Put Away the Port and Bring out the Beer

09/12/2016 14:25:08

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In addition to putting those bottles of sherry, port, and cream liqueur in my basket ready for the Christmas season, I always reach for a few special bottles of beer to go with my festive food. Beer? With Christmas dinner? Too right.

Beer is not all brown and bitter, warm and flat. There are a wealth of flavours, colours and styles to choose from and we’re going through exciting times in the brewing industry as more brewers experiment with new and unusual recipes, hop varieties and recreating long forgotten historical styles.

One of the joys of my job as a Beer Sommelier is finding a beer style to suit everyone’s palate, especially if they say they don’t like beer, full stop. This is like saying to me “I don’t like food”. Of course you do, you just haven’t found what suits you yet. A good starting point is to identify what you usually enjoy drinking, and then replicating those flavours with a style of beer.

Prosecco and Champagne fans will love spritzy, lively, delicate wheat beers, like St Austell Clouded Yellow, Hitchachino White Nest Ale, or Erdinger. Low on bitterness, high on refreshment, serve them super cold in a champagne flute with smoked salmon canapes or a crayfish cocktail. The carbonation cuts through the oiliness of the fish and cleanses the palate ready for the next mouthful.

If your tipple is usually a crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc with your fish course, swap if for a citrusy blonde ale, packed full of New World Hops. Oakham Citra and Adnams Ghostship tick the box here. The lemony flavours pair perfectly with white fish. If you prefer your white wine bone dry, go for a traditional pale ale like Timothy Taylors Landlord or the dangerously drinkable Duvel which has a dry finish.

Big and bold red wines can be substituted with a classic strong English ale. These are rich, fruity, malty and well balanced but still pack a punch. Fullers ESB, Shepherd Neame Bishop’s Finger and Bateman’s XXXB served in a red wine goblet all complement the roast turkey and trimmings main event at the dinner table.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth and like your fruit ciders and sweeter spirits, the choice of beer is almost endless. Robinson’s Old Tom has been described as ‘Christmas pudding in a glass’: it’s a strong, barley wine style ale which goes equally well with chocolate. Charles Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale and Saltaire Triple Chocoholic Stout match up to many desserts, from Pavlovas to Tiramisu. Belle Vue Kriek is a tart cherry beer (fermented with real cherries, not syrup) and when combined with chocolate pudding creates a Black Forest Gateau combination on your tongue. It’s a showstopper.

For those who enjoy a warming glass of port with their cheeseboard, crack open the fine wines of the beer world: strong old ales, like Theakston Old Peculier bring out the salty tanginess of Stilton cheese. Belgian Abbey Ales, like St Stefanus Blonde and Affligem Triple have sweet honeyed flavours which contrast superbly with fruity mature cheddars.

And finally, as you move into Boxing Day, and a refreshing gin and tonic is your aperitif, try a glass of aromatic IPA. The hops in new wave IPAs, beers like Thornbridge Jaipaur and Lagunitas IPA, replicate the delicate botanicals in gin, whilst delivering a heavy bitter hit. Perfect with that traditional Boxing Day curry.

Report by Annabel Smith, Beer Sommelier

To learn more about beer styles and food matches, visit www.beerforthat.com
©Annabel Smith, Beer Sommelier
Twitter @CaskAnnabel

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