Sacramento Beer Pairings: Holiday Edition

Article & Photography by Mary McCune

The holidays are upon us, and with that, the constant flow of office potlucks, holiday parties, family gatherings, and alcohol-fueled caroling. All of these events are bound to have decadent desserts or holiday treats that can really be enhanced if paired with the right beer.  To help you out in your upcoming jingle balls and bashes, use this guide to help you navigate through (arguably) the best course of a meal with locally crafted beers.

Style: IPA
Beer: Bike Dog Brewing Co., San Dog IPA
Notes: 7.4% ABV
Refreshing and crisp with a bitter finish.  Hints of herbal notes.
Pairing: Spice cake - Try this dessert a la mode and try even harder not to grab seconds (of the beer or the cake)!  The holiday spices in the cake really play up the pine-y flavors in the IPA.


Style: Rye Ale
Beer: Track 7 Brewing Co., Riot Act Rye IPA
Notes: 7.0% ABV
Earthy, citrus, with a hint of spice, rustic rye malt.
Pairing: Lemon pot de crème - This beer is quite a mouthful.  A perfect pairing would be any dessert with a bold citrus flavor, such as seasonal Meyer lemons.  Tart fruits will give this aggressively hoppy beer a run for its money.


Style: Dubbel
Beer: Jack Rabbit Brewing, Order of the Rabbit Dubbel
Notes: 7.5% ABV
Dark fruit aromas such as raisins, prunes, bitter with a sweet finish.
Pairing: Gingerbread cookies - This beer’s smoky yet smooth flavor profile is a perfect match for these dark and rich cookies. 


Style: Porter
Beer: Knee Deep Brewing Co., Tanilla Porter
Notes: 6.3% ABV
Smooth vanilla finish to a rich chocolate body.
Pairing: S’mores bites - The strong notes of vanilla enhance the creaminess of the marshmallows, making this one of my favorite pairings.


Style: Stout
Beer: New Helvetia Brewing Company, Homeland Stout
Notes: 5.5% ABV
Hints of dark roast coffee and cream
Pairing: Peanut butter chocolate cookies
The creaminess of the peanut butter accentuates the smooth mouth feel of this velvety stout.


Didn’t see your favorite beer? Here are some tips and tricks to find your perfect match:

1 - Find complimentary flavors:  For a guaranteed sweet symphony of flavors, try pairing beers with desserts that share similar ingredients. Examples: dark beers rich in chocolate flavors with an affogato. 

2 - Find “Power Couples”: Pair flavors that contrast and balance each other out. Some examples include strong/creamy, hoppy/spicy, malty/tart.

3 - Bake with your beer:  Incorporating beers into your baked goods is a surefire way of creating a perfect pairing.  Darker beers are especially easy to incorporate into cakes and chocolate-based desserts while lighter beers work great in pie crusts and breads. 

For more musings by Mary McCune, visit her at or follow her on Instagram at @bonjourmissmary.