EVERY VALENTINE'S DAY, there is a large segment of the gift-eligible population that gets overlooked. That would be guys. Despite the occasional advertisement showing a pair of boxer shorts adorned with hearts, most of the proposed Valentine's Day loot -- flowers, chocolates and romantic dinners -- are gifts for gals.
According to popular lore, a guy has two responsibilities when it comes to Valentine's Day. First, he has to remember the date. (It is Monday this year). Secondly, he is supposed to produce the goods, anything ranging from a sappy card to a glittering diamond, for the lady in his life. In return, he receives some gesture of affection from her, but mostly his Valentine's Day gift-giving ensures calm waters on the home front.
Rarely does anyone say, "Hey, it's Valentine's Day. Give that guy a beer!" At least until now. The other day in an effort to right this wrong and to strike a blow for guyness, I compiled a list of locally brewed beers to give guys on Valentine's Day.
I called up Baltimore metropolitan brewers and asked them what they had in their kettles that could make a guy feel good on Valentine's Day. It was a question that produced a lot of laughs, and many suggestions.
The suggestions fell into broad categories. One contingent, for example, appealed to the beer drinker's dark side by suggesting dark brews as Valentine's Day gifts. Frederick Brewing Co.'s Patrick Helsel proposed stirring things up by giving Brimstone Irish Wake Stout for Valentine's Day. This brew, he said, had "enough roasted malt character to wake the dead." So if your man is not too lively, give him some stout.
Another advocate of dusky fare was Clipper City's Hugh Sisson. He said the Clipper City porter, with its "cocoa and coffee flavors," was a winter beer likely to warm a guy's heart without weighing down his palate. Sisson and I agreed that most fellas want their palate up and moving around on Valentine's Day.
There was also a Valentine's Day contingent that appealed to the inner bad boy within the beer drinker. That is what I surmised after hearing the names of some Valentine's Day beers -- Devil's Milk, Cerberus and Hot Monkey Love. For instance, Jim Wagoner at DuClaw Brewing in Bel Air brewed the Devil's Milk. "It is very malty, very hoppy, very everything," he said, implying that mischief was in the air, and the beer.
Speaking of the devil, the Brewer's Art on North Charles Street was serving Cerberus, a draft Belgium-style beer named after the creature that guarded the gates of hell. The brew pub also offered the same beer at Christmas, proving, I guess, that evil has a long run.
The source of Hot Monkey Love was Oliver's brewery inside the Wharf Rat restaurant on Pratt Street in Baltimore. This Valentine's Day barley wine was described as "sweet, warm, mouthy and full-bodied." Sounded like a dream date to me.
Next, there was the "drink something red" approach. Mark Pavkov, brewer at the Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis, told me about the beer made with rye malt he planned to serve on Valentine's Day. It is an ideal beverage for the day, Pavlov said, because of its "rich red color" and, as everyone knows, rye "increases your vigor."
At Sisson's in South Baltimore, Jack Callanan was pouring Riley's Red, a raspberry wheat beer, named after a sweet young thing, Callanan's 2-month-old baby daughter, Riley Marie.
Also in the picture was the notion to give a guy Valentine's Day beer that will leave him laughing. Richard Franklin at Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. in Ellicott City claimed the brewery's Jack Frost Bock could "put a smile" on the face of the most dour valentine.
At Capitol City Brewing in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, brewer Mark Abernathy was putting the finishing touches on a Valentine's Day brew he claimed would adjust attitudes. The beer, a Belgian-style brew, he said, would warm guys up. Its citrus notes, he continued, might even give them fond feelings for fruit.
Finally, there was the go-large or go-home approach. This also could be called "give the big guy a growler." A growler is a beer vessel that resembles a jug and holds a little less beer than a six-pack. A customer buys a full growler for a little under $20, takes the vessel home and empties it. Refills of the empty vessel cost around $6. Sisson's, DuClaw and Baltimore Brewing Co. sell growlers.
While making my Valentine's Day calls, I reached Theo DeGroen, owner of Baltimore Brewing Co., at the Parkbrau brewery in Pirmasens, Germany, where he has recently taken a job overseeing production of the 500,000-barrel facility. DeGroen said he plans to travel back and forth between breweries in Germany and Baltimore.
He said he and his wife, Irmtraud, have retained ownership of the Baltimore brewery and have no plans to change any of the brewing procedures. On Valentine's Day the Baltimore brewery is going to tap its award-winning Rauchbock, a smoked lager touted as "a manly man's beer." Nothing much is on tap in Germany. Valentine's Day is not a big deal there, even for beer drinkers.