The emergence of “craft” beer in recent years means it’s no longer uncouth to bring beer to a fancy holiday party. Regional microbrews and fancy imports are often every bit as complex (and expensive) as a decent bottle of wine, and readily available at most liquor stores.
But as is the case with wine, you should still make an effort for the beer you choose to pair well with the food your host will be serving.
So we recently swung by NYC beer haven Treadwell Park West — where they’re hosting a seasonal “après ski” pop-up bar through March — to connect with beverage director and certified cicerone Anne Becerra on the best beers to pair with 11 popular holiday comestibles.
Below, her selects. Ask your host what’s for dinner and pick one up on the way to the festivities this week.
Charcuterie and Cheese Boards
“Since the specific ingredients on a cheese/charcuterie plate vary so greatly, a versatile style like a French Bière de Garde is perfect. Bières de Garde have bready, honeyed notes (we already know bread and honey belong on a cheese plate), yet finish dry and effervescent — ideal for scrubbing out any residual oils from the charcuterie.”
Examples: Castelain Blonde, Jenlain Ambree, Two Brothers Domaine du Page
“I love nutty brown ales with turkey. The caramelized malt flavors are a great match for the crispy skin and dark meat, yet they’re light bodied enough not to overpower the more delicate white meat.”
Examples: Newburgh Brown, Sam Smith Nut Brown, Black Hog Granola Brown
Frosted Sugar Cookies
“A German Helles lager (or golden lager) is delicious with classic sugar cookies. Helles is light, crisp and clean, balancing the sweetness of the cookie and leaving your palate cleansed and refreshed.”
Examples: Hofbrau Original, Stoudts Gold Lager, Jack’s Abby House Lager
“With gingerbread, you can choose something a little bigger to stand up to that spice. My pick is a Belgian Christmas Ale — they have these great spicy, fruity, fermentation-driven flavors, plus they’re strong and warming (generally what gingerbread season calls for).”
Examples: Delirium Noel, Gouden Carolus Christmas, N’ice Chouffe
“I love a classic Hefeweizen with Christmas ham. I use a lot of cloves in my recipe and the natural clove-like spiciness in a hefeweizen latches right onto those flavors. They’re light-bodied and refreshing while still being extremely flavorful so they can stand up to the ham without overpowering it.”
Examples: Ayinger Brau Weisse, Schneider Weisse, Troegs Dreamweaver Wheat
The Grinch's Roast Beast (Ed. note: We're assuming it's similar to prime rib)
“Even though something like prime rib may seem rich, it’s a relatively light meat that goes incredibly well with an English-style ESB (extra special bitter). ESB’s are delicately hopped with soft herbal, floral notes — amazing with a rare slice of prime rib.”
Examples: Fuller’s ESB, Morland’s Old Speckled Hen, Strong Rope Exceptionally Sentient Beings
“There are a ton of great beer options to pair with tamales, but it really depends on the filling and the sauce. For this pairing, we’ll choose a savory version with a spicy mole sauce and with these, I love a roasty porter. The rich, dark chocolate notes from a porter are great with mole, plus they’re nice and hearty without being too heavy.”
Examples: Anchor Porter, Founders Porter, Bells Porter
“American Pale ales are fabulous partners for latkes. The citrusy, herbal flavors brighten up the dish, while the hoppy, bitterness on the finish is an ideal way to cut through the oiliness of fried foods.”
Examples: Sierra Nevada Pale, Half Acre Daisy Cutter, Maine Beer Co. Mo
A Mixed Popcorn tin
“A Vienna or Amber lager actually works with all three flavors in a popcorn tin. There’s just a touch of toffee’d sweetness, but the body is lean, the finish is crisp and they’re very easy to drink.”
Examples: Great Lakes Elliot Ness, Brooklyn Lager, Abita Amber
“One of my favorite styles to eat with Chinese food is a Flemish Red. These oak-aged beauties are the perfect combo of sweet and sour. Think of them as an extension of your favorite sauce.”
Examples: Duchesse de Bourgogne, Rodenbach Grand Cru, Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge
“A bubbly Belgian tripel — the complex flavors of white fruit, vanilla and spices are a great match, plus they’re strong enough that you’ll forgive whoever brought the fruitcake in the first place.”
Examples: St. Bernardus Tripel, Victory Golden Monkey, Unibroue La Fin du Monde