12 Days of Christmas Cookies & Local Seasonal Brews

A partridge in a pear tree has nothing on these unexpected combinations of holiday cookies and local craft beers.

One way to jolly the holidays is to pair some of New Jersey’s most interesting seasonal beers with cookies that bring out their best qualities. We tapped the knowledge of craft brewers, asking them to suggest baked goods that would harmonize with specific brews. You won’t find these beer-and-baked-goods pairings at any pub. No worries! We tell you where to find the beers. The cookies can be found at most supermarkets, bakeries or food specialty shops. Or bake them yourselves. Indeed, dream up your own pairings. Creativity is at the core of the holiday spirit. Happy brew and chew!

1. Boughs of Barley + Snickerdoodle Cookies

Cape May Brewing Co.'s Boughs of Barley + Snickerdoodle Cookies

Cape May Brewing Co.’s Boughs of Barley + Snickerdoodle Cookies

Brewery: Cape May Brewing Co., Cape May

Type: Barleywine (11%)­

This type of ale is named for the strong alcohol content that can go head-to-head with a glass of wine. This particular Barleywine is aged for around four months in Kentucky Bourbon barrels, which accentuates the brew’s warm and nutty notes, adding flavors of toffee, bourbon, vanilla and oak, particularly on the finish. “The oak and vanilla flavors from the wood really compliment the strong malt flavors,” says Jimmy Valm, Director of Brewing Operations at Cape May Brewing.

So why Snickerdoodles? Valm explains, “The cinnamon from the Snickerdoodle and the smooth toffee and bourbon from the Boughs of Barley would be a perfect match!”

Boughs of Barley is available through the end of December in bottles or on tap at their Cape May brewery.

2. It’s a Wonderful Ale + Gingerbread Men

Glasstown Brewing Co.'s It's A Wonderful Ale + Gingerbread Cookies

Glasstown Brewing Co.’s It’s A Wonderful Ale + Gingerbread Cookies

Brewery: Glasstown Brewing Co., Millville

Type: Spiced Ale (6.5%)

Glasstown Brewing has perfected the holiday spiced ale with It’s a Wonderful Ale. It’s neither hop-forward nor a dessert beer, but as owner Paul Simmons explains, “It’s got a certain amount of caramel malt in in that gives it a little back sweetness.” Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and real crushed graham crackers, it tastes reminiscent of a cookie without actually tasting like one. “The maltiness promotes that bread-y cookie quality,” explains Simmons, “and the vanilla bean and spices play off those sugars.”

It’s just the beer to pair with a cookie that’s less sugar-sweet. Simmons recommends gingerbread, which is traditionally sweetened with molasses and spices rather than cane sugar. The ale, he says “will have the sweetness to balance out something savory.”

It’s a Wonderful Ale is available in bottles and on tap at Glasstown Brewing Co. in Millville through the month of December.

3. Weehawken Wee Heavy + Nougat with Fruit, Nuts and Chocolate


New Jersey Beer Co.'s Weehawken Wee Heavy + Chocolate, Fruit & Nut Nougat

New Jersey Beer Co.’s Weehawken Wee Heavy + Chocolate, Fruit & Nut Nougat

Brewery: New Jersey Beer Co., North Bergen

Type: Scottish Ale (9.0%)

This ale is dark, strong and malty with notes of caramel. It’s aged to mellow out the alcohol and feels smooth, but in terms of cookie pairings, “anything on the lighter side would be overpowered by this,” says brewer Mehmet Kadiev. Instead, go with something that can match the beer’s richness and strength, like nougat cobbled with rich milk chocolate, dried fruits and nuts. “Something with a dark fruit filling and nuttiness would compliment it well,” explains Kadiev, “chocolate would go well, but nothing dark or bitter.”

Try this decadent pairing and jump on this beer’s bandwagon. According to brewery manager Ari Bildner, “we have a cult following for this one. In July people are already asking about it.” This may be due to the beer’s high ABV and smooth finish. “It’s very caramel and malty,” says Bildner. “You don’t even know you’re drinking a 9% beer.”

Weehawken Wee Heavy can be found locally at liquor stores, on tap and at the brewery in North Bergen through mid-March.

4. Malus + Gingersnaps

Kane Brewing Co’s Malus + Gingersnap Cookies

Brewery: Kane Brewing Co., Ocean Township

Type: Belgian Ale (9.7%)

Inspired by the seasonal flavors of mulled cider, Malus is a twist on Kane Brewing’s traditional Belgian Dark Strong, but replaces that brew’s sweetness with fresh, locally pressed apple cider that has been reduced to a syrup. Fresh zest from blood oranges, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove are added to the brew, which is fermented with Trappist yeast. The beer is a bold, complex spin on the usual flavors of mulled cider.

A gingersnap is the best cookie to match such a brew. The ale will compliment the strength of the ginger flavor, and the citrus and tanginess of the brew is an ideal match for the cookie’s sweeter flavor from brown sugar and molasses.

