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Craft Beer and the Holidays – A Perfect Pairing


Craft Beer and Food for the Holidays program ties together American craft beer flavors with traditional holiday foods

Craft Beer and Food for the Holidays from the Brewers Association, highlights the ways in which craft beer styles complement many traditional American holiday foods.

Caramelized and toasted grain flavors in many beers complement the flavors of roast turkey while herbal hop additions pair nicely with popular holiday seasonings such as sage. Furthermore, the carbonation, fruitiness and balanced bitterness of many craft beers allow them to stand up to creamy, butter-rich preparations like mashed potatoes, creamed corn and similar fare.

Julia Herz, a spokesperson for the Brewers Association stated, “Our country’s history is rich with stories of beer and food and craft beer picks up where wine leaves off. Many styles of beer both complement and contrast the food they are paired with, whereas wine mostly contrasts. The holiday dinner table is a very appropriate place for beer made from America’s small, independent and traditional brewers.”

The best beverage to pair with any food ultimately depends not just on the main ingredient, but the spices, preparation and accompanying dishes as well. To get you started on the perfect pairing for your holiday celebrations, here are some suggestions for beer styles you might pair with various main courses.

Traditional Roast Turkey:  The roasted and caramelized skin matches well with amber ale, a strong golden ale or an amber lager in the Vienna style. 

Smoked Turkey: If your local brewery offers a smoked beer, that can serve as a complement to smoked turkey as well.  Look for a porter, Scotch ale or amber ale in the smoked style.

Cajun Turkey: Celebrated beer writer and New Mexico resident Stan Hieronymus suggests a malty IPA to go with his favorite Cajun turkey recipe. For a malty alternative that will stand up to the heat, try a dark bock or strong Scotch ale.

Ham:  Like the fruit and cloves often used to prepare ham, the fruity, clove notes in weizen or the stronger weizenbock compliment ham at the dinner table. 

Duck:  The darker meat of duck offers a richer flavor than turkey and can stand up to a richer beer as well. Here a Belgian-inspired dubbel or a hearty Oktoberfest lager would go well.

Goose: Here too a richer beer than you would choose for turkey is in order. A Belgian-style triple or biere de garde would work well or maybe a bock or Scotch ale.

Salmon:  A dunkel lager or Scottish ale can offer a clean toasted malt note to offset the firm flavors of salmon without a lot of bitterness that would overwhelm the fish. Other options would include a mild ale or steam beer.

Leg of Lamb:  Pale ales provide a pleasant foil to lamb with spicy or herbal character to compliment the character of the meat along with some toasted malt notes. Or for more harmony with the roasted flavors of the meat, try a hoppy brown ale or porter. 

Beef Tenderloin:   This rich hearty cut of meat deserves a robust beer as a counterpoint but also calls for some contrast to clear the palate between bites. The ideal companion would seem to be an IPA or Imperial IPA.  Other options might include a tripel or old ale.

Based in Boulder, Colo., U.S.A., the Brewers Association (BA) is the not-for-profit trade and education association for American craft brewers and the community of beer enthusiasts.
The Brewers Association website,, is for beverage and food lovers interested in complementary flavors at the holiday dinner table.



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