It's the time of year for all sorts of celebrations. There are holidays, the arrival of the winter season, and a new year. There is football, and other excuses to get together and enjoy party snacks, friends, and fun.
For many years, I only enjoyed wine when attending a party. Wine is a glorious liquid that can be enjoyed in any scenario. In recent years, however, I have come to appreciate beer. I am, admittedly, a beginner when it comes to the brew. I am willing to try new things, though, and specialty beers are one of those things.
Tap into something different
Picture this – you are hosting a casual affair. You have a spread of party snacks on the table. You've planned a variety of tastes and textures. Why not offer a variety of specialty beer to go along. Think of those samplers you can get in a restaurant. Much like a wine tasting or eating tapas, beer sampling is a great way to try something new.
Specialty beer is any beer that has been enhanced with flavor. Those flavors could come from fruit, herbs and spices, even from being smoked. And no, we don't mean you light your beer on fire. It's these added touches that create either bold, or subtle flavors. Each specialty beer is like a surprise in a bottle.
(If you'd like to know more about the different styles of specialty beers or see some examples, see here.)
It is also quite possible that beer actually pairs better with food. The range of ingredients in beer opens up a whole new world. Think of just grapes in wine versus hops, yeast, barley, malt, and other specialty additions in beer that can all be tweaked.
Creating the perfect combination
As with wine pairing, you could select party snacks that you think would compliment each type of beer. You could put out spicy party snacks with a spicy beer, or go the opposites- attract route and serve spicy food with fruit beers. You could also feel free to put out a variety of foods, from mild to flavorful and see what happens. Think casual, think easy, think nothing too heavy. Beer, while delicious, can really fill you up. Who wants to bloat at a party?
Break from the tradition of potato chips and beer. Try serving up some of these delectable bites with your beer:
- beef jerky or other dried or smoked meats
- wasabi peas – for a kick
- edamame – mild and slightly sweet
- empanadas – spicy and warm
A little help for the novice
If you're used to serving wine, here's a guide to help you understand the range of various beer from epicurious.com
Light Body Beers: Lager, Pilsner, Wheat
Light Body Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir
Medium Body Beers: Ale, IPA, Bock
Medium Body Wines: Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah
Heavy Body Beers: Stout, Porter, Barleywine
Heavy Body Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Oaky Chardonnay
The holiday mug
If you’re planning to have a holiday party, go madrigal and serve some Wassail. It’s a style of spiced beer that’s brewed for this time of year. Also known as “yule ale” it’s essentially like other fruit beers, but is unique to the holiday season. The name itself is from the Old English waes hael,meaning be whole, or of good health. A wonderful sentiment.
So enjoy your party snacks, dips, wings, and rolls with a frosty mug of brew, and enjoy good health this season.