What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Think outside the chocolate box for Valentine's Day

Posted February 11, 2014

Mystery Brewing prepares growlers at their brew house in Hillsborough.

— Are you bored with the thought of giving your special one another box of chocolates this Valentine's Day? How about delivering that expected chocolate decadence in a way both of you can enjoy together?

The NCBeerGuys know something about chocolate goodness in a beer, so we thought we'd present some North Carolina craft beer ideas for you to consider if you want to think outside the chocolate box. Surprise your loved one with a chocolaty beer or two for this special occasion!

Foothills Brewing of Winston Salem has perhaps the most popular and widely sought after chocolate beer in their annually released Sexual Chocolate. They describe this Imperial Stout as "cocoa infused" and say it is "opaque black in color with a dark brown head. Big chocolate aroma with notes of espresso, blackstrap molasses, dark sweet toffee and dark fruit. Smooth dark chocolate backbone with complex notes of coffee, dark toffee and dark fruit."

Another great choice for the evening might be the Pisgah Brewing Company Chocolate Stout out of Black Mountain. This brew uses an array of dark malts and cocoa nibs to make this what the brewers advertise as "an instant classic" which "displays the gentle alchemy of chocolate and malted barley." It's also available sometimes on the nitro tap for an added smoothness. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the cocoa nibs brewers often use, they are the broken pieces of the sorted, roasted, cracked and winnowed cocoa beans.

We have three local favorites that are more widely available in this area.

Deep River Brewing 4042 Stout out of Clayton and Johnston County's first "legal" brewery is a sweet stout brewed with generous amounts of freshly ground cocoa, chocolate malt and cocoa nibs from local North Carolina chocolatiers. It comes in at a wonderful 6.5% ABV.

Hillsborough's own Mystery Brewing Company has Six Impossible Things Chocolate Breakfast Stout, a rich, buttery oatmeal stout with undercurrents of cocoa and coffee with grain additions designed to impart chocolate, toffee, and caramel notes without bitterness.

Finally, Raleigh's Big Boss Brewing Company has their Big Operator, an aged Belgian black ale brewed with local cocoa nibs and generous amounts of raspberry puree and one that is on a lot of beer drinker's "wait for it" list each year at this time.

If your Valentine's Day plans include a nice romantic trip to the mountains, be sure to stop in at Bearwaters Brewery in Waynesville where Greg, the head brewer, cooks up some amazing flavorful beers. Three of his chocolaty beers are the BlackBerry Chocolate Barrel Aged Stout, a rich chocolate malt based stout infused with pure blackberry and aged in oak barrels; the Chocolate Cherry Stout, an American-style sweet stout infused with fresh Bing cherries and the Snownado Stout, a rich chocolate stout finished with a hint of cool mint.

I noted that we have some experience in the area of chocolateness in beer. We brewed the winning entry in last year's NoDa Brewing Company Top of the Hop Pro-Am homebrew competition with our own "Hot Pistol" – a chocolate, raspberry and habanero stout. While the commercial version NoDa Brewing released isn’t currently available, we understand it will very likely be brewed again this year. If you get a chance to get your hands on any of that special brew it promises to make your regular day about as special as any Valentine's Day if you share it - and enough of it - with the right special valentine!

Stop in at a brewery, bottle shop or grocery and see what options they have in a chocolate beer. Express your individuality and creativity this Valentine's Day by giving the gift of chocolate in an unexpected manner – a bottle or glass instead of a box. Who knows, with enough chocolate beer sharing this might be the special day you both dreamed about! Think outside the chocolate box this year!

Dave Tollefsen and Glenn Cutler are regular guys living in central North Carolina with their families who share a love for craft beer and homebrewing. They work together as the NCBeerGuys. They can be found online promoting North Carolina craft beer, providing information about the folks who produce local beer and writing about beer adventures, activities and events across North Carolina.

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