When you’re enjoying beautiful ingredients like Dublin Bay prawns, chestnuts and poached pears, you might be tempted to reach for a nice bottle of wine, like an Albarino or Sauvingnon Blanc. Honestly, I wouldn’t blame you, but I also think we have a few great drink options here in Ireland which would pair stunningly with Neven’s ‘Entertaining at Home’ recipes for this month.

When it comes to lighter fare, beer isn’t always going to be your go-to option, but I do think when you consider the flavours being paired with the main ingredients, you can easily find Irish brews to highlight them.

When I consider a dish with equal parts spice and citrus, for example, my mind immediately goes to a beer in the cloudy Witbier style with hints of citrus peel, coriander and just enough bitterness to cut through any richness in the food.

Beer soup

Soup and beer might not immediately seem to be a match made in heaven, but one of the most delicious soups ever created is actually made with beer – a beer cheese soup, which originates in the US, is creamy, wholesome and an amazing dish to enjoy through the winter months.

Ale tends to pair particularly well with creamy soups – its full bodied characteristics add an extra bit of heft to what could otherwise be a very light meal, while its natural sweetness complements the blend of veggies, cream and butter.

You can absolutely pair beer with dessert too – especially rich, chocolatey desserts or any bakes with flavours of brown sugar, treacle or caramel.

But aside from really great beer, Ireland also produces some beautiful fruit-forward spirits and ciders which pair really well with fruity desserts.

With all of this in mind, here are a few drinks which are all produced here in Ireland and would be ideal with Neven’s lighter fare recipes for January.

Fionnabhair Irish Wit Beer, The White Hag, 5% ABV

Neven’s Dublin Bay prawns with chilli, chorizo and lemon is beautifully balanced - and for good reason. If you are spending the money for some great quality Dublin Bay prawns, you don’t want to mask the natural sweetness and flavour of the prawns themselves. The chorizo, lemon and chilli instead complement these natural flavours without overtaking. This beer will do the same - complement the natural sweetness of the prawns while augmenting the spice and citrus vibes in the overall dish.

This Irish beer, made in Co Sligo, is made in the Belgian Witbier style - it is cloudy in appearance with great hits of spice and bitterness to balance out this gorgeous seafood dish. It is brewed with 50% wheat, Irish barley and oats and a selection of Belgian brewing spices. thewhitehag.com

Irish Ale, Connemara Brewing Co, 4.5% ABV

Irish Ale, Connemara Brewing Co, 4.5% ABV.

Aine O’Hora, head brewer at Connemara Brewing Co, once told me she only makes two types of beer - an Irish Ale and an Irish Lager - because she wanted to keep things simple and excel in her output in every way possible.

I enjoy both their ale and their lager, but when I think of Neven’s creamy chestnut and mushroom soup, I am immediately drawn to the maltiness of a well-made ale. There is a slight sweetness to the chestnuts in this recipe which will blend with the natural sweetness in the ale perfectly.

But before you think it might be too much, not to worry - there is a good amount of bitterness to the ale which will make for a really pleasant eating experience and cut through the richness of the creamy soup and fatty duck. connemarabrewery.com

Fine Perry, Killahora Orchards, 6% ABV

Did you know we also produce delicious local perry? Perry is a drink made from pears and is not dissimilar to cider in terms of how it is made. When it comes to Neven’s dessert of poached pears with a rich chocolate sauce, you could go in a few different directions for drinks pairings.

However, in this dish, it is the pears which shine: their tender texture and sweet, and a slightly spiced flavour. Killahora Orchards is found in Co Cork and they make a few really special drinks, including their delicious apple ice wine. Their fine perry is created using wild fermentation and is made from several varieties of their own perry pears. While I have chosen it for dessert, it would pair equally well with the Dublin Bay prawns.


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