Valentine's Day and chocolate go hand in hand. And as it turns out, beer and chocolate make the perfect coupling. Chocolate in beer, to be more precise. But did you know that plenty of chocolate beer styles don't actually incorporate any chocolate in their brewing at all? Instead, those "chocolate" flavors come from an ingredient named chocolate malt—which is barley that has been malted and roasted until caramelized, and those inherent nutty, sweet flavors combine to taste just like chocolate beer. That being said, many brewers these days do add chocolate to their beer. Some incorporate the less waxy cacao nibs in the boil (the first step of beer-making), while others age beer with chocolate, or add chocolate at flameout (end of the boil).
... plenty of chocolate beer styles don't actually incorporate any chocolate in their brewing at all ...
More often than not, porters and stouts—styles that already channel chocolate notes on their own—are the ones that include chocolate. But with innovation in craft brewing continuing to grow, expect to find chocolate in more and more beer styles.
Why not use Valentine's Day, the third top chocolate selling holiday of the year (behind Easter and Halloween), as a chance to explore the perfect pairing of chocolate and beer? As a matter of fact, both chocolate and beer are supposedly aphrodesiacs. You could get lucky.
5 CHOCOLATE BEERS TO LOVE:
Organic Chocolate Stout
Samuel Smith's Brewery, Tadcaster, UK
This delicious 5 percent ABV English chocolate stout is a marvel. Expect big chocolate in the nose, with a creamy mouthfeel and finish—tasting this beer is like biting into fine milk chocolate. Brewed with the famous local Tadcaster hard water, this beer uses organic chocolate malt and organic cocoa to impart its deep and luxurious layers of chocolate. Note: Samuel Smith's fermenting vessels, made of solid slate slabs, give the brewery's beers a fuller-bodied mineral finish.
The Nothing 2016
Smog City Brewing Co., Torrance, CA
Brewed once a year, Smog City's Winter Seasonal is a 9.3 percent ABV double chocolate imperial stout brewed with chocolate malts and aged on two types of raw cocoa nibs. This beer pours a bittersweet chocolate, and it's as dark as they come. The Nothing is decadent and boozy, with big notes of dark fruit, coffee, licorice, and a hint of smoke.
Chocolate Ale with Raspberry
Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, MO
It just so happens that one of the best chocolatiers in the country, Christopher Elbow, works in Kansas City. So it makes perfect sense that he collaborated with Boulevard Brewery to create this seasonal, 9.1 percent ABV American strong ale. The beer's pinkish hue hints at tart raspberry on the tongue, with rich chocolate aromatics from Dominican Republic cacao nibs. Chocolate Ale has a cult following for a reason. Finishing with a surprisingly crisp acidity, this beer lifts off the palate leaving juicy fruit behind in the exhaust.
Young's Double Chocolate Stout
Charles Wells, Bedford, UK
One cannot talk about chocolate beers without mentioning Young's. This English style 5.2 percent ABV sweet stout is brewed with chocolate malt, as well as dark chocolate and traditional woody English Fuggle and Goldings hops, yielding a beer that is unmistakenly chocolatey, but definitely balanced and not too sweet. Pouring a dark black, Young's Double Chocolate Stout has additional notes of vanilla and roasted coffee, and finishes with bitter chocolate bite.
Hangar 24, Redlands, CA
Rich and decadent. This strong and robust 8 percent ABV porter has intense roasty and toasty chocolate qualities thanks to its two types of chocolate malt, as well as a dose of raw cocoa nibs. To round flavors out, Hangar also added whole vanilla beans after fermentation, producing a highly complex beer.