Valentine’s Day is coming. What are you going to get your sweetie? Some Hershey’s Kisses and a dozen roses? Fine, do that, but if he or she happens to appreciate good beer, maybe take a look at this list and pick up one (or some) of these. I know, I know, this will be a stirring subject. People are very sensitive about craft beer. If you’re going to get all worked up because there’s commercial “Big Beer”-owned beer on here then maybe just skip over those. And I’m a pretty positive guy, so while you may think some of the beers on here are putrid, an opinion you’re more than welcome to have, I didn’t have a problem with any of them. And I’m not a paid critic, so there’s no need for negativity here!
This list includes a variety of beer styles from a mix of national and obscure breweries. I’m not a homebrewer, but am a pretty avid craft beer (and good beer, in general) drinker. So, while this isn’t written by Geoff the Beer Snob (no offense to any Geoffs reading this), it’s authentic – and by that I mean I’ve tried all of these. I’m not going to get into mouthfeels and head, that’s another list altogether. If you want that kind of beer review you should check out Beer Advocate. And yes, I know that technically just about any robust porter or sweet stout could qualify here, but this list is specific to beers that actually say chocolate is in them – hence the tie to Valentine’s Day.
1. Shake Chocolate Porter from Boulder Beer One of the first “chocolate beers” I ever tried and I still love it. In fact, I’m drinking one right now. This is a very flavorful robust porter that includes chocolate wheat, chocolate malt (and others) and cacao nibs – these guys in Colorado have mastered their craft. I’ve never been to a truly respectable beer contest, but Boulder Brewing has, and this beer has some bling to show for it. Reasonably-priced and pretty widely available, this one tops my list of favorite beers, not just favorite chocolate beers.
The nice thing about porters is that they typically have a distinctive enough touch of hops to add unique flavor, but are also roasty and malty without feeling like you’re drinking a milkshake. Remember Choc-Ola? This is kind of like that, but beer.
This one should be pretty easy to replicate, really. Just melt a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, throw it in a blender, dump in your favorite American porter, put the lid on, and hit “knead” button. Because if you hit the high button you’re just going to get a foamy mess. On second thought, if you really want to try this beer just pick some up. It’s fairly priced and super tasty.
You probably just thought to yourself, “Peanut butter in a beer? Disgusting.” That was my first thought to prior to trying my first ever peanut butter stout. However, when done right, and by right, I mean it has to be a decent stout to begin with and not overwhelmed with peanut butter flavor (and if they use crunchy I’m guessing it won’t turn out well, but I don’t know for sure). When they get all that right it’s a unique, but very enjoyable type of beer that I think you’re going to see gain in popularity over the next few years as people continue to push the brewing envelope.
Ah, Samuel Adams. The original craft brewery, right? That’s what their commercials tell us anyway. Say what you will about their extensive production and varieties – it seems like they have 25 different IPAs – but more often than not those variants are winners. However, Chocolate Bock one is one of the good ones. This is an easy drinker, slightly sweet and chocolatey, but still tastes like a beer’s beer, whatever that is.
It’s a bock, on the darker side, and not real hoppy. Interestingly, according to people who know such things, bocks are technically supposed to be consumed slightly warmer (48 degrees to be exact). Yeah, no thanks. Call me a savage, but my beer is going to be cold when I drink it. This one should be readily available at just about any grocery/liquor/ABC/package store. You might have to buy it in a variety pack, which isn’t so bad, because if you don’t like it at least you have three others to choose from!
This is the most expensive beer on this list – you can pay $15-20 for 4 of them. Are they worth it? Well, that depends. Do you like to be able to brag to people about how much you paid for a beer? Then this is the one for you. It is super tasty and surprisingly smooth for an Imperial Stout with 10% ABV (which is another reason for the higher price). If you’re not used to buying craft beer, that’s double to triple the alcohol in a fizzy yellow beer.
I love beer. I love dark beers, especially. But I don’t often purposefully spend $5-$6 for a 12 ounce bottle of beer from a liquor store. Then again, I’m married with kids so who am I trying to impress? The first time I tried this I just grabbed it off the shelf without looking at the price. Upon consumption I was impressed, and had I drank another one, I would have been a little buzzed – and that’s really the point, right?! Recap: super-delicious, but not worth the price unless you’re one of those people who leaves the price tag on something expensive so everyone can see how awesome your taste is. If that’s you, then cheers, this one’s right up your alley.
Remember Neapolitan ice cream? It’s the one with 3 colors – pink for strawberry, white for vanilla, brown for chocolate. I’m still a big fan and love sharing it with my little ones, though I tend to hog the chocolate side. So, this beer is like that, except it’s completely brown. I’m not sure how they could make it striped, and if they did I’m not sure I would drink it. Oddly enough, you truly can taste all three of those wonderful flavors when you drink this beer. And it also tastes like beer. It’s a quite fascinating actually. And is very tasty.
