Hunger-Inducing Winter Food and Brew Pairings

The colder months can’t help but instill a cozy, introspective, hunger-inducing feeling – and that feeling has certainly taken hold of the team here at Growler USA. Beer in hand, we asked ourselves: Why do the dark, heavy beer styles we associate with sweater weather pair so well with comfort food? Where did these styles originate? How can we incorporate even more beer into our lives?

On our quest for clarity, we went digging (and drinking) for answers:


While this German-style lager was traditionally consumed in celebration of the arrival of spring, we think its malty, rich flavor should be enjoyed all fall and winter. Bocks were consumed in a nondiscriminatory manner by medieval Bavarian monks during times of fasting and have been a popular brew on religious holidays – especially Easter and Christmas – for centuries.

Try the complex, smooth flavors of New Glarus Brewing Company’s Uff-da or Samuel Adams Winter Lager with roasted chicken and hearty veggies. You can’t go wrong with Martha Stewart’s recipe for Herb-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables (extra points if you brine the chicken with your bock of choice.)

Brown Ales

As ale-lovers, we think 17th century English brewers were onto something with their quick, top-fermenting method (who doesn’t like their beer fast?). If the name seems straightforward, it’s because it is: “Brown ale” was a blanket term used for brown and amber-colored ales brewed with brown malt. Today’s brown ale variations still vary greatly in their range, but are generally characterized by their sweet, malty flavors and low bitterness.

Rogue’s Hazlenut Brown Nectar or Big Sky Brewing Company’s Moose Drool Brown Ale pair well with lamb or beef dishes. Try this recipe for Brown Ale-Marinated Hanger Steak with Caramelized Onions – the malty compounds of a brown ale add flavor to the beef and set off the sweet taste of the caramelized onions. For dessert, we’d recommend caramel toffee – the complimentary caramel notes in brown ales make this an ideal pairing!

Moose Drool with a view. 📸: @j.b.fotography #bigskybrewing

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An ale made with roasted pale malts, porters were named for the people who drank this ubiquitous brew in 18th-centruy England: porters and transportation workers. Porters are a favorite during the colder months due to their strong chocolate notes, malty flavor, and smooth finish. Per BeerAdvocate, porters were “the first truly engineered beer, catering to the public’s taste, playing a critical role in quenching the thirst of the UK’s Industrial Revolution and lending an arm in building the mega-breweries of today.”

Growler USA recommends pairing your next porter, such as Deschutes Black Butte Porter or Founders Porter, with smoked pork. This Porter Beer Brined Pork Shoulder recipe entails a gratuitous use of beer, which we can totally get behind. The slightly burnt profile of porters highlight the smoky flavor in any barbecue recipe. Sign us up.


If only modern-day beer nomenclature were as straightforward as the English tradition! As English brewing styles progressed and evolved, the strongest, or “stoutest,” porters were simply dubbed “stouts.” Unfortunately, this explanation generally isn’t thorough enough for inquiring minds, and the difference between stouts and porters remains a frequently debated topic in the craft beer community.

Like their porter predecessor, stouts pair well with roasted and barbecued dishes, as well as heavy stews. Dark, rich stouts like Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout or Great Lakes Blackout Stout pair like a dream with beef stew. Wait for the coldest week of winter, then try one of the aforementioned brews with this mouthwatering take on Stout Beer Beef Stew.

Blackout Stout pairs perfectly with a chilly night by a fire…inside or outside. #CLE #BlackoutStout #DrinkLocal #Stout #craftbeer

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Most beer enthusiasts know “IPA” stands for “India Pale Ale,” but may not realize that the style is named for the country it was exported to (not imported from). English brewers sent their high-hopped beers to British troops in India in the late 18th century. Hops, being a natural preservative, helped these high-alcohol brews withstand their lengthy voyage. The wildly popular American craft descendants of English IPAs are still characterized by their hoppy bitterness, but are more flavorful with herbal and citrusy notes.

Brooklyn Brewery’s East India Pale Ale or Magic Hat’s Blind Faith are examples of bitter beers best served with dishes that pack a flavorful punch. While IPA isn’t a style exclusively associated with winter, we implore you to enjoy your next IPA with a curried dish like this Loaded Veggie Tikka Masala on a snowy day.

It’s a real Miracle on 34th Street. 📸: @voodooman17. #hoppyholidays #eastipa #regram

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