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CBC Holiday Beer Pairings

The holidays are such a busy time for so many of us, and they are also known as a time of indulgence. From big holiday meals, to endless cookie swaps and cheese plates. 

 

Speaking of cheese plates…. 
If you want a no-fail, easy-to-put-together cheese plate, try for three cheeses; a blue cheese (or a more pungent washed rind cheese), a fresh or soft cheese (Feta, ricotta, mozzarella, goat cheese or brie or Camembert), and a harder, aged cheese (Aged Gouda, Cheddar, Parmesan). An IPA with the blue cheese is a classic home-run pairing for a reason. Try a blue cheese with Sierra Nevada Celebration this season, and see for yourself. If you choose a washed rind, go with a beer with a bit more funk to match that, give a farmhouse or Brett beer a shot, like Taleggio and Allagash Little Brett. To pair with the fresh or soft cheeses on the board go with a beer that has high carbonation like a saison, or a hefeweizen. Finally, serve up a malty porter with the harder, aged cheeses. The nuttier character of the aged cheese and the caramel maltiness of the beer are a great harmony to start your holiday snacking. Throw in a sweet accompaniment (dried or fresh fruit is classic-cranberries, apricots, grapes), a savory accompaniment (olives, nuts, cornichons, charcuterie), a dip (savory-mustard or sweet-jam, compote, or honey), and bread or crackers and you’ve got an impressive spread.

 

I tend to reach for Belgian beers around the holidays … they complement food so well and have the depth to stand-up to cold, often snowy December holidays.

 

In particular, holiday main dishes can be really rich – often times the table is set with herb roasted lamb, or honey baked ham, which both pair great with a Belgian Dubbel. Try a Westmalle Trappist Dubbel this year.

 

If your table has a duck or goose, try a Doppelbock. Prime Rib? Crack open a malty beer like Black IPA or an American Porter. Fish? Try a lighter beer like Pilsner or Saison.

 

Or, if you’d like to be a little adventurous this holiday, try possibly the best beer for food ever, Rauchbier. The classic, and fun example is the Schlenkerla Helles. A smoky beer that is also light in color and body no smoked malt is used, but all the other beers brewed at Schlelnkerla are so smoky this one also ends up with the same flavor notes from transfer from equipment, yeast, etc. For a domestic example, grab Jack’s Abby Smoke and Dagger.

 

Another great beer to serve with your holiday meal is a Farmhouse Ale, like a Saison or Biere de Garde. The drier, sharper, and spicy character of a Saison pairs amazingly well with the typical holiday meal side dishes like roasted root vegetables, stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy, and Yorkshire pudding. The Biere de Garde brings a similar yeast character as the Saison with more toasty, nutty malt flavors that match so perfectly with roasting and earthy flavors of root veggies. These beers are also pretty dry on the finish, so they work to strip away any rich or heavy food flavors left on the palate that we know are synonymous with holiday meals. The bar is set by Saison Dupont, as a classic Saison, and is certainly worth seeking out.

 

Cookies are a course all to themselves each holiday. What’s on your cookie tray this year?
Classic nutty holiday cookies like Rum Balls, Pecan Snowballs, and Rugelach are amazing with an American Porter like Bell’s Porter. The nutty malt flavors are mirrored in the cookies, with just enough roastiness and hops to clean up all that sweetness.

 

How about a more delicate cookie like Spritz cookies or decorated sugar cookies? Try a lighter beer with a lot of carbonation like Duvel!

 

Have some Dubbel open from your main course? Try it with Aunt Sallie’s Fruitcake or Oma’s Stolen. The malty, fruity notes of the cake and the beer form a perfect harmony.

 

Gingerbread, Pfeffernuss, or Lebkuchen? These spicy delights go amazing with a robust coffee porter like Berkshire Coffee Porter.

 

One of my favorite cookies is the peanut butter blossom with the chocolate kiss on top of a chewy peanut butter cookie. Try this (or any) peanut butter treat with a fruity Framboise, like Lindemans.
Happy Holidays & happy pairing from all 33 Craft Beer Cellar stores!

Virginia is the Products, Programming, and Educational Director for Craft Beer Cellar. In addition to being a Certified Cicerone, she is an Introductory Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Her home base is Chicago, but she’s often found in the Boston area, or wherever her passion for good food & drink takes her.

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