How to Match Beer to your Christmas Menu

There's nothing like a cold beer on a beautiful summer's day. Follow these expert tips for beer appreciation and to help you pair the golden ale to your menu during the festive season.

Meet Kirrily Waldhorn – otherwise known as the Beer Diva. Kirrilly’s mission is to make beer the new wine in Australia and bring it onto our dining tables.

“Not many people understand how well beer goes with food,” says the bubbly Sydneysider, who has introduced many foodies to the benefits of pouring a fine pilsener, instead of a fine pinot. “My aim is to open people’s minds about beer and help them experience the joy of amazing culinary beer matches!”

Kirrily is also determined to break down the stereotypes surrounding beer – like the claims that it’s ‘blokey’, ‘fattening’ and ‘contains lots of additives and chemicals.’ None of which, she says, are true. "There are actually less kilojoules in a glass of beer than a glass of wine." 

Her journey into beer began after living in England for eight years, when she learnt that beer wasn’t just about lager. Upon her return to Australia, she was fortunate enough to score a job at Lion Nathan and worked under the tutelage of the chief brewer, who opened her eyes to a whole new world of beer and beer appreciation. Along with running her company, Beer Diva, and busting beer myths, she is also a beer judge and the Gourmet Editor of Beer & Brewer magazine.

LifeStyle FOOD caught up with Kirrilly to get her top tips for appreciating beer and how to best match beer with food during the Christmas season.


Why do you love beer?

I love beer for its refreshing quality. It really is the perfect drink to have in a warm climate. I also love beer for its diversity and the convenience of its serving size during a meal.

Top tips for drinking beer?

- Always drink beer from a glass.You lose so much flavour if you drink from the bottle as aroma is such an important part of the taste
- Be creative with the glasses you serve the beer in – think about presentation
- Drink beer at the right temperature. Lager: 4 to 6 degrees and Ales: about 8 to 12 degrees

What are the basic principles of beer matching?

It’s all about finding a flavour hook with the food. The 3 key principles are to Complement, Cleanse and Contrast.

Take us through the best beers to go with a Christmas menu

Starters/Canapes – It depends exactly what you’re serving, but I recommend starting with a really refreshing palate cleanser. I love the fruity Lambic beers from Belgium, both the cherry (Kriek) or the raspberry (Framboise) are amazing, they are just so refreshing. Or I'd go for a Keller bier – which are again very refreshing but not too complex. And be sure to serve in a champagne flute!

Oysters Stout and oysters are a classic combination, because you are picking up the creaminess of both. Oysters are also a great contrast to a spritzy Kolsch.
TRY: 4 Pines Kolsch, Colonial Brewing Company Kolsch, Bright Staircase Porter, Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout

Seafood – The really aromatic wheat beers, like the German Hefeweizen and the Belgian Witbier, are both a great choice with seafood as they are quite delicate in their flavour. Or try a really nice crisp pilsener. The Macs Pilsener uses what are becoming known as "new world hops" and they really turn up the refereshment value and have lovely citrus characteristics.
TRY: Burleigh Hef, Wicked Elf Witbier, Feral White or Macs Hoprocker Pilsner

Ham – Again, I would recommend a pilsener or Bavarian lager, which has more of a malty background that cuts through the saltiness – it’s a classic contrast. I also really like the rauchbier, which are smoked beers, polarising but immensely interesting! An ale using the Australian Galaxy hops is also fantastic with a glazed ham, full of passionfruit characteristics.
TRY: Knappstein Reserve Lager, Holgate Pilsner, Redoak Rauchbier, Stone & Wood Pacific Ale

Pork - You could choose a malty amber ale to complement the sweet caramelisation in the pork, or go for a really nice French-style apple cider – given the classic combination of apple and pork. Another style I recommend is a Belgian-style Saison, it’s a rustic farmhouse ale and will complement the barnyardy, earthy flavour of pork.
TRY: James Squire Amber Ale, Holgate ESB, Bridge Road Chevalier Saison, Small Acres Cyder Norfolk Still (English Style Cider)

Turkey - The Cherry Lambic beers would again go beautifully with turkey – in the same way we use cranberry sauce to complement turkey. You could also select a nice saison or Oktoberfest-style malty lager.
TRY: Lindemans Kriek, Matilda Bay Dogbolter, Temple Saison, Gage Roads Pure Malt Lager

Chocolate - A stout or porter is the perfect match – with their delightful, dark roasted malt characteristics.
TRY: Hargreaves Hill Porter, James Squire Porter, Coopers Best Extra Stout, Grande Ridge Hatlifter Stout

Christmas Pudding -There are some amazing Christmas beers available. I would go for a brew with spice, they can really be like a Christmas pudding in a glass. There is also an amazing blueberry and elderflower Chavellier Saison from the Bridge Rd Brewery in Melbourne which I am sure will be perfect for Christmas (it's a limited release so get your hand on some quickly.. due out just before Christmas day), or you could also pair to a really rich Dubbel, with its higher alcohol content and dark fruit characteristics. Delicious!
TRY: Redoak Christmas Cheer, Red Hill Christmas Ale, Mad Abbot Dubbel

And what type of beer should we leave out for Santa? 
I would treat Santa to an Elderflower Saison or a Belgian Triple – they’re both nice winter warmers and will put an extra glow in his cheeks!

Do you still drink wine?

Of course! I'm not saying we should get rid of wine. There is plenty of room for both. But I would love to see more restaurants adopt a similar approach to beer as they do wine and offer a diverse range of styles and flavours to complement their food, on their drinks menu.

What's your favourite saying?

It's not mine, but borrowed from Benjamin Franklin ... "beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy"!

Want to learn more about matching beer with food? Kirrily is a presenter at the 2011 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. For more details about the 'Perfect Match' event and to book tickets, go to -

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