A VERSE for Valentine’s Day . . .
Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Gimme some head,
On top of my brew.
Well, nobody ever said mug-fisted beer drinkers were romantic. Passionate, yes. But all that hearts and flowers stuff has always been the traditional turf of the pinky-extended champagne set.
Yet, as the lovey-dovey day rolls around, the beer industry is making another clumsy attempt to appropriate Cupid.
This year, it’s Boston Brewing, with a $15, pewter-embossed bottle of Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock.
The bock is made with cocoa beans and flavorings that are designed, according to the press release, to evoke “the bittersweet taste of an exclusive blend of Scharffen Berger(R) chocolate…
“What more could a guy ask for this Valentine’s Day?”
I dunno, edible undies?
Look, I’m not one of those PBR can-crushers who bust on brewers for conjuring up “exotic” beers. Ginger, raspberry, pine needles – basically, if you can turn it into booze, I’m all for it.
But any dude can tell you, Valentine’s Day is just not a beer-drinkin’ holiday.
They put a big heart on the calendar to warn us, “Yo, pal, February 14th is the one day of the year when you absolutely must put down your pint and pick up a dozen roses for your girl. Do it or you will b-l-e-e-d.”
Don’t complain about skipping a night out with the boys, even if this year the holiday unfortunately falls on a Saturday. Valentine’s Day was conveniently scheduled in mid-February so you can easily atone for burning a cigar hole in the couch on Super Sunday, while laying the necessary groundwork for your indiscretions on St. Patrick’s Day.
In recent years, though, beermakers have begun to horn in on the holiday, tempting us with their wares.
Duvel, for example, reminds men that corked, high-alcohol Belgian beers are a perfect, lower-cost alternative to fizzy champagne – as if your wife couldn’t see through that one, you cheap bastard.
Another Belgian beermaker suggests that women should “make his night special with a romantic dinner incorporating Stella Artois.” Men presumably can finish off that romantic night by incorporating a cold shower.
This year, the Association of Brewers further erodes the sanctity of Valentine’s Day by declaring this Beer and Chocolate Week.
“During a week when many Americans celebrate with chocolate,” said trade association spokesman Ray Daniels, “we want to introduce them to the sensual and romantic marriage of beer and chocolate pairings.”
(Just for the record, I believe the marriage he’s referring to is the actual consumption of, say, a glass of stout and a nice slice of chocolate cake – not the Reese’s Cup that melted in your pocket during that beer-soaked lap dance at Delilah’s Den.)
Which brings us back to the ruinous Sam Adams Chocolate Bock.
It is my considered opinion that this beer is one of those female traps, possibly devised by Mrs. Sam Adams.
“Here, sweetheart,” your honey says sweetly, a half-hour before your dinner reservation. “I got you a nice bottle of chocolate beer.”
Warning, lunkhead: It’s a test!
She’s waiting to see if you’ll grab it and start pounding away. Next thing you know, she’s crying, “You’d rather drink beer than spend six hours cooing sweet nothings into my ear while we watch a Swoosie Kurtz movie on Lifetime.”
Friends, it pains me to say this, but on Valentine’s Day, you’re better off sticking to poetry.
OK, so how’s this stuff taste?
Strange as it seems, chocolate is a perfectly appropriate accompaniment to beer. After all, it’s bitter and sweet, just like hops and malt.
Though Sam Adams’ version offers a huge chocolate aroma, I sense the cocoa’s main contribution is in producing a full, smooth body. Unlike most bocks, one – maybe even one you split with your honey – is enough.
Boston Brewing is far from the first brewer to toss chocolate into the kettle. Rogue Chocolate Stout from Oregon starts out as an oatmeal stout, then gets spiked with real chocolate.
The same goes for Young’s Double Chocolate Stout from Britain.
In my book, the best-tasting chocolate-flavored beer doesn’t even contain chocolate. That’s Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. Its rich flavor is achieved solely through the use of deeply roasted varieties of barley and so-called chocolate malt.
Chocolate malt is the secret ingredient that distinguishes many British stouts. Where Irish-made Guinness is closer to dark toast, British stouts like Mackeson, Beamish, Samuel Smith and Murphy’s tend to remind you of Hershey’s.
These are full-flavored beers that go perfectly with lots of dishes. Why not skip the coffee next time and try one with dessert?
Monk’s Cafe (16th and Spruce streets, Center City) not long ago presented a Chocolate, Cheese & Beer dinner in which most of the courses were made with chocolate-flavored beer. I’m still licking my chops from the chocolate porter cheesecake served with Victory Storm King imperial stout.
If chocolate isn’t your thing this Valentine’s Day, a couple of locals offer tasty alternatives:
- Yard’s Love Stout from Kensington is passionately flavored with oysters. There’s no fish flavor – just a smoother stout from the added calcium. It’s available on tap and in bottles.
- Flying Fish Love Fish is the Cherry Hill, N.J., brewery’s excellent Abbey Dubbel, infused with cherries. Keep your eye open for this on tap only.
Rule of thumb: When it takes more than five minutes to defrost your car windshield, it’s barleywine season. No, it’s not wine – it’s just strong, highly hopped beer. Look for Victory Old Horizontal, Dogfish Head Old School, Flying Fish Big Fish and, of course, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale. At Iron Hill Brewery (3 W. Gay St., West Chester), brewer Chris LaPierre is featuring his own, unusually light Golden Hoppy Barley Wine . . .
Rotating brewers continues: Victory’s Chris Firey is the new chief at Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant, replacing Larry Horwitz, who’s moving to Iron Hill’s new location in North Wales . . . Phoenixville’s Sly Fox Brewery & Pub, looking for a second location, has settled on Royersford. It expects to open by early summer . . .
Sticke Uerige, the classic Dusseldorf Alt brewed just twice a year, recently crossed the Atlantic. Look for it in bottles and on tap. Also new on local shelves: Bell’s Sparkling Ale, a Belgian-style tripel, Flying Dog’s Snake Dog IPA and Warka Beer, a Polish pilsner in a 16-ounce can.
- Feb. 13: Friday the Firkinteenth at Grey Lodge Pub, (6235 Frankford Ave., Mayfair). The wildly popular cask ale (naturally carbonated and served at room temperature) fest returns with 14 headbangers, including Nodding Head Imperial IPA and Legacy Nor’easter. Kegs tapped at 6 p.m. Pay by the glass. 215-624-2969.
- Feb. 15: Beer and Chocolate dinner at Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats (20 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del.). The popular brewpub partners with Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory of Lewes with unpredictable results. Boston lettuce with chocolate liqueur dressing served with Raison D’etre, anyone? 6:30 p.m., $49, 302-226-BREW.
- Feb. 27: Winter warmers dinner at the Farmhouse Barn (1449 Chestnut St., Emmaus, Pa.). A pairing of seasonal brews and food, hosted by John Hansell, editor of The Malt Advocate. 7 p.m., $70, 610-967-6225.
- March 20: Michael Jackson beer tasting. Tix for the Brit beer author’s annual KitchenAid Cook and the Book tutorial are on sale now. (Three seatings; they go fast.) $45, 215-898-3900.
Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with a glass of Val Dieu Brune.