Craft Beer and Christmas Cheer: Beer and Food Matching Tips for Christmas Dinner

by Kristin on December 6, 2012

By now you’re probably starting to plan all the different courses of Christmas dinner, but have you thought yet about what you’ll be pouring? Wine will be getting a lot of press in the run-up to the big feast, but what about beer? Did you know that beer is actually a better match with food than wine?

  • The Irish craft beer industry is booming, with more selection than ever before, and the range of flavours and versatility of craft beer means there’s a match for any meal, be it a curry or Christmas dinner.
  • The bubbly carbonation in beer gives a refreshing lift to your palate, which is especially welcome at a big meal like Christmas dinner.
  • Beer can be used to complement or contrast the flavours in food. The caramelised and roasted flavours of some beers match particularly well with the roasted meats traditionally served at Christmas dinner.

Another point in craft beer’s favour is price. A top-quality bottle of wine could set you back anything from €20 and up, but a bottle of artisan beer is only €2 or €3, giving you greater scope to experiment without breaking the bank.

The good news is that Irish craft beer has never been easier to buy., and all carry a wide range of Irish craft beers and deliver nationwide – a good excuse to stock up! All the beers I’ve suggested here are available at these retailers, so they’re within anyone’s reach.

Be it a zesty IPA, a crisp, clean blonde ale, a chocolatey stout or a wintry spiced seasonal to sip by the fire, there’s a beer to match whatever you’re serving, so why not give Irish craft beer a place at the table this Christmas? The right beer matched with the right food will make the meal sing.

Craft Beer and Christmas Cheer: Beer and Food Matching Tips for Christmas Dinner

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Pre-dinner snacks
If you want something to sip while the nibbles are being passed around, start off with an all-purpose lager, a light pilsner or even a wheat beer.

Beers to try: Dingle Brewing Co. Tom Crean’s Fresh Irish Lager, O’Hara’s Curim Gold, Porterhouse Hersbrucker Pilsner, Whitewater Brewery Belfast Lager

Goose is very rich, so you want a zingy ale or IPA to cut through the fat and refresh your palate.

Beers to try: Eight Degrees Howling Gale Ale, Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, O’Hara’s Irish Pale Ale

A fruity ale is a good complement to a traditional glazed ham, which is both salty and sweet. An Oktoberfest märzen lager is also a good match.

Beers to try: Dungarvan Copper Coast, Eight Degrees Ochtober Fest Marzen Style, O’Hara’s Irish Red, Whitewater Brewery Clotworthy Dobbin

If you want to complement the roasted flavours of a turkey, serve a malty red ale or a dubbel. Otherwise, a crisp, clean blonde ale is a good all-round choice if you want a beer that will contrast with the meat and all the different side dishes without overpowering the food.

Beers to try: College Green Brewery Belfast Blonde, Dungarvan Helvick Gold, Eight Degrees Sunburnt Irish Red, O’Hara’s Irish Red, White Gypsy Belgian Dubbel

Christmas pudding and chocolate
A dark, dense Christmas pudding or cake cries out to be paired with an equally dark stout or porter, while the espresso and chocolate undertones in many stouts are a natural partner for chocolate desserts.

Beers to try: O’Hara’s Leann Folláin Extra Irish Stout or West Kerry Brewery Carraig Dubh Porter for Christmas pudding; Dungarvan Black Rock Stout or Trouble Brewing Dark Arts Porter for chocolate

For contemplative sipping
If you’re looking for one final beer to finish off the feasting, go for a heavy-hitting special edition, such as the Porterhouse Barrel Aged Celebration Stout, which has been matured in Kilbeggan Irish whiskey casks and has a whopping 11% ABV – this is one to be sipped in a snifter. Or if you want to finish on a sweeter note, go for the orange, clove and cinnamon spices in the Eight Degrees A Winter’s Ale or the berry, coffee and toffee flavours of the White Gypsy Yule Ól.

Beers to try: Eight Degrees A Winter’s Ale, Porterhouse Barrel Aged Celebration Stout, White Gypsy Yule Ól

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Catherine December 8, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Great suggestions all! There are so many more beers on the market this Christmas, it’s great to see (but oh, the decisions, the heartache, the strategising…!) We’ll be having a nip of the Franciscan Well Jameson stout with our pud this year, I think. And some Dr. Rudi for fireside sipping!


Kristin December 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I have yet to get my hands on a bottle of Dr. Rudi. I love their description of it being perfect for sipping while watching Hercule Poirot!


Imen December 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Howling Gale Ale sounds divine with goose! We usually have goose on Little Christmas so maybe I will bring beer instead of wine. Great tips. Really different thinking…love it. Imen xx


Kristin December 20, 2012 at 6:44 am

Go for it! Let me know what you think of the pairing if you try it.


Adrienne December 29, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Well I know my husband will be very sad to have missed this post before Christmas as he is craft beer mad at the minute. In fact he’s at the off license now purchasing some with a Christmas voucher! Hope you had a lovely Christmas and wishing you a great 2013! Adrienne x


Andrew December 14, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Galway Bay also have a pale ale, red, porter and stout. And their DIPA should be available for Christmas. Other seasonals to consider:

Dungarvan’s Coffee and Oatmeal Stout
Eight Degrees Back to Black range: Aztec stout, Zeus BIPA and Imperial Russian Stout
Kinnegar’s Christmas pumpkin ale and Coconut Porter


Kristin December 15, 2013 at 6:15 pm

The Galway Bay red ale is fantastic, and that coffee oatmeal stout is my all-time favourite beer. I haven’t been able to get my hands on the new 8 Degrees range yet, or that Kinnegar pumpkin ale or coconut porter (though I’m very intrigued by that porter). Have you tried the Kinnegar Rustbucket or Limeburner beers? The Rustbucket has become a new favourite too.


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