Experts Chime In: Dreary Weather Food and Beer

Now that winter has officially arrived, there’s no escaping it: Winter is the dreariest time of the year. It’s cold and wet, and the days are short and the nights are long. Throughout history, we humans have needed a little extra sustenance to get us through the winter. It’s no coincidence that the holidays are scheduled around this time of year—any excuse for the warm companionship of friends and family against the backdrop of chilly winter. Winter is also a time for great beer.
The ales we drink during the winter months are different from the lighter, refreshing beer we drink in the spring, summer and even fall: darker, sometimes spicy, heavier and frequently higher in alcohol. The foods are different, too: heartier and often cooked slowly over low heat. The warmth and aroma of chili, or lamb or stew braised in ale permeates the kitchen and makes staying indoors more cozy.
We asked some beer industry professionals what beers and foods sustain them during the dreary months of winter.

Christopher Wong, Chef, Social Kitchen San Francisco
My favorite fall/winter dishes are the long braised or hearty fares: stews, soups, chilis, pasta's and the like. More specifically, pork, black bean and chipotle chili, osso buco with risotto, Rigatoncini with sausage and roast tomatoes. This coming brewmaster’s dinner, I am making braised lamb shoulder with root vegetables and citrus gremolata—right down my cold weather alley. We are pairing it with Kim's West Side IPA. A perfect match of earthiness and citrus.

Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director, Brewers Association

Chicken with Beer
Here is one of my FAVORITE, easy, go-to comfort cooking recipes with craft beer. The dish makes you feel happy, warm and loved, and no longer dreary.

The final dish is always different, based on what is in fridge. The first picture is right when I added ale, the second picture is when the dish is almost ready for serving:

- Dry rub chicken breast with favorite herbs.
- Throw a few pads of butter into a frying pan.
- Sear chicken on high heat for 2-3 minutes each side so it browns.
- Then pour ½ bottle of favorite low-bitter craft beer (that night I used a Scotch ale) into the pan.
- Then pour about ½ cup ranch salad dressing or other favorite (I used Annie’s Greek Goddess) into pan.
- Mix everything around in pan.
- Once the alcohol has evaporated, cover the pan.
- Now basically you are steaming chicken on medium low heat in a great sauce.
- Cook for 20 minutes, flipping often to keep the surface of both sides moist.
- During the last 5 minutes, throw in black and green olives.
- Toss in fresh herbs (like chopped parsley; fresh from garden is best).

Pair it with what you cooked with. ESB is one of my regulars.

Photos by Julia Herz, Brewers Association/

Marcos Villagran, Chef, Pyramid Brewing
Here are my favorite pairings for this wet winter:
Oatmeal Stout
One of our customers’ favorite is the Cottage Pie or even a Shepherd’s Pie. The difference is that the cottage pie is made with beef vs. lamb on the Shepherd’s Pie.

Snow Cap
We had this on our menu year round because of customers’ requests. I love serving the tender pieces of pot roast with oven-roasted veggies like carrots, turnips, garlic cauliflower and some whipped mashed red potatoes to soak up that gravy. The Snow Cap gravy is what makes the dish.

Super Snow Cap
My wife makes this for me at home during long, gloomy, rainy days. You know, the kind of days where it never looks like the sun came out. The dish is black-eyed peas with braised, crispy pork belly. I get into canning on my time off so I will jar some black eyed peas from dry and when we need a quick dish we will pull out some left over pork belly from the night before, dice it, crisp it on a sauté pan with minced onions and add the jarred black eyed peas. This one is my ultimate favorite. My problem is that I can’t stop eating and drinking “Super.” I just make sure not to have plans of leaving the house afterwards.

