Wine and Beer Pairings for New Year's Day Pork and Sauerkraut

Updated on January 1, 2013
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Beer and Wine for Pork and Sauerkraut

If you're an American of German ancestry, and especially if you're Pennsylvania Dutch, you're probably familiar with the traditional New Year's Day dinner of roast pork and sauerkraut. Sometimes pork shoulder and sausages and sauerkraut are all braised together, sometimes a crown roast of pork and a casserole of sauerkraut are slow roasted separately. Any way you cook it, pork and sauerkraut is a very traditional dish meant to bring good luck for the New Year.

Pork and sauerkraut is also a really, really hard dish to pair with beer or wine, thanks to its assertive flavors and its sweet and sour sauerkraut bite. Many people don't even try. Fortunately, it is possible to drink beer or wine with your sauerkraut - assuming, of course, that you're either over your New Year's Eve hangover or looking for some hair o' the dog that bit you.

Read on for a few pairing suggestions.

Riesling grapes on the vine.
Riesling grapes on the vine. | Source

Wine Pairing Suggestions

You might argue that pork and sauerkrat originated in Alsace on the border between Germany and France, where the locals eat choucroute garnie, a type of sauerkraut usually cooked with sausages, bacon, ham hock, and other cured meats.

For inspiration on wines, therefore, we turn to Alsace, where two varietals are often drunk alongside choucroute garnie: gewurztraminer and riesling.

Both wines are slightly sweet, though they range from off dry all the way to dessert wine sweet. This sweetness, along with a typically medium to full body, is what helps these wines balance dishes which are fatty or acidic. However, when looking for a wine to drink with pork and sauerkraut, err on the side of dry. Too sweet a wine will go from balancing the dish to clashing with it.

Gewurtztraminer

Gewurtztraminer is a wine traditionally made in Alsace from the Traminer grape. It often has honeyed, tropical fruit notes and a sweetness that balances sour or spicy flavors. It also tends to be fuller bodied, so that it can stand up to strong flavors.

When looking for a gewurztraminer, look for one from Alsace. R. Sparr and Trimbach are two reliable wineries which produce wines at a reasonable price at or below the $20 range. If you'd rather go American, Hogue or Chateau St. Michelle, both in Washington state, also produce competent wines from the Traminer varietal, since the cooler climate there is favorable to the growth of this particular grape. If you want to splurge, try the German winery Joh. Jos. Prum. Any of the above are commonly available in most American liquor stores. (Especially, of course, the American ones.)

Riesling

Riesling is a wine which can vary even more widely from dry to ultra sweet. They're most commonly produced in Germany and in the Alsace region of France, though as with gewurttraminers there are now many good rieslings being produced in the United States in Washington state. There's also a confusing number of varieties of riesling, making it hard to know which wine to choose.

Here are some general pointers to get you started:

Avoid Kabinett style rieslings. These are generally light bodied and won't be able to stand up to a heavy dish like this.

Spatlese indicates a medium bodied wine. Auslese indicates a medium to full bodied wine. You might think that with pork and sauerkraut an auslese might be better, but you're actually better off with a spatlese, since auslese wines are sometimes too sweet for drinking with savory dishes.

When looking for a riesling to pair with savory foods, look for the word "halbtrocken". This means "off dry" and will indicate a wine which is neither too dry nor too sweet.

In addition to the above listed wineries, all of which produce rieslings in addition to their gewurtztraminers, you might also Dr. Loosen's and Dr. Heidemann's wineries. Both of these are in the Mosel region of Germany, and both offer a selection of well-reviewed wines in the $10 to $25 price range.

Beer Pairing Suggestions

Since pork and sauerkraut is a Germanic dish, beer is its natural companion! Figuring out which beer works best, though, isn't so natural.

You will want a medium bodied beer, neither too dark nor too light. Avoid pale ales, blonde ales and weissbiers. They can't stand up. You also want something with some fruitiness and spiciness to it so that it can balance out the fattiness and acidity of this dish.

If you don't like your beers too dark, a lager would be just the ticket. However, an American lager like Yeungling may be a little too light-bodied. Go for a German or Belgian style lager. Paulaner and Weiheinstephaner Original are two reliable medium-bodied lagers from Germany which are easy to find in the United States. If you'd rather drink local, try Brooklyn Lager or, for something spicier, Victory Prima Pils from Pennsylvania.

Next down the line would be a biere de garde or a saison ale. Both are what are called "farmhouse style" ales, which are strong pale ales brewed in the spring and aged in cellars for consumption the next year. Because of this aging, they have richer, deeper, and spicier flavors.

These last two beers range from golden to light amber in color. A biere de garde is traditionally french and is paler and spicier. A saison is more often Belgian and is darker and sweeter. A very well known producer of biere de garde in northern France is the Brasserie de Saint-Sylvestre. For a saison, the most famous and a very reliable beer is the Saison Dupont from the Brasserie Dupont in Belgium. Both are widely known and can be found in the United States. If you want an American beer in this style, try Brewery Ommegang from New York, who make many Belgian style beers including variations on both saisons and bieres de garde.

Where to Find

Any of the wines or beers I mentioned above were chosen because I know from experience that they're reliably good, not too expensive, and commonly available in liquor stores in the United States. However, you should always call ahead before heading to your local liquor store, since just because a wine is commonly found doesn't mean you'll necessarily find it in the first place you look!

When looking for wines, it's always helpful to go to wine-searcher, where you'll find a search engine capable of searching inventories of wine stores across the United States.

As far as I know there is no equivalent search engine for beer. However, if you'd like to see how other people have rated these beers or find reviews of other, similar beers, try going to BeerAdvocate.

Since I'm not affiliated with any of the wineries or breweries mentioned, I've avoided linking to their websites directly. However, a quick Google search will lead you straight to them.

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