Lotte Peplow, the Brewers Association’s American craft beer ambassador for Europe, on pairing beer with traditional Christmas fayre.
It’s been a wretched year for all of us, but we can still celebrate this Christmas with a feast of festive flavours. As pubs and restaurants remain under severe restrictions, eating in is the new going out, so why not try something different with a traditional Christmas meal paired with American craft beer?
Typical Christmas food covers myriad flavours and each one may be enhanced, improved, and complimented by beer. There are many different elements to a traditional Christmas meal and no one beer covers them all, so instead here’s a guide to beer pairings with individual dishes.
Festive pairing suggestions
Smoked salmon canapés: If you’re kicking off your culinary feast with small bites, try pairing the soft citrus and slightly tart notes of Jacks Abbey Springdale Pearly White ale with smoked salmon. The crisp, clean, effervescent beer will lift the oily richness of the salmon off the palate without overpowering the flavour.
Turkey, stuffing, and gravy: The smooth, malty, toffee notes of a brown ale compliment the deep, intense flavour of turkey perfectly, while the high level of carbonation will cut through the fatty, richness of the gravy and refresh the tongue ready for the next mouthful. Any charred caramelisation of the skin will echo the Maillard reaction that takes place during the brewing process (a chemical reaction that gives browned foods, or beer, its distinct flavour). Try a classic example like Cigar City Maduro, with its perfectly balanced fusion of silky, smooth, toasted toffee and chocolate notes.
Cranberry sauce: High levels of acidity and a sharp, juicy bite require an equally tart beer to compliment it, such as Oskar Blues Rose for Daze, a lightly tart rose style ale with hibiscus and prickly pear. Sour and tart flavours will cut away any residual sugary, fruity notes.
Brussels sprouts: No Christmas meal is complete without an American IPA, in my opinion, because the bitter hop notes in the beer will echo the earthy, bitterness of the sprouts and provide a perfect harmony of flavour. Try savouring the tropical fruit, peach, and citrus notes of Stone Go To IPA with your festive veggies.
Roast potatoes: A hazy/juicy IPA is the way to go here, with restrained bitterness that won’t overpower the spuds; for example, the luscious, juicy Firestone Walker Mind Haze.
Christmas pudding/Christmas cake/mince pies: Often boozy, rich, and full of luscious dried fruit flavours, they cry out for a bold, flavoursome barrel-aged stout that’s equally heavy in mouthfeel and strength. Try any barrel-aged beers from The Bruery and enjoy intense flavours like Bourbon, molasses, chocolate, and dark fruits, underpinned by a malty richness
merging seamlessly with your favourite Christmas treats.
Cheese, eg Stilton: This strongly flavoured blue cheese requires a punchy counterpart to stand up to it, and the richness, complexity, and strength of barley wine is the answer. Try Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine. It also goes well with ripe, buttery, soft cheeses, or a classic farmhouse Cheddar.
All beers are available through on-line retailers such as Beers of Europe, Beer Hop, The Beer Bruvs, and Beer Merchants, and selected bottle shops, off-licences, and online subscription services. Remember, taste is personal, so what works for you may not work for everyone else. Experiment with flavours to find what you prefer, and be adventurous!
For advice and assistance regarding beer and food pairing, the Brewers Association publishes American Craft Beer and Food: Perfect Companions — a handy 12-page booklet detailing the basics of beer and food pairings, including a chart with 28 different beer styles showing pairing guidelines for main dishes, cheese and dessert. Download it free of charge at
There is also the Brewers Association Guide to American Craft Beer — how to understand and appreciate great beer, looking at ingredients, terminology, best approaches for presenting and enjoying craft beer, and the many different styles. This is at
In January, the Brewers Association is teaming up with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) for a series of exclusive virtual tastings featuring high-quality, style-diverse, leading-edge American craft beers that are unavailable in the UK. More details can be found on the CAMRA website shortly.
• Lotte Peplow is the American craft beer ambassador in Europe for the Brewers Association and is based in the UK. She is a xertified Cicerone, BDI accredited beer sommelier, beer writer, international beer judge, beer communicator, and beer lover, who enjoys nothing more than experimenting with beer and food pairings!
About the Brewers Association
The Brewers Association (BA) is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts.
The BA represents 5,400 US breweries. The BA’s independent craft brewer seal is a widely adopted symbol that differentiates beers by small and independent craft brewers.
The BA organises events including the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival, Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America, SAVOR: An American Craft Beer and Food Experience, Homebrew Con, National Homebrew Competition and American Craft Beer Week.
The BA publishes The New Brewer magazine, and Brewers Publications is the largest publisher of brewing literature in the US.
Beer lovers are invited to learn more about the dynamic world of craft beer at CraftBeer.com and about homebrewing via the BA’s American Homebrewers Association and the free Brew Guru mobile app.