Nothing says “I love you” like . . . barley and hops. So forget the boring bottle of red wine, ditch the boxed chocolate and give your special someone something really special this Valentine’s Day – a delicious meal paired with a great craft beer.

John Holl, an American craft beer journalist, author of American Craft Beer Cookbook and enthusiast who hosts The Beer Briefing on iHeart Radio, discussed the best craft beer pairings recently at the Big Brew NY event at The Westchester County Center in White Plains, N.Y. Here are some helpful hints he shared to get the best experience possible.

First and foremost, it’s important to treat your craft beer as the brewer intended: Serve it at 40-50 degrees; let it breathe so the flavor comes out; use a tulip glass, not a shaker pint, because holding the glass at the stem will keep it from getting warm.

Now let’s start pairing. Every beer has its own distinct flavor and aroma, so the goal is to marry flavors so one does not dominate the other.

If you’re not ready to start this alone, here are five meals with craft beer pairings that are perfect for Valentine’s Day.

1. Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese Sauce


(iStock/Blue Point Brewing Company)

If you really want to impress your date, start with an amazing steak dinner with blue cheese sauce. The best pairing for this would be an IPA that cuts through the bold flavors, stands up to the blue cheese and has an assertive flavor that will help round out the meal. Blue Point’s Hoptical Illusion will be a great bet.

2. Pasta Carbonara

Yes, pasta.  Since the meal itself is heavy, you should opt for a lighter beer, like an American lager. Hops with spice in them pair well with an Italian meal, so try a full-bodied beer like Sam Adams Boston Lager.


(iStock/The Boston Beer Company)

3. Mussels and Clams

For a light seafood meal, forgo cooking your mussels and clams with a white wine sauce and cook them with a witte beer, which will marry the pair with the flavor of lemon. The beer should have sweetness, but it should not be heavy with banana or cloves.  A great beer for this is Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen.


(iStock/Widmer Brothers)

4. Burgers and Fries

Want to keep things simple? Start with burgers and fries.  Use a pale ale like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which will not dominate the flavors of the cheese or bacon and will give you additional spice with the hops. This will bring on the full nutty flavor and won’t weigh you down.

5. Chocolate Soufflé


(Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.)

Don’t forget the dessert! Go with the best chocolate you can find, and avoid anything that has artificial flavors.  The best pairings for chocolate are stouts and porters, which are dessert beers.  Long Trail, Culmination Chocolate Porter is a great option.


(iStock/Long Trail Brewing Co.)