beer and food

Beer & food matching at Christmas

christmas_beer_menu.jpgGarrett Oliver maintains that there are no foods that can’t be matched with beer. So I thought I’d have a go at matching beers to the different courses of the traditional Boak family Christmas.

I didn’t have the benefit of Mr Oliver’s advice while I was choosing the beers, but I can consult in retrospect, as I bought Bailey a copy of The Brewmaster’s Table for Christmas. We may put up a book review when we’ve finished, but we’re enjoying it immensely at the moment.

1. Grapefruit appetiser + Blanche de Namur

Why selected: Grapefruit was always going to be a challenge, especially when grilled with spices. Spices and citrus suggested a Belgian Wit to me. I went for Blanche de Namur as it’s one of the more subtle (some may say bland) of the Wits I’ve tried.

Garrett Oliver says: citrusy flavours work well with Wits.

The verdict: This worked very nicely, although I might go for a less subtle Wit next time. Incidentally, this beer goes fantastically well with orange-flavoured dark chocolate.

2. Roast Chestnut soup + Meantime London Porter

Why selected: I thought a nice roast porter should work with roast chestnuts (stunningly original there, eh?) and went for Meantime mostly because it comes in nice snazzy bottles, but also I remember it as being bitter and smoky, which was what I wanted.

Garrett Oliver says: “British porters are rich, elegant beers that… are capable of matching many more dishes than one might imagine” and lists scallops, chargrilled meat, Shepherd’s pie and subtle chocolate deserts.

Verdict: This would have worked if I hadn’t added sherry to the soup. It made the soup taste wonderfully Christmassy, but clashed with the porter. That’s my fault, rather than the porter’s.

3. Turkey (plus trimmings!) + La Chouffe Golden Ale

Why selected: Wasn’t really sure, but I felt that a good-bodied blonde Belgian (fnah fnah) was what I needed for the main course. I went for La Chouffe Golden Ale as I didn’t want anything too extreme, and I remembered this as having an understated but satisfying flavour.

Garrett Oliver Says: With turkey, Biere De Garde, dunkel, dubbel, Oktoberfest Marzen, American Amber Lager, Belgian Pale Ale. He also mentions La Chouffe (as a Saison) and suggests it with Indian food (really?), barbeque, Thai, duck, cassoulet and rustic sausages.

The verdict: It’s a lovely beer, but not quite right with the turkey. I think you could go two ways with this — either go for something more extreme (a good trippel?) or perhaps go something lighter, like Palm.

4. Christmas Pudding + Delirium Christmas beer

Why selected: We had Delirium Christmas a few weeks back, and were impressed with its dark, spicy warmth, and thought that it would go well with spicy & sweet Christmas food. At 10%, it should round off the meal nicely.

What Garrett Oliver says: Haven’t found anything on Christmas pudding, and I’m not sure how he’d classify the beer. He recommends Delirium Tremens with a whole host of savoury stuff, but DT is pretty different from the Christmas beer.

Verdict: Didn’t work. For some reason, the beer tasted completely different when up against the pudding. There may have been some differences between bottles (yesterday I served from a large bottle, and there are some that maintain that Belgian beers taste different in large bottles to small bottles). Or it may be that it just couldn’t cope with the mighty pudding, which had been maturing for a year and a month. The pudding brought out the worst in the beer — the carbonation (too much!), the comparatively light body, and the sweetness — without delivering the warm spicy kick I’d hoped for.

I don’t know what would work with the pudding — maybe a heavier Belgian (St Bernardus 12?) Think I have a way to go with this food and beer matching business.

By the way – hope you all had a lovely Christmas.


2 replies on “Beer & food matching at Christmas”

Saison and curry, lovely.

I reckon a bottle of Tom Hardy’s Ale would go with Xmas pud.

Garret gets very carried away in that American way of his, no doubting his passion though.

I think part of the secret to matching is thinking about contrasting flavours. Chocolatly beer with Chocolate cancel each other out, while a bannanery strong dark wheat beer works with chocolate really well because the fruit esters dont fight with the chocolate. If you keep going for spicy Belgian beers with Xmas pud I think the Pud will always win. The fortified fruit and rich malt flavours of an aged old ale might contrast the spice well.

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