Find Malus in bottles or on tap this month at Kane Brewing Co. in Ocean Township.

5. Oatmeal Milk Stout + Chocolate-Dipped Sugar Cookies

River Horse Brewing Co.'s Oatmeal Milk Stout + Chocolate-Dipped Sugar Cookies

River Horse Brewing Co.’s Oatmeal Milk Stout + Chocolate-Dipped Sugar Cookies

Brewery: River Horse Brewing Co., Ewing

Type: Milk Stout (6.7%)

As a rule, milk stouts are brewed with milk sugar (or lactose), which sweetens any full-bodied stout. This seasonal stout is brewed with oats as well, which “gives it a velvety feel and creaminess,” explains head brewer Chris Rakow. “With the oats and roasted malts, there are coffee and chocolate notes to it.” These flavors play over a dark malt base, with hints of roasted barley, which makes it reminiscent of a bitter pilsner, balancing out the sweetness.

With such a complex brew, Rakow recommends keeping the cookie pairing sweet and simple with something like a chocolate-dipped sugar cookie. “The oatmeal milk stout pairs perfectly with chocolate,” he says, “but the simply sweet sugar cookie is a great way to incorporate the barley and caramel, bringing out a citrus quality in the cookie.”

River Horse Oatmeal Milk Stout is available on tap and in stores through January, and at their Ewing brewery.

6. Chocolate Stout + Fruit Cake

Flying Fish's Exit 13 Chocolate Stout

Flying Fish’s Exit 13 Chocolate Stout + Fruit cake

Brewery: Flying Fish Brewing Co., Somerdale

Type: Chocolate Stout (7.5%)

Flying Fish’s seasonal stout may seem peculiarly named, but Exit 13 is home to an internationally significant port, the Port of Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal. One of many international food products that comes through the port is the Belgian chocolate used to brew this rich chocolate stout. Each batch takes more than 600 pounds of Belcolade Belgian chocolate, along with a combination of Irish ale yeast, Pacific Northwest hops, dark wheat and a variety of malts.

According to Flying Fish founder Gene Muller, this complex dessert beer pairs best with, of all things, fruitcake. “The obvious choice is something with chocolate,” says Muller, “but you’ve got that little bit of cinnamon and the fruit which goes nicely with the chocolate. The first thing that popped into my mind is fruitcake.”

Take his word for it, or if fruitcake is desserta non grata at your family gatherings, Muller suggests settling for a Panettone instead.

Exit 13 is available at Flying Fish’s Somerdale brewery, on tap locally or in 12-packs through March.

7. Spruce Ale + Peppermint Crinkle Cookie

Tomfoolery Brewing Co.’s Spruce Ale + Peppermint Crinkle Cookies

Brewery: Tomfoolery Brewing Co., Hammonton

Type: English Ale (5.5%)

This ale contains all of the fragrance of a spruce tree without tasting like a scented candle. This English ale is brewed with molasses and real spruce tips from Foster’s Holly Ridge Tree Farm in Hammonton. “It’s like eating a Christmas tree,” says co-owner of Tomfoolery, Shawn Grigus. Don’t let that scare you off. Grigus explains that “the beer has a nice compliment of the flavor without being over the top. It’s nice and mild, like walking through a Christmas tree farm.”

Spruce may seem an unconventional flavor, but it pairs perfectly with a classic peppermint crinkle cookie. “A peppermint chocolate cookie would go very well,” says Grigus, “The peppermint really compliments the spruce, but the chocolate contrasts and balances it.” The beer isn’t very sweet on its own, so the chocolate and powdered sugar make for an ideal balance of sweetness.

The Tomfoolery Spruce Ale will be released on December 22 as part of the brewery’s Tap It Thursday limited series, exclusively in their tasting room in Hammonton.

8. Wassale + Salted Caramel Turtles

Rinn Duin Brewing's Wassale + Salted Caramel Turtles

Rinn Duin Brewing’s Wassale + Salted Caramel Turtles

Brewery: Rinn Duin Brewing, Toms River

Type: Belgian Ale Quad (9.1%)

If you’ve ever been a-wassailing, you know that caroling can be an arduous task. Cold hands and a scratchy throat beget the English tradition of inviting carolers in for a wassail, a holiday drink made with spiced mulled cider and baked apples, usually served hot with a touch of sherry, port wine or brandy.  In keeping with tradition, Rinn Duin’s holiday brew is a Belgian ale strong enough to brave hours of snowy caroling, with a name that derives from the Olde English term that means “be in good health.” (Terhune Orchards in Princeton hosts its annual Wassailing Festival on January 29.)

“The Wassale to me is Christmas in a glass,” says Rinn Duin owner Chip Town. “It’s a very well-balanced and blended holiday spiced ale.” The brew’s roast apples and warm spices make it an ideal pairing for something sweet and savory, like a chocolate turtle with salted caramel. “you need something to complement and contrast at the same time,” says Town, “something like a salted caramel would go great.” The roast apples pair perfectly with caramel and pecans, and the rich chocolate melds with the beer’s fruits and spices.

