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Love is in the Eye of the Beer-Holder

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 dog, 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 of 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 is also famous for the phrase “In vino veritas,” or “There’s truth in wine,” which is in reference to folks who can be quite honest and without much of a filter 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 4,000-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 also yes! … Of course, it has to 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 an increased probability of riskier behavior, getting yourself into trouble or will simply help you pass out. To put it bluntly, beer as an aphrodisiac has a VERY fine line in relation 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 a truly 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, it all going through the many steps of the brewing process and fermentation. Therefore, it’s anyone’s guess!

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

Stone Xocoveza, an Imperial Stout by Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA. (8.1% ABV) – This craft brew is a collaboration between Stone Brewing and Cerveceria Insurgente, a microbrewery in Tijuana, Mexico. The stout itself is a delicious mouthful of cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It’s supposed to invoke the flavor of a Mexican Hot Chocolate drink, and truly, it does. It’s complex with a warming sensation thanks to the peppers. Perfect for wintertime! Look for it at World of Beer and potentially on the menu at local restaurants, brewpubs and in your local grocery and craft beer stores.

Strawberry Peach Pineapple Sour, a Fruited Kettle Sour Ale by K2 Brothers Brewing, Rochester, NY. (6.5% ABV) – This sour beer brewed with Chinook hops, and the purees of all 3 fruits makes for a phenomenally flavorful concoction. Tart on the tongue, all of the fruits can be separately noted with each sip, however they meld together in a very palatable and refreshing way. You’ll have to take the drive out to Rochester for this one; totally worth the hour and half drive out there though – and get the smoked pork tacos as a bite to eat with your beer if you do! (However, Branching Out Bottle Shop in Camillus, NY will take trips out to the brewery fairly regularly and bring lots of goodies back for purchase!)

Origin of Darkness: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout brewed with Chocolate & Pistachio Cannoli, an Imperial Pastry Stout by Collective Arts Brewing, Hamilton, ON Canada. (8.4% ABV) – It’s quite the mouthful of a name, EH? (See what I did there? Haha). This exceptionally dark and rich dessert beer is an internationally collaborated brew created with CRAK Brewery in Campodarsego, Veneto Italy. This craft brew is literally brewed with real, bakery-made cannoli and chocolate, then aged for approximately a year in bourbon barrels that lend boozy vanilla and oak notes to the finished product. While it’s not exceptionally sweet, it is sweeter than many stouts out there and it makes for a nice little nightcap. I purchased mine at Branching Out Bottle Shop in Camillus, NY. Bonus Tidbit: The Origin of Darkness is a series of different collaborations between Collective Arts and many other breweries around the world. The brews are very different, interesting, and extremely unique, and some of the best around. (I had an AMAZING one that was unlike anything I have EVER tasted about a year ago with Tasmanian Black Truffles from Australia that’s no longer in production!) -So definitely try to get your hands on any of them, because when they’re gone, THEY’RE GONE.

This year, ditch the dozen roses, expensive jewelry, and a sub-par over-priced dinner at a mobbed restaurant and instead peruse your local beer aisles 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! 😉

And as always, feel free to follow me on the Untappd app (Merritka12) for all of my beer-related adventures and reviews.

Cheers!

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

Kristin Merritt
Just a brief introduction that I’ve joined the Table Hopping crew as your new craft-brew-loving gal who will be bringing you 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 that I can give a few recommendations for your grocery lists, event suggestions and local hotspots for an afternoon out with friends or planning a date, and if not for nothing, perhaps enlighten you with some random knowledge that you can amaze your teammates with at trivia night – or at least give you and your pals a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! I have some mighty large shoes to fill that my friend and fellow Syracuse Women of Craft Beer member (& founder), Gloria Rakowsky, left for me, but I hope that my style (and shenanigans) will keep all y’all coming back for more each month. Cheers!