Christmas time is here again. Sleigh bells ring, snow gently drifts from the sky, miracles happen on 34th street, and we all get down to some serious cooking. Basting hams and brining meat, mashing potatoes and stamping out pie crusts — every family has their own unique collection of traditions and recipes that are rolled out this time of year.
But, too often, in between chopping vegetables and measuring flour something gets overlooked: the beverages. So, this year, why not give the drinks their due? I recommend thinking outside the box—skip the egg nog and wine pairings—and enjoy Christmas dinner over a nice glass of craft beer.
A traditional Christmas dinner is turkey or goose. Brined and dried, stuffed, trussed, and rubbed with all sorts of savory herbs, a hearty Christmas goose is a beautiful thing. Balance out that herbaceousness with a beer that can hold its own, like a Baltic Porter. Harpoon Brewery in Massachusetts makes a beer called the Leviathan that pairs perfectly with this dish. The smooth, rich roastiness of the beer compliments the bird, and the long, smooth, roasted malt finish will keep you coming back for more.
Another popular choice for the Christmas table is the standing rib roast. Complement the richness of the beef with an an amber ale, like the Fat Tire Amber by New Belgium Brewing. The beer pours smooth with a tart and fruity head that nicely balances out the rich flavors of the beef without stealing its thunder.
Or maybe you’re going with a ham? No matter how you do it—candied, honeyed, maple-drizzled—a ham is going to be sweet. To pair with that, grab a Sapporo. Sapporo is a Japanese rice beer with a moderately bitter body leading into a very dry finish. It’s perfect with ham because it allows you all the enjoyment of the sweetness of the meat without letting it shade into cloying.
Green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, black eyed peas — whatever your family cooks as side items, they all have one thing in common: There’s a lot of them, and they run the gamut of different tastes. How do you pair a beer with half a dozen different sides, all with their own distinct flavors? Go for something simple, classic, and refreshing like a Stella Artois. While it won’t enliven and enrich each individual flavor, it will nicely compliment the collection as a whole, and you won’t have to break the bank buying 10 different beers for 10 different sides.
After dinner comes dessert. Or does it? Sometimes, after a heavy meal, you’re not quite ready to cut into the pie. While your food is digesting, tickle your sweet tooth with a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Its smooth milkiness will remind you of a Tiramisu without weighing you down. And don’t worry, you can always go back for dessert.