Christmas is essentially about four things: presents, family, food and drink. Alas there’s not much advice we can offer on family (try and be nice) but we’ve got you covered for the gifts, so now let’s sort the food and drink.
With Christmas dishes being pondered and the accompanying drinks carefully considered, it’s a chance for beer to claim a place at the Christmas dinner table. And it deserves its place, certainly as much as wine.
Before we start gobbling turkey, how about an aperitif? The beer needs to be dry, bubbly and blonde, like a festive Cameron Diaz. Lagers and blonde and golden ales offer a range of flavours from herbal, pine and bready to spicy, citrus and tropical fruit. Serve in a champagne flute to suit the occasion.
For your festive fish and seafood you’re spoilt for choice. Wheat beers, Belgian witbiers particularly, are extremely adept at bringing out the best in fish. Often brewed with coriander and orange peel they’re spritzy, citrusy and perfectly complement any fish that’s enhanced with a squeeze of lemon, such as salmon. Lagers, like wheat beers, do a fine job of complementing delicate flavours and their effervescence will cut through any oily fish and cleanse the palate, leaving your mouth ready for the next bite.
If you have lobster lined up, well played. Again lagers and wheat beers are your friend here. The gentle hop bitterness and prickly carbonation of German pilsners refresh the mouth while the sour, spicy and creamy character of weissbiers will accompany your Christmas crustacean very well indeed. Talking of crustaceans, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without doing so, try prawns with a big Belgian beer such as Duvel. Brewed with Pilsner malts this intense, fruity, floral and sweet beer could be the best Christmas present prawns have ever received.
It’s turkey time, so which beer? Turkey’s soft, easy flavours make great partners for sweet milds, gentle bitters and lagers. Any beer with too much hop power (eg. IPAs) would be too big and blow the turkey apart. So keep it mellow and go for something with bittersweet balance. Saisons are also a very good option. Their herbal, spicy and tart notes complementing but not overwhelming the meat. The spiciness scores a direct hit with the stuffing while their sweetness will contrast the bitterness of Brussel sprouts. Finally along comes sparkly carbonation and a subtle peppery bitterness, which will cut through the fatty textures and sweep the palate clean. Well done saisons.
If goose is the family festive favourite a Trappist or Abbey beer has the necessary oomph to complement this more gamey bird. Often served with bigger flavoured accompaniments such as chestnuts or red cabbage, all are handled and complemented beautifully by these fruity, full flavoured beers.
If duck is your bird of choice it just has to be a glass of Kwak, a Belgian strong ale. View that one as your very own Christmas cracker joke pairing.
Dessert and cheese
Christmas day desserts can vary from house-to-house but the overwhelming favourite is Christmas pudding. This is heaven sent with stouts and porters, the same creamy dry flavours being present in both. Barley wines are also worth an outing. Not forgetting mince pies, where again the warm, complex, sweet and spicy qualities of strong ales will complement these crumbly Christmas classics.
Then there’s the array of cheeses and the beers to match, which handily we cover in this blog post. Not to mention all manner of chocolate delights, where you can complement with the harmonising chocolate notes of stouts and porters, or wonderfully contrast the sweetness with the sour smack of a lambic kriek – which is akin to creating a Black Forest gateau one mouthful at a time.
From fish and birds to desserts and cheese, whatever food you enjoy at Christmas there’s a beer for that. Even those pesky Brussel sprouts.
Find the perfect festive beers with Beer Explorer, our interactive guide to the best beers in Britain, where you can search for beers by name, flavour, style, food and brewery. There’s #BeerMatch too, our Twitter tool that matches brilliant beers to your favourite dishes. Having the right beer for your top food has never been so easy.
|Aperitif||Golden ales, blonde ales and lagers like:|
Cornish Coaster, Poretti, Jack Brand Dry Hopped lager
|Starter||Wheat beers and lagers like:|
Hoegaarden, Blue Moon, Clouded Yellow
|Main||Milds, lagers and saisons like:|
Three Hop Lager, Rhubarbe De Saison, Celia (gluten free)
|Dessert & cheese||Porters, stouts, strong ales and lambics like:|
Grimbergen Double, Fuller’s London Porter, Shepherd Neame Double Stout