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Drink614: A pairing guide for Christmas cheer beer

By Steve Croyle
Self-proclaimed beer aficionado


No matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays, this is a great time of year if you love beer. Brewers go all out releasing high gravity offerings like imperial stouts, barley wines, and variations of the classic Winter Warmer style.  Many of these beers are offered in large 22 ounce bottles, which makes them perfect for sharing, and the best way to share them, is to pair them with food.  

A Christmas Ale or winter warmer tends to be a maltier offering with a blend of holiday spices. These beers actually pair wonderfully with a meal, particularly a ham. The sweetness of the beer contrasts the saltiness of the meat, and the spices mingle with the richness of the rest of the food. You can also enjoy this beer with fruit and creamy cheeses like a nice gouda.

Imperials stouts can be all over the place, with everything from dark chocolate to blueberries added to the mix, so pairings can be tricky, but the richness of this beer makes it perfect for a dessert course. A bourbon barrel aged coffee stout, for example, will change the way you think about fruitcake. Fruited stouts go great with pecan, mincemeat, or even pumpkin pie, while a chocolate stout is a great way to put a dent in the pile of peppermint candy canes you have laying around.

Barleywines can be very sweet, dominating most of the foods you pair with them. Cheese to the rescue. This is the beer to pair with that brie en croute, or a tangy stilton. If you really want to surprise people, break out some gingerbread and figs. Seriously, the spiciness of the ginger is great with the that malty sweetness of the barleywine. And all this time you’ve been wasting it on little houses that you throw away on the 26th.

Whatever you choose to do, remember that these rather unruly beers are meant to be enjoyed with food and friends. If you’ve ever had trouble getting through a high gravity beer before, try it this way, and see if the experience is better.

Of course, you’re always welcome to blaze new trails and try your own pairings, or just sit in the dark and drink these beers straight from the bottle, while you vow that 2018 will be different (wait, am I projecting?).

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