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Beer My Valentine

Cupid, roses, chocolate…those three words can only mean one thing during the month of February: Valentine’s Day! Love it, or hate it, the holiday is upon us and is sure to show up everywhere from over-the-top displays of pink and red in every single store you walk into, to your Facebook and Instagram feeds with their gag-tastic PDA photos and posts of undying affection between couples. You know what I’m talking about. (Heck, maybe YOU happen to be one half of those said sappy couples.) Regardless, whether you’re hitched, dating, or happily in a relationship with yourself or your pet, it’s time to make beer a part of your Valentine’s Day this year.  

Love, beauty, pleasure, passion, and procreation…The Greek goddess, Aphrodite is associated with all these carnal desires. A daughter of Zeus, she is commonly depicted in much of mythology as being exceptionally beautiful, irresistible to men, an adulteress of sorts who takes on many lovers, and is the mother of Eros, the god of lust and sexual desire. Hence, she is also the root of the word, “Aphrodisiac.” The Romans had their own goddess – Venus – who is by-and-large the same depiction, and Eros in turn being Cupid. Julius Caesar himself was a strong supporter of the cult of Venus, as she was believed to be the mother of the entire Roman nation. 

The Greeks loved their wine and it was a large part of their culture, so much so that the Greeks even had a god of wine – Dionysus. (And the Romans had Bacchus as their counterpart) In the Greek play, Semele or Dionysus, written in 375 BC, the character Dionysus says, “Three bowls [of wine] do I mix for the temperate: one to health, which they empty first; the second to love and pleasure; the third to sleep.” The Greeks knew that wine, a form of alcohol, would contribute towards increased desire and pleasure. The Romans too felt that wine was intertwined with everyday life and lowering inhibitions. Pliny the Elder was a Roman from the 1st-century AD who was a naturalist and author of a vast array of works on different topics, including wine and viticulture. He also is famous for the phrase “In vino veritas,” or “There’s truth in wine,” which is in reference to folks who can be quite honest when they’re intoxicated! (And now you know where the famous craft beer Pliny the Elder, an Imperial IPA made by Russian River Brewing in Windsor, CA gets its name!) 

For all the association wine has with the Greeks and Romans, historical evidence has found that beer and brewing may have been quite popular as well. Archaeologists have recently uncovered ruins believed to have been 4000-year-old breweries in both northern and eastern areas of Greece. The sites had been burned out from fires, but the remains left behind were significant and revealed sprouted cereal grains and a two-chamber structure that may have housed beer production. The ancient Greek name for beer was “brutos” or “brytos” while the Romans used the word “cerevisia.” There are various Roman writings that mention beer including a letter from one decurion to another in the Roman cavalry making a request for beer to be sent to the men in that unit. Regardless of whether we’re talking about ancient Greece or Rome, both beer and wine were enjoyed as aphrodisiacs of sorts with drunkenness, pleasure, love, and lust running rampant. 

So, should we consider beer an aphrodisiac in today’s culture? It’s probably true that any college student would give an emphatic “YES” in response to that question, and scientifically, the answer to the question is yes!…of course, it must be in moderation…for as Shakespeare put it, “[alcohol] provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.” The thing is, alcohol – beer, wine, etc. – has scientifically been proven to increase overall desire and sexual response while decreasing inhibition. An Australian study concluded that men who on average drank a “moderate” amount of alcohol reported 30% fewer erectile dysfunction issues than men who were “non-drinkers.” In another study focusing on women, it found that women who drank a “moderate” amount of alcohol displayed higher levels of testosterone, but in men, the levels did not increase. This increased specific hormone production in women can lead to increased libido. 

Though when moderation turns into excessiveness, all that “desire” and “libido” isn’t really going to get you anywhere, except for perhaps an increased probability of riskier behavior, getting yourself into trouble or it will simply help you pass out. To put it bluntly, beer as an aphrodisiac is a VERY fine line when it comes to consumption. As well, the chemical composition of beer is biphasic in that it has a stimulant effect as your blood alcohol levels increase, but once it starts to decrease, it acts as a depressant. Of course, the media, entertainment, and advertising would have you believe very differently – especially when it comes to marketing towards men.

Foods, such as oysters, chocolate, honey, chili peppers, vanilla, figs, cucumbers, pomegranates, strawberries, and herbs such as saffron, rosemary and basil, among others are considered to have aphrodisiac properties. So, if we combine and brew beer with these particular foods and spices, do we now have an aphrodisiacal craft brew? The answer to that question is possibly, as it all depends on the quantity and concentration of the elements going into the brew itself, and of course all of the ingredients are going through the many steps of the brewing process and fermentation. Therefore, it is truly anyone’s guess! 

While I’ve not been reborn as the Greek goddess Aphrodite herself, I do have some suggestions for brews that I, myself, have enjoyed that you may wish to indulge in this Valentine’s Day with that special someone and decide for yourself if they have any aphrodisiac qualities! 

Trippy Tree – Berries & Cream, a fruited sour by Beer Tree Brew in Port Crane, NY. (7.3% ABV) – This sour brew is conditioned on strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, marshmallow, and vanilla. When I tell you this tastes exactly like a berry trifle, it truly does. Layer-upon-layer of berries, vanilla, cake, and marshmallow flavors, just like the actual dessert! You’ll have to take the drive on down to the Binghamton area to their brewpub for this, or perhaps plan your Valentine’s date night at either The Hops Spot in downtown Syracuse, or A.W. Wander in Manlius, both of whom have this beer on their current menu.

The Bourbon Barrel-Aged Bearded Tears series by Buried Acorn Brewing Company, Syracuse, NY. – There are 4 different brews in the series: Bearded Tears Taza® Chocolate – chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate, Bearded Tears with Madagascar Vanilla – vanilla, marshmallow, toffee, oak, chocolate and floral notes, Bearded Tears with Salt City Coffee – boozy chocolate and coffee, and Bearded Tears with Hazelnut and Ancho Chili – caramel, chocolate, toasty, & mildly spicy; all of them checking in at a whopping 17.6% ABV. Get yourself to the Brewery located on 881 Van Rensselaer St. in Syracuse to grab these bottles.


Vincent by Buried Acorn Brewing Company (8.6% ABV) – This is a Barrel-Aged dark sour beer/wine hybrid. Currently, batch number 4 is available. Per their website: “A blend of our 1, 2, 3, and 4 year 225 Liter oak aged dark sour Emotive and our 75 Hectoliter Foeder-aged Emotive blended and refermented on 2018/2019/and 202 vintages of mixed fermentation Vincent grape must. The finished product is an elegant culmination of NY vineyard terrior and our mixed culture collected over the last 12 years. In collaboration with Heron Hill Winery.” Vincent is unique and rich and is one of my own personal favorites that Buried Acorn brews. If you enjoy dry red wine, or if your significant other isn’t necessarily into beer, but enjoys wine, this is a great little gift to pickup to enjoy together. Sold in 500mL bottles at the brewery as listed above!

This year, ditch the dozen roses, expensive jewelry, and a sub-par, over-priced dinner at an overcrowded restaurant and instead peruse the shelves of your local beer hubs for a something to share in front of a fireplace or adventure out to a brewery in search of some Aphrodite-inspired craft brews this Valentine’s Day. You never know what kind of “fun in moderation” awaits you!


References: www.theguardian.com/science, www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech, www.homebrewersassociation.org, www.wikipedia.com. 

Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!