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/CraftBeer.com.
Marcos Villagran, Chef, Pyramid Brewing
Here are my favorite pairings for this wet winter:
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.
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
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.