Think cake, think beer

Manns Brown Ale XmasDecember's recipe ingredient favourites of rum soaked raisins, thick almond marzipan and rich royal icing need matching with an alcoholic beverage of equally tasty proportions capable of standing up to their intensely rich flavours. Sweet sherry, Marsala or sugar-laden dessert wines will certainly match Christmas cake and other seasonal puddings, but if you're looking for something a little bit different why not get in some premium bottled beers instead?

Definitely not as sexy, well-known or well packaged, fermented barley and hops can deliver just as many cake-matching flavours as a bottle of sweet wine.

Inns and GunnInnis & Gunn's Original oak-aged Edinburgh ale comes in wine-sized 750ml sized bottles and is clearly aimed at people who would normally head for the shelves of French Sauternes when looking for a dessert accompaniment. But you don't need to fork out £20 on a bottle of fancy foreign wine when British beer can deliver butter, treacle and milk chocolate Malteser flavours for £3.19 (Ocado).

Treat this beer with caution, it's rich flavours will soon overwhelm your palate and tum if drunk in large amounts so drink this honey-coloured beer in wine glass amounts. You'll find that one bottle will easily wash down a family of three's (four if you really stretch it) slices of Christmas cake and the top layer from a box of chocolates too.

Inns and Gunn Cask StrengthIf you prefer not to share your beer then try Innis & Gunn's Cask Strength (only available around Christmas) as this comes in that weird British beer bottle size of 330ml. The 7.7% alcohol by volume (one-and-a-half times stronger than normal) aids the beer's richness and complexity and, at just over half a pint, there is enough of this roasted almond and golden syrup tasting liquid to satisfy one mince pie or a gingerbread man leaving a little over for quiet solitary contemplation.

You may find tasting this cracking beer brings on feelings of (unwanted?) seasonal cheer in which case get in a crate full and send as Christmas presents – each bottle is neatly packaged in a red presentation box making wrapping easier and the receiver's job harder when they poke about under the Christmas tree trying to identify their gift.

Highly alcoholic beers aren't for everyone, so if you don't want your cheeks to end up the colour of your roasting chestnuts then try one of the lowest alcoholic beers on the marketManns Brown Ale (£1.02 Sainsbury's, £1.21 Asda). It is possible to make a beer of less than Manns 2.8%, but you'd end up with a thin and weedy sweet malty tasting drink. Alcohol adds fullness, even at such low levels, enabling the brown sugar sandwich flavours of the beer to satisfy without coming across like a cordial.

If you end up with some beer left over don't waste it, give your hair a rinse after shampooing with this supposedly sticky shine enhancing tonic or if your thoughts are on Christmas fayre (why is this always spelt with a 'y'?) then use it to soak your plum pudding ingredients. Manns' liquorice nuances make it the perfect moistening aid to puddings and cakes.

chocolate cakeYou needn't search around for a recipe as each bottle label comes complete with a brown ale recipe, or for a greater selection go to the Manns Recipe website. Dark chocolate cake and gravy made with the ale are recommended – make all these and I'm not surprised that there is always a 'surge of sales during the festive period'.

orangesNot all beers taste like a hip-loading butter and sugar nightmare. For a refreshing alternative give Brakspear's Oxford Gold Organic bottle conditioned beer a go. Available at most supermarkets for between £1.32 (Asda) and £1.88 (Waitrose) a bottle, this extremely light-bodied beer tastes so unlike many beers that it is good choice for wine lovers who need seducing into ale heaven. You'll find no hint of hops, just liquid marmalade. A good choice for bears named after railway stations and humans needing refreshment post stuffing turkeys and stirring puddings.

This first appeared on Drink Up... With Paula Goddard on livingit.com