Kelsey Williams, Director of Marketing, Drakes Brewing
As a born Texan, for me, a good bowl of chili cannot be topped as the ultimate cold weather meal. Give me a bowl of hot, smoky, rich and spicy chili, and I'm a happy camper. Recently, I've discovered the brilliance of replacing water in any chili recipe with a good dark beer. Given my day job, I have been using Drake's Black Robusto Porter with its big malt flavor, bittersweet chocolate character and slight roastiness to enhance my chili. With long simmering with the beer, the chili gains an amazing depth of flavor as the malt melds all the spices together, the chocolate character works with the chilis for an almost mole-like experience, and the roast beautifully compliments any smoky chipotle or meat flavors in the bowl. Top the whole thing off by pairing with the same beer (or any other medium to dry stout or porter) and the experience is better than eating cookies with Santa Claus for a warming holiday experience.
For the recipe, go to

Bryan Keilty, head brewer, Lompoc Brewing, LLC, Portland, OR
Fall and winter are my favorite times of the year for food, and braising and stewing are two of my favorite cooking methods. Here is a recipe that I have used many times. The beer that I use is Monster Mash, an Imperial Porter and our Halloween seasonal.

Monster Mash Beef Stew
3 lbs. beef stew meat
Salt and pepper for seasoning beef (to taste)
3 T. olive oil
3 large onions, sliced
3 T. paprika
1 T. salt (more or less as desired)
22 oz. Monster Mash Imperial Porter
1 c. chicken stock
6 oz. tomato paste
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
4 large potatoes, cubed
6 carrots, thickly sliced
1. Heat olive oil in stew pot. Season beef with salt and pepper and add to pot, searing over med-high heat until lightly browned. Remove beef.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add beer, chicken stock, beef, tomato paste, paprika, salt and Worcestershire sauce. Stir. Cook until the beef is tender, about 1 hour. Add carrots and potatoes. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
This is great for parties or sitting around playing board games while the stew is simmering. And you can smell it in every room of my home. By the time the meat is tender, everybody is ready for bowl and a pint of Monster Mash!

David L Hauslein, Beer Manager, Healthy Spirits San Francisco
Braised oxtail with Rodenbach Grand Cru
The tart, fruity acidity of Rodenbach cuts through the fat without overwhelming the rich, flavorful meat. Make sure you have some crusty bread on hand for the bone marrow.
Baked brie in a puff pastry with raspberry jam is well complemented by Fuller's Vintage Ale. Bready and biscuity, with a rich, concentrated pale malt sweetness. Not for the calorie conscious, but very satisfying on a cold, rainy night.

Sean Paxton, The Homebrew Chef

Here are a few of my favorite recipes for the cold, wet and long dark nights:

Chicken Braised in Dubbel with Leaks

Grand Cru Braised Lamb Shanks

Pictures courtesy Sean Paxton

Wendy Littlefield of Vanburg and DeWulf Belgian Beer Exporters
Christmas goose with Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux because it is a great pairing that cuts the fat. We coat the goose with caraway seeds, which complements the goose and the beer.
Buche de noel with Scaldis Prestige de Nuits. What could be a better combination?
New Year's Eve toasts with caviar and Saison Dupont, Hop Ruiter, Contessa and Castelain. Compare and contrast the Beluga with the beers. 
Post holiday vegetarian detox: vegetable soup and tofu, spring rolls with Witkap Singel and Lambrucha—what the monks drink for lunch (or what we think they should).
January and February: Long winter's night suppers of creamed herring, rye bread, radishes and Lava Smoked Imperial Stout or winter composed salads with country breads: beets, spinach, salade frisee, blood orange, goat cheese with Castelain or Vicaris Tripel Gueuze with gueuze in the vinaigrette.
Squash soup with whole grain bread and Posca Rustica, Biere de Miel, Bastarda Rossa Chestnut beer.
Black rice and spicy fish stew with Moinette Brune: simply perfect.

