Wine vs. Beer: Holiday Pairings

Want to instantly improve your holiday meal? Pair it with the right drink! I am SO excited to have two of my favorite beverage makers sharing their tasting and pairing tips with us today.

Brian Brown, winemaker at Napa Valley’s Round Pond Estate and owner of Emerson Brown winery, and Bill Kregel, homebrewer and “haute” husband, will offer up their favorite holiday drink selections. So before you head out to stock your bar this week, check out their tips:

Microbrew beersred and white wine

Give us your one-minute bio
I knew when I was 17 that I wanted to be a winemaker. My parents’ appreciation of the dining table and all the aspects that go along with it – good food, family, and friends – rubbed off on me and I became interested in wine. I have a degree from UC Davis in Viticulture and Enology and have worked in Sonoma, Australia and Napa.

Bill: I’ve been an avid homebrewer for the past two years. I brew “all-grain”, meaning I don’t use kits or extracts, and I grow a lot of my own hops. I’ve sought out great microbrews for a long time and am constantly encouraging family and friends to expand their beer horizons.

What do you recommend to someone looking to develop their wine/beer palette?
Brian: Get some friends together and open up 3-4 bottles of the same variety of wine. Taste the wines side by side and see how they differ. Don’t worry about what words to use… everyone tends to get caught up on the vocabulary. Just notice how the wines differ and the descriptors will come with experience.

Bill: If you’re used to light lagers like Miller or Bud, start by trying an American or English pale ale, an American brown ale or a citrusy wheat beer. These are easy drinkers with lots of flavor. Also, get adventurous with the brands you buy – there are so many great breweries out there!

What’s the best way to taste wine/beer and what flavors are you looking for?
Brian: Focus on the best way to ENJOY wine as opposed to trying taste it. Wine should be about enjoyment not work. I think the best way to enjoy wine is with food so I look for flavors that compliment whatever I am eating at the time.

Bill: Serve beer cool but not “ice” cold so that it doesn’t kill the flavors. Flavors come from the malt (sweetness), hops (bitterness) and sometimes yeast (in Belgian beers mostly). They can be expressed in countless ways so read the label on the bottle to see what you should look for in each beer and try to pick it out.

What wines/beers pair well with typical holiday foods like turkey, potatoes or pumpkin pie?
Brian: I always try to start the night out with bubbles, especially for the holidays!!! A good rule of thumb for rich, buttery foods is to balance them with a wine with plenty of acid – oaky, buttery Chardonnay doesn’t work. Riesling pairs fairly nicely with turkey and Pinot is a good choice for red. With pie? Pumpkin, I would do a Tokay and pecan, a Tawny Port.

Bill: I’d go with a robust Porter or American brown, like Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar, to stand up to the turkey and all the fixings. For champagne lovers, I’d go with Dogfish Head’s Red and White or Black and Blue.  Both are spritzy Belgians and the Red and White is actually aged in wine barrels!

Emerson Brown Sauvignon Blanc wine

Brian’s Top 5 Wine Steals
1. Argentina makes some really good value wines, like Malbec or Torrontes.
2. Kendall Jackson does a great job with a value Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast
3. Just about any Gruner Veltliner… its cheap and delicious…
4. Paso Robles has some good deals – hearty red blends for less than Napa or Sonoma
5. There’s always Two Buck Chuck!

Brian’s Top 5 Wine Splurges
1. Anything from the top producers out of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
2. Traditional Spanish Rioja and the newer Spanish wines from Toro
3. A highly rated South Australian Shiraz
4. Pinot from Martinborough, New Zealand
5. Any good sparkling Rose… Billecarte-Salmon is a good go to.

Sites to check: Vinfolio, Wine Spectator

Microbrew beer taps

Bill’s Top Beer Picks
1. Boulder Beer Company Hazed and Infused
2. Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
3. New Glarus Cracked Wheat & Unplugged Series
4. Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar, Rogue Morimoto Imperial Pilsner
5. Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale
6. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
7. Stone Brewing Ruination IPA
8. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

Sites to check: Beer Advocate, Rate Beer

What’s your favorite holiday drink?  Share with us!

Happy Thanksgiving!  And don’t forget to designate a driver when you’re trying all these tasty drinks!



Filed under Drinks, Holidays, Interviews

10 responses to “Wine vs. Beer: Holiday Pairings

  1. Jane

    Glad I bought a pinot noir for dinner Thursday night…now I will have to search out Bill’s beer recommendations – thanks for the help!

  2. NMico

    Great blog! Try Lakefront Brewery’s Holiday Spice Lager for a seasonal holiday treat! This year’s batch turned out especially good.

  3. Nancy

    Loved this post. Got any ideas f0r fun drinks for a fancy holiday party? Maybe a kind that can go in a punch bowl?

    • Katie

      I love a good champagne punch for the holidays! Maybe try pomegranate juice, champagne and cranberry or pear juice. Or mix with citrus vodka and raspberries? And try freezing pomegranate seeds or berries to make pretty “ice cubes”.

      I’ve also been really big on Hendricks gin lately. It has a hint of cucumber and makes a delish G&T with a lime, cucumber slice, mint and splash of ginger ale. Let us know what you end up making!

  4. Alison

    I better head out to the liquor store! Thanks for the suggested pairings.

  5. Diane

    I was thinking a riesling would be good with dinner and my fav is pinot so I guess I’m on the mark. Thanks for the confirmation…we can serve our choices with confidence!

  6. Nicole Olson

    We’re hosting our 4th annual Beer Tasting Party next weekend, I’ll let you know what took “Top Honors” !

  7. Thanks for the pairing recommendation, Bill! I’m so glad you enjoy our Hazed & Infused! Happy Holidays to all!

    Tess McFadden – Boulder Beer Company

    • poseidonflies09

      I love “Hazed & Infused”, it’s a great beer lots of aroma, and the bitterness is well balanced. For all the hop heads, there is the Boulder Beer Co. “Mojo.” It’s a tough call to pick between the two!


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