Issue 30

Valentine’s Day: A Day for Beer

Valentine’s Day: A Day for Beer

Cynics and singles bash Valentine’s Day by calling it a “Hallmark Holiday”. Men loath the pressure of buying the correct size lingerie, securing dinner reservations and sending flowers to their significant other’s work. Valentine’s Day usually gets condensed to a middling box of chocolates, red roses, and a “romantic” dinner at an overbooked restaurant. Of course, dessert follows, either at restaurant or at home.

Since Valentine’s Day has been morphed into a holiday for women, and women are wrongfully stereotyped as non-beer drinkers, wine receives all the press when it comes to Valentine’s Day dinner’s beverage of choice. However, men, and beer drinking women, do not need to settle for a glass of Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc. Beer is a festive drink and, arguably, a superior beverage with food. Beer can accompany every aspect of a great Valentine’s Day dinner.

Popular and romantic dinner choices are an easy match for beer. The classic aphrodisiac of oysters on the half shell are no match for an Irish Dry Stout. The dry, roasted malt flavors and light bitterness sparkle in contrast to the sweet, briny qualities of the oysters. Stouts and oysters have been consumed in union since the 1800s. Aside from the historical association, oysters and stouts are a winning combination. Lighter, dry stouts are the best choices, such as Boulevard Dry Stout, Guinness Draught or even Odell Cutthroat Porter.

The king of romantic dinners is lobster. The sweet and delicate flavors of lobster are easy to overpower. A simple, straightforward Belgian Pale is a terrific companion beer as is a German Helles. Try a steamed lobster with Leffe Blonde (Belgian Pale Ale) or Augustiner Edelstoff (Helles lager). The malt sweetness and subtle hoppiness plays well with lobster, lightly dipped in butter.

Fondue is another ideal romantic dish. Classic Swiss fondue is made with both Emmenthal and Gruyere cheese along with garlic and wine white. The end result begs to be paired with Belgian-style Saison or French-style Bière de Garde. Both beers provide enough carbonation to lift away the creamy fattiness of the cheese from the tongue. Also, the earthiness of the hops complements the cheese quite well. Bière de Garde is slightly maltier than Saison, but either style is excellent with fondue. Saison Dupont and Ommegang Hennepin are both world class Saisons. Bière de Garde is a bit more difficult to find, but locating a bottle of Castelain Blond is worth it.

Pasta has long a relationship with wine and romantic dinners; it must be an Italian thing. Wine grew to prominence in Italy because grapes grew better than grain. As such, wine became the natural partner with pasta. However, thinking outside of the (wine in the) box is quite rewarding, as beer has attributes and a range of flavors not found in wine.

The beer pairing is dependant on the type of pasta sauce. For instance, since beer has bitterness it is able to cut through the sweet, creamy sauces while the carbonation scrubs away unwanted flavor residue on the palate. Alfredo sauce can be paired with either a lively, hoppy Belgian Triple (Westmalle Triple or St. Bernardus Triple are both excellent choices), or a dark, malty German Doppelbock (Ayinger Celebrator or Spaten Optimator are ideal but any “ator” beer will do).

Similarly, the sweetness in the malt works in harmony with the sweetness of tomatoes and doesn’t clash with the acidity in red sauce. Red sauce works delightfully well with German Oktoberfest beers. Thankfully, both Spaten and Paulaner produce Oktoberfest beers all year round. A worthwhile substitute is American Amber lager like Tommyknocker Ornery Amber.

Even pesto has a friend with beer. Pesto is no match for a Belgian Strong Pale Ale (Duvel is king of the style) or an Imperial Pilsner (try Rogue’s Morimoto Imperial Pilsner). Spicy, European hop varieties excel with pesto and these two styles showcase such hops marvelously.

As great as beer is with the main course, beer absolutely dominates after dinner. A romantic Valentine’s Day dinner would be incomplete without dessert. With creamy desserts like crème brulee and cheesecake, a sweet, fruity lambic is in order. Lindeman’s offers a handful of styles but their Kriek (cherry) and Framboise (raspberry) are beyond ideal for such desserts.

Be it in cake, pudding or candy bar form, chocolate is always a must on Valentine’s Day. Mild chocolate is a good match for Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout while stronger chocolate pairs nicely with Rogue Shakespeare Stout or better yet Trappistes Rochefort 8. Lindeman’s lambics also work extremely well with chocolate.

Tiramisu is dynamite with Sweet Stouts. The addition of lactose adds milk-like sweetness to the typical chocolate and coffee flavors of a stout. Seek out either Left Hand Milk Stout or Samuel Adams Cream Stout for the perfect beer for Tiramisu.

While there are no true Valentine’s Day beers, and very few beers have cutesy labels, that shouldn’t deter couples from enjoying beer on the most romantic day of the year. Beer is an easy fit for any holiday and Valentine’s Day is no exception.

Unfortunately, most mainstream press is unaware of the vast array of beers and the remarkable depth of flavors they offer. So be brave, forgo wine and drink beer on Valentine’s Day.

Brent Udron

Brent Udron

Brent Udron has written beer articles for Omaha City Weekly and Heartland Healing Magazine. He has sampled thousands of beers from around the world and is passionate about the growth of the craft beer industry in Omaha. He is currently the “beer specialist” for Beertopia. And, he’s one hell of a guy.


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