The Best Beers for Festive Sipping

The crisp fall air inspires nostalgia for Yuletide and the giving of thanks. Everyone has strong memories of the holiday time. Whether those memories include crippling anxiety over familial disappointment … or of warm pumpkin pie … there’s a beer out there for you.

While on a Sunday Genus Live Stream in early October I asked our audience what memories they have from the holiday season so that we could pair up a beer just for them. The following all came from follower suggestions, so before diving in to the natural food pairings, let’s get the weird one out of the way.

The Top 5 Beers to Pair with the Holidays & Holiday Vibes

Holiday Anxiety Pairings

Let’s face it, being around family that you see only a handful of times per year can come with some social pressures. What if there’s a family secret you don’t know? Do you go in for hugs or handshakes? Are you sure you know everyone’s name? We’ve come up with two beer pairings to help ease this holiday anxiety. 

First, pregame with a Hazy IPA. Hazy IPAs are PACKED with flavor but come with natural relaxants from the hop terpenes. It could stand to reason that they are the ultimate holiday pregame.

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Next, grab Eisbock. I’ll be honest. This is just one of the higher alcohol beers that goes down quick. Drink responsibly, kids.

Holiday Food and Beer Pairings

Now that that’s out of the way – let’s get to all our favorite holiday foods and see what pairs best:

Prime Rib

If there’s prime rib at your holiday gatherings, either it’s been a family tradition for years or a new Uncle is trying to impress someone. A versatile fatty meat, prime rib is often paired with horseradish and salty/savory au jus.

The perfect Beer pairing has to be assertive with a neutral body and forward bitterness. A Rye IPA offers a natural spicy tone and aggressive hopping with pine and peppercorn notes that both cuts through the fattiness and savory au jus, as well as compliments the horseradish. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find one with extra added spice too!


The classic holliday bird that’s always a crap-shoot depending on who’s cooking. Whether deep-fried, smoked or oven-roasted with rigorous basting, the holiday turkey is always a relatively bland bird rangin from kind-of-almost moist to an adequate sponge-substitute…

Either way you cook it, the best beer pairing for turkey is mid-range in color with a natural malt sweetness to keep you salivating, and bold flavors… because something has to carry the meal. 

Popular options we came up with were Brown Ales, Rogenbier (dark rye ale), and Ambers, although the idea of a smoked amber was particularly popular! For a lighter rendition a Marzen/Oktoberfest was nominated, and on the more aggressive side a hoppy-red ale would also fit.

Bean Casserole

The only reason any of us know what cream of mushroom soup is this gelatinous goop with a flock of crunchy onion frizzle perched atop. I don’t know if any can accurately say they like this dish, but regardless it always ends up on the plate, so here are the best beer pairings.

  • Steinbier – This naturally smoky beer has a unique campfire sharpness to it that differentiates it from sweeter smokey counterparts. The relatively light body with sharp smoke strangely compliments our gloppy mound of room-temperature gravy with canned green vegetables intermixed… unlike us when Aunt June packs home the half empty dish.
  • West Coast IPA – Slightly more common than the Steinbier, a West Coast IPA will fill a similar role. Generally light in body with a sharp punch from the hops and anywhere from “not very” to “very” pungent, this beer can help wash down all the best parts of that food amalgam.

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Quick and Dirty Holiday Food and Beer Pairings

Of course, there are plenty more holiday food dishes than just the ones listed above. Here are more suggestions from our followers, along with our recommendations for the best beer pairings:

  • Italian 7 Fish Dinner: Pilsner, Kolsch, English Hard Cider
  • Duck Roast with Red Cabbage: Hard Cider, English, Dry Mead
  • Ham: Honey blonde, Helles, Cream Ale, Rice Lager
  • Cranberries: Spruce Beer, Quad, Dunkel, Honigbier
  • Mashed Potatoes: Nutty Brown 
  • Saison: Brown Saison
  • Pumpkin Pie: Pumpkin pie-friendly drinks like like Sweet Potatoe Pale Ale, Coffee Stout, Coffee Schwarzbier, English Porter
  • Desserts: Hazy IPA with Lemon Meringue Pie AND Mango-Glaze Kebabs
  • Fruit Cake: Kettle Fruited Sour or Framboise, Heffe

Winter Warmers: Strong Solo Holiday Beers

Looking for more holiday beer options? If one of the ones above doesn’t work for you, the following four will be sure to satisfy!

  • Imperial Spiced Amber
  • Spicy Strong Ale
  • JW Lee’s Harvest Ale
  • An Above-Average Bock

Peter McArthur

An industry professional of twelve years, Peter McArthur owns Genus Brewing, a brewery and brewing supply store in the Spokane Valley. Talking with home and professional brewers daily puts him in a unique position to translate and transmit the happenings in the beer world, a reason why Genus Brewing started a YouTube channel about four years ago, which now holds weekly livestreams and produces videos teaching about beer and the beer-making process.

read all of peter’s articles here.

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