stouts with chocolate high in cacao, to counter and soften the bitterness.

beer_and_chocolate

For those fans of spirits, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout or porter will provide a layer of depth and complexity to your chocolate pairing.  Bourbon barrels impart a dose of vanilla and caramel, plus a dryness due to the oak compounds.  Pair these brews with quality milk chocolate and experience something akin to a Milky Way Bar.

Something commonly paired with chocolate is fruit.  Combined with either white or traditional chocolate, fruit beers make excellent “chocolate-covered strawberry/cherry/raspberry” experiences.  A beer such as Founders Rübæus, or its big brother, Blushing Monk, are made with raspberry puree.  Raspberries also provide a hint of tartness, adding a balance to the rich, creaminess of chocolate.  Or, you could skip the fruit AND the chocolate, and blend a chocolate and fruit beer together, a la Samuel Smith’s strawberry and chocolate.

For the truly adventurous, perhaps something esoteric is in order.  The few of us who enjoy those whack-and-unwrap chocolate oranges, try Sierra Nevada’s Side Car (or any pale ale with hops that impart an orange flavor to the beer) with some creamy milk chocolate.

I know me and my wife will find some sort of awesome combination to celebrate this year’s romantic holiday.

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My Mash Letter to The Bruery: The Bruery’s Mash

The_Bruery_MashOn the docket:  750 mL bottle of Mash by The Bruery bottled:  8/7/15

Poured into:  logoed River Horse stemmed snifter

S:  A rich dark, syrupy brown-hued body fills out the glass, capped by a quickly rising and receding bone colored head.  The bottom of the beer at the base of my glass gives off a honey-gold spot.  Lacing is minimal, but the head lingers as a small, perforated ring and a wispy, soapy film on the surface.  Carbonation is hard to detect, as the opacity prevents me from seeing any bubbles.  I’ll meet up with them in the mouthfeel section, I’m sure.

A:  Dear Mash aroma, I love you, let me count the ways… a seductive blend of vanilla, caramel, and treacle greet the senses.  Not far behind is a subtle brown bread and raisin.  Lastly, a kiss of booze, gentle and belying the 12.5% abv of this malt-driven beauty.

T:  I’ll continue to gush about this beer.  Much of the aroma carries through to the taste.  It’s all there, working together to romance the tongue and the taste buds.  Rich creamy vanilla and caramel open the door, the molasses and raisin/fruitcake shows you to your table, and the barrel aging takes your order.  I’ll have what I’m having.  The time spent in the bourbon barrel is evident, but not overpowering.  Very often I’ve found that brewers get carried away with the barrel, and lose the beer.  Famille Rue got it just right.  It’s decadent, sweet, and woody.  Like well-aged spirits, it takes a long time for the burn of the alcohol to develop, nearly seconds later after the initial sip and its journey down the back of your throat.  As it warms up, yup, it’s boozier, but it won’t stop me.

F:  Finely nuanced carbonation.  It provides just enough lift to keep this high-gravity brew from forcing itself on you.  Medium + weight, both oily and smooth at the same time.  The finish is gentle, but does add some tannic dryness from the barrel, and a gentle bitterness from the hops to keep the sweetness in check.

O:  A finely-tuned bourbon barrel-aged English Barleywine.  Easy to drink despite its alcohol content.  I’ll go out on a limb and say Mash has great potential for aging, perhaps bringing in dark chocolate and port notes as the hops fade away.  I had my Mash at roughly 8 months, imagine what a two or three year relationship with your beer cellar might yield.  Well worth the price paid.

S:  3.75  A:  4.5  T:  4.75  F:  4.25  O:  4.5

Suggested food pairing:  Heavily-blued cheese, hearty beef stew, Crème brûlée, fruit cake (for the few that actually eat it and don’t simply re-gift it as a frozen brick, year after year in family Christmas exchanges), and most definitively as a cocktail beer (on its own).