Hanukkah Drinks to Pair With Traditional Jewish Food
Hanukkah can be a quite indulgent part of the year, with 8 nights of celebration and gifting right in the heart of the holiday season. Frankly, there’s no reason to shy away from food and drinks during the Festival of Lights. There are several great traditional Jewish foods to cook, and there are even good Hanukkah drinks and Kosher beer pairings to try out this year to take your celebrations over the top.
In fact, two beer experts sat down to discuss some of their favorite pairings of Hanukkah food and craft beer. Chad Brodsky and Todd Summers of nationwide beer tour company City Brew Tours ran through what makes a good beer pairing with certain foods, and what recommendations they had for dishes like latkes, matzo ball soup and more.
The Jewish duo of beer pros host nightly live stream beer tastings each night of Hanukkah every year as part of the Hoppy Hanukkah Beer Box experience. This Hanukkah drinks gift box includes a brand new craft beer each night of Hanukkah, with beers curated by City Brew Tours’ own team of beer experts. Visit the City Brew Tours Shop to learn more about its Hoppy Hanukkah Beer Box and how you can purchase boxes for yourself and loved ones.
Enjoy this transcript of the conversation on Hanukkah drinks and food pairings between Brodsky and Summers. The full video can be found here. Please note some of the conversation has been edited for readability and clarity.
BEER AND FOOD PAIRING PRINCIPLES
Todd Summers – Before we get into specific Hanukkah drinks, I think we should speak more broadly about how beer and food pairs. So Chad, what are our guiding principles here?
Chad Brodsky – There are four guiding principles when you’re trying to pair food with beer. First, there are complementing flavors. Complimentary flavors would be like a roasted chicken with a Rosedale. Then there are similar flavors—think chocolate cake with a chocolate porter or something of that nature. There’s also contrasting flavors. So something that might be spicy, you’d want something that’s going to be sweet with it. Finally, there is intensity, and intensity is a big one. Intensity is like, you don’t want a beer that’s going to overpower your food, and you don’t want food that’s going to overpower your beer. What would be an example, Todd, you think of intensity?
Todd – I love a good garden salad. I just can’t get enough of them. You wouldn’t want to pair a 14% ABV barrel-aged Barleywine with that because then, what’s the point of the salad? That’s a beer much better suited for something significantly richer, something way bigger in flavor.
Chad – One other way to pair is through what is called ‘resonating flavor.’ It’s taking two completely different flavor profiles, and putting them together to make something crazy. A perfect example would be taking a cheese like Camembert and pairing it with a Brown Ale. That would be like a liquid grilled cheese sandwich. So altogether, those are going to be our main ideas when we’re pairing beer and food.
Todd – Okay, so let’s talk about some Jewish foods. What about lox? It’s smokey and very salty. So, where are we going with this pairing?
Chad – Lox is interesting because it is fish. It’s light, it’s not heavy food. I would go with a Hefeweizen or a Belgian Wit, and that’s going to be a more carbonated beer. It’s going to have a little bit of citrus, and it’s going to have some creaminess from the wheat. It’s going to be light and refreshing, and it’s going to cut through some of the salinity in the lox.
HANUKKAH DRINKS & DESSERTS
Todd – Alright, well how about this? I’ve got Sufganiyah, and that’s fairly traditional.
Chad – That’s very hard to find—you have to go to a Jewish bakery.
Todd – This is obviously intensely sweet. I have a sweet tooth. So, fruited beers might be the way to go if you’re aiming for complementing flavors, but I don’t know if I can handle any more sweetness. If we’re going to contrast flavors, where are we going with this?
Chad – You’re gonna want something that’s going to cut through that, and that’s going to be where beer is actually more versatile than wine. Beer has carbonation and carbonation acts like little scrubbing bubbles on your palate so it can cut through some of that sweetness. It essentially just cleanses the palate.
For Sufganiyah, a Saison would work, but it depends on what kind of Saison you have. Saison DuPont would be great. A Flemish Brown Ale or Flemish Red Ale would be incredible. It may add too much sweetness, but they also have some of the tartness and acidity from being a blended sour, so that could actually be a really cool pairing.
Todd – I think an Oatmeal Stout is actually super killer because it’s got enough roastiness that makes me forget that I might need to go to the doctor after eating this donut. The roastiness is cutting through some of the sweetness because the Stout is a little dry on the back end.
Chad – And that’s a medium-bodied stout, too, so it’s not super filling.
Todd – What would you consider a dessert beer, or an after-dinner beer?
