Flicking through all the Christmas food brochures which appear on my door mat around this time of year, I notice very few beers amongst the wine, bubbly and ubiquitous cream liqueurs on offer. In many of the supplements, beer is almost an afterthought, a back page filler, featuring ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ crates of mainstream lagers.
Yet at every beer tasting and training session I’ve done for the past few weeks, the most frequently asked question has been: what beer should I have with my Christmas dinner?
So I thought I would share a few of my favourite festive foodie beers to drink over the holiday period with you.
As usual, a disclaimer here…some of these beers are not cask, they’re not ale, but they’re still BEER!
If you’re having turkey (or goose) for your main course on Christmas Day, choose a beer which is juicy and fruity (think how well cranberry sauce complements turkey). Titanic Plum Porter is my number one choice, closely followed by Bacchus Kriek, a gorgeous mouth puckering cherry beer.
If fruit beers aren’t to your taste, bring out the big guns with a strong, raisiny Belgian Dubbel, such as Westmalle Dubbel.
Pork or gammon is best with sweeter beers to cut through the salt. I recommend Wells Youngs Special London Ale with its caramel sweetness or Ringwood Old Thumper which has a wonderful hint of apple.
Venison and pheasant need assertive beers which stand up to strong flavours: Adnam’s Broadside is a fabulous beer which enhances the gaminess of pheasant, (the bottled version is a lot stronger than the cask version so beware!). Venison is brilliant with chocolate-y porters and a favourite of mine is Fuller’s London Porter. This beer will also pair perfectly with Stilton cheese at the end of your meal.
Meat free options, such as nut roast or mushrooms need an earthy, herbal beer, and I’ve never found a beer to beat Orval, a Trappist beer, with most vegetarian dishes. It’s stunningly dry but with a fruity centre, and it enhances nutty flavours.
If fish is your centrepiece on Christmas Day, I would pick a light, dry sparkling beer and this is where wheat beers come into their own. Erdinger Weisse Bier has a sharp carbonation and a citrus edge which slices through poached or grilled salmon. It beats a glass of Prosecco hands down.
So onto Christmas pudding. Love it or hate it, it’s part of tradition, so I go with a classic British ale. Theakston’s Old Peculier is a strong dark ale with hints of dark fruit, chocolate and liquorice, or how about a glass of Robinson’s Old Tom, a beer which has been described as “Christmas pudding in a glass”.
A final word on serving beer at the dinner table: get your best glasses out! Serve beer in wine goblets, champagne flutes, and chalice glasses, make it as special as any fine wine.