Hoppy Holidays from 12 Gates Brewing: An IPA pairing for your holiday feast.

Shawn Kerr/ Brewer, Beer Geek, and Santa’s little helper.


Once again the most festive time of year is fast upon us; the tree is lit, the wreath hangs from the front door, the children gleam with excitement and anticipation for what lies in wait, and Clark Griswold down the street has electrified the neighborhood with his very own festival of lights.  And, don’t forget, the in-laws are on their way. 

 Did I just remind you to refill that glass with a fresh pint of your favorite IPA, or better yet, that 11% Imperial Stout?  I know I just did. 

 If your attention stills remains captivated it’s likely that you enjoy a pint or two, maybe more, at the holidays. A couple good beers are often paired with the holiday feast of meats, breads, dips, cheese platters, and the fruitcake.  Stay away from the fruitcake, please, and go for the brownies.  With all these options your palate can become a disaster of flavors reminiscent of a Nick Tahoe’s garbage plate, and I think I speak for most of us when I say, nobody likes paying $14 for a six pack only to wind up disappointed. 

 Here a few pairing thoughts for what I often find as the most popular and maybe the toughest style to pair with food in the Christmas party cooler, the IPA and Pale Ale.  Don’t take my advice as the last word; we all have distinctly different palates, tastes, and appreciations, so experiment and find what works for you as well.

These styles are mainly three-dimensional: bitterness, hop flavor (some citrusy, others earthy or herbal), and a caramel malt profile.  American styles will often be resinous, citrusy, smell aromatic of flowers and fresh grass, with a simple caramel malt body that resides in the minor aspects of the beer.  English styles tend to lean a little heavier towards the malt profile, with deeper notes of toffee and biscuit, and hop aromas and flavors that are earthy, herbal, and sometimes even slightly medicinal. 

Try pairing the bitterness of an IPA with salty dishes, as well as rich, sweet candies or deserts, such as grandma’s holiday fudge, cured meats, and even a deviled egg or two.  With spicy foods, the bitterness will surely kick up the heat initially, but as it finishes it will cool the palate.  To accentuate the caramel profile of an IPA pair it with naturally sweet foods, anything caramelized or roasted meats, especially the skins of a roasted turkey or chicken, or a piece of smoked salmon.  To distinguish those exotic, citrusy hop flavors in an American IPA reach for a tropical or citrusy fruit bowl if available, a soft, creamy cheese, or other fatty or fried foods. 

With that said, it’s always fun to geek-out over the newest IPA, but don’t forget to enjoy the company you are in while you do it.  I often look back at some of the greatest beers, drams of scotch, or cups of coffee I have enjoyed, and it wasn’t always about what I was drinking, but more about whom I was enjoying it with.  From all of us at 12 Gates Brewing, to all of our friends and family out there, have a safe and happy holidays.  There are big things around the corner in 2015 and we hope to see you all there.