Chad – You could go for something like Lindemans Framboise, a fruited Lambic. You could also go with something with more complexity, like a Barleywine. If you think about it, some people drink port after dinner, and that’s a fortified wine.
Todd – Also, depending on the dinner, the after-dinner beer might change. If you have one of those massive, massive winter feasts, then I think a little bit of something really complex and higher and ABV is nice. If you have a light summer dinner, there is nothing wrong with reaching for a light Lager. But I think in essence, most of the time we’re going for something with a higher ABV, more complexity and in smaller quantities.
We said something you can think about is contrasting flavors, right? Well, if you’re eating a chocolate dessert, that means you’re probably ready for something sweet, right? You’re already having the dessert, so it may be interesting to fully go the other way with something like a Vienna Lager. That’s something that will not cut the sweetness, but it’s going to really bring out the chocolate flavor and get into some coffee flavors. You don’t need to go the whole other way.
Chad – Well, you can also think of food that have different flavor components in them—like a chocolate raspberry cake. If you have a Framboise Lambic with some chocolate, it’s going to recreate those resonating flavors. That’s when the magic happens, like the magic of Hanukkah.
Chicken Matzo Ball Soup
Todd – We have to talk about Jewish Penicillin—chicken soup. And chicken soup is not the easiest food because there is a lot to it. It’s salty. It’s got some richness. There are plenty of vegetables. Depending on the chicken noodle soup, there’s a lot of celery character. So Chad, where are we going here?
Chad – It partially depends on how much dill you put into your chicken soup. My wife doesn’t like dill, but I love dill. That’s definitely going to change how I would pair chicken soup.
I would probably go with something that’s a middle-of-the-road beer, like an Amber Lager, or even an Amber Ale if you want more body. But either way, something that is going to have a light, light toasted flavor to it. I love Vienna Lagers, that’s going to go very well.
Todd – I love matzah, just plain matzah.
Chad – You’re eating just plain matzah right now?
Todd – Oh, you don’t know this about me? I love matzah. It tastes a little bit like cardboard, though, but we do eat this a lot. What do we do with this?
Chad – Matzah is hard. You don’t really eat it by itself because it’s essentially nothing. If you want something that’s just some liquid to go with dry crackers, maybe give me water. If you want more than water, an American Lager is going to be the best thing.
Todd – I think anything with that sort of upfront malt character would do well. That gives you a cracker flavor. Maybe a Czech Pils would pair well. But I also think for those of you who aren’t big matzah fans and say mean things like, “It tastes like nothing,” or you need beer to help you swallow it—how about a New England IPA? It’s something that is massively citrusy and has tons of flavor.
Chad – The creaminess of a New England IPA would go nicely with that kind of cracker flavor, definitely. I honestly think you could pair a New England IPA with the chicken soup, too. I think that could be interesting, especially if there’s quite a bit of dill in that soup.
Todd – What about adding chopped liver on top of matzah?
Chad – Chopped liver is a very complex food. Depending on how you make chopped liver, there’s eggs in there, there’s liver and there’s mayo. I’ve never actually made it, my family members make it. But there are just so many complex flavors in chopped liver.
To pair a beer with that, I think I would want a Brown Ale—specifically, a Nut Brown Ale. The little bit of nuttiness in the beer and the toffee flavors are going to enhance the umami in the chopped liver. A Märzen would be really good, as well.
Chad – Now my question for you is—what are you putting on your latkes? Sour cream or applesauce? It’s a very important question.
Todd – I put both on, I’m a ‘both’ guy.
Chad – I’m an applesauce guy.
Todd – If it’s me, I think I’m going with a Gose. I think I want some salt, you know? You only live once, and I want it all. How many days a year do you think you’re eating latkes?
Chad – Maybe four days out of an entire year. It’s sad.
Todd – Exactly, not nearly often enough.
Chad – We should start a latke day in the middle of the summer or in springtime.
Todd – That’s a beautiful thing.
Hoppy Hanukkah Beer Box
Did you enjoy this conversation about Hanukkah drinks and food pairings? If you want in on the fun, consider picking up the Hoppy Hanukkah Beer Box from the City Brew Tours Shop.
Hanukkah is the perfect time to show some love to that special craft beer geek in your life (yourself included). The Hoppy Hanukkah Beer Box is packed with 8 hand-picked craft beers to enjoy each night of Hanukkah, and each year City Brew Tours even finds Jewish brewers to feature in this holiday beer box.
Each Hoppy Hanukkah box comes with invitations to exclusive nightly tastings with brewers and other beer personalities. With this beer gift, the craft beer geek in your life gets to celebrate Hanukkah with the brewers who made their beers.