I know we’re not so traditional these days but I hope you’ll find some beers in this guide that work with what you’ll be eating this Christmas. I’ll cover an array of dishes and beers that work brilliantly together and will send a good cook’s work into orbit (and might make a terrible cook’s creations a bit more palatable). If you are having something not included here, tweet me and I’ll let you know what I think would work.
Kicking Off the Day
There are a variety of dining options to begin the day and give you the sustenance you need to get through to the second uplifting instalment of EastEnders. Tradition suggests we drink bucks fizz or champagne. Don’t.
With smoked salmon bagels and extra creamy cream cheese – something Mrs Beer & Brew loves so much she insists on having it once a year – have a gueuze. Boon is a great introduction to the style, not too pointy and sharp for first timers. If you want a brilliant example, hunt down Cantillon Lambic Bio. The champagne-like carbonation clears away the fatty feel of the salmon, the flavour is robust and complex enough to handle the richness, and it is light and refreshing, so not too overwhelming so early in proceedings. And it looks just like champagne – so those relentlessly unadventurous among your friends and family won’t feel out of place (just don’t add orange juice or it could end up tasting like Tropigamma, and nobody wants that).
The Main Event
Let us not ignore the turkey-shaped elephant in the room. Turkey. This bird may be delicately-flavoured, but gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce are not. You need a beer that can handle all the elements and not get overwhelmed. Brown ales are great. Brooklyn Brown Ale, Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale and Lindisfarne Scotch Ale from Ægir Bryggeri are good examples; Newcastle Brown Ale is not. Brown Ale is also a great match for nut roasts.
Ratchet up the intensity a little (or a lot) if you’re eating beef or duck: Guinness Extra Foreign Stout, Anchor Porter, or Westmalle Dubbel work tremendously with richer meats. And, if you’re not eating animals you tend to get served butternut squash and/or goat’s cheese– sometimes with a lot of herbs. With grassy, herbal and bitter qualities, traditional IPAs such as Fuller’s Bengal Lancer or Ridgeway IPA pair this vegetarian staple wonderfully.
Dessert and Seeing the Day Out
Christmas pudding is richer than Jay-Z, so this is not the time for holding back – ‘ave it! Belgium has this area covered like a thick blanket of snow with huge fruity, cakey, rich and spicy offerings, all with a big whack of booze – designed for this exact moment. Cuvée de Noël St Feuillien and St Bernadus Christmas are personal favourites from Belgium. Some British beers are just as good – choose from Robinson’s Old Tom, or 1845 or 2016 Vintage Ale from Fuller’s.
You will need a decent local bottle shop for the gueuze and Belgian beers or order online, otherwise try Sainsbury’s for the Old Tom, Tesco for the 1845, and Waitrose for the Vintage 2016.
Whatever you do, pace yourself. You don’t want woozy brain fug before lunch, not even at this time of year. Now go and buy these beers, and I insist you eat, drink AND be merry.