If someone showed up at our door on Feb. 14 with one of these beers and CVS-bought Whitman’s sampler, we wouldn’t kick him or her to the curb. These three bottles—all Valentine’s Day releases this year—drink well on their own or could be paired with luscious desserts. They’re rich and flavorful, making them ideal sharing bottles.
Moody Tongue Bourbon Barrel Aged Chocolate Barleywine
One sniff of this decadent fudge-toffee-bourbon concoction from Chicago’s Moody Tongue Brewing Co. and you’ll want to dive right in, but pour this into a snifter to really appreciate all the nuances of the tightly knit nose: Bourbon spice and vanilla weave in and out of chocolate syrup, while the barleywine’s raisin and cereal grain malts coast underneath. Ever accidentally melted a candy bar? That’s what this smells like, except with higher quality chocolate. On the first sip, barleywine fruit flavors like cherry and plum play nice with the cocoa notes, while the 9% ABV already begins to warm the throat. Luscious layers of fruit and chocolate build upon each other on successive sips, while whiskey lingers in the background as a complimentary spice and vanilla tickle that’s never distracting. Two people could easily split a 12-ounce bottle; drink it slowly and savor the light residual sugar plum and bourbon notes left on the tongue.
Beachwood Udder Love
Buy it for the cow label if you must, but this Long Beach, California-brewed milk stout is so much more. If there was some kind of beer dictionary, this would be pictured under ‘milk stout’; it’s one of the most to-style examples we’ve tasted lately. The aroma offers up solid roast, with a touch of malted milk ball center and a faint nuttiness that calls to mind creamy peanut butter. Up front, the sip seems like it’s going to veer roasty-bitter, but milk sugar sweeps a beat later to balance the darker malts. The texture is creamy but not overly full, leaving overlapping waves of roast and hazelnut coffee creamer on the tongue after the swallow. Serving this with a chocolatey dessert could lead to cocoa overkill; instead, try it with something more vanilla-, peanut butter- or fruit-forward.
Adelbert’s Barrel of Love
A whiskey barrel-aged Belgian-style quad is sort of like a long-term relationship: deep, complicated, sweet at times…or is that just the 11% ABV talking? This Austin, Texas-brewed Belgian dark strong ale opens with big fruity aromas of prune, grape and plum, with some peppercorn and spicy yeast character at the edges. More whiskey emerges on the tongue than was present in the aroma; sweet, dark fruit of the sugarplum and fig variety courses alongside warm booze and a deep molasses sweetness. After the swallow, the alcohol warms the throat and prickles with some late-arriving spice. If you’re thinking of cooking an ambitious, savory meal for your Valentine (duck, roast pork, etc.), the fruit and spice here would easily cut through some richness and offer additional depth of flavor.