Autumn has arrived with a punch, the trees are showing off all their colours from the crimson of Maples leaves, to the soft sweet apricot of Elms and the deep brown of the mighty Oak. This is the time I start to think comfort beers, gone are the spring and summer bright floral hoppy Goldens and income Bitters with their nutty caramel notes such as JoC’s Bitter Old Bustard. This beer has a smooth malty base that imparts warm nutty notes with a russet red colour it gently balances its 3 English hops to give some bitterness. Served in large red wine glasses this beer pairs well with Cheddars and a fine nutty Emmental.
Yet for that chilled night by a roaring fire I reach for my old friend an Imperial Stout. Served in a Brandy style glass you can wrap your hands around it warm it gently so the myriad of aromas hit your senses with all its different intense notes. These aromas take you on a journey from Christmas spice, to nuts, burnt brown sugars and the final touch is of dried fruit, all of this is carried on a heady alcohol nose. These beers are definitely for sipping, you can of course share. So what are my top winter warmers.
Firstly we have Old Chimneys, Good King Henry 9.6% (rated one of the top 50 breweries in the World). This dark, rich beer is one that just gets better and better. As a strong beer it can be cellared and my advice is to buy 3. Drink one now, drink the other next Christmas and then in five years drink the last one and wish you had brought more!
The second beer is from Poppyland. Vossaøl’ (pronounced Voss-earl) is a 7.4% beer based on the traditional Norwegian brew known as maltøl. This beer is brewed for special occasions, it is malt forward but its main pleasure is from the yeast. The yeast gives it a characteristic flavour imparted by the family (or community) yeast known in Norwegian as ‘kveik’. This is kept from brew to brew and handed down from father to son or shared amongst neighbours. It imparts an orange peel flavour and this melds with the other essential ingredient – juniper infusion, made by soaking juniper branches in the hot brewing liquor before mashing-in.
Of course you cannot drink such strong drinks even during the holiday season so what else can I suggest? If you want to have a feel of the Christmas spirit then take a look at Humpty Dumptys Christmas Crackling gently spiced and not too heavy. There is also Woodfordes Best Bitter which would pair nicely with your Christmas meal as would the rest of the above beers.
The mention of Christmas beers reminds me that you can also use beer to soak your dried fruit for Christmas. Use something with some spice or depth of flavour, nothing too hoppy as that will leave bitterness when cooked that will be unpleasant.
If you would like to know more about Christmas beer and food matching have a look at our website or come along to our Christmas event and start your adventure in taste.
Original article featured in Iceni Magazine Norfolk – Nibbles and Tipples November 2016