America's Test Kitchen co-host Bridget Lancaster isn't just an amazing cook, she is also an avid homebrewer and beer lover. Since it appears that Santa seems to enjoy a beer every now and then (just look at that belly), we asked Bridget what beer and food we should pair for Santa this holiday season.
German-style Kölsch ales are pale, lightly-malted beers fermented with ale yeast, then cold-lagered for a clean, crisp body. Perfect for charcuterie. Pair it with a plate of cheese, meats, olives, and pickles. Its spritzy, effervescent qualities also make it a great beer option to be paired with fondue on New Year's Eve. Popular examples: Früh Kölsch, Sion Kölsch, Sunner Kölsch
IPA (India Pale Ale)
IPA is a heavily hopped ales. It has a nice, round malty flavor with a lot of hops. The herb-like quality of hops adds different flavor profiles to IPAs. These aromas and flavors may be citrusy, piney, floral, earthy, or spicy. As such, IPAs tend to pair well with spicy foods - Indian, Mexican, or Thai. Or spiced nuts tossed with cardamom and a bit of cayenne. Popular examples: Bell's Two-Hearted Ale, Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA, Firestone Walker Union Jack, Lagunitas IPA, Stone IPA
Wee Heavy is a strong Scottish ale, very malt-forward and sweet. It generally has a higher alchohol content, but the reindeer are driving, so we don't need to worry about Santa too much. Pair this malty treat with strong-flavored cheeses like Gorgonzola or ripe-aged cheddar. If you think of things like balsamic vinegar or plums paired with heavy cheeses, think of the Wee Heavy as that malty, syrupy, barley-forward beer that is going to be perfect with cheese. People will also serve something like a porter or a barleywine with strong cheese. Those beers can take the assertive flavor of the food. Popular examples: Belhaven Wee Heavy, Gordon Highland Scotch Ale, McEwan's Scotch Ale, Traquair House Ale
We all know regular stouts to be something like Guinness. But a milk stout has a heavier roasted flavor, almost toasted. It's also a little bit sweeter. The milk stout gets its name from the creaminess of the beer. And because many versions are brewed with lactose, a milk sugar that doesn't ferment completely, leaving a bit of residual sweetness. It has a bit of a sweet aftertaste with a gentle flavor and aroma. This is the perfect beer to go with a chocolate chip cookie, or any chocolate dessert. Popular examples: Left Hand Milk Stout, Mackeson's XXX Stout, Samuel Adams Cream Stout
Get more advice about pairing beer and food with this Craft Beer & Food Pairing Guide from the Brewers Association.
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