Thursday 18 December 2008

Beer for Christmas

If ever there was a day when it’s acceptable to open a beer with breakfast and drink through until bedtime, then it’s Christmas Day. A day of infinite giving, kindness and fun. A day of presents, laughter and too much food. A day to indulge in a lot of great beers.

But what beers?!

This year I’ll be drinking some of the beers that I’ve loved in 2008. I’ll have them spread out over the day, leading me up to dinner and then taking me into the night. I want different types of beers at different times. Something special to start the day, something gluggable and quenching while I cook, something light before I eat to get my taste buds tingling, something rich and dark while I settle down after dinner. And sharing is good – don’t be a beer scrooge because you’ll only regret it in the end. Plus, you’ll be able to drink twice the variety, should you want to.

Last year’s Christmas went like this… Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout for breakfast, Fuller’s Discovery pre-dinner and with the starter, Kwak with the turkey and McEwan’s Champion with the pudding. I can’t remember what saw me through the rest of the day.

This year will go something like this…

To start, and to take the blunt edges off of Christmas Eve’s hangover (it’s inevitable) I’m starting with breakfast. Beer Geek’s Breakfast by Mikkeller, BrewDog’s Riptide or their Coffee Imperial Stout. I’m bypassing the coffee and have a dark, strong beer instead. Plus, beer is food.

Something lighter will need to follow or I’ll be sozzled by dinner time. It’ll be another BrewDog I think. I’ve still got some of their prototype beers around and the Bad Pixie will be perfect. Light, biscuity grain finished with a tang of juniper and lemon – an elegant G&T finish to a beer.

I’ll probably be in the kitchen when I start and finish this and it’ll be followed by another light beer, something to have on the side as I baste the bird or chop the veggies. Maybe a lambic to give me a smack of bittersweetness: there’s nothing like a lambic to limber up your taste buds.

I’ll be approaching the table when the next bottle is cracked open. I’m starting the meal with a glass of Curious Brew’s Brut. A champagne-style beer brewed a short drive from my house in Kent. It’s a gorgeous beer, all creamy and light, and it leads perfectly into the turkey.

The main course is the big choice. The one which I’ve had to think hardest about. It’s a tough one as there’s so much flavour on the plate: meat, crispy potatoes, sweetly-earthy veg, salty pig-stuff, herby stuffing, a rich gravy. The beer has to be strong enough to stand up to it all, but not so strong that it overwhelms. You need dark fruits, but not too dark and bitter, and certainly not chocolatey. Some sharpness is very welcome to ease through the richness of it all. My choice will be Innis & Gunn’s Triple Matured. It’s full of flavour, there’s buttery oak and tangy autumn fruits (perfect partners to turkey), there’s also something vegetal about it and even a hint of spice. It’s a deep copper colour and at 7.7% ABV it stands tall. The mouthfeel is smooth, the finish long and the fruit will cut the richness nicely. I think it’ll be a great pairing. Plus it’s a limited edition beer, so something special for the feast.

Last year I had a beer with the Christmas pudding, but to be honest I was so full from the food that it was all a bit of a struggle. This year I’ll save the next beer for afterwards, and this’ll be a good one. I’ve got a few bottles of Fuller’s Brewer’s Reserve in the cupboard so that’s on the ‘maybe’ list along with a few vintages or an imperial stout. I want something that I can sip, something big and strong and interesting. Something to perfectly finish off my favourite meal of the year.

Then I’ll need to start chilling the beers for the evening… I’ve got plenty lined up, but have no idea what’ll actually get drunk. It’s inevitable that a big BrewDog IPA will be in there, a Chaos Theory or a Hardcore. And I doubt I’ll last the day without at least one American beer. Maybe santa will even bring me some more, to make my choice even wider and more exciting!

I love Christmas.

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