The Beer Lovers Guide to Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine is a celebration of love made global by the catholic church, thought to be Pagan in origin. Pagan, Christian or otherwise, millions of Brits flock to the shops each year in search of cards, chocolates and flowers to gift thier loved ones. Although beer is omitted from this trio, there are many ways that flowers, chocolates and cards can be manifested into a beery gift.

Welcome to the Beer Lovers Guide to Valentine’s Day, exploring a trilogy of themes starting with Chocolate – quite literally the sweet stuff!

Chocolate (in its’ simplest form) is the mass of the fruit from the seeds of the Theobroma Cacao tree. To extract this mass, cocoa beans are fermented and roasted before their shells are removed to reveal the nibs. These nibs are then ground and liquefied at heat, before cooling to separate the cocoa solids (or mass) from the fatty butter. For centuries, these powdered solids have been used to create drinking chocolate, cocoa’s most popular form until the invention of the chocolate bar by British chocolatier Joseph Fry.

Having discovered a way to blend sugar with cocoa butter and powder into a paste, Fry then moulded this paste into a solid bar – Fry’s Chocolate Bar. Fry’s Chocolate Bar was a hit and in 1849, fellow Quaker and chocolate entrepreneur John Cadbury released his brand of bar to the world. The two had such a shared vision that, in 1919, the companies of both gentlemen merged. Having secured the merger that would establish a global brand, John Cadbury continued to pioneer the industry. In 1861 Cadbury’s cashed in on Valentine’s Day, releasing the world’s first heart shaped chocolate box.

These rose-adorned tins met an outstanding reception from prudish Victorians, who having emptied them of luscious chocolates, used the tins to store their ever-so-saucy Valentine’s letters. If you’re looking for a chocolaty treat in the form of beer, you can’t go wrong with the following:

Chocolate Marble – Marble Brewery, Manchester

This luscious dark ale is “brewed with an emphasis on chocolate malts; this unclassifiable beer straddles milds to porters, tasting of coffee, cocoa and liquorice with a quenching bitter finish”.

Whilst Chocolate Marble does not contain any actual chocolate, it’s delicious notes of cocoa and caramel have earned the brewers many an award over the years (Champion Winter Beer of Britain in 2016 and Champion Bottled Beer of Britain 2014).

Cocoa Wonderland – Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell

“Cocoa Wonderland is a full bodied, robust porter with natural mocha malt flavours from the complex malt grist, complementing the decadent additions of real chocolate to the maturation process.”

If the chocolaty notes of malt alone aren’t giving you a sugar rush, try Cocoa Wonderland from the revered Thornbridge Brewery.

Hoodwink White Stout – Mad Squirrel Brewery, Hertfordshire

“Hoodwink, this is one trick you will enjoy being played on you.”

Looking to buy local? You can’t go wrong with a can of Hoodwink from Mad Squirrel Brewery, especially if you’re looking for a wildcard. Made with lactose, vanilla and white chocolate this luscious dessert beer hides behind the disguise of a clear golden hue.

The blank canvas for all literary Casanovas, Valentine’s cards are also believed to be a British institute. Sending cards on Valentine’s Day was first popularised by Charles Duke of Orléans, who wrote to his wife whilst imprisoned in the Tower of London, having been captured in the Battle of Agincourt. Addressed to Bonne of Armagnac, Charles sent his ‘Valentine’ poem across the pond in 1415.

“God forgives him who has estranged
Me from you for the whole year.
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine.”

Enraptured with the beauty of their prisoner’s gesture, British romantics wrote their own poems to be received by loved ones on the Feast of Saint Valentine.

It was not until four hundred years later however, with the introduction of Penny Mail, that the sending of sweet nothings became an entrenched tradition.

The Royal Mail takes its’ name from the service it offered when it was launched by Henry III in 1516; carriaging letters to officials of government and crown. Although this service was made public in 1635 by Charles I, it continued to be prohibitively expensive until 1837.

In 1837 Rowland Hill proposed a set of reformations to the Royal Mail system, including Penny Mail, which received parliamentary approval in 1840. Black penny post stamps were dark in colour, bore the likeness of Queen Victoria and most importantly, cost just one penny. This new ‘Penny Post’ service made the delivery of love letters accessible to all, with 70 million stamps purchased in the first year alone.

With Duke Charles’ sentiments now echoed the nation over, Hill’s memory survives beyond his passing in 1879. Rowland Hill is buried among Britain’s most influential figures at Westminster Abbey, an apt resting place for a postal angel – cupid if you will.

