This festive season, why not blow the minds of your nearest and dearest by pairing beer – not wine – with your holiday shrimp rings and Christmas desserts?

That’s right. The stigma is gone. In fact, there is so much awesome literature out there on pairing beer with food that we have done some initial summarizing for you. This will be your Festive Season Cheat Sheet to get you practising immediately.

India Pale Ale:

The hops in an IPA are often an assault on the taste buds, and after a few sips can dull your ability to discern food flavours. But hops also have their virtues in food pairing: they cut through grease and vinegar, and enhance the spiciness of Thai and Indian cooking. Fried fish, vinaigrettes, salsa, and curries are all dishes to pair with a good IPA. Locally, try Tree Brewing’s Hop Head.

Pale Ales and German Pilsners:

As we have mentioned before, these styles of beer are very balanced, making them ideal to pair with a wide variety of dishes. While great with seafood (remember that shrimp ring?), they also complement smoked or barbecued meats, including lamb, beef and game. Locally, try St. Peter’s Organic English Ale, Yukon Brewing’s Yukon Gold, or Czechvar from B.B.N.P. (Budweiser Budvar Narodni Podnik).

Amber Ale:

This thirst-quencher is perfectly paired with foods that aren’t too sweet: meats, savoury hors d’oeuvres and so on. The maltiness of an amber ale will suffer if served with, say, a cake or cream puff. Locally, try Yukon Brewing’s Yukon Red or Tree Brewing’s Thirsty Beaver Amber Ale.

Stouts and Porters:

It is almost as if these rich, full-bodied ales were created specifically for desserts. The beer’s dark, roasted flavours pair wonderfully with espresso, chocolate and chocolate/fruit combinations. Locally, try Yukon Brewing’s Midnight Sun Espresso Stout or Phillips Longboat Chocolate Porter.

Old Ale and Barleywine:

Most foods are hard-pressed not to get lost in the strong flavours of old ale and barleywine, but pairing the intensity of a very strong cheese (a bleu, perhaps) or a piece of bitter dark chocolate will compliment both the maltiness of the ale and the strength of the food.

As a general rule, a stronger and heavier-bodied beer needs a stronger cheese or chocolate. While you can’t grab a barleywine without a trip to Skagway or Haines, two old ales available locally are Yukon Brewing’s Lead Dog or McEwans Malt Strong Ale.


A very general rule to start is to keep sweet with sweet, and tart with tart.

Wine drinkers: at its most basic, think Red Wine=Ale, White Wine=Lager.

If you plan to serve a number of different beers at your soirée, try pouring them in smaller amounts (4 oz or so) to keep folks from nodding off and to ensure you still have conversation past 8:30 pm. Also, as beer is quite filling, you won’t be spoiling any appetites.

Visit the website of a beer that you have just purchased, as they will almost always have food pairing tips for their products.

Need to know more? Purchase Garrett Oliver‘s The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food. We’ve thumbed through it, and the small amount that we have read was enough to put it on our Christmas wish list. Editors please take note.

Please enjoy this article responsibly.