Josie Berg-Hammond, Account Coordinator, Louis Glunz Beer Distributor
Cookies and Beer
Children around the city will be celebrating with cookies and candy this holiday season, but adults can celebrate with something a little more grown up: beer. This year Santa doesn’t want milk and cookies, he wants beer and cookies.
Holiday cheer, snow on the ground and a blistery wind, Santa might need more than a glass of milk to get him through his trip this winter and Louis Glunz Beer Inc. has the perfect beers to pair with cookies. Hearty, higher alcohol-content brews with hoppy and malt-like flavors are often a great match with sweet cookies. The Anchor Christmas Ale is a rich and dark ale with heavy spice notes that pairs perfectly with the sweet spice of a ginger crisp. Oatmeal cookies are a great complement to the sturdy Breckenridge Christmas Ale and, with the addition of butterscotch chips, the cookies help to bring out the brew’s hints of caramel and chocolate. A brew like the Chimay Blue Cap, with a thick, dry finish and strong notes of caramel can hold up to buttery hazelnut, chocolate and coffee shortbread cookies. With beers that match so well with cookies, the team at Louis Glunz Beer Inc. thinks you might want to fill that milk glass with beer.

Public House’s Off-Season Menu Swings for the Fences

Some menu items should come with instructions. Such is the case with one of the dishes on Public House’s new fall menu, citrus brined chicken breast with lime sweet potatoes and adovo brussel sprouts. To introduce its fall menu on Nov. 29, Public House paired each dish with a beer from its tap list. In this case I chose Ommegang Duvel Rustica, a strong pale Belgian ale. On its own, the chicken breast couldn’t stand up to the beer, but when it’s eaten slathered with the sweet and spicy pureed sweet potatoes, along with a bit of the savory Brussel sprouts, the beer/food pairing approaches the sublime.
Public House, the unofficial pub home of the 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants, is determined to establish itself as a fine dining destination during the off-season and prove that there’s more to the pub/restaurant than burgers, sliders and wings. Public House has all the ingredients to do make a go of it: a wide assortment of food-friendly craft beers; a talented chef, Chris Wade, and a kitchen eager to work beer into the dishes; an attractive, comfortable dining room (not the madhouse it becomes during Giants games); and an easily accessible location in an up-and-coming part of the city.
Such transformations don’t happen overnight, however, and establishing a rapport between the kitchen and the beer takes time. Even at this early stage, however, Public House is showing some promise when it comes to conjuring up the sort of comfort food that meshes so well with dreary late fall/winter nights. Along with the chicken breast, another cold-weather standout on the new menu is braised boneless short ribs with roasted potatoes, baby carrots and pearl onions, braised in and paired with Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA.
For dessert, Public House features a beer float with North Coast’s signature Old Rasputin Imperial Stout. It’s not nearly as scary as it sounds. Or you could settle for a warm and toasty beer, like Sierra Nevada’s collaboration Ovila Belgian-style quad abbey ale.

Experts Chime In: 2012 Holiday Beer Pairings

The holidays are a time of good food, good cheer and good friends. So I decided to poll some knowledgeable, food-loving beer professionals and ask what beers they will be enjoying over the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays and what foods they will be pairing with the beer. Avec Les Bons Voeux from Brasserie Dupont turned out to be very popular, and for good reason. At about the price of a decent bottle of champagne, it’s a refreshing, balanced beer that complements just about every holiday course. Of course, there were other provocative suggestions as well.

Eric Cripe, Certified Cicerone and Beer Manager, The Jug Shop, San Francisco

Turkey and the Trimmings:
Ommegang "Scythe and Sickle" Harvest Ale
The rich malt character is balanced beautifully by the spicy and earthy yeast character making it a perfect accompaniment to traditional Thanksgiving fare.
Pumpkin Pie:
Midnight Sun "TREAT" Chocolate Pumpkin Imperial Porter
Dominated by a huge pumpkin nose that is contrasted by roasty malt, a touch of chocolate and a bit of clove and cinnamon. Makes pumpkin pie taste more pumpkiny.

Ballast Point "Indra Kunindra" Indian Export Stout
Imperial stout brewed with Kafir lime, curry, coconut and cumin. The spices make this beer incredibly complex and it has me thinking about the holiday season and the exotic aromas of the east.

New Years:
Dungeness Crab:
Super-clean and dry saison from Denmark. Perfect to cut the richness of Dungeness crab.

