It’s chocolate beer season, so for the past few weeks, we’ve ignored growing piles of Belgian-y sours and snappy session IPAs, instead sipping through the bounty of chocofied bottles. It’s a rough life.
But we pressed on, happily lapping up innovative sippers like Flying Dog’s fresh-off-the-bottling-line Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout and the always-delish Odell Lugene. Along the way, and we learned something: All chocolate beers are not created equal, and thus, not all chocolate beers are appropriate for Valentine’s Day.
First, the best V-day beers come in bombers. Now, this is a direct affront to my personal anti-large-format-bottle stance (I’m a can gal, myself), but this holiday is one of the few exceptions. The reason: It is entirely unromantic to roll up to your boo’s place on Valentine’s Day armed with a playlist full of slow jamz and a clinking six-pack. (As someone who once received a silk—not fresh—rose fetched from a dude’s glove box on Valentine’s Day, I know a little something about un-romantic antics.) A bomber, though, allows one lover to pour for another; it is something two Valentines can share. So while SanTan Sex Panther double-chocolate porter is the beer equivalent of Kate Upton, its can isn’t the ideal vehicle for seduction.
Next, the beer you tote to your Feb. 14 snugglefest-slash-“SNL 40” viewing should be… easy. If you’re the kind of couple who bonds over Brett and binges on SMASH beers the way most of us co-watch House of Cards, by all means, keep that up. But there’s already enough pressure on this godforsaken holiday without the added stress of having to prove your beer prowess to your significant other. Stick with mellow, sippable, laidback, not-very-bitter beer styles like browns, porters and stouts.
And finally, good Valentine’s Day beers include chocolate. There are exceptions here, too—who’s gonna whine at a Champagnelike bottle of CaliCraft Buzzerkeley, or an absinthe-laced, barrel-aged Perennial Klutzy Baffoon? Not me. But still, this is chocolate’s Super Bowl, if for no other reason than chocolate’s a natural aphrodisiac. Here, then, are a few good options.
Foothills Sexual Chocolate
Oooh baby. First, let’s assume you actually got your hands on a bottle. That right there says something about you, Valentine: You either waited in line (dedication!), or bought a front-line spot in Foothills’ auction (you’re rich). Either way, your reward for planning ahead is a velvet-smooth swallow loaded with chocolate, fig and toffee notes. Just add Marvin Gaye.
Perennial 17 Mint Chocolate Stout
This annual release returned just yesterday, in time for both V-Day and Girl Scout Cookie sales. The bottle’s sophisticated and gift-able, but the beer inside’s even more special: It’s a lush 10%-ABV stout brewed with real mint; a more perfect makeout beer does not exist.
Founders Big Lushious
Skip the fondue song-and-dance: You can still snag bottles of Founders’ 7.8%-ABV dessert beer, a sinful stout brewed with dark chocolate and tart raspberry. A coffee note keeps the sweetness in check.
Southern Tier Choklat
Bittersweet Belgian chocolate swirls through this 10%-ABV imperial stout for a creamy, dreamy swallow. If your tryst is the late-night kind, opt for Southern Tier’s Mokah—like Choklat, but with an espresso jolt to keep you from nodding off before the, ahem, main event.
Boulevard Chocolate Ale
This awesomely un-stout annual release redefines what chocolate beer can be. A 9%-ABV beer brewed in collaboration with chocolatier Christopher Elbow, the beer is an amber-color, berry-forward masterpiece that’s delicious now or later. You’ll have to hunt, but there are still bottles out there.
Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti
If you or your date haven’t yet experienced the pleasure of Yeti, start with this 9.5%-ABV, GABF-gold-winning iteration. Cocoa nibs lend a thoughtful cocoa bitterness (rather than a milky sweetness); oaky vanilla softens the edges, while a smidge of cayenne puts a hint of heat on each sip. Is it getting hot in here?! Yes. Yes it is.
4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout
Another Midwestern option; another office favorite. We prefer this slurpable (and nearly sessionable at 5.5% ABV) stout by the can, but now’s the perfect time to pick up the bomber version. Tootsie Roll sweetness and milky chocolate run through the swallow, but each sip cleans up nice and dry. Buy extra and make these or these for your sweetie.
Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout
The bottle’s only 550mL, but that’s still shareable. Theobroma cocoa extract in a 5%-ABV, all-organic, sumptuous stout shows a vegan/vegetarian/otherwise-earth-conscious lover you care.