Holiday meals are much more than just a family eating around a dinner table, enjoying good food and beverages. Winter holidays are day-long marathons of eating and drinking, punctuated by the biggest meal of all at dinner time. While most people think of wine as a traditional pairing for holiday meals, beer can serve as a more than adequate partner for even the most refined dishes.
Because the foods served before and during dinner are so diverse, the beers they can be paired with also span all possible styles. This assures that any recipe you choose to whip up as a home brewer will produce a beer that can be paired with a variety of dishes.
Beer Pairing By Dish
But how do you know which beers go with what foods? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered so you can spend more time worrying about what size turkey to buy than the next batch of beer to make with your beer making set-up.
Before you even dive into the event that is holiday food consumption, start off with a light- to medium-bodied beer like a pilsner or another type of lager. A crisper, light finish is preferable to start, as the potency and consistency of the beers ahead would be too strong on your palate to start. Both pilsners and lagers are easily brewed at home, and the beer making supplies required to make them are also just a click away.
With cheese and crackers, salads, fruits and veggies, and chips and various dips, a step up the hops ladder is recommended. Pale ales are the best option for these foods, as they provide a good amount of bitter hops, but not enough to overpower your taste buds.
This is where things get good. Ales higher in alcohol content, such as an abbey triple, are a great way to offset the starch and fat plentiful in ham or turkey, gravy, potatoes, and stuffing. If your palate is already feeling overworked, going back to a pilsner or other type of lager will help “cleanse” it enough for the after-dinner beers.
What better to go with a piece of chocolate soufflé or pumpkin pie than a dark stout or porter? Stouts and porters can be desserts by themselves, given their full-bodied, thick and creamy flavor. But they also compliment food desserts well with slight hints of coffee, chocolate, and other smooth flavors. As a home brewer, this is a great class of beers to aim for.
Although we’ve already covered a wide variety of beers, there is one other brewing recipe that defines a post-dessert drink: barley wine. It’s a safe bet that something as full as a stout or as bitter as a pale ale will probably be too much for your stomach after a large holiday meal. Barley wine provides a malty, complex flavor that is perfect for the aftereffects of holiday gluttony.
Of course, these are just guidelines, and the beauty of beer is that there really is no completely wrong answer. You are your own boss, and your guests are samplers, so get creative with your home brewing set-up on your quest to find the perfect beer everyone can enjoy.