Christmas Beer

When it comes to Christmas drinking, we’re pretty predictable. In fact the whole day has become a bit of a tradition.

Unless feeling particularly giddy, we won’t actually drink until lunch time(ish), when we may dip into respective boozy gifts. As our Christmas dinner doesn’t tend to be until at least 4pm, I may end up draining the sprouts while feeling a little bit tiddly (I do all the prep on Christmas Eve for those worried about health and safety), but either way, most certainly top alcohol levels up over dinner with a glass or two of wine, before napping on the sofa into the evening. 

But we haven’t, oddly given our love for beer, even considered pairing our dinner with beer. 

Luckily, Jane Peyton from School of Booze has. Jane is a drink and beer historian, and also the UK’s first Beer Sommelier of the Year (2014-2015), and she has not only come up with a list of recommendations for your own festive feast, but has also collaborated with Friends of Glass to create a mulled beer ‘Cockt-ale’ to take the place of a traditional mulled wine. And it promises to be a real winter warmer. 

Added to this, politesse experts have also released their guide to beer etiquette in association with AB InBev UK. 

Christmas Beer

I can’t help be be a tad amused at the thought of a genteel chap enjoying a can of Stella. 

The Debrett’s Guide to Beer Etiquette features recommendations for the perfect serve, as well as recommendations for ordering in the pub, that I can but hope are tongue in cheek – don’t just ask for a beer, try to select one, and if the choice is overwhelming, ask the bartender for guidance.

A further tip advises that: The British pub isn’t the place for rowdy behaviour, so enjoy the convivial atmosphere by respecting the local’s peace and quiet as they relax in the corner with today’s paper.

Christmas Beer

James Field from Debrett’s explains: “A third (33%) of people wish they knew more about beer etiquette and this guide sets out a specific code of behaviour for serving and drinking beer at a number of occasions, in a very sophisticated manner. It’s a blessing to show the world how to appropriately savour beer, with tips on serving beer as you would champagne to pairing a brew with food.”

Whilst I can’t help but giggle, there are a few useful nuggets to enjoy, including glass recommendations and advice on pouring if, unlike me, your dad didn’t give you a lesson on pouring his beer as a kid. 

Hmm. So that’s where I get it from.

But enough mentally scratching my head at a leaflet that actually advises you paying your way (dammit, this thing better had be tongue in cheek), back to the day itself and Jane’s advice.

NB: There’s a distinct lack of northern beers in the list which, given my northern local (and love obviously) means I’ll be asking local beer experts for their recommendations. 

Christmas Beer

APERITIF

Beer is a brilliant choice to serve as a pre-dinner drink and a bitter aperitif will kick-start the digestive system.  Gunnamatta IPA by Yeastie Boys 6.5% (tasting notes: the drinking equivalent of a stroll through a citrus grove with grapefruit and lemon from New Zealand hops, and bergamot orange from Earl Grey tea which is added during the brew).  Another fantastic IPA is Jaipur by Thornbridge 5.9% (tasting notes: a burst of citrus – grapefruit and lemon jostling with tropical fruits and pine for a juicy bitter finish). 

Glassware to serve: Champagne flute.

DUCK


Rich, full-flavoured meat like duck needs a big beer.  Aventinus by Schneider & Sohn 8.2% (tasting notes:this German weisse bock – dark wheat beer – is big in flavour and body where dried fruit, banana and caramel-meets-liquorice.   It will also match well with Christmas pudding).

Glassware to serve:  Weizen – a tall and slender glass with a flared mouth.  Wheat beers typically have large pillowy head and the shape of the glass enhances the appearance of the beer.

Christmas Beer

Westmalle Dubbel by Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle 7% (tasting notes:rich dried fruit, banana and oak with a wine-like character.  A full flavoured beer that enhances the rich flavour of the duck). 

Glassware to serve: Chalice – this beer is brewed by Trappist monks and should be treated with reverence!  The glass has a wide mouth so complex aromas develop and it encourages people to sip their drink meaning that the beer hits the front of the tongue first where the sweetness of the malt in the beer will register. 

