DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Ask an Expert > Beverage pairings for holiday meals
By Mary Hansen /
December 10, 2021 /
Posted in: ASK AN EXPERT /
“This may be our first holiday gathering since 2019, giving us an
opportunity to refresh holiday gatherings in a new way,” says Lisa Young,
an associate professor and the director of undergraduate programs for the
School of Hospitality Leadership. “Why not try some regional wines from
Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin to support local farmers?”
Young teaches International Wine Management and Education and has more than
two decades of experience in the hospitality industry. She says wine
industry professionals believe the world-class wines emerging from Michigan
will gain that region the notoriety Willamette, Oregon, has received over
the past two decades.
For those who prefer a celebratory beer, Joseph LeRoy says Chicago’s craft
breweries offer an abundance of options. He teaches the Business of Craft
Beer in the School of Hospitality Leadership.
“Chicago has always had a thriving tavern culture, so it’s no surprise
craft beer has found a natural home here,” says LeRoy, who is a Cicerone
Certified Beer Server and has a certificate in brewing technology from the
World Brewing Academy. “From traditional lagers to big bold IPAs to the
next experimental craze, you can find something exciting produced right
here in Chicago.”
Whether enjoying a Christmas ham, snacks at a holiday party or takeout from
a favorite Chinese place, Young and LeRoy agree a local beer or wine will
pair well. A great pairing can make the meal better by highlighting the
ingredients and enhancing the flavors.
Appetizers and salads
For appetizers or cream sauce entrees, Young encourages trying a sparkling
wine from nearby wineries including Illinois Sparkling Co. in Itasca, Mawby
Vineyards in Suttons Bay, Michigan, and Mari Vineyards in Traverse City,
“Sharing theses unique wines with family and friends can spark new
conversations about our up-and-coming wine region during the holiday
season,” Young says.
LeRoy says a crisp Pilsner for beer drinkers will complement a first
course. But for something more exciting, he suggests trying Off-Color
Brewing’s Apex Predator Farmhouse Ale.
“By removing the temperature control during the fermentation process,
Hermosa-based Off Color Brewing has designed this beer to let the yeast
take the driver’s seat, producing a hazy, golden beer with fruity aromas
and a dry finish,” LeRoy says.
Main courses and desserts
If a Christmas ham or barbeque beef are on the menu, LeRoy suggests
Avondale’s Metropolitan Brewing’s Generator Doppelbock, a malty lager he
calls “approachable yet deep.”
“These wholesome and complex flavors need an equally decadent beer,” LeRoy
says. “Be aware, like the roast ham, this beer is no light-weight,
coming in at 8% alcohol by volume.”
Young recommends sweet or fruitiness to complement smoky ham and meats,
such as Illinois Cellars’ Norton or ISC’s Ombré Rosé, or a sparkling rose.
For spicier dishes, like Szechuan chicken or curry dishes, she opts for dry
Rieslings, such as Black Star Farms’ Aucturos or one from Chateau Grand
Traverse, or sparkling wines, such as Mari Vineyards’ Simplicissimus and
Mawby’s Blanc Brut.
Because these regional wineries have limited production and are only
located in a few stores, Young suggests local beer and wine shops or specialty stores. If you’re driving to your holiday
destination, stop by a local winery on the way to purchase a bottle or two.
No meal is complete without a decadent dessert. To pair with rich
desserts, Young suggests a sweet Riesling while LeRoy prefers barrel aged
“Here in Chicago, there is a seemingly endless list of breweries producing
high-tier, rare release stouts that clearly have the attention of their
buyers as they sell out in minutes,” he says. These include Goose Island’s
Bourbon County, Half Acre’s Benthic and Revolution’s Deth’s Tar. But LeRoy
suggests consulting with beer store employees for their best offerings.
Young says being intentional about beverage pairings can take some time to
plan and recommends trying some of the wines in advance with similar foods
that will be served alongside the big event. Finding delicious wines and
beers to enhance your meal can elevate the dining experience.
“Having a good story about the wines and beers selected in addition to
where they come from is something you can share along your meal,” she says.