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Holiday Dessert and Craft Beer Pairings

The winter holidays are a time when the baking of sweets can warm up a home and later bring smiles when offered as gifts. This year, why not take gift giving up a notch by pairing baked confections with deliciously matched craft beers?

Since some of the best beers for drinking with desserts are also the same styles that are most popular among aficionados during the winter months, a well-chosen beer and home-made dessert combo can really hit a sweet spot with family, friends or co-workers.

A project that lends itself to more than one participant, cooks can bring their favorite craft expert in on the plan to get creative in picking out brews to pair with the treats. Or, craft beer experts can pair up with their favorite cook. Let the recipes begin…

Tiger Butter, a peanut butter and chocolate marbled fudge, is easy to make and impressive to give. It has only three ingredients and whips up in the microwave quickly. Once hardened and cut into pieces, add it to jars with handmade labels or wrap it in a candy box or tin. (It may be helpful to layer in some parchment paper or store the sometimes sticky Tiger Butter in the refrigerator, package and all, until ready to give.) 

Tiger Butter pairs well with chocolate stouts. Southern Tier brand’s Mokah, for example, is undeniably chocolaty and a pairing that will thrill any fan of peanut butter cups. For those seeking more complex flavors, Rogue Chocolate Stout has an extensive grain bill including chocolate malt as well as actual chocolate. If coffee and chocolate malt sound like a good combination, Alesmith Brewing Company’s Speedway Stout is an excellent option.

Caramel Corn made with brown ale is another way to spread holiday cheer to fans of craft. Like Tiger Butter, it’s easy to make, feeds a crowd, and can be presented in a variety of packages, such as small burlap bags, painted pails or even a large plastic bag tied with ribbons. It makes about two gallons, so even if a few handfuls of this addictive mix go missing, there will still be plenty to go around.

This recipe is a hit with porters, particularly Maui Brewing Company’s CoCoNut Porter. The chocolate and malty flavors of the brew blend with the nutty, vanilla and chocolate notes of the brown ale in the recipe. Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery and Anchor Porter from Anchor Brewing Company are two more that can enhance the sweet satisfaction. 

Gingerbread cookies are classic holiday treats. They’re fun to make and fill the home with a delicious aroma. This cookie needs planning, but the payoff is about three dozen cookies that can be divided up and added to baskets, wrapped in boxes or shared in gift bags. Allow time for the cookies to cool and the icing to set before packing them up.

Malty doppelbocks from German brands, such as Ayinger Celebrator, Weihenstephaner Korbinian or Schneider Weisse Aventinus Tap 6 are the perfect accompaniment to these cookies. The cookies and beer pair up with hints of figs, plums, licorice, and molasses to create familiar flavors of winter. 

The key to this kind of gift giving is to start early. When choosing a beer, flavor comes first, but unique labels and cork-and-cage tops can make an even more impressive presentation. For a real treat, put together a combination basket with a little bit of everything. Finally, don’t forget to give yourself and any fellow gift-givers a taste test for all the pairings mentioned, you know, for Quality Assurance! 

popcorn.jpgBeer Caramel Corn
Recipe by Jeff and Heather Shively from He Cooks She Cooks blog



½ cup unpopped popcorn

½ cup coconut or peanut or canola oil

1 to 2 cups chopped pecans

½ cups pretzels

12 ounce bottle pecan beer, brown ale or porter

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 heavy pinch salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon baking soda



Preheat oven to 250°F.

In a large pot, heat oil over high heat. Add the unpopped popcorn. Cover. Moving the pan constantly and slightly venting the lid, pop the corn. 

Remove from heat, discard unpopped kernels and place in a large baking pan. Add the pecans and pretzels and keep warm in the preheated oven. 

Add beer and butter to a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Let reduce by one fourth.

Add sugar and let boil for about 10 minutes, until it is like thick syrup (a small bit of the caramel dropped in cold water will form a ball). Slowly add the cream and stir to incorporate. Cook for about 5 minutes until caramel is thick. 

Remove from heat and add the salt, vanilla and baking soda. The caramel will foam up. Remove pan of popcorn from the oven and pour caramel over. Mix till everything is well coated. Return to oven and let bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. 

To check for doneness, take a few kernels out of the pan and allow to cool. If the caramel is not sticky after a few minutes it is done.

Remove pan from oven and spread caramel corn mixture out on parchment paper to cool. If you do not eat it all immediately, store in an airtight container.

Gingerbread Cookiesgingerbread.jpg
Recipe by King Arthur Flour 



3/4 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup molasses

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon allspice or cloves

1 large egg

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

3 ½ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour



In a saucepan set over low heat, or in the microwave, melt butter, then stir in the brown sugar, molasses, salt, and spices.

Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl, let it cool to lukewarm, and beat in the egg. Whisk the baking powder and soda into the flour, then stir these dry ingredients into the molasses mixture. Divide the dough in half and wrap well. 

Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Once the dough has chilled, take one piece and flour a clean work surface and the dough. Roll it out as thin or thick as you like; for slightly less crisp cookies, roll it out more thickly.

Use flour under and on top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the table or rolling pin. Or, to keep the dough from sticking, place the dough on parchment and put a sheet of plastic wrap over it as you roll. Pull the plastic to eliminate wrinkles as necessary when rolling.

Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. Transfer the cookies to ungreased cookie sheets (or, if you've rolled right onto the parchment, remove the dough scraps between the cookies). Bake the cookies just until they're slightly brown around the edges 8 to 12 minutes, or until they feel firm. Let cool for several minutes, or until they're set. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Decorate the cookies with Royal Icing or Simple Cookie Glaze and food safe markers.

Tiger Buttertigerbutter.jpg
Recipe by Sherry Dryja



1 pound white chocolate chips

1 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky

1 package (12 ounces) milk or dark chocolate chips



Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment, leaving some of the paper to hang over each side. 

Place the white chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 30 seconds. Stir and heat again for 30 seconds. Repeat until all the chips are melted.

Stir the peanut butter into the melted white chocolate until it is completely mixed. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula.

Melt the milk or dark chocolate chips in the microwave in the same way as the white chocolate chips. Once melted, drizzle the chocolate over the white chocolate/peanut butter. Streak the chocolate through with a knife to create a marble effect.

Allow the fudge to cool and harden before breaking or cutting it into bite-sized chunks.  


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