Beer makers successfully experiment with a variety of ingredients including hops, yeast, barley, spices, nuts and chocolate and fruits, making beer a delicious and (sometimes surprising!) match for your favorite dishes year-round—including the holidays.
Tips for Creating Food and Beer Pairings
- Pair Like with Like. In terms of body, there are three types of beer—light, medium and heavy. Light dishes are often paired with light beers and heavy dishes with heavy beers. In addition, beers can also be coupled with dishes that share similar profiles like fruit-fruit or chocolate-chocolate. Examples include pairing a dark, toasty beer with dark chocolate or matching the nuttiness of an English-style brown ale with an aged cheddar cheese.
- Play with Contrasting Flavors. Alternatively, you can pair flavors that contrast and balance each other out. A widely appreciated example is the pairing of stouts with briny oysters.
- Experiment with Palate Cleansers. Beer can also work well as a refreshing foil. For example, a crisp lager or pilsner can be a tasty match for spicy dishes.
- Avoid Overwhelming. Flavors can both complement and contrast but make sure a beer’s flavor isn’t so strong or bold that it overpowers a more delicate dish.
Here’s a quick guide for everyday meals.
Beers: Lager, pilsner, wheat
Food: Spicy foods, light seafood, delicate vegetable dishes and salads
Beers: Ale, IPA, bock
Food: Steak and barbecue
Beers: Stout, porter, barley wine
Food: Stews, rich meats, roasted foods and rich desserts
Perfect Holiday Pairings
Now, if you’re ready to incorporate beer into your holiday menus, here are five sure-to-please matches featuring seasonal favorites.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
This California-brewed IPA has been a cold-weather tradition since 1981. Unlike other winter beers that lean on spice and sweetness, Celebration Ale is brewed with first-of-the-season fresh hops and features notes of citrus, pine and malt.
Recommended pairing: Roasted turkey.
New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale
Meet an easy-drinking holiday companion. This flavorful, balanced, medium-bodied beer features sweet caramel malts.
Recommended pairing: Herb stuffing.
Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale
This ale is also from a Northern California producer and features a balance of tropical and floral hop flavors and a strong hop finish on a smooth, silky body.
Recommended pairing: Ham.
Deschutes Black Butte Porter
Roasted coffee meets dark chocolate in this Oregon-produced craft beer with a balanced medium body with a hop bitter finish.
Recommended pairing: Prime rib.
North Coast Brewing Co. Scrimshaw Pilsner
This pale straw-colored pilsner from the Mendocino Coast is celebrated for being crisp and clean with a subtle hop character and dry finish.
Recommended pairing: Roasted root vegetables.