Saugatuck is another one of many impressive Michigan breweries. It’s on Lake Michigan, less than an hour west of the Midwest’s beer Mecca, also known as Grand Rapids. I haven’t been there yet, but I do intend to one of these days. Let me know if you’re around, and I’ll let you buy me a beer!
Per my intro paragraph, if you are anti-big three breweries then keep moving. Blue Moon, once a pioneer of craft brews, is now owned by Miller-Coors (you’d actually be surprised at all the “craft breweries” that are now at least partially-owned by one of the big three, e.g. Goose Island, Redhook, many others). I remember when I was in college someone showed up with a 6-pack of Blue Moon and I thought he was pretty cool, then I saw him put an orange in it and immediately took his man card.
This one has just a subtle hint of chocolate, enough to be allowed to put Cocoa in the title. I’m typically a fan of brown ales, one of my favorites is Brown Note from Against the Grain, delicious, so I was looking forward to trying this one from Blue Moon. It didn’t really knock my socks off, but it’s drinkable and comes in Blue Moon’s seasonable 12-pack, which also has a couple of other delightful brews.
New Belgium makes the famous Fat Tire, which if you started drinking craft beer in the mid-to-late 2000’s, was one of the few non-fizzy yellow beers you could find at most establishments with a beer menu that stretched beyond the big 3. New Belgium releases a bunch of different beers throughout the year, typically with different spices and varieties of hops, mainly ales and lagers. They’re widely distributed and typically priced on the higher end, but you can usually find them on sale at the big stores.
For this iteration, they teamed up with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I immediately thought to myself, “Brilliant, beer that can satisfy the munchies!” This is the other ale on this list, and while it really does have serious vanilla and chocolate flavor, I’m starting to get see a pattern – to do a truly tasty chocolate beer you have to go dark. The chocolate wheat and/or malt are very necessary. I’m not saying stay away from this one, it’s definitely worth trying and at 6% ABV it’s strong for a blonde ale, but it’s not going to stick to your ribs like a porter or stout.
“Hey, wait a minute, this one doesn’t say ‘chocolate’ in the name!” You’re right, it doesn’t. But hear me out. You’d think a coconut porter from Hawaii would be like a malty piña colada, but this has much more cocoa than coco in the flavor. Plus, being from Hawaii it’s practically an import and makes you feel like you’re at the beach!
This is the first beer I’ve tried from Maui. I did have higher hopes for this one, but it’s still pretty tasty. Just a slight hint of coconut, but chock-full of malty goodness and solid tinge of hoppiness. Also, I’m not going to lie, like a raccoon to tinfoil, oftentimes I’m attracted by a well-done label design, and Maui has really good looking beer cans. Hey, I work in marketing, pretty colors and fancy fonts impress me, don’t judge!
Tastes just like it sounds. Kind of like a Cordial Cherry, but beery. There’s not a whole lot to say about it, if you have a sweet tooth and a beer gut you’ll like it. It’s a wheat beer, so not real hardy or toasty, but easy drinkin’ and technically qualifies as a fruit beer.
I’m not sure where to find it (other than at the brewery where it appears to be on tap) or where I even picked it up, but when I was researching my list I distinctly remember it being exactly what I expected. Not great, not bad, definitely unique. And it’s certainly better than some other beers I can think of that come from Saint Louis!
OK, so I tried this one a couple of summers ago when on a brewery trip in Michigan. We stopped by Dark Horse on the way, then hit Arcadia, and then Bell’s for the rest of the night. We had more than three stops on our itinerary, but sometimes beer derails your plans, you know. Anyway, Arcadia had just opened this new tasting room in Kalamazoo and it was really fantastic – good beers, good people, and a cool new space. Bell’s was equally impressive, though the building is quite the opposite – an old multi-story downtown building with a huge courtyard for concerts. Dark Horse in Marshall is also a bucket list destination for beer lovers.
Oh yeah, the beer. I don’t really remember it that well, but upon doing some research, I found that I gave it 4.5 stars on UnTappd, so it must have been quite tasty! I don’t know if it’s distributed, so use this as an excuse to take a brewery trip to Michigan. You will not regret it. Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and a bunch of smaller towns throughout the state serve up really good beers and super friendly Midwest hospitality.
This was originally a top 10 list, but I tried the Down ‘n Dirty just the other night and had to add it to the list. Rich, smooth, chocolatey, boozy goodness. It was in my Belmont Beverage Craft Beer Club (yes, I’m a lazy beer nerd, I let someone else pick them for me) and it is delightful. Shameless plug here for the Belmont Beer Club – they do a fantastic job of picking some good beers each month, some of which I wouldn’t normally buy for one reason or another. It’s fairly priced, convenient, and enlightening (palate-ively speaking).
Look, there are hundreds more options out there, this is just a tiny sampling of ones I’ve tried (and remembered) personally, so if you don’t like any on this list don’t give up! And if you have other suggestions we’d love to hear them! Happy Valentine’s Day!