Christmas Beer and Cider Food Pairing

As we get into the swing of the festive season, I am really happy to have been invited to talk about all things food and beer with the lovely people at CAMRA. For those of you who are unsure this is a vital campaigning group devoted to real ale, cider, and supporting the great British pub. Obviously working for a brewery I’m keen to support real ale drunk in a warm convivial bar, perhaps with some great food and a roaring fire. But you may ask why are you qualified to talk about food and beer? Well having run a few great pubs ( I thought they were and fortunately so did a few guidebooks and commentators ), cooking for over thirty years, and having consumed my fair share of some of the country’s best ales, at least makes me an enthusiastic amateur.

Liberation Christmas Ale

To Start

Now many people start their Christmas dinner with champagne and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and as an alternative, I would like to suggest a cider and in particular Katy Cider. This summer I was lucky to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Thatchers headquarters in Somerset and walk through some of the original family orchards and try this single variety cider on site. It’s a powerful 7.4% and very, very pale with a fine mousse, crisp, dry, and refreshing with summery strawberry notes and a hint of caramel. One glass would be an ideal aperitif with some olives and smoked almonds. A perfect tastebud-tingling start to your festive food and drink with just a hint of past summer fun.

The Main Course

For many of us, roast turkey remains the number one choice for a classic Christmas dinner followed a little surprisingly by a whole ham or gammon joint. I would have put my money on beef but there you go that’s why I’m cooking dinners! If you want to cook the latter, I suggest you go the whole hog and add a couple of pints of stout to the ham cooking liquor reserving a little to mix with brown sugar and mustard for a glaze when you finish cooking. Now your Christmas turkey is quite a complex flavoured dish with salty pigs in blankets, sharp, fruity cranberry sauce, and lots of other classic accompaniments. I have gone for something a bit left field here and a beer that will cut through the multiple flavours and clean your palate as you head for the fourth portion of Brussel sprouts. I’ve hopped over the pond and taken a leaf out of the beer pairing notebook from our American cousins. The delightful hazy Adnams New England IPA, another big ABV of 6% has lots of juicy hop flavours and a trace of gentle bitterness. Adnams use an American yeast strain and dry hopping to maximise the big tropical flavours and citrus notes.

To Follow

Christmas pudding and Christmas Cake are both full of spice and sugary dried fruits and it’s best to enjoy them with a similarly big, flavoured ale. At Christmas, we are lucky that lots of breweries step up to the challenge and brew similarly full-flavoured dark sweet beers and barley wines. They can be bought both bottled and on draft.  I’ve already had my first pint of draft Liberation Christmas Ale. Like many Christmas brews, it features many of the ingredients you would expect to find in a Christmas pudding recipe including orange zest and mixed spice. The Liberation’s secret ingredient is the island’s very own Black butter, a slow-cooked apple preserve flavoured with liquorice and allspice. I think this would be great with a big bowl full of Christmas pudding.

Christmas Beer and Christmas Pudding

Elsewhere Shepherd Neame’s Christmas Ale, ABV 7% ( available on draught in December ) is another full-bodied, complex beer with hints of spice and mulled fruits and a fragrant hoppy aroma and palate. While Theakston’s Christmas Ale ABV 4.7% has a raisin-like sweetness and a nuttiness almost like a glass of sherry with notes of cinnamon and a long wine-like finish, it’s a personal favourite and perfect with a slice of fruitcake. You can even buy a fruitcake made with dried fruits soaked in Theakston’s.  Whatever your tipple of choice cheers and Merry Christmas.

Published by Christian Gott - An Island Chef

I am a food and drink writer, chef, one-time publican and restaurant manager, and qualified ASET trainer with over thirty years of experience in hospitality. I now live and work in the Channel Islands with my beautiful family. I’ve worked on six islands and in probably just about every type of business you can imagine, from beachside burger joints to world-famous pizza restaurants and in more than a few really good food pubs, historic country inns, and a former RAC Blue Riband UK Hotel of the Year. I have helped to create a small informal dinning group, been a group executive chef for eighteen diverse bars and eateries, demonstrated at food festivals, and contributed to the Real Food Festival Cookery Book, national and local publications, and podcasts. I am a proud member of the Guild of Food Writers and the British Guild of Beer Writers.

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