As with many legends, the origins of Santa's predilection for cookies and milk are fairly hazy. You know the rules: Some magical old bastard spies on you and your kin all year, only to demand an edible ransom after he slithers down your nasty flue with a sack full of toys and treats. Fail to leave him a gift and he might just skip your house altogether.
Some Norse mythothographers might point to offerings made to Odin, the long-whiskered lord of Valhalla and a sort of ur-Santa, and his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, a freaky forerunner to St. Nick's gang of reindeer. But as these things go, no one knows for sure.
Arachnid-horses and hirsute white guys aside, cookies have nevertheless endured as a winter holiday tradition, and for good reason: Who doesn't like cookies?
Now, there are plenty of great cookie recipes out there, and plenty of deliciously seasonal things to drink with them. (I am unequivocally pro-eggnog and I will fight you.) But we're beer fans around these parts, and we were determined to make beer and cookies come together in the spirit of the season.
As it turns out, this isn't MENSA-level stuff. Cookies + beer = joy.
We enlisted baking ace Ben Mims to develop five recipes, which are more beer-inspired than beer-flavored, based on classics you probably already know. (As chef Edward Lee can attest, "beer-flavored" recipes often leave something to be desired.) Photographed by the incomparable Liz Clayman, these recipes will give you just a taste of what a beer-fueled baking party with a gaggle of your friends should look like.
Our only suggestion: Don't dunk these cookies in your pint, and under no circumstances should you sacrifice any of them to greedy ol' Kris Kringle.
IPA Cardamom Crunch Bars
Did you think this was going to be nothing but pastry stouts? Pshaw. Even craft beer's favorite style gets the cookie treatment in the form of these shortbread bars topped with a thick layer of buttery, cardamom-infused glaze, sprinkled with pearl sugar. All that sweetness balances the IPA's intense bitterness, forming a perfect union of flavors.
Sour Ale and Ginger Spice Cookies
This riff on lebkuchen, a traditional German form of gingerbread, incorporates the tang of a sour ale, which plays nice with the cookie's spice. Candied orange peel, lemon peel, and ginger jacks up the wintertime goodness in these ridiculously addictive treats. (Full disclosure: I ate about 70 of them. In two days.)
Rye Shortbreads with Red Ale Glaze
If you're a sicko for shortbread like me, one form of these buttery biscuits is simply not enough. Our second shortbread, this time bolstered with earthy rye flour, is baked whole and served in wedges in the Scottish style, only after being drizzled with a red ale-infused glaze. Buttery, crumbly, and four-letter-word-worthy good.
Chocolate, Imperial Stout, and Cherry Biscotti
There was some disagreement among the October staff about whether biscotti—as in the entire class of Italian twice-baked dunkables—are good cookies. (The short answer is yes, they are, and I am correct.) But because I hesitate to pull rank, I'll just let these not-too-sweet, cocoa-rich, imperial stout-infused gems speak for themselves.
Blueberry, Blonde Ale, and Poppy Seed Rugelach Spirals
Hanukkah may have already come and gone this year, but there's no reason we can't continue to celebrate its fruits. Rugelach purists may say: "Hey, jerks! My rugelach normally comes croissant-shaped!" But we're here to tell you to embrace the spiral, which is far less fussy and much easier to fill with tasty blueberry jam, ground poppy seeds, and reduced blonde ale.