Valentine’s Day is a holiday when everything is red – roses, hearts, valentine cards and, of course, beers. Following is a selection of red-colored ales to match the decorations on your Valentine’s dinner table.
Rod And Reel
Because candy is a big part of many Valentine’s Day celebrations, it only seems appropriate to include a red ale actually brewed with Swedish Fish candies. Rod And Reel is a collaboration between San Francisco’s Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery and San Luis Obispo’s Libertine Brewing Co. A very clear copper-red in color with a rocky khaki head of foam, the beer has an aroma that actually captures the sweet strawberry-cherry character of the candies. The brewers also included significant amounts of El Dorado hops, which contributes additional cherry character to the aroma and flavor, though on the palate the watermelon notes from the hops are even more dominant. The beer has relatively low carbonation, and malt character doesn’t really come through, nor does the hop bitterness. As a result, the brew is somewhat one-note, with the fruity sweetness lasting from the initial impression all the way through the finish.
Evil Dead Red
OK, so Evil Dead Red ale from San Diego’s AleSmith Brewing Co., weighing in at 6.66 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), was actually a seasonal release for Halloween, but the deep red color is perfect for a more romantic holiday as well. The long-lasting, dense, light tan head releases aromas of citrusy hops and caramel malts. The flavor also features balanced hop and malt elements, but the hops have more of an earthy, piney flavor than citrus, and the malt comes across more bready than caramel. With moderate smooth bitterness, medium body and average carbonation, the long finish balances hop bitterness and malt sweetness in equal measures.
New Almaden Red Ale
New Almaden Red Ale, brewed by Santa Clara Valley Brewing in San Jose, is a true imperial red ale, weighing in at a hefty 10 percent ABV. The hazy copper-red brew with a moderate beige head reveals piney, herbal and citrus hop aromas with rich caramel malt underlying. The aggressive piney bitterness hits the tongue first, with a complex interplay following as the well-balanced toffee and toasted malts battle for dominance with strong hop flavors of pine and orange zest. While all of the flavor components are intense, they ultimately come together into a well-integrated whole. For a 10 percent ABV beer with medium body, New Almaden Red is not particularly sweet, and the generous carbonation allows the hop flavors and bitterness to shine throughout the surprisingly dry finish.
For those who prefer their reddish brews more tart than bitter, Krieky Bones from Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles will brighten their Valentine’s Day. Pouring a slightly murky light red with pink and orange undertones and a light white head that dissipates quickly, Krieky Bones showcases aromas of bright tart cherry, oak notes of wood and vanilla, and a refreshing Brettanomyces fruitiness. At the first sip, the rich sour cherry character is completely dominant, but the tart acidity and mild funk follow up to enhance the complexity of the brew. The 6.3 percent ABV beer has a medium-light body and moderate carbonation, and the long fruity finish includes not only very pronounced tart cherry flavors, but also a pleasant lemony acidity.
Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.