Christian Albertson, Monks Kettle, San Francisco
“My all-around pick for the holiday season is Avec Les Bons Voeux from Brasserie Dupont.  My wife's family is very large and we all get together and bring different dishes, so I bring items with me that pair well with a variety of foods:
Thanksgiving: I'm bringing The Bruery's Autumn Maple (it's excellent aged 2 years).
Christmas: This will be after the release of FiftyFifty's Eclipse series this year, so I'll bring one of those: not sure which barrel-aged version I'm bringing, but again it's probably going to be vintage. This is the after dinner drink. For during dinner (ham), I'll probably bring a biere de garde like La Bavaisienne or Gavroche.
New Year's: DeuS

Fraggle, Co-Owner, Beer Revolution, Oakland

Deschutes the Abyss
As a main dish: “portebello mushrooms with grilled grazed veggies. Roasted brussel sprouts, that sort of thing.”
With dessert: “Something heavy. A big chocolate cheesecake or tiramisu.”
Het anker Gouden Carolus Noel/Xmas
“Going out on a limb here, but I really think it would go well with braised/roasted leeks. I'm crazy. It’s OK. I know. Also with truffles, a fruit bowl with dark grapes, figs, dates, sliced plums.”
Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux
Banana bread, pumpkin pie.
d'Achouffe N'Ice Chouffe
“I'd go with a rich vegetable stew, with heavy savory spices. Lotsa potatoes and hearty mushrooms. Mushrooms never let you down.”
Sierra Nevada Celebration
“Mixing it up a bit here. Squash ravioli with fennel, with lots of Italian spices—something with a little zing to complement the hops.”
Mahrs Xmas Bock
“I think I’m the only one at Beer Rev to adore this beer. Pair with apple sausage from Field Roast or chocolate torte.”

Jen Muehlbauer, Beer Revolution Server and Beer Blogger
“Keep your holiday spice beers that taste like cinnamon, mistletoe and reindeer butt! I'll just take something dark and strong.
“I look forward to Drake's Jolly Rodger every winter. It changes style every year, and this year I'm extra excited because it's an American barley wine. I said ‘American’ and ‘Drake's,’ so prepare for a full-on hop assault along with the dark, sweet malt. If there were hop-haters coming to dinner, I'd substitute an English-style barley wine like Pretty Things' delicious Our Finest Regards.
“It's not a holiday seasonal (yet?), but I'm in love with Ale Industries' new Dueling Pipers, a cranked-up version of their brown rye ale Rye'd Piper. At more than 12% ABV, this would normally be too boozy for me, but the Heaven Hill rye whisky barrels it aged in did some freaky voodoo on it. My husband's exact words upon tasting it were, "Buy every bottle you can find."
Finally, this may lose me cred in beer geek circles, but I buy the hell out of Trader Joe's Vintage Ale every single year. This off-label Unibroue is a tradition from back when $5 was a lot of money for me to be spending on a fancy beer bottle. It's not the most complex Belgian dark strong ale out there, but it's a good solid value and it reminds me of times gone by, which makes any beer taste better.
Food pairings? Eat first, then have any of these for dessert. Problem solved. Happy holidays!”

Bryan Brick, K and L Wine Merchants, Redwood City

West County Cider "Redfield" Cider, Massachusetts 750ml ($15.99)
“I'm really looking forward to drinking this on Thanksgiving day. After a two-year absence in the market due to a tragic accident at the facility, this cider is back and as good as ever. From an heirloom apple variety called Redfield, this cider is rose in color due to the fact that the flesh of the apple is pink in color. Aromas of fresh yeast, pomegranate and clover lead to a dry, tannic body with snappy acidity and surprising flesh. This is a perfect foil for a brined and smoked Turkey stuffed with duck sausage and portobello mushroom stuffing.”

