The Matchmakers: Festive Season Pairings

December 14, 2023, by Nic Sandery

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The Matchmakers: Festive Season Pairings

Thus far in The Matchmakers series, the team at Molly Rose has shared insights into the ethos that guides their approach to matching beer and food. Along the way, they've shared a few recipes and suggested pairings too.

For the final edition of 2023 – following features on pairing dark ales with food, radlers with Satay skewers, and Belgian style witbiers with Thai green curry mussels – it's time for something a little different. Rather than offering a recipe to try at home, brewery founder Nic Sandery presents a guide to the beers he believes work best with the sort of snacks and dishes we'll be tucking into over the weeks ahead.

Enjoy!


The season for indulgence is here but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be striving to find the perfect beer to match whatever your favourite plate may be. Everyone has their own recipes for festive food (especially gravy) so this month we decided to throw a few pairings out there for the sort of ever-popular dishes likely to grace the family table this summer.


Croissants, French Toast, Pancakes & Fruit Platters

From the barrels of Brussels to the breakfast platters of Australia?

 

Festive breakfast foods are all buttery, creamy, sweet and fruity. As such, I’d recommend something bright, sour, and fun like the Molly Rose Raspberry Lamington or Rocky Ridge's Rock Candy.

If you are putting together a high-end spread and looking to compete with a bottle of Champagne, however, reach into the cellar for a Lambic from the likes Belgian icons 3 Fonteinen, Boon or Cantillon (pictured above).

Extra Christmas points from me if you’ve got a kriek waiting to be popped open!


Ham, Roast Turkey, Roasted Meats

How many family gatherings are going to be tucking into something like this on December 25?

 

Enjoyed alongside potatoes with any combination of cheese, butter or fat, these are rich plates: salty, sweet and savoury. These are the sort of dishes that demand you crank up the party. 

In cases such as this, I recommend the big, bold flavours of an IPA. If you’re keen to keep things sweet go for a NEIPA or hazy pale like Shapeshifter's Nordic Haze, Beerfarm's Royal Haze, Alriiight from Banks, or Range's core range Disco. Any of those, or beers of that ilk, will complement the cranberry with your turkey.

That said, the other side of IPA would be also be spot on. The bitterness of a West Coast IPA will cut through any creamy potatoes or rich roast meats; choose one with a citrusy hop blast and you'll find it plays nicely with the chutney served with any good ham. Well-established classics like Hawkers' West Coast IPA, Holgate's Road Trip or Grifter's Big Sur will do the trick just right.


Prawns, Oysters, Crayfish

 

This is a tough one because there are so many ways to serve this course. What I recommend, then, is an easy go-to for seafood in summer: pilsner.

Whether you’re going with a garlic butter prawn or a natural oyster, you can tone up and down your pilsner. Some families might have a Resch's longneck tradition, but a punchier, contemporary pilsner like Hop Nation's Rattenhund, Stomping Ground's Czech Pils or White Bay's Gantry Crane would also go down a treat – you could even go a little fruity with Grifter's much-loved watermelon pilsner Serpents Kiss.


Christmas Pudding With Custard

 

I also find this one tricky, but that’s mainly because I have a personal issue serving cold weather desserts suited to the Northern Hemisphere after a huge lunch in the middle of a scorching summer's day. I also personally have trouble drinking big, dark spiced beers at this time of year for similar reasons.

Some people love a bit of pud, however, and I'm not here to tell you not to if you're one of them. No, I'm here to help, and if I were forced to tuck into some Christmas pudding – and I do end up having my arm twisted most years* – I like to pair it with something dark: think dark Belgian or dark farmhouse ale. 

This way you get a rich malt character, spicy yeast, and warming alcohol followed by the crisp, clean moreish finish for which Belgian beers are so well known. A Belgian dubbel like our Adorned should do the trick or, if you're looking for something bigger but just as drinkable, a classic Belgian dark strong ale like Chimay Blue, Rochefort 10, or the most sumptuous of them all, St Bernadus Abt 12. 

If these beers still sound like too much to take on after a triple serve of your aunty's potato bake and you really want to keep it crisp, help is at hand in the shape of local Belgian brewing legends Madocke. The Special Belge Amber Ale from the Gold Coast brewers will do the trick, as will one of my favorite beers of all time, Orval.**


White Bread Ham Sandwich

 

You’ve reached the point where you're really not hungry nor thirsty anymore, but you eat and drink anyway. 

And, if you do find yourself with a ham sandwich in your hand, perhaps for sustenance between naps or to accompany the story that relo keeps telling at the same time each year, keep it light and pair this with whatever crisp, light lager you might have lying around. 

Chances are, as it's summer 2023, you'll have a clear bottle marked "cerveza" or "Mexican lager" handy, or a mandarin radler, if you please. 


Bonus Dish: Pavlova

Dangerous Ales' Crispy Boi stars the tropical flavours of iconic NZ hop variety Nelson Sauvin, with a crisp finish ideal for when the Pav comes a-calling.

 

This one is just for the editor as he wanted the whole festive article to be about Pav. [That's not strictly true, Nic, but as it's Christmas we'll let it slide; spirit of goodwill 'n' all that! – Editor] 

We all know this dish is an Australian creation so, just to poke fun at our Kiwi brethren, I think an NZ IPA or NZ pilsner would be great match. The bright tropical fruits, citrus backbone and passionfruit drizzle in the best NZ IPA really do match perfectly to my ideal Pavlova.

Add in a crisp and clean bitter finish that cuts through the whipped cream, and the brioche-bready malt character that plays wonderfully with the perfectly-cooked meringue and you're onto a winner.


*Molly, one of the grandmothers my brewing company is named after, made a killer pudding the traditional English way, months in advance. And it was always set alight with a liberal splash of brandy.

**Bonus Beer: There is another option for the Christmas pud stage of proceedings: a beer that has been part of one of my unspoken, high concept projects for the last few years. I have the lofty goal of crafting a perfect beer for each course on Christmas Day, from breakfast tins through to pudding-cleansers: beers that suit Australian climates and dinner tables; a new style of Christmas beers away from heavy spice and cloying sweet.

Festive is a collaboration with Blackhearts & Sparrows: a grenache, blueberry-spiced farmhouse ale. It’s tart, fruity, spicy and tannic but with refreshing carbonation and a dry finish. I literally designed it to pair with Christmas. It’s not an overly commercial idea but it's been a fun challenge nonetheless.


All articles in The Matchmakers series will appear here.

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