Monday 14 December 2009

Beers for Christmas Day

December 25th is my favourite day of the year. I just love it. It’s also the only day of the year when I can fearlessly open a beer for breakfast and drink through until I fall asleep watching TV, having eaten and drunk way too much. After yesterday’s post about the fantasy Christmas, this one is about what I will be opening.

I plan my Christmas drinking carefully and I save up bottles all year for it. I match not only the food but the mood and the time (which is important in a 12-hour-plus drinking marathon). My usual day starts at my parents’ with presents from Santa. Then the first beer. Then we play with whatever toys we get. Then another beer. And another. Then dinner and more beer. Then Lauren comes over and we open more presents. And a beer. Then we go to Lauren’s house (she drives, of course) and eat and drink some more with her family.

I wrote about last Christmas here and it’s interesting to see my choices (it’s always interesting to look back and see how far this thing has developed). I had Innis & Gunn’s Triple Matured beer with the turkey and it was completely perfect – fruity, oaky, slightly sour. Whatever your thoughts on I&G, that was a wicked-good match. As for the others... there’s more beer maturity in my choices now, although I’m guessing next year I’ll look back and think ‘why did I have that?’

Here’s what I’m having this year, sharing them with my Dad and hopefully my sister’s boyfriend:

It starts on Christmas Eve. I'll be at home with a few bottles. I have a Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper, which seems appropriate, there's also a Delerium Noel to keep up the festive cheer. There are plenty of bottles around so we'll pick some more depending on what we feel like drinking.

Christmas Day starts with coffee stout for breakfast. Always. I have Saints & Sinners Insomniac or Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch Weasel and one of them will get opened. Then we’ll want something zingy and light to get us through the morning. I have a big bottle of Mikkeller’s USAlive which is ready to go. It’s 8% and should be like drinking c-hopped fizz with a little funk – sounds perfect to me. By this point we’ll be getting hungry, so a pre-dinner bottle of Orval, perhaps, or a palate-sharpening gueuze. My Dad, preferring dark beers, might go for a mild.

Then dinner comes. In the past I’ve attempted to pair to starter, main and dessert but the food alone is a battle of stamina and strength and adding three different glasses of beer in there just gets a bit unnecessary, so this year it’s one bottle – one big bottle made for sharing. The food is always turkey and all the trimmings. My favourite meal of the year on my favourite day of the year, so it needs something pretty damn good to go with it. I haven’t decided for definite yet but it’ll either be Deus or a Chimay Blue. The Deus will gently wander in offering sweetness and spice and a great lightness to work perfectly with everything on the plate. The Chimay is dried fruit and bready sweetness with a great complexity to plonk itself right in the middle of your tongue and let everything work around it. Both will be great. If I was serving the bottles between more than two or three then I’d open both.

After dinner I won’t be fit for much but a nice, big stout to sip on will be good (although I virtually cleared my stock on Stout Night). Or a Fuller’s Vintage. Or maybe Moor’s Old Freddie Walker – liquid Christmas pudding, as the label says. At Lauren’s in the evening I'll probably take a few bottles but won’t get around to drinking too much as I'll be at full capacity from all the food. I’m sure there’ll be a special bottle in there to share with her Dad – I’ll raid my garage on the way.

That’s the plan at the moment (although I may find something else hidden away in the cupboard when I get home). Sounds like an awesome day to me. What will you be drinking?


  1. I think I'm saving my Fraoch 20th Anniversary for Christmas Day, although I haven't really though about pairing it, just thought it would be a good sharing beer and a something different too.

    Other than that a couple of porters and maybe a barley wine with pudding.

    There's certainly be a comfort beer, a US IPA more than likely, and a Hook Norton or two.

    We actually have a Leeds Christmas dinner for our mates up here next weekend and I'm in charge of the beer and cheese pairings for after the dinner, so my focus will be on that. Aged Orval has yet to find a suitable partner and I have Yorkshire Black, Lancashire Strawberries & Cream and whatever the other one is that has apple, raisin and cinnamon in.

  2. After a palate livener of some Giradin (Black Label) Gueuze it will be Mikkeler Jackie Brown, Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux, Kerkom Kerkomse Tripel and then on to the new Marble Decadence (8.7% this time) and Marble Special (10.7%) - had an advance tasting of the last two on Saturday night and they are as good as you would expect then to be.

  3. I've not planned a whole days worth of beer, but I have done a couple of food pairings.

    To go with the Turkey and trimmings, we'll be having Bateman's XXXB. My thinking is that this tastes malty and refreshing with quite a bit of sweetness and berry flavour ... emulating the red current jelly and cleansing your mouth of the million different veg flavours my mum will be preparing.

    With Christmas cake (a couple of hours after the main Christmas meal), I've gone for Flying Dog Gonzo Porter. Its chocolate, coffee and citrusy orange flavour are bound to work with Christmas cake. Despite its depth of flavour I also find it quite light and refreshing, qualities you need with a heavy old cake.

  4. For Christmas day I have a bottle of Lost Abbey 10 commandments 2008, Tactical Nuclear Penguin, loads of homebrew and some of Barry from The Bitten Bullet's homebrew as well.

  5. Mark,

    Will be envying you over here as we can only get the standard I&G, but I am cracking last years' Dues as well as a Samiclaus I've been nursing since Dec 6 last year!

    Prof. Pilsner