Beer excels when it comes to conviviality and shared experiences. It has a place at the dining table, particularly around Christmas.
I’ve already written about some of the best local beers for summer in Sydney but putting together a beer list for Christmas dinner is a far more specific task. While it’s fun to just grab whatever’s in the fridge or the Esky, some careful consideration to flavour matching can go a long way when it comes to a memorable Christmas dining experience with family and friends.
Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing while jingle bells are ringing.
Welcoming Your Guests
Are there canapés going round? I’ll take the lead from Garrett Oliver’s book, The Brewmaster’s Table, and recommend a Berliner Weisse served in a champagne flute to wow guests. Wayward’s Sour Puss is an obvious go-to and one of my personal favourites. The pink hue is going to pop in the glass and become a natural talking point helping to break the ice as guests arrive.
If your shindig is a little more low key, a few cans of Akasha’s Tradewind Lager or Philter XPA will set a nice tone. They’re approachable but interesting enough to get the taste buds excited early on, ready for good food.
On The Christmas Dining Table
Wildflower Table or Gold are excellent beers that are suited to the dinner table because of the 750ml format, as well as their complexity of flavours, their carbonation and light acidity. There’s a rustic quality to these beers that will combine well with a variety of different foods. High carbonation elevates aromas and flavours and will clean fat from the palate.
The yeast-forward nature and farmhouse inspiration behind these beers means they’ll combine nicely with earthy vegetables or other fermented foods such as pickles.
If you want to look further afield than Sydney then go to the benchmark for its style, Saison Dupont. A 750ml bottle provides incredible bang for your buck and is versatile enough to combine with ham, turkey, seafood, vegetables, charcuterie or whatever you might be having.
Seafood & Beer
If seafood is on your Christmas menu, as it will be for many, a gose will complement nicely. Nomad’s Freshie uses local sea water, providing delicate salinity which is going to match beautifully with grilled white fish, prawns or oysters.
Barbecued fish will go well with a hoppy lager such as Yulli’s Seabass. Beers with Kiwi hops can sometimes evoke flavours found in Sauvignon Blanc which goes excellently with fish. These beers also pair elegantly with salami and cold cuts.
Another natural companion for oysters is porter or stout. 4 Pines Stout is classic local option while Two Metre Tall’s Salty Sea Stout will provide a near perfect partner.
The Cheese Plate
When it comes to the cheese plate you are spoilt for choice. Wildlower Amber is a go-to, as is La Sirene’s Farmhouse Red. Bruny Island Beer Co are attached to a cheese company so you could pick and mix from their respective offerings.
Cheese and beer pairing is a wonderful and exciting rabbit hole to get lost down. There are so many potential combinations. A sharp and mature cheddar will pair beautifully with 4 Pines ESB while a soft brie alongside La Perouse bière de garde from Frenchies will be magnificent.
Stilton or Shropshire Blue will go with a dark and fruity beer. If you can get hold of old vintages of Coopers Vintage Ale that could be perfect depending on the year. The variety is endless so experiment with your favourites.
Indulging The Sweet Tooth
So called “pastry stouts” have faced a bit of a backlash recently but if there’s one time of year you can be excused the indulgence it’s Christmas. There aren’t many in Australia but there are some good ones from the likes of Stone or Evil Twin in the US.
Closer to home, summer is perfect for a Golden Gaytime. Big Shed from Adelaide have won many fans for their Golden Stout Time. Otherwise, Queensland’s Bacchus Brewing have a strong line up of these type of beers. It’s dessert and beer wrapped into one but why stop there? Pair these beers with molten chocolate pudding, bitter chocolate truffles or ice-cream.
Into The Evening
People don’t often associate imperial stouts or barleywines with the Australian summer but, if you’re looking for a nightcap and someone just has to polish off those chocolates you were given, then it’s a pretty good choice. From around Australia, Boatrocker’s Banshee is a fine barleywine, and their Ramjet is a superb imperial stout. If you really want to push the boat out Nail’s Clout Stout is a very special beer and suited to celebrations among friends.
We’ve seen fewer of these styles readily available in Sydney but if you can get hold of Tank 6 imperial stout from Batch Brewing Co, it’ll be a good choice for the end of the night. Something slightly more decadent is Stockade’s Old Money barrel aged imperial stout. It’s been re-released in bottles just in time for Christmas 2017.
Pleasure In Variety
I’m a strong advocate for beer having an increased presence at dining tables but that doesn’t mean it needs to exist exclusive of other beverages.
An Aperol Spritz or Negroni fits perfectly into long summer days, while natural wines provide a unique complexity of flavours. And what’s a celebration without some bubbles or a whisky night cap? Mixing it up can provide heaps of fun, as long as it’s enjoyed responsibly and in moderation.
Having good beverages as a complement to good food and great company is a pleasure which should be respected and enjoyed.
There are plenty of excellent bottle shops around Sydney that can help with planning your beers for Christmas dinner.
If you want to read more on the subject of beer and food pairing I’d recommend the following books:
- The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver
- What to Drink With What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
- The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit