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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Place Your Bets: Left Hand’s Black Jack Porter

On the docket:  Left Hand Brewing Co.’s Black Jack Porter

Poured into:  Innis & Gunn stemmed tulip

S:  Deep dark mahogany with orange and red highlights split the visual duty of the body, while a khaki colored head builds then recedes down to a small cap.  Tiny bubbles lazily make their way to the top.

A:  Rich, roasted dark malt doubled-down by subtle chocolate and coffee.  Faint herbal notes show up too, giving some insurance from the hops.  There’s also a small hit of heat from the alcohol, but nothing to get busted over.

T:  Washes of coffee and chocolate deal a one-two combination in the beginning.  Sweet malt and roast in the middle of the hand, with a small bite of astringency, alcohol and herbal hops round out this beauty.  The boozy quality is a bit more apparent as this one warms up.

F:  Smooth, velvety mouthfeel; likely due to the wheat used in this interpretation. Medium weight and a pleasant carbonation.  The bubbles are enough to allow the beer to stay refreshing and not flat.

O:  Pleasant, easy to drink American take on an English style.  I’d argue that this is more a robust porter than an actual brown due to the roasted qualities.  Regardless, it’s a delicious beer, one I’d bet on having again.

S:  4  A:  4.25  T:  4.25  F:  4  O:  4.25

Suggested food pairing:  low-and-slow barbecue ribs, earthy Havarti cheese, chocolate or coffee flavored desserts