As you whip on that little red dress, flecked with sequins that roll seductively over your curves, toss back a light aperitif to prime your palate for the banquet ahead. Cantillon Fou' Foune from Anderlecht, Belgium, deserves attention in a crystalline flute, tossing the aroma of peaches and apricots into the air to stimulate your appetite. With that earthy character of tartness, so near-and-dear to a true lambic, it sucks you in and leaves you longing for the first course.
Enjoy a touch of the exotic with Hitachino Nest Celebration Ale from Kiuchi Brewery of Ibaraki-ken Naka-gun, Japan. As a grand lady, flush with sweet toffee, orange peel, wood and vanilla, it rolls in with spiciness that feathers the nose, while gleaming in the glass with a properly-Belgian cushion of white. Paired with a creamy butternut squash and shallot soup, the flavors add extra layers that emerge as coriander, nutmeg, and spicy peach. A few bites of croque monsieur add grandness to this 9% Winter Warmer.
Barrel Aged Twelve Dogs of Christmas from Thirsty Dog Brewing Company of Akron, Ohio, is a real attention getter in its elegant, black 750 ml bottle with cork and cap. From the makers of Old Leghumper and Siberian Night, Twelve Dogs is wrapped in Christmas spices, wood, vanilla, caramel, ginger and cinnamon. Matched with a juicy, beef rib-roast and root vegetables, Twelve Dogs echoes through the beef, picking up the char and painting it with sweetness and a lavish variety of spice that whispers tales of foreign merchants from tropical lands.
Cleanse your palate with Cranberry-Orange Relish, richly embellished with glazed walnuts and Grand Marnier liqueur. Keep it lighter with Great Lakes Christmas Ale from Cleveland, Ohio. At 7.5% ABV, it is a “lighter” winter warmer of vermillion and brown, casting glorious clarity in the candlelight. Toffee, cinnamon, honey, and nutmeg dominate, and mix well with the fruity flavors of the relish. Clean and silky in the mouth, it readies you for a final course of holiday magic.
God Jul from Nøgne Ø Det Kompromissløse Bryggeri of Grimstad, Norway pours like a mahogany sky into your brandy snifter, leaving swaths of lace with each turn of the glass. Dense with aromas of malts, roast, cherries, cocoa, and a touch of figs, it dances on the palate, calling for sweetness. Pair this one with Pecan Pie, made with a few tablespoons of He’Brew Barrel Aged Messiah from Schmaltz Brewing of Clifton Park, New York. The sweet caramelly nuttiness and bready pastry of the pie adds the perfect parallel to this beer. Spruce, chocolate and a round espresso profile stand out, washing the palate with as many flavors as there are colors in the rainbow.
Dare to try a medley of winter warmers. Some may be light bodied and fruit-filled to pair with apricot-filled tarts, while others will smack of anise and orange, perfect as an accompaniment with Pfeffernüsse. Experiment and enjoy the flavors.