One of my fondest Holiday memories as a young adult was that of an immense stone farmhouse on the edge of town, where I gathered with friends to celebrate the Season of Cheer. Walk-in fireplaces graced every room, downstairs and up, silent testimonials to early life in colonial America. The air was filled with the scent of pine, homemade cyder and nutmeg, while we reveled in laughter and a state-of-the-art stereo system that stood proudly out-of-place in an antique setting such as this.
Youth celebrates with ease. We had our fermented Cyder and Christmas Ale, companioned with cheese balls, nuts and the like…and always music that reached into our souls. Reach back to your own youth and gather that laid-back-style with a Winter Celebration of fine craft beer, appealing party snackers and great tunes.
Beer Fox Recommended Seasonal Beers and Party Snackers
Celebration Ale – Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, California, USA
Style: American IPA
Bright golden-bronze body rests beneath a foamy off-white head and sheets of Belgian lacing. Aromas of herbal spices, citrus and pine cones wander luxuriantly into the air. Crystal malt sweetness of caramel, yeast and bread are balanced by a huge hop bite, while your mouth delights in its velvety smooth feel and long finish.
Party Snackers: Serve with a tray of fresh pungent and spicy cheeses – Pepper Jack, Extra-sharp Cheddar, Sharp, Gorgonzola, Blue and Limburger. Add a seven layer Mexican Taco dip served with garlic toast and chips, and the flavors dance with vibrancy.
Fantôme Spéciale de Noel – Brasserie Fantôme, Soy, Belgium
Huge, frothy tan head grabs center stage while a cloudy reddish-chestnut gem glistens beneath, emitting aromas of ripe plums, nuts, yeast and spices. Complexity leaps at your taste buds with tongue-tinglers of tart fruits, oaken wood, sour apples and peppery spiciness. A lingering finish of doughy malt and sour cherry displays superb balance.
Party Snackers: Peeled shrimp, tossed in a wok for about a minute with olive oil, a dash of hot sauce and cumin are prepped to take center stage. Pour over a bed of salad greens, cherry tomatoes, sweet red peppers, and mandarin oranges, with balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the side. Additional snackers may be sausages of Italian, chorizo, Toulouse and bratwurst or earthy cheeses such as Camembert, Fontina, and Asiago.
Hibernation Ale – Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, Colorado, USA
Style: American Strong Ale
Intense reddish-brown elixer upholds a creamy beige head. A nose of chocolate, hazelnuts, and toffee prepare the tongue for a banquet of flavors. Roasted malt with brown sugar, mocha and vanilla-frost mellow out while cherry liqueur and brandy add an extra layer of complexity amidst spruce and citrus hops. Mouthfeel is satiny and warming.
Party Snackers: Slices of grilled steak, coupled with the sweetness of chocolate-covered strawberries, apples and pears dipped in hot caramel, candied nuts and Spiced Pecans add a Holiday zing to paired pleasures.
Recipe for Spiced Pecans
2 lbs. whole shelled pecans
¼ C. butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Dusting of garlic powder, ginger, red pepper and 5-spice powder (finely ground and blended black pepper, anise, cinnamon, cloves, and fennel seeds)
Melt butter in skillet. Add pecans, sprinkle with soy sauce and toss lightly. Dust with garlic powder, ginger, red pepper and 5-spice powder. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake in 300 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning once.
Barrington Yule Fuel – Barrington Brewery & Restaurant/Berkshire Mountain Brewers, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, USA
Style: American Barley Wine
Deep Coppery brown hues are highlighted with red, while a blanket of creamy tan head gives way to abundant sheets of lace. Roasted malt, wood, cherries and alcohol fill the nose. A vibrant taste-profile of creamy malts and lightly glazed cherries adds a Belgian complexity of citrusy hops and a secretive 11% ABV that sneaks up to seduce you.
Party Snackers: Cheeses such as Stilton, Gruyère, aged Goat Cheese, and classic Cheddar, paired with stuffed mushrooms are a natural pairing with Yule Fuel. For an extra twist, soak dried cranberries in barleywine for ten minutes, remove and stir into candied nuts that have been roasted and lightly salted. Add the sweetness of crème brulee or French vanilla ice cream for a flavor sensation.
Black Snow Coffee Porter – Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Style: American Porter
The depths of ebony emit a halo of ruby that glows like the midnight sun beneath the glass. A light, bubbly tan cream lays softly above, while aromas of exotic coffee, dark Belgian chocolate, Black Forest cake and nuts envelop your olfactory senses. Rich Columbian coffee nuts, creamy cappuccino and chocolate coat the lips and slide through the mouth - bold, balanced, velvety and full.
Party Snackers: Pulled Pork sandwiches, barbecued meatballs, or smoked luncheon meats are good matches. For a late night snack, serve with chocolate cake, chocolate tarts, or sweet fruits, candied nuts, or assorted unshelled nuts in a bowl with nutcrackers.
You may wish to add a bit of class when serving beer. This classic set is a great starting point. You may also wish to seek out Stemmed Pilsners or Wheat Beer Glasses before expanding to Champagne Flutes or Digestive Glasses.
Spiegelau Barrel Beer Classics Lager Glass, Set of 6 in Barrel Gift Tube