By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Nov 15, 2009 at 11:02 AM

For craft beer aficionados, it's been no secret that beer pairing has come into the forefront as a mighty and respectable contender to wine pairing. And whereas some wine snobs might brush off the idea as silly, others thought, what took it so long?

Well, it's most likely trends. Where wine selection has been one of the fine arts for decades, craft beer didn't really take a stronghold on the masses until much more recently -- and, let's face it, it's not as if the leading national light beer is going to enhance that pork tenderloin in any way.

But, now microbreweries are here to stay, it's time to have some culinary fun with them.

Last August, in preparation for the start of football season, I wrote about ways to pair your favorite beers with various game-day foods.

Today, I'm delving into other seasonally-appropriate treats: foods for the forthcoming holidays. Love 'em or hate 'em, we all have to endure them and we all have to eat. So you might as well grab yourself a Magic Hat Feast of Fools Variety 12 Pack and add a little sass to your sauce.

Here are some suggested seasonal recipes:

Winter Odd Notion Hot Crab Dip

1 lb.  cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 pound lump crab meat, drained
1 (12-oz.) bottle Magic Hat Winter Odd Notion
1/2 tsp. black pepper
hot sauce, several dashes
4 oz. Gruyere cheese
chopped green onions for garnish
crackers or sliced baguette for serving

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Using an electric mixer or wooden spoon, beat together the cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth. Add the ale and mix well to combine. Gently stir in thecrabmeat, the pepper and hot sauce. Pour into a baking dish (8x8) and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 30 mins. or until top is golden. Garnish with scallions. Serve warm or at room temperature with crackers or sliced baguette.

About the beer: A modern take on an old-style, unfiltered lambic beer, it has the hallmark dryness and acidity of the traditional sour ale.


Ham with #9 Glaze

1 (5 lb.) bone-in ham
1/2 cup Magic Hat #9
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Zest of 1 orange, grated

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Cut a cross-hatch pattern in the top layer of fat.

The ham you buy will either be fully cooked or partially cooked. Read the label carefully and follow the instructions.

In a small bowl, stir together the #9, the sugar, cloves, cinnamon and orange zest. Set aside.

Remove the ham from the oven about one hour before you think it will be done. Spoon the glaze over the ham and return it to the oven, basting occasionally.

About the beer: Fruit and ham are a traditional pairing. The warm apricot notes in #9 combine with spices and orange to make a great glaze.


Lucky Kat Quick Dinner Rolls

1 cup Magic Hat Lucky Kat
1 stick butter
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 (25-oz.) packages regular (not rapid-rise) yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar

Place the butter and the beer in a pot set over medium heat and cook just until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool while the yeast proofs.

Put the water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it sit ("proof") for 10 mins. The yeast should begin to bubble.

After the yeast has bubbled, add the flour, Lucky Kat mixture, salt and sugar and mix well. Turn onto a well-floured work surface and knead for a couple of minutes. Cover with a clean dish towel and let it rise for 15mins.

Line a cookies sheet with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Divide the rolls into 12 equal portions, shaping hem into rounds with your hands. Place on the prepared cookie sheet and set aside for 15mins.

Bake 10 to 12 mins., until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped.

Yield: 12 rolls.

About the beer: The dry hoppiness of Lucky Kat supports the yeasty flavors of these rolls without any bitterness.


Howlingly Good Ginger Bread

1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for buttering pan
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup molasses
1 cup Magic Hat Howl
Zest of 1 orange
For serving: Lemon curd or sweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter an 8x8 cake pan. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla.

In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and salt.

In a saucepan, heat the Howl until bubble form around the edges. Stir in the molasses.

Alternately add the flour mixture and the Howl mixture to the creamed butter mixture, stirring well between additions. When all is incorporated, stir in the orange zest.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50 mins., or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Serve warm or at room temperature, from the pan, with a dollop of lemon curd or whipped cream.

Yield: About 9 servings.

About the beer: The warm, dark roasted malty flavors of Howl play a steady bass note to the lively spiciness of the gingerbread.


Circus Boy Mashed Potatoes

2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 in. thick
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 (12-oz.) bottles Magic Hat Circus Boy
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the potatoes, shallots, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in a saucepan and pour over just enough Circus Boy to cover. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a lively simmer. Simmer, covered, until the potatoes are very tender, 1 to 20mins. Most of the beer will be absorbed.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes, shallots, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes to a large bowl. Mash as desired.

Stir in cream and butter and mash more. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings.

About the beer: The yeasty, full flavor of unfiltered Circus Boy gives potatoes a delicious boost.


Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”