(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members.)
We all know that Santa prefers beer instead of milk with his cookies, so this month’s post is all about beer…and cookies!
Award-winning chef and Culinary Institute of America graduate Adam Dulye and Certified Cicerone® and Beer Judge Julia Herz explain, “A pairing is a match between beverage and food, with the goal of having the individual parts interact in a synergistic way to create an enhanced and elevated experience. Simply stated, craft beer and food can transform each other” (Dulye and Herz, 50). To transform your traditional holiday desserts, I’ve utilized a few of my favorite beer educators and did some field research of my own to compile a list of holiday cookies that pair well with our Stormcloud beer.
Rainmaker Ale & Snowball Cookies (also know as Russian Tea Cake, not to be confused with Pfeffernüsse, which have a very different flavor.)
As our flagship beer and GABF bronze medal-winning brew, I knew I had to find a cookie that accentuated all of its best qualities. This cookie works so well because the dusting of the powdered sugar draws out the dark fruit flavors from our house yeast as well as some subtle caramel notes from the malt. In turn, the beer really helps to bring out the nuttiness of the Snowball Cookies. Looking for a Snowball Cookie recipe? Check out this link.
228 Tripel & Apricot Thumbprint Cookies
Our abbey-style Tripel is extremely versatile in food pairings, with its complex flavor and wide range of delicious yeast-driven aromas. I love the Apricot Thumbprint Cookies paired with 228 because the dryness of the beer cuts through the sweetness of the apricot jam, providing a pleasant balance. Additionally, the cookie adds backbone to the base malt flavor of the brew, giving it a playful enhancement. Want to make your own Apricot Thumbprint Cookies? Click here for a recipe!
Whiled Away® IPA & Orange Gingerbread Cookies
This was one of my most surprising findings. I was a little skeptical of this pairing at first, but after seeing it come up time after time in my research, I knew I had to try it. The hop flavor works really well to cut through the ginger spice, which in turn mellows out the bitterness. Then, the orange zest of the cookie enhances the bright citrus hop presence in Whiled Away, creating a perfect marriage of flavors. I have to say, this was my favorite beer and cookie pairing! Try it out for yourself, using this recipe.
31 Planes IIPA (Plane 16) & Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting
You can’t go wrong with the classic cut out holiday cookie, especially topped with a smooth, rich buttercream frosting. The dryness of our IIPA combined with the bitterness from the hops helps to balance out the sugary sweetness of the cookie. In finding this balance, the beer expands the cookie’s flavor range, allowing the palate to identify and enjoy the subtleties of the cookie (such as vanilla and butter notes) instead of just being overpowered by sugar. If you’re hoping to make a batch of these holiday staples, this recipe may be just what you need.
Rowed Hard Stout & Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
Stouts go well with just about every dessert imaginable, but combining our Oatmeal Stout with a peanut butter and chocolate cookie takes it to the next level. The chocolate of the cookie brings out an even balance of sweet and cacao elements from the malt, while the creamy mouthfeel of the beer sweeps the peanut butter across the palate in a most alluring way. This beer plays well with both milk and dark chocolate, so don’t be afraid to experiment a bit – this recipe is a good starting point.
Interested in doing some beer and cookie pairing of your own?
A common way to pair food and beer is looking at the following three interactions — compliment (flavors that match each other); contrast (flavors that intensify or suppress each other); and cut (flavors that cleanse the palate). The Brewers Association Beer & Food Course book also explains that you should, “Expand your tasting notes to include places, memories, and sensations” (Dulye and Herz, 50). For more information on food and beer pairings, check out this awesome resource from the Brewers Association.
I’d be interested in hearing what beers you pair with your favorite cookies, so please feel free to share. Grab a crowler or growler to go and start baking!
Bender, Jonathan. Cookies & Beer. Andrew McMeel
Dulye, Adam, and Julia Herz. “Beer & Food Course.”
CraftBeer.com, Brewers Association, Mar. 2017.
Mosher, Randy. “American Craft Beer and Food: Perfect
Companions.” Brewers Association, 2009, p. 7.
Murphy, Nikelle. “7 Delicious Beer and Cookie Pairings
You Have to Try.” The Cheat Sheet, 12 Feb. 2017,
Rhodes, Jesse. “Beer for Dessert.” Smithsonian, 29 June 2011,
Richards, Bryan M. “How to Pair Beer with Desserts That Aren’t
Chocolate.” CraftBeer.com, edited by Jess Baker, Brewers
Association, 9 Feb. 2018.
Specketer, Jenn. “Craft Beer and Christmas Candy Pairing.” Bites,
Barrels and Brews, 14 Dec. 2015, http://www.bitesbarrelsandbrews.
Stanz, Carissa. “This Holiday, Skip the Milk and Pair Your Favorite
Christmas Cookie with Beer.” Wide Open Eats, edited by Sarah
Ramsey and Lyndsay Burginger, 12 Dec. 2017, http://www.wideopen