Holiday Dessert Beer Pairings

By Margaret Lut

With the holiday season here, it is time to prepare for festive family gatherings. While for some this means basting the turkey, mashing and seasoning potatoes, and braising the greens for dinner, for the beer enthusiast this means pairing your much loved desserts with your some of your favorite beers.

Beer, by far, is the superior beverage for which to pair desserts. The malty profile of seasonally available brews perfectly complements and balances the sweetness that rich holiday desserts offer. With the variety of malt profiles available in a spectrum of beers and the variety of spices that are often added to some, the flavor of a dessert can be dramatically enhanced or harmonized with an adequate pairing. Also, with this being the season of “big” beers, such as barleywines and old ales, some brews can definitely stand on there own as a dessert. You may simply wish to kick back by the fireplace with your loved ones while sipping on a fulfilling nightcap.

Here are just a few examples of delicious dessert beer pairings that are recommended:

Arctic Devil Barleywine with Pumpkin or Pecan Pie

This big brew (10% ABV) has a flavor that is half way between brown sugar and caramel. The smooth sweetness that this beer offers can only complement the flavor of the pie while accentuating the underlying flavors it has to offer. For the pumpkin pie, the Arctic Devil would bring the spicy cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger flavor to the forefront of your tasting experience. As for the pecan pie, this barleywine would help bring out the nutty pecan taste. Don’t worry about this dessert pairing being too sweet to handle, since this is a barleywine, the malt presence that this beer has will actually stabilize the sweetness.

Pecan Pie
Pecan Pie

Laughing Buddha Purple Yam Porter with Apple Pie

Serving apple pie a la mode or naked, this pairing is sure to please. This porter has an up front, slightly creamy flavor, and finishes with subtle vanilla notes. Along with the use of real yams, there are aromatic whole vanilla beans added to the beer. The cinnamon and fruity essence from this dessert will be nicely balanced with the flavors offered from this Porter. In addition, the big malt profile from this brew won’t overwhelm the pie (due to the creamy flavor given from the yams) and will in fact finish complementing that last bite of flaky pie crust covered with gooey apple pie filling.

Apple Pie
Apple Pie

Anchor Christmas Ale with Gingerbread or Pumpkin Bread or Pfeffernusse cookies

This pairing is a no-brainer. A potential list of treats to complement this ale could go on and on, if you are noticing a theme. Anchor Christmas is a beer bidding a big nutmeg presence with undercurrents of pine and spruce and is reminiscent of Christmas in a bottle.

As a side note, try adding some Anchor Christmas and a dash of bourbon to your French toast batter for a special holiday breakfast treat.

Pfeffernussee cookies

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout and Chocolate Mousse

This Lagunitas Stout is a dark yet crisp seasonal beer. It possesses a soothing hop spice that combines with a velvety mocha presence. The light creamy finish of this beer will pair flawlessly with a rich mousse, creating balance between the two opposing mouthfeels. The two flavors will also round out and complete each other as underlying coffee and rich chocolaty flavors fill your mouth.

Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate Mousse

Southern Tier Pumking Ale

No pairing here. Pumking is a beer that stands on it’s own as a dessert. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on the very limited supplies, the holiday season is truly the perfect time to enjoy this beer. With large portions of pumpkin added throughout the brewing process, Pumking has a intrepid mouthfeel and tastes as if you are drinking pumpkin bread. An immense malt profile with a thick bready taste is then accompanied by the flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. A bittering Magnum hops underpinning followed by aromatic Sterlings help to mask the 9% ABV potency of this brew. Without a doubt this is an amazing beer, and like other Southern Tier specialties such as the Crème Brulee, is one that needs no dessert pairing.

These are just a few examples of holiday dessert beer parings that can be created. An important factor to consider when pairing desserts with beer is that the beer must be on the malty side. Also, consider the flavors of the dessert. Do you want a complementing flavor or a contradicting flavor? This post focused on complementing flavors due to the similarities in spices added to holiday desserts and beers. For a nice contradicting paring try pairing your favorite kriek beer with a slice of cheesecake. The flavors of cherries from the beer will require no toppings to be served on your cheesecake. And what a wonderful flavor will be offered to guests not accustomed to drinking beers with their desserts.