CHRISTMAS DINNER PAIRING GUIDE
How beer can get you through the biggest meal of the year
The big day finally dawns. Well, in a few hours it will, at least – the thumping of tiny feet descending stairs jolted you wide awake long ago. On Christmas Day, the traditional rising of the children always precedes that of the sun; the only other time of year you get up when it’s this dark is for the airport bus to Luton. What are the kids doing down there? And whose children are they? The first of many Christmas Day challenges is to retrieve and deposit them in the correct bedrooms – but trying to remember the festively-changed layout of your front room at 4am proves the real test. Sidestep left instead of right and you’ll have more than Treguard to deal with.
Once half-shredded presents have been pushed back under the tree, and tiny ears tugged back upstairs, all chance of sleep will have long since departed. The unfortunate thing about rising this early – aside from tweezing pine needles from your feet – is that there is longer to wait until it is socially acceptable to reach for the beer opener (even on Christmas Day, when social convention goes out of the window). What all of this means in turn is that there’s more time to kill until the most important moment of the day – Christmas Dinner.
The biggest meal of the year (in every sense) is when beer can really shine. But how? And what beers? This is where we come in, with our handy Christmas Dinner Pairing Guide…
In food terms, what kicks off the big meal depends very much on the decade of catering your family chooses to embrace. If unlucky, it will be the Seventies, leading to slightly-too-cold prawns in slightly-too-warm cocktail served with slightly-too-brown iceberg lettuce. Beer can save this situation, however. The soft, sweet floral elements of India Pale Weizen complement the prawns, whereas the Centennial and Simcoe cut through the Marie Rose sauce.
Alternatively, if the big feast begins with something slightly more contemporary, yet still traditional, beer is there to play just as much of a part. For rich, cold meat starters, think Belgian; a layered game terrine goes brilliantly with the thunderously dry and tart Rodenbach Grand Cru, whereas something fattier and more intense – like the classic pâté – works really well with a dubbel (like the peerless Westmalle),
Turkey. Christmas Day is one of only two times a year it will end up on your plate (the other will be after that Tesco trip when you reach for chicken without fully concentrating). For the classic Christmas roast, the best beer pairing will involve a solid malt backbone to elevate the slices of white meat – Five AM Red Ale is king here. If you’ve gone slightly heavy on the stuffing (in terms of portion size, not density), then something more along the saison line will help with the enormous herbal hit – Fantôme Saison, for instance.
Non-meat eaters have far wider scope for variety when it comes to Christmas dinner – they could be tucking in to vegetarian wellington at this point, or maybe a homely pastry-flecked veggie pie. Both of these dishes pair really well with darker beers such as Brixton Porter. Anything containing a serious amount of tomato goes extremely well with a Bière de Garde, and anything mushroom-heavy works brilliantly with the deep, earthy sweetness of Dogma.
With the notable exception of Brussels sprouts, the most opinion-dividing element of your festive dinner is Christmas pudding. Heavily spiced, thick and served with enough custard to fill a fish tank, it can overpower most beer styles. But big, full-on stouts are up to the task. Cocoa Psycho is the perfect accompaniment here; it is the ultimate complement (and compliment) to the Xmas pud. The richness of both go really well together, and the festive spice works with the coffee in the beer to round the dessert off in the best way possible.
Anything sweeter than Christmas pudding (and, let’s face it, that includes pretty much every other festive dessert) and you need to go with a sweeter beer, otherwise what you’re drinking will be dried out and lost. Sticky toffee pudding – anything with caramel, really – barley wine is your best bet – such as the unbeatable AleSmith Old Numbskull. If you’re loosening the belt a notch for something like tiramisu, the coffee element here harmonises really well with our latest Abstrakt, the three-coffee imperial rye porter AB:17.
And then that’s it – over for another year. Hopefully everything has gone to plan, and your relatives will be slumped contentedly over every available piece of furniture, paper hats askew. The rest of the day dissolves in a blur of Dot Cotton, Indiana Jones and Bruno Tonioli. Later on, punctuate the After Eight’s and lengthy boardgames with the best aged beer your cellar possesses – maybe a Dog A, or single-digit Abstrakt? Cosy up and listen to the purr of the cat, the burble of the dishwasher, and the snoring of Uncle Brian. Don’t think about tiding up or the Boxing Day sales just yet; today is all about family, relaxation, and really, really good beer.
From everyone at BrewDog, to all of our readers, drinkers and friends – Merry Christmas!