The holidays are a time to enjoy good food, and of course, good beer. But did you know that pairing the right beer with your holiday feast could optimize the whole dining experience?
While one single style may not be the ideal pairing for all flavours on your plate, there are some key taste notes to hone in on when selecting the right beer to serve. Here are some tips on pairing your holiday meal with your favourite brews.
With a traditional roasted turkey, dark malts and amber ales are perfect pairings. The browning during the brewing process is similar to the caramelizing that takes place in the oven while the turkey is roasting.
Malt beer highlights the herbs and spices used in the stuffing to create a resonating combination that is sure to leave your guests satisfied.
Belgian ale is heavy and strong enough to cut through fatty meats and starchy vegetables, making it a great choice for those looking for a little more contrast.
Avoid IPAs, as the bitterness tends to distract from the mild earthy flavours of the meal.
Pulled pork is a rich and savoury dish infused with onions and garlic with a saucy texture. Pulled pork can vary with personal preference so it is important to pair it with a beer that complements its base flavours.
Pulled pork is best suited with a pale ale. Pale ales are hoppier and can cut through the spices of the seasoning. They also contain sweet notes which play well with the tangy flavour of pulled pork. If the pulled pork is more on the spicy side, a honey ale will contrast the intensity.
A porter, more specifically a smoked porter, would also pair well with pulled pork. Pulled pork tends to have a smoky aroma that is enhanced by the smoky malts of a porter. Porters also have subtle hints of chocolate which complement the sweetness of the sauce.
Steak is a heavy dish rich with different flavours making it a great combination with heavier beers. Whichever way it is prepared, it will need to be paired with a beer that can match its intensity.
When preparing a standard grilled steak, a red ale would be a good match. Red ales are heavy with a roasted aroma allowing them to enhance the taste of the grilled juicy meat.
Porters are also a good pair with a steak, especially a porterhouse steak. The full flavour of a porter is able to compete with the rich meaty texture of a steak from rare to well done.
Rare steak and steak tartar is best paired with a stout. The smoothness of the stout compares with the texture of raw meat and is strong enough to enhance the flavours.
Burgers are full of flavour and rich with juices. Finding the best type of beer to pair with a burger can be tricky. A beer that is too heavy will be overpowering while a beer that is too light can get lost in the flavours.
Pale ales are best suited for a traditional burger with a higher fat content. The bitterness of the hops and high carbonation cut through the fat and cleanse the palette, especially if you are topping your burger with sharp cheese or bacon.
Burgers that are made using lean beef are best paired with a pilsner. Pilsners act in the same way as pale ales but are slightly lighter to compare with lean beef.
Veggie burgers or burgers loaded with grilled vegetables are best paired with wheat beers. The light flavour of a wheat beer allows all the aromas of the veggies to come through.
Beer and chicken wings are a classic combination. Different types of wings call for different types of beer. Selecting the right style of beer can enhance this crowd favourite.
The most common type of wings is buffalo wings. They typically are not breaded and covered in hot sauce. Pale ales or India pale ales are the best to serve with buffalo wings. The bitter hops of pale ales are able to cut through the hot sauce. The beer is not too complex as to not overwhelm the intensity of the heat and is a great way to cool down your palette.
Dry rub wings are seasoned with a variety of spices containing a multitude of different flavours. These wings would be best paired with a brown ale. Brown ales are rich in flavour so they can stand up to the complexity of dry rub wings but light enough to still be refreshing.
Barbeque wings can range from mild to hot and contain a mixture of spices and sauces like pepper, garlic, chili, honey, and of course barbeque sauce. They are normally grilled which makes them a great pair with a porter. Porters are cloudy and quite rich which compares well with the heavier smoky flavours of grilled barbeque wings.
Roast chicken is a sweet and savoury dish with a variety of flavours. This makes it easy to pair with different styles of beer. Typically when serving chicken, it is best to pair it with a lighter beer, as chicken is a light dish.
Amber ales are well balanced and can be paired with lighter and heavier meals which make it a go-to pairing with roast chicken. Amber ales match the light flavours of chicken but can stand up to the strong herbal spices. The caramel notes of the beer complement the crispy and almost caramelized skin of roast chicken.
German style lagers are also a good choice. They are generally lighter in flavour and easy to drink. German lagers have a slight sweetness that highlights the sweet notes of roast chicken, while the hops of the beer complement the savoury seasoning.