Once again February has come around, and with it Valentine’s Day. And unfortunately, for some, this can cause a bit of distress. What should we do, where should we go to celebrate? Should we celebrate? What if I buy someone a gift and they don’t like it? What if my gift is totally inappropriate for what we have going on? Oh God, what do we have going on? Do we classify it, quantify it, or just have a little fun? Should I have gotten reservations? I can’t make reservations because everyone booked a table last year! How was I supposed to know I’d meet someone and actually have a dinner companion? I can’t predict that! I’m used to eating alone damn it! And what would we do after dinner? Oh God, if there’s an after. I’ve probably already blown it and won’t even be able to get a date for coffee! Slow down lover pants, and let me help you out for 2015. I did a little bit of research again this year and I’ve got a few suggestions for a great day or night out for you and a special friend (or friends, I don’t judge). It doesn’t involve reservations, messy foods, or rude overworked waiters. Take it easy, take some notes, and let me show you how you can impress your love with some local chocolates and a trip out to some great twin cities tap rooms.
If beer pairings aren’t new to you, you already know how well chocolates and beers can go together. If you are new to beer pairings, you probably think I’ve lost it. Yes, everyone knows that you can make a chocolate stout cake, and that’s great. But chocolate, like beer, comes in such great variety that you really should take a chance and explore pairing your sweets with your beers, especially chocolate. Play around with the flavors and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, do some experimenting. Surprise yourselves a little and step outside your box. The worst that can happen is you find something you won’t want to try again. The best thing that could happen? You’ll enjoy something new with your partner. Besides, experimenting is fun, isn’t it?
If you’re looking for a taproom with a little more of a romantic feel, I suggest hitting up Steel Toe Brewing. You’ll find that their tap room can be pretty romantic! Its lighting is on the low side, perfect for setting a close and personal mood. I like to sit at the bar on the back wall, and with my back to the rest of the room, create my own privacy to enjoy my company.  On your way stop off at The Drooling Moose and grab some of their Malted Milk Boulders. The Drooling Moose makes their version of malted milk balls in super-sized form. These are huge, roughly the size of a quarter, and covered in ¼ inch of sweet milk chocolate. Order yourselves a couple pints of Steel Toe’s Dissent and enjoy how the malty sweetness of the beer melts the malted center of the chocolates in your mouth. The milk chocolate in turn enhances the smooth, creamy mouth feel you’ll get from the beer. If there’s a downside to these chocolates it’s only that they’ll ruin whoppers for you forever. If you really enjoy yourselves, make sure to grab some growlers to go, and continue your party in an even more intimate setting.
I next headed over to Big Wood Brewery for a glass of the tried and true Morning Wood Coffee Stout. This stout has an incredible kick of coffee flavor with sweet chocolaty notes. My pick for a great compliment chocolate is one of my favorites, milk chocolate toffee. I stopped off in Arden Hills at a place new to me, Sweet Chocolat. You will absolutely love how their toffee breaks apart into crunchy, buttery chunks in your mouth. It pairs perfectly with the Morning Wood, the other enhancing the best parts of its companion. Isn’t that what is perfect about so many great relationships throughout time? We should all be so lucky to fine someone who bring out the best in us, yet still showcases just how awesome they are in their own right. The tap room at Big Wood works great for new and more established couples as well. There’s plenty of intimate seating off the sides of the room if you’re looking to spend some quieter time together. Not sure if you can handle that level of closeness? Enjoy your treats at the larger tables in the middle of the room, or at the centralized bar area. And if toffee isn’t your bag, check out the incredible selection of molded chocolate shapes Sweet Chocolat has to offer. Their Valentine’s Day selection blew me away, with everything from traditional hearts to anatomically correct hearts. One of my favorite offerings was the anatomical lungs packaged with the following – ‘You take my breath away’. How can you not love that sense of loving humor? Or for the more adventurous, try the chocolate hand cuffs on for size. See how much fun you can have with your Morning Wood and chocolate this Valentine’s Day.
But what if you’re feeling really adventurous? Then I suggest you and your date go get ‘funked up’ at Bent Brewstillery. Bent is quickly making a name for themselves with their funked up series of sour beers, each a little different, each an incredible way to try a new beer profile that you might not be familiar with. I myself love sour beers and I’m always curious to see what Bent has been up to with this series. Right now they have their Belgian Berlin Ur-Bock on tap and I highly recommend it. This is a beer reminiscent of a Berliner Weisse so if you like a slightly more wine like beer, give it a try. You might think that finding a chocolate pairing for this would be hard, but if you’ve had this style beer before you’ll know that it pairs quite well with fruity flavors. I actually found a great one for you to try at the nearby Roseville Mall in the Godiva store. Pick yourselves up a tin (or bag) of their Strawberry Cheesecake Truffles and prepare to have your mind blown away. The strawberry will help to pull the fruitiness out of the beer while the cheesecake layer tempers it with a slightly creaminess to counteract the sour in just the slightest way. Yes darling, opposites can and do attract and will make for some of the best experiences of your life. You’ll have a blast in their gorgeous tap room with plenty of seating to hide away in a corner. Or make sure to head over on a night when they have a local band playing and do some dancing! Their knowledgeable and friendly beertenders will make sure you have everything you need so you can concentrate on making sure your date has everything they need. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Also, they will be releasing a new beer on Valentine’s Day at the taproom. Uber Lupin Shwarz IPA. You could experience something brand new with your date!
So when you’re making plans for Valentine’s Day remember to think outside the standard chocolate boxes and wine that every store is offering. Hit up your local tap rooms and chocolate shops for some new and fun ideas to show your date. Experiment a little bit and try some new things this year. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be stressful, especially when you have so many great options to choose from! Your date with love it, and if you’re lucky and buy enough chocolate they’ll probably love you before the night is over. Send them home with their own growler, you just might get a proposal out of the deal.