Beer and food pairings are all the rage now. Non-beer drinkers are starting to realize that people are moving beyond wine when it comes to constructing elaborate pairings, while the seasoned craft beer drinker might consider reverting to wine if they read another article like “Beers to Pair with Your Flag Day Meal” or “20 Pumpkin Beers to Drink with Halloween Candy.” But Valentine’s Day is a day that makes sense to work beer into the equation, since it traditionally revolves around wine and chocolate. Beer can easily be factored in. Both beer and chocolate share an ancient history and both share many of the same flavors. Whether you’re serving beer and chocolate side-by-side, brewing chocolate into beer, or cooking beer into chocolate, the two complement each other perfectly.

The key components of pairing are complement, contrast, and cleanse. Pairings work when you find flavors that complement each other; i.e. a sweet dessert will most naturally go with a sweet beer. Pairings also work when you contrast flavors and can make for more exciting pairings, like a bitter chocolate and a sweet fruit. The last component is how the beer cleanses the palate. Though this might not work best with chocolate pairings, it’s still good to know that beers like pilsners and IPAs work very well for palate cleansing, helping to cut through rich, fatty foods.

What’s interesting about beer and chocolate is that they are both examples of the balance between sweet and bitter. In beer, hops are used to balance out the malty sweetness, and in chocolate, the bitter cocoa is sweetened by the sugar.

When doing chocolate pairings, people seem to naturally reach for darker beers like stouts and porters, but this doesn’t always have to be the case. Experiment with sours, hefeweizens, rauchbiers, chili beers, and Belgians. Richer and maltier beers indeed seem to pair the best with chocolate; beers like porters, stouts, barleywines, and barrel-aged beers. Also, beers with higher alcohol content will stand up to rich flavors. Think about what you like best about the dessert you’re tasting, and try to match that up with a beer.

Dark chocolate goes great with the fruity spiciness of a Belgian Dubbel. Caramel and nut-based desserts match well with the nuttiness of a brown ale. And don’t forget to try a fruit lambic paired with chocolate.

When it comes to picking out a beer, there are a lot of different options. Some beers get their chocolate flavor from the additional of actual chocolate or cocoa, but in the case of a lot of beers, there’s no chocolate added, with all chocolate notes coming from roasted malts or chocolate malt (a reference to its color).

Here are some of our favorite dessert beers:

Rogue Chocolate Stout
The chocolate milkshake of beers. Not overpoweringly sweet and with a gentle hop bitterness, this stout leaves your palate with traces of cocoa powder. (6% ABV)

Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout
Chocked full of robust coffee, bittersweet chocolate, Left Hand’s Milk Stout has become the epitome of a milk stout and contains a perfect balance between roast and sweetness. (6% ABV)

Southern Tier Choklat
Smells like a batch of baking brownies. Tons of cocoa and milk chocolate in the flavor, with a silky, creamy mouthfeel. An exceptional beer. (10% ABV)

Oskar Blues Ten FIDY
You won’t find many Imperial Stouts in a can, that’s for sure. This beer is like a boozy chocolate chip cookie. Add in a big roast character, espresso, and some ripe dark fruits, and you have a beer that will work well with most any dessert. (10.5% ABV)

Dogfish Head Theobroma
Part of Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ale Series, Theobroma is based on a chemical analysis of ancient pottery fragments, revealing the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink. Brewed with cocoa nibs, honey, and chili, this unique beer would pair well with white chocolate, vanilla, and anything salted or spicy. (9% ABV)

Rodenbach Grand Cru
This sour Flanders Ale has tons of cherry and oak flavor. Crisp, dry and tart, it would work well with fruits or rich dark chocolates, like a flourless chocolate cake. (6% ABV)

Samuel Adams The Vixen
A sweet and malty bock with a delicate balance between cocoa, chilies, and cinnamon. (8.5% ABV)

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
Chocolaty, rich and creamy, this is an outstanding stout that is perfect paired with any dessert or on its own. (5.2% ABV)

Beer is also a great ingredient when cooking desserts, and with these recipes, you can have your beer and eat it too. The texture of thick, dark beers is the perfect addition to any heavy, chocolaty dessert, while a bright carbonation can help make the recipe feel lighter, with subtle aspects of flavor peeking through.

Try substituting half of the needed amount of water or milk in chocolate cake or cupcake recipes. Ice your beer cupcakes with this Baileys Irish Crème frosting. Impress your date with these salted chocolate stout truffles, or whip up this simple chocolate porter pudding.

Skip the ubiquitous Valentine’s Day meal, coupled with chalky CVS chocolates and “I Wuv You Beary Much” stuffed animals. Instead, grab your favorite beers and make your date think you’re a talented gourmand this Valentine’s Day.