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Hosting a Holiday Party with Craft Beer

A Guide to Planning the Perfect Craft Beer Holiday Fête (Issue 21)

Hosting a holiday cocktail party can bring out the best of the season, but for a lot of people it means stress, anxiety, and a whole lot of hassle. To make sure this year is more fun than frazzled, we’re ditching the high-maintenance high balls and old-fashioned cocktails in favor of something far more host-friendly and delicious – local craft beer. To make things even easier, we’ve designed a party for ten to twelve guests, complete with impressive make-ahead dishes, tips for sharing the load, perfect beer pairings, and even a gift idea!

One of the big benefits of hosting a craft beer party instead of a cocktail party is that beer doesn’t need the same kind of hand-holding cocktails do. Cocktails need measuring and mixing on the spot. That job often falls to the host, making it more difficult for them to hang out and enjoy the party with their guests. With beer, once glasses have been set out and beverage tubs have been filled, the host can join the party like everyone else. 

Speaking of everyone else, there is a win-win strategy for having an answer to the question, “What can I bring?” Not only does it take some of the load off the host’s shoulders, it helps partygoers feel more involved, more invested. Since this party revolves around craft beer and, presumably the guest list is made up of beer enthusiasts, the easy answer to that question, then, is beer.


Homemade Salami Skewers are incredibly easy to make and are perfect as part of a delightful holiday spread.


Whether to specify particular brews is up to the host. We’ve paired our menu with styles we think go well with each item, but it could be just as fun to see what shows up the night of the party too.

Pimento Cheese Sausage Biscuit Bites are usually made with shredded cheddar, sausage, and baking mix, but almost any kind of cheese will work. Pimento cheese adds a nice twang and a spot of holiday color to these comfort food nibbles. As with all our recipes, they can be made well in advance, refrigerated or frozen, and then reheated the day of the party.

Imperial IPAs are a good match for the Biscuit Bites. Pyramid Breweries Outburst Imperial IPA, for example, has the right amount of hops to stand up to the zing of the sausage and cheese.

Homemade Salami Skewers are incredibly easy to make, though the salami does require a little advanced planning for curing the meat and cooking it. Given how tasty the salami is, and how easy it is to make, it wouldn’t take much to turn it into a remarkable homemade gift. Simply divide the recipe into four logs instead of two, then add a block of cheese and a couple of bottles of beer to the gift bag. Any meat and beer lover will be thrilled to receive such a custom-made treat.

The Homemade Salami Skewers are delicious with a variety of styles, including pilsners and IPAs. Pike Brewing Company’s Naughty Nellie American Blonde Ale creates a cheese and crackers-like experience when paired with the skewers.

Red Beet Soup Shooters are ruby red in color, perfect for the holiday table and, don’t tell anyone, incredibly healthy too. The mini pierogies give the soup something hearty to bite into and they add flavor with a fragrantly spiced mushroom stuffing. From first glance, the recipes may look intimidating, but since they can both be made in advance and frozen, it helps to make the soup one week and the pierogies another week. Simply thaw them out a few days before the party and reheat the day of.

This dish originated in Eastern Europe, so it makes sense how perfectly it pairs with pilsners. Pfriem Pilsner adds the right touch of crisp to the earthiness of the soup and pierogies.

Finally, Individual Eggnog Pudding and Gingerbread Trifles are fragrant, creamy, and spicy. To take even more pressure off the host, we cheated a little by simply adding nutmeg to boxed instant vanilla pudding to create the eggnog pudding. The gingerbread, though, is the real deal – completely made from scratch while still keeping things simple. The batter for the gingerbread can be made and refrigerated days before baking. Baked gingerbread will stay fresh for at least five days when kept covered.


Pair the fragrant and spicy Eggnog Pudding and Gingerbread Trifle with a barrel-aged imperial stout.


Pair the trifles to the aromatics in the dessert – nutmeg, cloves, molasses. Stouts with notes of chocolate, espresso, or raisins, such as Reuben’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, work well with this dish.

The keys to a stress-free holiday party are to ditch the cocktails in favor of beer and to prep the food in advance. With a make-ahead menu, ingredients can be gathered early on and recipes can be made over the course of weeks leading up to the party. It also helps to bring friends in on the plan by providing them an opportunity to share their favorite local brews. Once the party starts, everyone gets in on the fun, including the host!


Red Beet Soup Shooters with Mini Mushroom Pierogies

This soup adds a beautiful splash of color to the holiday table. The length of the recipe can be a little intimidating, but each part can be made separately to create a soup that becomes a delicious vegetable-type broth with pierogies that add hearty meatiness thanks to the mushrooms. This recipe can also be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth or water in place of the chicken broth.

The perfect pairing for this appetizer is a pilsner. Pfriem Pilsner from Hood River, Oregon added the right balance of crisp and spicy to the earthiness of the soup and pierogies.

 

Ingredients

For the soup:

4 cups mushroom stock, homemade or store bought

2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water

2 cups water

2 cups fresh beets, stems removed, or 2 cans of canned beets, strained

1 large onion, cut into quarters

1 stalk of celery, cut in half

1 large carrot, cut into large chunks

3 bay leaves

3 whole allspice berries or ½ teaspoon ground

1 large swath of cheesecloth for filtering soup at the end

2 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar

Fresh parsley, chopped, to taste

 

Directions:

Bring the mushroom stock, chicken broth, and water to a boil in a large stockpot. Add the vegetables, bay leaves, and allspice and return to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are soft.