If you’re looking for a sweet sentiment that is wrapped conveniently round a bottle or can, keep an eye for the following:

I Love You Will U Marry Me? – Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell

“Belgian style Blonde ale matured with strawberries. Refreshing and balance with subtle sweet and fruity flavours.”

Successful proposal ratio = 1:1 (officially).

I Love You With My Stout – Evil Twin Brewing, New York

“Why am I doing this? I didn’t honestly know. It was just an instinct about beer as pure form… in a sense this stout is like a metaphor for freedom – the sum of all the beauty that surrounds me and my perfect contemporary existence.” – Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Brewer and founder of Evil Twin Brewing

A hefty 12% imperial stout brewed by Brooklyn based Evil Twin Brewing. If one is in search of the world’s beauty, enjoy a sip or two of this brew, just as its’ founder did.

Kiss – Harveys Brewery, Lewes, East Sussex

“Light in colour, with prominent floral and ginger notes that mellow into a gentle sweet bitterness. The perfect Valentine celebration beer.”

Produced by one of the old guard of British brewing, this seasonal ale is released on draught and in bottle throughout the month of February.

The giving of flowers on Valentine’s Day dates back to the 1700s, when Charles II of Sweden introduced Europeans to the Persian custom of gifting botanicals.

As the favourite flower of Venus (the goddess of love), roses became synonymous with Valentine’s day. This red-petalled plant is purchased from florist, street vendors and petrol stations as a sign of affection, received by millions on the Feast of Saint Valentine.

Since flowers are an international influence on our Valentine’s celebrations, we’re broadening our guise for botanical brews. Here’s some of the best from around the world:

Lilac – Brekeriet, Sweden

“Sour Ale brewed with Lilac Flowers picked fresh in Skåne, Southern Sweden.”

What could be more romantic than a bunch of flowers? How about a beer brewed with actual flowers!

Kriek Boon – Brouwerij Boon

“For this speciality, we use old and young lambic beer that has aged in our oak casks. When the lambic is 6 months old, we add 25% black cherries. This provokes the second fermentation. We then clarify, filter and bottle it. The cherries and young lambic create a red beer that is both natural and fresh, with an absolutely unforgettable sweet and sour taste.”

Red is the colour of love, so we’ve chosen a red beer to keep on theme with your Valentine’s palette. Kriek is coloured red through the process of cherry maceration that takes place in the cask, as this style of Belgian sour ages over time. Sweet and sour, this cherry flavoured brew is perfect for pairing with rich chocolate desserts!

Carlsberg – Denmark (kidding, but you’ll see why)

Although macro-lager doesn’t hold many romantic connotations, one eccentricity of Carl Jacobsen (son of Carlsberg founder JC Jacobsen.) did. Every morning Jacobsen’s gardener would deliver a single red rose to him, which he would carry between his teeth for the rest of the day. “He believed the fragrance of the rose would add to the beauty of his life.”

If the above gift guide has worked, you may find yourself duly married. Don’t worry, beer doesn’t end here..

Raising a glass of beer is an important part of wedding cultures throughout the world, with many enjoying a beer brewed especially for the occasion. Until recently it was thought that the word ‘Bridal‘ was etymologically linked with beer (as in ale for the bride ceremony). On deeper investigation, it is now believed that ‘Bridal‘ is a corruption ‘bride-ale‘ – an umbrella term for imbibing and celebrating.

One famous beery wedding was the marriage of Crown Price Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, held in Munich on 12 October 1810. To mark the occasion the citizens of Munich were invited to participate in festivities, held on the fields in front of the city gates. Now an annual tradition, Oktoberfest sees six Munich brewers produce special Festbeers for drinkers to enjoy – a hark back to celebratory ales enjoy over two hundred years ago.
If you’re brewing a beer to mark the big day, you might as well go the whole hog and make your very own beer wedding dress.

In 2015 fashion designer Donna Franklin collaborated with scientist Gary Cass to to create a dress made entirely from beer, a garment impressive enough to be displayed at the 2015 Milan World Expo.

The Australian duo added Acetobacter (a special type of bacteria) to a quantity of ale, converting fermented liquid materials into raw fibres. Beer in textile form, what a breakthrough!

If you find yourself alone this year, why not fall in love with beer all over again?

It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset; free from streakiness of taste; but, finally, rather heady.

The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy (1880)

However you’re enjoying Valentine’s Day this year, we hope you have a great day – with some good beer in hand!


Author: onefortybeers

A new blog with irreverent beer reviews and industry observations.

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