Wassale is available at Rinn Duin brewery in Toms River through the holiday season.

9. Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Ale + Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Spellbound Brewing’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Ale + Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Brewery: Spellbound Brewing, Mount Holly

Type: Ale (7.1%)

Unlike the River Horse Oatmeal Milk Stout, this Oatmeal Raisin Cookie ale takes its name very literally. Overtones of raisins and vanilla come from the 200 lbs of raisins and hundreds of real vanilla beans that go into each batch. The American ale yeast is very neutral and “lets the flavors sing through,” says brewer Mike Oliver, “rather than letting the yeast become the forefront.”

Don’t be turned off by the excess of oatmeal raisin flavor that goes into the brew. “A lot of the sugar in the raisins ferments out,” explains Oliver, “so it’s not overly sweet. You pick up the vanilla, touch of cinnamon, and the oats.”

That’s why Oliver recommends a cookie pairing as literal as the brew itself, oatmeal raisin. “You’ll pick out more of the vanilla and spice in the beer,” Oliver says. Don’t believe him? Try it at their tasting room. Spellbound occasionally serves an oatmeal raisin cookie alongside their seasonal ale. Add chocolate chips to the cookie batter if you’re looking to break the mold.

Spellbound Brewing’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookie is available from November through February. Find it in bars and restaurants, or at the Mount Holly brewery in bottles and growlers.

10. Mexican Brunch + Colombian Buñuelo Cookies

Kane Brewing Co.'s Mexican Brunch + Colombian Buñuelo Cookies

Kane Brewing Co.’s Mexican Brunch + Colombian Buñuelo Cookies

Brewery: Kane Brewing Co., Ocean Township

Type: American Porter (9.2%)

This brew is a dark, malty Imperial Porter, brewed with flavor notes of coffee, cinnamon, maple, cacao and ancho chiles. The beer is reminiscent of a Mexican hot chocolate or even a Mole sauce, where warm and hot spices are added to hot chocolate, hence the name, Mexican Brunch.

However, taking a page from a classic Colombian recipe book and trying a Buñuelo cookie might be a perfect match. These quintessential Colombian cookies are much like croquettes. They consist of fried dough filled with Colombian white cheese, a great pairing for most Porter varieties. These cookies are traditionally enjoyed with coffee or hot chocolate, making them an obvious pairing for this brew’s coffee and cacao flavors. Better still is the way the white cheese is able to accent both the chile’s spice and the sweetness of cinnamon and maple notes.

Available in bottles and on draft at Kane Brewing Co. in Ocean Township as a limited release this December.

11. Gingersnap Cookie Nitro + Shortbread Cookies

Forgotten Boardwalk’s Gingersnap Cookie Nitro + Classic Shortbread Cookies

Brewery: Forgotten Boardwalk, Cherry Hill

Type: Ale (5.5%)

This creamy ale is a flavorful brew of fresh ginger, blackstrap molasses, clove, nutmeg, orange zest and cinnamon over a base of Forgotten Boardwalk’s ever-popular Funnel Cake ale. Served through the nitro tap, this brew becomes thicker due to the increase in tiny nitrogen bubbles rather than classic carbon dioxide carbonation.

The perfect cookie pairing for this rich and creamy brew, according to Forgotten Boardwalk tasting room experts, is a traditional shortbread cookie. The simplicity of the cookie allows the beer’s spices to shine, bringing out the orange zest in the beer, and a citrus-y flavor in the cookie, whose simple base pairs perfectly with the ale’s blend of warm spices.

Forgotten Boardwalk’s Gingersnap Cookie ale is only available on nitro tap in their Cherry Hill brewery this season, but it can be found on non-nitro taps at many local bars through January.

12. New Brighton Coffee Stout + Hazlenut Praline Truffles

Tuckahoe Brewing Co.'s New Brighton Coffee Stout + Hazelnut Praline Truffles

Tuckahoe Brewing Co.’s New Brighton Coffee Stout + Hazelnut Praline Truffles

Brewery: Tuckahoe Brewing Co., Egg Harbor Township

Type: Coffee Stout (9.8%)

This strong imperial stout is brewed with roasted barley, chocolate malt and coffee from local roaster Harry & Bean. “We use enough coffee that you’re getting a lot of the coffee flavor from it,” says brewer Amanda Cardinali. Even with the chocolate notes, “it’s not like mocha. It’s a big, warm stout.”

Pair this bean-laden brew with a chocolate praline truffle. Inspired by the perfectly balanced flavors of a classic French Opera cake, hazelnut praline, chocolate, and coffee play perfectly with one another. Think Ferrero Rocher with an after dinner espresso. The coffee stout accentuates these flavor notes, and the nutty sweetness of hazelnut praline take the otherwise obvious chocolate and coffee flavors in an unexpected direction.

New Brighton Coffee Stout is available through the end of March at local bars and restaurants, liquor stores, and in growlers at the brewery in Egg Harbor Township.

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