Did you know? Santa prefers beer and cookies

Milk and cookies may be the classic Christmas Eve pairing, but Santa would probably prefer a beer. Saint Nicholas is one of the patron saints of beer, after all.

Many of us with small children leave out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve on the theory that Santa Claus might be hungry and thirsty — at every single stop. I suppose it explains his rotund physique. Milk and cookies at every house in the world would do that to anyone.

The truth, of course — psst, make sure your offspring aren’t reading over your shoulder — is that over the years all of us have had to chug a glass of milk and eat some cookies right before bedtime. Wouldn’t you rather have a glass of beer as that nightcap? If you’re thinking “not with cookies,” think again. Cookies and beer pair quite well together — you just have to pick the right combination.

Of course, the first thing you have to do is convince your wee ones that Santa would definitely prefer a glass of beer with his cookies.

The perfect argument? St. Nicholas is one of several patron saints of brewers. He’s also the patron saint of coopers and barrel-makers, once-important professions in the brewing industry and, thanks to the recent rise of barrel-aged beers, notable again.

The next step is choosing the brew. Here’s a handy guide to the art of holiday cookie and beer pairing.

Sugar cookies and snickerdoodles

Most of us enjoy classic cut-out cookies during the holidays, especially when those cookies are decorated with icing and sprinkles. A blonde ale or any very malt-focused ale can add a buttery sweetness to the pairing. Belgian golden ales, like Duvel or Omer, are also terrific, and add Belgian yeasty notes.

The butteriness of shortbread cookies will be magnified by a malty brown ale or a scotch ale, which usually has nice caramel notes. And a snickerdoodle’s cinnamon-sugar coating will be enhanced with something maltier, too. Just stay away from hoppy beers.

Gingerbread and gingersnaps

Ginger is a powerful flavor — and wonderful in holiday treats. Some breweries make ginger beers, but I think ginger beer and gingersnaps tend to cancel each other out. Unless ginger is your most-loved flavor, a contrasting pairing is in order. I’ve found that a spicy holiday beer, like Anchor Christmas Ale, works really well with ginger. Strong ales, like a sweet barley wine or an old ale, marry nicely too and stand up to the strong ginger flavors.

Many people enjoy a spicy IPA with their ginger cookies. And stronger dark beers, like imperial stouts, often add delicious chocolate notes to the pairing. Prefer a milder beer? A good brown ale can work, too, especially if you choose one that’s more malt forward.

Chocolate chip cookies

The obvious pairing for chocolate chips is a stout, but there are less obvious, more adventurous things you can try, too. Märzens or Oktoberfest beers work well with chocolate because of the brews’ maltiness, as do German-style hefeweizens or Belgian dubbels. And a quadruple or imperial stout, especially one that’s barrel-aged, would also pair nicely.

Other treats

Peanut butter cookies pair well with a fruit lambic or any fruited sour; the combination is reminiscent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I think the framboise lambic, which is made with raspberries, is the best, but a kriek, or cherry, is a close second. If you’re not interested in adding fruit to the mix, then try a witbier or white ale, whose light spices of coriander and orange peel add some zest to the pairing.

A peanut butter blossom — which my mom made by pressing a Hershey’s Kiss in the center of her peanut butter cookies — is more challenging, because the right pairing depends on whether you’re trying to emphasize the peanut butter or the chocolate. If it’s the peanut butter, see above. But to bring out the chocolate notes, head for the dark beers, porters and stouts, which often contain chocolate notes of their own.

Oatmeal raisin cookies work well with an oatmeal stout. You could even dip your cookie in the dark stout, the same way you would milk, which both softens and adds flavor to the experience. The mocha flavors of a coffee stout will bring out the cookie’s raisins and oats.

Strong, sweet beers like quads, barley wines and old ales are perfect sipping beers on a cold winter’s night. Santa would approve.

Contact Jay R. Brooks at BrooksOnBeer@gmail.com.

comments powered by Disqus