Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching, I was reminded recently, because I am the kind of romantically challenged person who needs to be reminded of such occasions.
Now, I love my wife, don’t get me wrong. But one of the reasons we’re so perfect for each other is that we both find Valentine’s Day an empty and unnecessary Hallmark holiday. We mark it with a nice dinner out, but that’s mostly because we like going out for nice dinners.
Still, if you are romantically inclined, there are a few ways to make beer a part of your Valentine’s Day festivities in thematically appropriate ways. Emphasis on “a few.”
Free valentine offered
Easily the most earnest lovey-dovey beer we see around here is Smitten, a golden rye ale from Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery. Building on the beer’s cute name and label artwork, this year Bell’s offered the opportunity to send a free Smitten-themed valentine to arrive in your sweetie’s physical or electronic mailbox on Feb. 14.
And if you’re so into a certain kind of beer that it’s replaced the organ with which love is generally associated, there’s I Love You With My Stout, a massive imperial stout from Danish ”gypsy brewer” Evil Twin.
But brewers, it seems, are a cynical, or at least randy, bunch. It’s much easier to find beers that celebrate love gone wrong, or at least the physical dimension of love gone right.
You could give A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ to your valentine, in liquid, hoppy American wheat ale form from Lagunitas Brewing. Or if the target of your affection is a little less coy, perhaps Horny Devil, a Belgian golden strong ale from California’s AleSmith, is more apropos.
From Wisconsin we have Lust hefeweizen by St. Francis Brewing, which names its beers after sins, so the sin of the flesh was inevitable.
For the valentine who’s maybe just a little too into you, you might consider a four-pack of Fatal Attraction, an imperial black IPA that Lake Mills’ Tyranena Brewing introduced last month. To erase any doubt of what’s being referenced in the name, the label includes a drawing of a woman in a crashed car saying, “I’m not gonna be ignored, Rob.” (Rob Larson is Tyranena’s founder and brewmaster.)
If you forget or decide to ignore Valentine’s Day altogether, your loved one might have a Rogue Dead Guy Ale in store for you.
But I think my favorite love-themed beer is My Bloody Valentine, another offering from AleSmith that’s released specifically for Valentine’s Day, or “Single Awareness Day,” as the label calls the occasion.
My Bloody Valentine is a variant of AleSmith’s Halloween-time release Evil Dead Red, and the label doesn’t depart a whole lot from that beer’s spooky theme. Here, there’s a big, veiny, bloody heart, skewered with an arrow.
The copy on the back of the label is a paean to heartbreak, blending tasting notes with an inability to move on: “Pair this beer with jilted lovers, reservations for one, or your favorite emo album.”
In a addition to the on-point theme, My Bloody Valentine also happens to be the world’s fifth-best amber ale, according to the aggregate ratings of RateBeer. (Evil Dead Red, incidentally, is No. 1.)
Hold my hand, and let’s investigate further, shall we?
My Bloody Valentine
Style: American amber ale
Brewed by: AleSmith Brewing Co., San Diego
What it’s like: The beers that comprise this style vary widely, mostly tied together by their color. The best comparison for My Bloody Valentine I can think of is Ale Asylum’s Ambergeddon, due to its robustness and use of American hops, though Ambergeddon features them more prominently.
Where, how much: AleSmith packages its national-release beers solely in large-format single bottles that range in price from about $5 to $12 or more for the fancy stuff, including one of my favorite imperial stouts, Speedway Stout. The seasonal My Bloody Valentine — my 22-ounce bomber was bottled Dec. 18 — retails for about $6. You may want to call ahead; some of the smaller Madison bottle shops do not carry AleSmith.
The beer: My Bloody Valentine pours a gorgeous crimson that immediately validates the name.
Its aroma wafts first a floral, citrusy hop character but also bready, caramel malts. Waves of caramel sweetness run the flavor, with the American hops imparting modest bitterness and muted pine-resin flavors that don’t detract from the malt show.
This medium-full-bodied beer has a dry finish with a zippy kick from the carbonation.
Booze factor: This beer’s 6.66 percent ABV harks to its cousin, Evil Dead Ale.
The buzz: AleSmith, which began selling its beer in Wisconsin in mid-2013, is a craft brewery, so of course it’s building a new facility. The new brewery is expected to come online this spring or summer, and the company believes it will allow production to jump from about 15,000 barrels last year to 25,000 in 2015 and as many as 150,000 barrels once it’s fully scaled up.
When AleSmith announced the new brewery last year, it said the new production could lead it to add as many as five states to its distribution range. It currently sells beer in 12 states, including only Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio in the middle of the country. You gotta love that.
Bottom line: 4 stars (out of five)