FOR THE LOVE OF BEER

| by DOUG USHER |

Are you dreading making a reservation for Valentine’s Day this year? Why not stay in and go retro? Fondue is an old school classic, perfect for a comfy evening at home and lots of conversation. Whether it’s you and your love, or a group of friends gathering, Valentine’s Day can be just as special at home as at the trendiest restaurant in town, if you make it that way.

To really stretch the evening out for maximum enjoyment, plan a few different courses. And of course you’ll need some tasty beverages to accompany each dish. Skip out on the expensive champagne and pick out some unique, large-format beers.

Start the evening o with some freshly shucked oysters. Don’t be afraid of serving oysters at home; its easier than you think.A quick web search will yield a plethora of videos demonstrating the technique. To pair, I recommend a strong Belgian ale, such as La Chouffee from la Brasserie d’Achouffee. This high alcohol, Belgian golden ale is layered with sweet malt and delicious spices. The flavors meld perfectly with the briny flavor of the oysters, and will bring out the sweetness in both the shell sh and the beer. If you’re like me, you’re piling your oysters with spicy horseradish, and the spice in the beer will reward you here. The high alcohol content is a great way to start the night, softening your legs (and inhibitions) a bit.

For the main course, cheese fondue. If you’ve never made fondue at home, it’s incredibly easy. Minimal prep time means you can spend more time interacting. Not to mention it’s fun to cozy up and pretend you’re somewhere in the Alps, enjoying a warm re away from the snow. Because fondue is generally made with wine, most people pair a dry white with it. But Funkwerks comes to our rescue here, with their Nelson Sauvin. This unique Saison contains Muscat must, which helps it blend the line between a beer and a wine. True to the brewery’s name, it definitely contains a hint of Belgian funk, which pairs nicely with the hint of funk in the cheese. Additionally, the food brings out the dryness in the beer, giving you a nice long finish. It’s a complex beer and will definitely incite conversation.

For dessert, chocolate fondue is as easy as its cheesy predecessor, and serves equally well for a romantic end to the evening, or an intimate dinner party transition to late night. If you want to turn up the heat on the night, pour Copper Kettle’s Mexican Chocolate Stout. It’s spicy and savory and balances the sweet, richness of the chocolate. But be warned, this beer will light a fire in your mouth. If  you prefer to match sweet with sweet, try Oskar Blue’s Death by Coconut. Complex in a totally different way, the coconut flavors meld especially well with the fruit you’re likely serving alongside the chocolate. The sugar rush might leave you a bit flushed, but after all, isn’t that the point?