In honour of Valentine’s Day this weekend, I figured I’d do another no-brainer beer pairing. Chocolate is, of course, a Valentine’s Day staple, so whether you’re sharing your favourite chocolate dish with a loved one or just gorging on chocolate to make the pain go away, these are some beers that are great for either occasion.
You mean, like, a Guinness? Yeah, I guess, but most stouts are a lot more flavourful than Guinness is. A lot of debate goes on as to what the difference between a stout and a porter is, and the line is pretty blurry. Generally speaking, if a brewery makes both beers, the porter is the lighter one – both in body and in abv. Light is a relative term when you’re talking about these beers, as they’re full of bitter and roasty chocolate and coffee flavours (varying largely in sweetness depending on the beer) and they’re often so opaque that you can hardly see through them in the light, if at all. Both beers are actually quite versatile and could accompany your roast beef or a burrito as well as some milk chocolate. And as far as baking and cooking go, stouts are great for beer-centric recipes, and you can find them in cakes, cheeses, soups, marinades, and all kinds of other things. Lush Cosmetics even does a shampoo made with stout (it smells great, trust me – and it’s organic). Here in NB you can get Man’s Best Friend Porter and Timber Hog Stout by Picaroons, Muddy River Stout by Pump House, Sydney Street Stout by Gahan House, Martello Stout by Garrison, London Style Porter by Propeller – and those are just the Maritime stouts/porters. Beyond that, you can get St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Mill Street Vanilla Porter, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout by Fuller’s, O’hara’s Irish Dry Stout, and, of course, Guinness.Try stouts/porters with lighter milk chocolate desserts like mousse, chocolate cookies or chocolate covered strawberries.
These aren’t really styles you’ll find much of here in the Maritimes, but in Germany these are as dark as it gets. And they’re all lagers! They actually pour closer to a dark brown colour and ones made with wheat will pour murky. Don’t worry, it’s just yeast. Bocks and Dunkels are kind of like stouts in that they are pretty versatile and go well with darker meats and breads, especially pork (Germans looove pork). A good rule of thumb for pairing beer in general is to pair the style with the regional cuisine. This doesn’t always work, of course, but it definitely applies to German and English beer/food pairings. Dark German lagers are a lot more wheaty tasting than their English stout/porter counterparts, and don’t have nearly the same roastiness. You’ll also get some juicy stone fruit tastes, like plums and cherries. And even the highest abv doppelbocks are extremely drinkable. It’s the lager in them I guess. The only bock you can get here is Creemore Springs Ur-bock, which isn’t half bad. Erdinger Weissebier-Dunkel is great too (there’s also a canned Wernesgruner, but it’s not as good). No dopplebocks here yet, although ANBL may get the Aventinus in if we’re lucky. I finally got my hands on one the other day and it’s delicious. Again, I would pair dark German beers with a lighter chocolate cakes, cookies, or ice cream.
(Russian) Imperial Stouts
Imperial Stouts (sometimes called Russian Imperial Stouts) are about as pure chocolate as beer gets. They’re often a lot sweeter than their non-imperial little brothers and overall have a lot more flavour. They also have a much higher abv content. It’s not uncommon to find an Imperial Stout that clocks in at over 12% abv, but on average they range closer to 9%. Up until last week, Russian Imperials were unavailable in New Brunswick, but at present we have one. Maybe the Russian Olympics has something to do with it… In Nova Scotia you have a few more options by local breweries, such as Bad Apple’s Black and Tackle RIS, Boxing Rock’s U-889 and Greg Nash often has one on at either the Hart and Thistle or Rock Bottom Brewing. Stillwell Beer Bar might also be worth checking out. Sorry PEI, you’re probably SOL. Here in NB, our one option is Tempest Imperial Stout by Amsterdam Brewing in Toronto. It’s 9% abv and a nice sipper. Don’t be afraid of the wax cap either, just tear that sucker right off. For chocolate pairings you’ll want to go dark and hearty, like molten cake, truffles or fudge.
So whether you’re sharing your chocolate with someone else or hogging it for yourself (there are pros and cons with each), make sure you keep the beers just a little bit darker. At least your mouth will be happy on Valentine’s Day.