Christmas lunch is the perfect opportunity to arouse gastronomic pleasures with an appropriate beer and traditional food pairing. For a festive feast with a twist, why not pair some traditional dishes with your favourite beer this year?
Beer is usually relegated to boerie rolls at the rugby or the summer braai. But beer is much more versatile than that, and the right beer can be the perfect accompaniment to any meal.
The processes for the making of beer and food are very similar. There is thus a natural tendency for certain types of beer to complement food that has been through similar processes. Much of beer’s flavour is derived from the cooking process during the malting phase when barley is converted to malt. These flavours tend to be quite similar to the myriad of food cooking flavours commonly enjoyed.
The South African Breweries (SAB) has been working hard to brew the perfect lager to accompany traditional festive feasts.
Anton Erasmus, SAB trade brewer and beer / food pairing enthusiast, recommends garden greens with a vinaigrette dressing as a starter to go with a Hansa Pilsener. “The crunchiness of the garden greens is a good match for the bracingly crispness derived from Hansa Pilsener.”
First courses consisting of fresh fruit or crustaceans like prawns or shrimp, can be served with a smooth, light and easy-drinking beer like Miller Genuine Draft.
Pair freshly-baked mincemeat pies with their Middle Eastern mixture of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg with Hansa Marzen Gold. Hansa Marzen Gold is brewed with the glow of slow-roasted amber malt, which makes it the perfect match for the roast flavours of mincemeat pies.
Pairing beer with Christmas dinner’s main event can be a challenge. This course can vary greatly, but for those sticking with tradition, roast turkey with stuffing and gravy is usually the main attraction. Succulent roast turkey pairs well with the exquisite apple ale, Sarita, which is expertly blended with a medley of fine classic apple varieties.
However, for those serving pork, Pilsner Urquell, would nicely suit a liberally glazed piece of gammon – a perfect match for the honey and citrus-flavours of the world’s first golden beer.
Finally, no holiday meal is complete without the sweet side. In general, when picking a beer to pair with a dessert, it’s better to think complement than contrast. Light, fruity beers often work well with lighter desserts, such as fruit dishes. Chocolate desserts, however, are wide open for experimentation. They’re generally sweet and heavy enough to nicely complement a cream or imperial beer like Castle Milk Stout. Carling Black Label and fruit cake presents the perfect combination as it results in a fruity acidity of flavours.
The eating doesn’t stop when Christmas day is over, however. As the holiday season continues, classic South African dishes can also be paired with specific beers. A Cape Malay-style Bobotie recipe, with a spicy curry of minced meat combined with the egg-based topping, is the perfect match with Castle Lager which is both smooth and cooling to the palate.
The sea-saltiness of a barbecued snoek basted with nothing but melted butter and sprinklings of coarse sea salt and coarse ground black pepper pairs well with the faintly herby and crisp, dry finish of a Grolsch.
Food and beer pairing tips
• Seek compatibility. Beer and food combinations often work best when they have some flavour or aroma elements in common. The herby bitterness of hops in beer goes well with food that is lightly spiced, like cooked meat or fish.
• Match beer strength with food strength. Put simply, delicate dishes work best with delicate beers, and it is equally true that strongly flavored foods demand assertive beers. Intensity of flavor may involve many aspects: alcoholic strength, malt character, hop bitterness, sweetness, etc.
• Consider sweetness, bitterness, carbonation, heat and richness. Specific characteristics of food and beer interact with each other in predictable ways. Taking advantage of these interactions ensures that the food and beer will balance each other, each giving you a desire for a taste of the other.
• The more hop bitterness the beer has, the heartier or livelier the meal needs to be to hold its own.
• Experiment with contrasting and complimentary pairings. Match foods with complimentary flavors, or contrast them to create a slew of unique results.
• Hoppy beers can be used in place of a pairing that calls for an acidic wine.
• Taste is very subjective and what works for one person might not work for another. If it tastes good to you, then go for it. However, also be open to suggestions, as these tend to come with some knowledge and possible palate enlightenment.
• Foods that are full of flavour can be paired with beers that have a slightly higher alcohol content.