Holiday Beer Pairings
The holiday menu is pretty much set each year—with the wildcard usually coming in whatever wine someone brings. Maybe this year you ditch the ten-buck chuck and try pairing your holiday flavors with a Bronx-brewed beer.
Pat Greene at Chelsea Craft Brewing Company suggested starting with something light like their Checker Cab Blonde Ale that won't overwhelm the variety of appetizers on the table.
Nick Mezansky at Bronx Brewery has similar advice. “You never know which direction things are going to go in after the appetizer so we suggest starting with something balanced, setting the table for your palette, if you will. For us, that means our American Pale Ale. The caramel and biscuit notes will set you up for whatever comes next.”
Pairing with a rich, slightly-sweet squash or pumpkin soup, Chris Prout, head brewer at Gun Hill Brewing Co., said don't hold back. “Match intensity of the dish with a beer of the same intensity,” he said. “I'd recommend a beer that is light and lively, like our Rise Up Rye Saison. The spicy yeast character coupled with the earthy, spicy rye would both complement the earthy and sweeter elements in the squash and contrast the heavier cream or butter elements in the soup with its crisp, dryer finish and higher carbonation. Also a good choice here would be a Pilsner like our Spirit 76, especially if the soup wasn't as heavy.”
On to the main course. How about a brisket?
“Roast beast, Mmmm!” Chris, whose job is literally to taste things, is clearly excited. “Here I'd like a beer that mimics and matches those melanoidin-rich flavors you'd find on the the crust of a brisket or roast beast. Think toasted nuts, browned biscuits, caramelized sugars; all that those Maillard reaction.s. You'd find those in beers like a German Märzen, French Biere de Garde, or an English Pale ale would work as well. Tried and True, our harvest lager we do here at Gun Hill would pair very well, it is based on a German Märzen and has a smooth malt character that is like warm biscuits out of the oven with honey, with a hint of caramel sweetness.”
Pat at Chelsea Brewing had his eye on another common main meat. “With lamb, which is a favorite of mine, I enjoy the Sunset Red, rich in caramelized malt with a heavy body and a hint of Cascade hops that really goes down smooth with lamb.”
For a classic roast bird – roast chicken, ThanksgivingNew Years-style turkey, or Christmas goose – Nick suggests Bronx Brewery's Bog Smash. It's a pale ale with hints of cranberry.
People always say to save room for dessert and we never do, but we'll have some anyway. With another beer or three.
“You can go in a couple of directions here,” Nick said. One option is to pour the new Bronx Brewery O.P.P. – with its chocolate and nutty notes citric finish – or hit the sweet flavors with some bitterness. “For that, I'd recommend our No Resolutions IPA. Some people like sweet and salty. We like sweet and hoppy.” The brewery's Winter Pale Ale, with its cinnamon, molasses, and cloves, is a tribute gingersnap cookies. “We tested the pairing, and it works. Trust us.”
Chelsea's Black Hole XXX Stout packs a punch at is 8 percent alcohol by volume. But, Pat said, it's “smooth as silk” with big notes of coffee, chocolate, and nuts. “A great substitute for espresso or coffee, he said.
Chris at Gun Hill wanted in on dessert too.
“Go big with this one. Beers that are higher alcohol by volume tend to have a more robust malt flavor that will hold up to a dessert. Barleywines, Dopplebocks, a Belgian Dubbel would also work with its complementing and matching fruity and spicy yeast profile. I'd opt for Void of Light, our Foreign Export Stout, to match the flavor intensity with desserts like chocolate and coffee notes and also contrast the sweetness of the dessert with roasty, charred elements in the beer. If you have a friend that brought over a carrot cake by surprise, crack open that Imperial IPA, that's a classic pairing!”
But wait! What if these aren't you're traditional flavors? No worries. Each of our brew experts made a wildcard pairing.
Chris again wants to match beer intensity with the dish, in this case, Indian or Caribbean curries and spice:
“A yeast-driven saison with its pepper and clove characters, or an IPA. Spicy, herbal, and fruity hops go well with spicy food. The key here is the beer should be on the drier end of the spectrum with a medium/light body, and a lighter, crisp finish. Beers that are golden to straw in color often have a lighter, crisp malt profile. That is what I'd look for, like our flagship IPA, it has fruity and citrusy aromatics of orange, papaya, and pineapple, and flavors of ripe grapefruit and pine, with herbal earthy finish. Our Roll Call series of rotating IPAs they'd do well here also. Oh, another beer that would be great would be a Czech-style pilsner, like our Manifesto, spicy, perfumy, herbal hops with the crisp cracker malt, man, I'm gettin' hungry!”
We sent Pat from Chelsea to an Albanian or eastern Mediterranean holiday meal with Bourek on the menu. Rich meats, spinach, onions, and cheese pastries are coming out of the kitchen and the hearty smells of cabbage, peppers, beans, and potato is in the air. What's our beer? “I would serve a Hop Angel IPA. It's full body and hoppy finish would complement the range of flavors, and also has a floral aromatic finish to complement the heavy aroma of the food.”
Nick from Bronx Brewery is pairing for a Latin Christmas party with steamy hot tamales. “Can we come? We'll be bringing Bronx Banner with us. It's the lightest drinking beer in our portfolio, so it matches up well with heat and those bold Latin flavors.”
Every family has its own traditions. Chris, from Gun Hill Brewery, shared some of his personal favorite pairings: “Around the holidays my wife and I usually travel to visit family and I look forward to cooking up some fish and eating oysters. Usually I'm sipping on a pilsner while shucking and eating oysters. I prefer the bright malt character and mineral like yeast character of a lager with oysters over the more popular porter pairing. It really complements the briny, seaweed, earthy, mineral oyster flavors. To each his own. And with fish, if it's fried, I like an English bitter. The tea-like herbal hops and a nutty, toasted malt really complement the breading, and the sweet and savory flake of catfish or flounder. Sours do well with fried food as well – helps cut and contrast the oil. Grilled, broiled, or sautéed fish or shellfish, like lobster, clams, mussels I like to keep my beer pairing light and lively with a Belgian style, like a saison or grisette.