How to match beers with your festive food offer

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Christmas food and beer pairings guide

Related tags Beer

The Christmas rush is getting into full swing: kitchens are pumping out roast potatoes faster than machine gun fire and the sector’s chefs are most likely already bored to death of prepping winter veg. 

For food-led operators, the immense pressure of the season’s trade may not leave much time to focus on their drinks offer.

But whilst wine has traditionally been the drink of choice to accompany the Christmas meal for many consumers, investing time in curating a range of festive food and beer pairings can prove a potentially lucrative endeavour.


“The flavours and textures of the type of food served at Christmas naturally better suit beer rather than wine,” says award-winning beer sommelier Jane Peyton.

“Customers may end up spending more money because – with the alcohol levels of beer being lower than wine – they will order a few drinks and may stay longer in the pub, putting money in the till.”

Cask ale and craft beer drinkers tend to be affluent and engaged with social media, according to Peyton. So if a pub pulls off a successful pairing menu, attracting these customers can lead to extra publicity.


However, there is a common perception amongst drinkers that beer is bloating – specifically when drunk alongside heavy food like a Christmas meal.

“[The perception] is not helped by the fact that people associate beer with pints and feel they have to drink big volumes,” says Peyton. “That is what causes the bloat – the 95% water in a pint and CO2 which warms in the stomach and expands.

“My suggestion for publicans to change this perception is to serve beer in smaller glasses for the table. No pint glasses – wine glasses or flutes.”

Smaller serves will encourage people to sip rather than glug and if each course is matched with a different beer, it may be drank more like a wine, she adds.


So what beers go best with which Christmas dishes? The Publican’s Morning Advertiser ​asked beer advocacy group There’s a Beer for That to pick beers to pair with Christmas dishes from some of the UK’s top food pubs:

Goose Liver Toast with Pickled Quince

Pub: ​The Marksman, Hackney

Beer: ​Fuller’s Vintage Ale

ABV​: 8.5%

Fuller's Vintage Ale holds a deep sweetness that will complement the dense goose liver. The high ABV will balance out the sweetness, while notes of almond and coconut will add a complexity to the flavour of the dish.


Beer:​ Liefmans Kriek

ABV​: 6%

The sour cherry flavour is balanced by a tartness and sweetness that will cut the richness of the goose liver and lift the flavour of the quince. The notable carbonation will cut through and cleanse the palate to create a delicious and refreshing pairing.

Roast Crown of Yorkshire Red Legged Partridge, Confit Leg, Wild Boar in Blankets, Chestnut Stuffing, Red Cabbage, Port Gravy

Pub: ​The Jugged Hare, Moorgate

Beer​: Belle Vue Kriek.

ABV​: 4.3%

The sourness of this beer will cut through the richness of the dish and refresh the palate. Belle Vue Kriek has an earthiness and nuttiness that will complement the stuffing, while the sweetness from the cherry will combine with and lift the natural sweetness in the meats, while also tempering any saltiness. 


Beer: ​Long Arm Brewery Birdie Flipper

ABV​: 4.5%

A bittersweet balance that will complement and work with the array of flavours on the plate, this beer is definitely worth a try. It has a dried fruit and orange tinge that will further lift any sweetness in the dish and contains fine carbonation providing enough bubbles to cleanse the palate.

North Sea Fish Gratin with Lancashire Cheese Crust, Hot Buttered Leeks & Lobster Scampi

Pub:​ The Staith House, North Shields

Beer: ​Deuchars IPA

ABV​: 4.4%

A well balanced, bittersweet beer where the grass and floral notes lighten the rich texture of the dish. This beer pairs perfectly with buttered leeks and lobster scampi. The bitterness and carbonation cuts through and a prevailing sweetness that continues into the finish will take hold of the subtle sweetness of the lobster and heighten it. 


Beer: ​Mordue Brewery IPA (A local beer brewed 9 miles way from The Staith House)

ABV​: 5.1

An initial biting bitterness gives way to a sharp lemon and lime tang, all serving to complement the fish and balance with the cheesy, tangy crust. The gentle sweetness of Mordue Brewery IPA will lift the lobster and another swathe of bitterness will cut through and cleanse the palate. 

Braised Feather-Blade of Black Angus Beef, Creamed Potatoes, Onions and Bacon

Pub: ​The Beehive, White Waltham

Beer: ​St Peter’s Cream Stout

ABV​: 6%

This beer boasts a sweet dark chocolate, caramel, liquorice and dried fruit character that will perfectly complement and stand up to the big flavours of the steak. Its creaminess will work with the creamed potatoes and the bittersweet balance will complement, but not overwhelm the onions and bacon.


Beer: ​Loddon Brewery Hocus Pocus (Local)

ABV​: 5%

The exquisite notes of caramel, dark fruit and roasted character in Hocus Pocus will complement the bold flavour of the steak as well as subtle sweetness that will complement the bacon and knock back any saltiness. This beer possesses a creamy finish that provides a delicious accompaniment to the potatoes.

Pumpkin and Orange Crumble with Poppy Seed Ice-cream

Pub: ​The Hinds Head, Bray

Beer: ​Wadworth Corvus Stout

ABV​: 4.1%

Wadworth Corcus Stout's coffee bitterness is a fine partner to a sweet pumpkin and orange crumble, as it will contrast the sweetness of the pudding perfectly. This partnership is balanced by a creamy texture and chocolate sweetness that works wonderfully with the ice-cream.


Beer:​ Windsor & Eton Conqueror

ABV: ​5%

Flavours of orange, citrus and dark chocolate complement the crumble, with bitterness also cutting through the richness. Delicious hints of creaminess complement the ice-cream for a wonderful finish. 

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