By Jennifer Hofstetter
The holiday season has arrived. The next several weeks will be filled with yams, hams, casseroles, and cranberries, not to mention a full calendar of dinners, parties, gatherings, shindigs, and a few stolen moments of peace and quiet if you’re lucky. As you prepare for these events, be sure not to neglect your beverages. Whether you’re visiting family or playing host, a great bottle of wine or beer can set the mood or liven up an otherwise standard dish.
“Something to jumpstart your taste buds could be a spiced stout or a spiced Belgian style,” says Hunter Kent, co-owner of My Friend’s Growler Shop, 415 Memorial Drive in Grant Park. Due to their heavy nature and complex flavor profiles, these types of beers are great for cocktail parties or with appetizers, and because of the various spices used (think chai, cinnamon, nutmeg), they really help establish a holiday atmosphere. Kent suggests Red Brick Brewing’s “Divine Bovine” and Three Taverns Brewery’s “Feest Noel” this season.
“If you know me well, you know I’m going to walk into any door with a bottle of sparking wine,” says Sarah Pierre, the owner of 3 Parks Wine at 451 Bill Kennedy Way in Glenwood Park, with a laugh. She suggests selections from Maysara or Graham Beck wineries as great go-tos if you want to avoid the grocery store trap but don’t want to break the bank.
Shifting gears to the main event, Thanksgiving can often lean heavily on white wine because turkey is notoriously difficult pair with a red. The wrong red wine can completely overpower the holiday mainstay, but Pierre says a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley is a great option. Because the Cabernet Franc has reduced tannins and a higher acidity, it can pair with almost any holiday dish. A fan favorite among Cabernet Franc wines is Domaine LaRoque, but she also recommends “Trinch!,” calling it “varietally correct [and] just perfect.”
Not a fan of wine at all? A kolsch or pale ale can be a “crisp and refreshing” option, says Kent, but the more adventurous type might try a darker dunkel, like Mother Earth Brewing’s “Dark Cloud.” The beer he’s most excited about this season though? “Wild Heaven’s Ode to Mercy Winter. It’s an Imperial brown aged in coffee and bourbon barrels. Just one of my all time favorite beers…One of the smoothest, most well-balanced, most flavorful beers I’ve ever had.”
But the best beer or wine pairing advice you could ever follow is to “drink what you like,” says Pierre. “Don’t get too caught up in what pairs well with what, because if you really like it, it’s going to pair well with what you’re eating.”
So be adventurous if the mood strikes, but if what you’re really craving is an old standby like Merlot or Chardonnay, don’t over think it.
Holiday Pairings from Local Experts
By Jennifer Hofstetter