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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I’ll Give it a Lil’ A for Effort: Evil Twin’s Lil’ B

Aroma:  Cocoa powder, coffee, leather, tobacco, and a hint of booze.  Lovely malt driven fragrance that seduces the olfactories.  Follow you nose, you’ll get a hint of cinnamon.

Sight:  Inky-black soy sauce colored body envelops the glass, capped by a espresso-foam hued head.  It rises, floats in mid air, then dives back to the depths.  All’s left is a ring around the perimeter of the glass and a large butterfly-like pattern of the smallest of bubbles.

Taste:  Much of the nose follows through to the taste.  Ah, a newcomer, dry roasted malt and a dash of fig and plum.  Though it starts sweet, the tide turns mid-palate, and the leathery, coffee flavors rear their heads.  It finishes bitter and roasty, with more fig.  The alcohol, barely perceived until now, asserts itself on the finish, adding a warming sensation to the throat.  Possesses some qualities of a Russian Imperial Stout, but not as dry and hoppy.

Feel:  Medium-full, tannic, dry, and just a touch oily.  Great finish and keeps the beer’s sweetness at bay.  This is right where an imperial porter should be.  Full, but not overbearing.  Carbonation provides finesse and a little bit of a scrub for the taste buds.

Overall:  A great sipper, let the flavors evolve with this one.  Good for sitting in front of a fire, in a leather armchair, reading a small-type, 800 page epic novel.  Want to change it up?  Try it with a Java cigar.

Suggestion food pairing:  Earthy or nutty cheese, thick stews, chili con carne with smoked peppers, tiramisu, peanut butter brownies, as a cocktail beer.