GOOSE

Goose is full flavoured, darkish meat so a beer that has hefty, flavoursome characteristics will be a good match.  London Porter by Fuller’s 5.4% (tasting notes: Porter is a dark style of beer with rich coffee and roasted flavours. It has a refreshing bitterness that cuts through any fattiness of the meat.  It’s also fantastic with Christmas cake and Stilton cheese). Bede’s Chalice by Durham Brewery 9% (tasting notes: sweet malts meet orange and peach in a big, bold, fruity beer that holds its own with the big flavour of the meat).

Glassware to serve:  Chalice.  This is a wide rimmed bowl on a stem.  The design permits complex aromas to develop and it encourages people to sip their drink meaning that the beer hits the front of the tongue first where the sweetness of the malt in the beer will register – and drinking from a chalice is always like a ritual!

SALMON

Be careful not to overpower the delicate flavour of the fish and choose lighter beers with good acidity to cut through the oiliness.  Coolship by Elgood’s 6% (tasting notes: a sour style of English beer known in Belgium as Lambic. It has an invigorating acidity with a tangy lemon sourness that efficiently cuts through the oiliness of the fish without overwhelming its subtle flavours).  Saison Dupont by Brasserie Dupont 6.5% (tasting notes: sour apples and lemon with a very dry palate – perfect for the texture of oily fish).

Christmas Beer

Glassware to serve:  Loire wine glass.  This is a tall slim glass with a medium sized bowl and a narrow rim that enhances the freshness of the aromas and balances the fruit and acidity of the flavours in the beer.

HAM

Look for something fruity or sweeter to contrast with the saltiness of this meat. Duvel by Duvel Moortgat 8.5% (tasting notes: Belgian Strong Pale Ale with a dry, effervescent mouth feel and a fruity taste that contrasts with the saltiness of the cured ham). Broadside by Adnams 6.9% (tasting notes: big bold treacle, coffee, and sherry like with a sweet edge to contrast with the salty ham).

Christmas Beer

Glassware to serve:  Tulip. This glass has a stemmed foot and a bulbous bowl.  The flared mouth retains a foamy head that is characteristic of Duvel.  It also looks very elegant!

TURKEY

Turkey lacks flavour so the beer choice needs to have personality without overwhelming the meat. Turkey can also be rather dry in texture so a good, bold beer with juicy overtones. Tribute by St Austell 4.2% (tasting notes: an English Pale Ale with a well-balanced blend of sweet malted barley and juicy bitterness from hops that contribute a subtle citrus character. The scrumptious juiciness of this beer counters the dry texture of the meat). Samuel Adams Boston Lager by Boston Beer Company 4.9% (tasting notes:this is an amber lager style of beer. It has citrus and herbal notes with a caramel backbone.  It is a crisp beer with a dry clean finish.  The caramel malt character matches well with roast turkey because it caramelizes during cooking).

Glassware to serve:  Tumbler.  This has gently sloping sides and a wide rim.  It promotes a sip rather than a glug which means that the sweetness of the malt will immediately register on the tongue.

Christmas Beer

VEGGIE/NUT ROAST

Brown Ale by Barrel and Sellers 5% (tasting notes: Brown ale has a bitter/sweet flavour where fruit, caramel and nuts meet a roasted character.  Perfect for a dish containing roasted nuts).  Ilkley Black by Ilkley Brewery 3.7% (tasting notes: a Mild style of beer that has a roasted malt, lightly smoky, licorice bitter palate that complements the savoury character of this dish).

Glassware to serve: Snifter.  This is arguably the most elegant shape of glass.  It is sometimes called a balloon due to its bulbous bowl shape that narrows at the top and sits on a short-stemmed foot. Christmas dinner is a ritualistic meal so makes it even more special with an appropriate glass. 

Christmas Beer

Photo: Lucy Williams

THE BIG SMOKE WINTER ‘COCKT-ALE’

(Jane Peyton and Friends of Glass)

Can be served warm/mulled or cold

1 x 500 ml bottle of London Velvet (a blend of porter beer and cider – available nationwide from Morrisons).  If London Velvet is not available use 200 ml of porter and 300 ml of medium dry cider

Add a sprinkle of smoked paprika

If serving mulled, gently warm the drink on the hob

Serve in a tulip or snifter glass

Garnish with a cinnamon stick as a stirrer

Accompany with a couple of slices of crisp smoked apple to nibble on (sprinkle the apple with smoked paprika too if desired)

Bottoms up! 

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