Remove from heat and allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes. Carefully strain the soup into a second pot through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Soup should be dark red. At this point, it is ready to serve, or it can be refrigerated or frozen.

To serve the soup, reheat it if necessary, and stir in the lemon juice. Portion into bowls or soup shooters. Top with mini mushroom pierogies and a sprinkling of parsley.

Makes about 12 4-ounce soup shooters.

 

Mini Mushroom Pierogies

Ingredients

For the mushroom mixture:

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for finishing pierogies

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, finely chopped

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoons breadcrumbs

1 teaspoons garlic and herb seasoning blend, such as Mrs. Dash

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

For the pierogies:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg yolk

½ cup water, plus more for sealing and boiling pierogies

 

Directions:

Add the butter, mushrooms, and onion to a skillet and sauté over medium-high heat for about five minutes, until the onions are translucent.

About a minute before the onions are done, add the garlic and stir to incorporate it into the mixture.

Turn heat to low. Add the breadcrumbs, herb seasoning, and salt and pepper. Simmer for about five minutes to give all the ingredients a chance to combine.

Turn off heat and set aside. The mixture may be refrigerated for up to a week, until ready to use.

To make the pierogies, mix the flour and egg yolk until it becomes a paste. Slowly add the water to create a sticky dough. Knead in the bowl until it no longer sticks to your fingers. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

When ready to make the pierogies, cut the dough in half. Place one half on a floured surface and roll it to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out two-inch rounds using a round cookie or pastry cutter.

Spoon a very small amount of the mushroom mixture, about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon, into the center of the rounds. Dip the tip of your finger into a small bowl of water and swipe around the outer edge of the circle. Then, fold the pierogi in half and seal it around the edges with your fingers or with the tines of a fork.  Don’t worry if a little of the mushroom mixture oozes out. The important thing is that the pierogies are sealed.

Place finished dumplings on a floured dishcloth and cover with another cloth until ready to cook. Repeat the above process with the rest of the dough.

Cook the pierogies for about five minutes in a large pot of boiling water, about six cups. They are heated through when they float to the top.

Meanwhile, melt half a cup of butter over medium heat or in the microwave. When the pierogies are ready, scoop them out of the water with a slotted spoon and add them to the butter. Toss until each pierogi is well coated. They are now ready to be served with red beet soup. You may also refrigerate them for several days or freeze them indefinitely. If frozen, be sure to thaw them out. Reheat gently in a skillet with butter before serving them.

Makes approximately 48 pierogies.

Pimento Cheese Sausage Biscuit Bites

These Biscuit Bites are traditionally made with shredded cheddar, but they can be made with almost any kind of cheese. Pimento cheese adds a little twang to the flavor and provides some extra color to these comfort food favorites. Reheat refrigerated bites on a baking sheet in a 300°F oven for about ten minutes, or until warm throughout.

Imperial IPAs and anything else with a little hoppy kick works well with this appetizer. Our pick was Pyramid Breweries Outburst Imperial IPA. It had just the right amount of hops to stand up to the warm yet bold flavors in the sausage and cheese.

 

Ingredients

1 pound sausage

4 cups homemade or store bought pimento cheese

3 cups baking mix, such as Bisquick

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix well, until all the baking mix has been combined into the sausage and cheese and there are few to no crumbs straggling in the bowl.

Form into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12 – 18 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

Makes about 60 pieces.

Skewers of Homemade Salami with Tomatoes and Cheese

The most difficult part of this recipe is the waiting time needed for the meat to cure and cook. It’s easy to mix, though, and while you wait for curing and cooking, you can do other things. Once cooked, it can be kept frozen indefinitely then thawed in the fridge.

The appetizer can be paired with a variety of beer styles, including pilsners, blonde ales, and IPAs. We paired it with Pike Brewing Company’s Naughty Nellie American Blonde Ale for a cheese and crackers-like experience, but it also went well with Pyramid Breweries Outburst Imperial IPA.

 

Ingredients

For the salami:

2 pounds ground beef

2 tablespoons liquid smoke

¾ teaspoons garlic powder

¾ teaspoons black pepper

 

For the skewers:

96 skewers

2 pounds of hard cheese, such as Monterey jack or sharp cheddar

2 12-ounce packages of cherry tomatoes, or more if needed

 

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together until just combined. Careful not to over-mix. This can make the meat tough. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for 24 hours.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 225°F. Divide the mixture in half. Shape each half into a log about two inches thick. Place each log on a broiler pan or roasting pan and bake for about 3 hours. The outer meat will turn dark red and the juices will run clear. The internal temperature should be at least 165°F when tested with a probe thermometer.

Once the meat has cooled, slice and cut it into chunks about 1-inch square. No need to be precise, though. Do the same with the cheese until you have the same number of cheese pieces to salami chunks. Stack one on top of the other, skewer a tomato, and then press the skewer through the meat and cheese to create a kabob.

Makes 2 1-pound rolls of salami and 96 skewers.

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