Brasserie Dupont "Avec les Bons Voeux" Saison, Belgium 750ml ($10.99)
“This is probably my all-time favorite ‘holiday’ beer. Let me explain: Generally holiday beers are dark, dense and made with of spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, etc. This is anything but heavy and spicy. A stronger and fuller saison from arguably the king of saisons, this is a perfect beer in my opinion. From its heady, solid pour to the estery, bready nose to the grassy and vibrant flavors of stone fruit and lemon zest, this is a beer that I could drink year-round without issue. I love this with a simple dish of Pernod steamed mussels or some fresh crab. Traditionally, since 1970, the brewery gives this bottle as New Years gifts to their best clients. I've done the same, with wonderful results.”

2012 Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale, California ($1.89 12oz bottle or $15.99 in a 1.5L Magnum)
“When I do want the spice-driven holiday beer, this is where I head. A rotational recipe depending on the year, this year's beer has certainly been hopped up a bit and has a lovely piney bitterness to go with layered flavors of grated nutmeg and gingerbread. Magnums of this make great gifts and are wonderful party favors. I love passing a magnum of this around a holiday party while hors d'oeuvres are served.”

Ken Weaver, Beer Writer
“For the Thanksgiving table, we'll typically serve New Glarus Raspberry Tart, a saison from Brasserie Dupont (Avril, Saison Dupont, Avec les Bons Voeux), and something sour and effervescent as an aperitif (Russian River, 3 Fonteinen). Winter seasonals I always look forward to: Sierra Nevada Celebration, Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws, Moonlight Toast, FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse and Bell's Expedition Stout, for sure. Most of those are more of a nightcap.

David L. Hauslein, Healthy Spirits, San Francisco
As holiday beers go, I'm partial to the De Dolle Stille Nacht. With its five-hour boil time and copious amounts of pale malt, it has as much in common with an English barley wine as it does with a Belgian strong ale. Rich and lush, with flavors of brown sugar, figs and cognac. There's a significant hoppy backbone running through to keep it from ever approaching cloying sweetness. If you have the patience to age a bottle for five years or so, it is well worth the investment.
“Like an English barley wine, the sticky caramel sweetness of Stille Nacht is an excellent foil for a sharp, salty piece of Stilton. I recommend anything from Colston Bassett.
If you want something lighter that will pair with a wide range of sweet and savory holiday foods, I'd try a saison or biere de garde. Biere de gardes are slightly darker than saisons, with a soft, nutty sweetness. They are usually moderately hopped, which makes them great with anything spicy or fatty. Saisons are spritzier, with more of the flavor profile dominated by the fruit esters imparted by the yeast. Both are versatile, and refreshing enough that you could drink them throughout the day. For a biere de garde I would try Lost Abbey's Gift of the Magi. This 10% abv is higher in alcohol than the regular version (Lost Abbey's Avant Garde) but benefits from a striking burst of earthy, sour funk on the back end. For a saison, I would always recommend Saison Du Pont's holiday release Avec Les Bons Voeux for starters. It's a classic. Or you could try Jolly Pumpkin.”

Jade and Roberto, Co-Owners, Hoptech Homebrew in Dublin and Avid Home Brewers

“Wow, lots of questions. Not so good at pairing. Love Anchor Christmas Beer, St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. Ninkasi Sleigher is a fav. Holiday beers have a little something extra in them that makes the difference‑-or is it just because we can only get them at holidays?”

Brian Yaeger, Beer Writer, Portland
“Some favorites include Anchor OSA of course! The Bruery's Autumn Maple is a Thanksgiving classic, as is a small Portland brewery called Coalition that does a maple porter (both a co-owner and the syrup they use are from Vermont). My favorite Portland beer festival is the Holiday Ale Fest (Nov. 28-Dec. 2 this year), which features around 50 distinct beers (all debuting at the fest). It takes place right in Pioneer Square and it's one of the few beer festivals where it's hard to find a bad beer in the bunch. As for pairing, I'm sort of a classicist. My table isn't complete without Anchor OSA with turkey and all the trimmings. Of course, it's my mom's (and now my wife's) chocolate chip pumpkin bread that steels the show. And Midnight Sun's TREAT is the obvious and perfect compliment to it.