Something has been on our minds for a while now. What beers would pair up nicely with the most memorable meal of the year? So we decided this year’s Christmas was time to find out. We wanted to pair our most favourite beers with some Tuscan Christmas dishes. The Vaccarini’s family invited me for a special lunch on the 25/12 in West London – the deal was to work on some unique beer pairings. Elena created the menu; we’ve done some research looking for the best combo. We ended up defining what beers you should drink while sitting next to the tv watching Home Alone.
Being a beer nerd and all it sounds like a fun thing to celebrate. Take in mind London best breweries with you. Is there anything better to see your family quaffing their beers? Let’s try, shall we? It’s all about writing the best story possible for the dining experience, on this particular day too.
🥂 Starter 1
The beer: Oude Gueuze Tilquin à l’Ancienne (Gueuze, 7.0%)
Oude Gueuze Tilquin à l’Ancienne is a spontaneous fermentation beer, produced from the blending of 1, 2 and 3 years old lambics. It is unfiltered and unpasteurized and refermented in the bottle for at least six months. Lambic, a Belgian style of beer famous for its natural fermentation, come in many varieties. In the straight-up version, Lambic ales are tart, puckery and complex, dry palate cleansers with flavours and aroma of barnyard funk, wheat, citrus and apples. The tart, lemon-like qualities of the Gueuze are very aptly suited to begin the celebration with the highest level possible.
Paired with: Trio of croutons: Zucchini & Olives cream / Pancetta wrapped Pecorino cheese on polenta croutons / Mortadella & fine Pistachios mousse
The style is a terrific start to a meal as an appetizer, as it’s not the least bit heavy, and pairs with plenty of different dishes. With full-on bites like the Pancetta & the Pecorino and the Zucchini & Olives you will find a lovely home with a gueuze – the effervescence and acidity will cut through well, and balance both. Also, consider light offer like the Mortadella & Pistachios to go well with the mildly tart beer. The combo will refresh the palate, increase salivation, and decrease any fatty, salty or umami taste impression on the tongue. Think of it like ‘brightening’ a dish or sauce with a squeeze of lemon juice.
🥂 Starter 2
The beer: Kernel – Dry Stout (Dry Stout, 4.5%)
Here is a flavoursome dry stout from Kernel Brewery. Pouring near black and boasting a litany of bittersweet roasted flavours thanks to the roasted malt, this stout is a perfectly session-able beer. With a rotating hop profile expect lots of dark chocolate and bitter coffee notes with leather and smoke and subtle tropical notes that only add to its sheer drinkability. The beer has a bright and chalk-like dry finish.
Paired with: Scallops skewers with Prosciutto Crudo mantle
The pairing of scallops and prosciutto is creating a perfect combination, a proper Christmas ‘surf n’ turf’. Dry Irish stouts are a great earthy accompaniment to shellfish, accentuating the ‘sea sweetness’, complementing the scallops’ soft, salty foods. This style also carries a lot of ‘roast’ to pick up charred flavours from the prosciutto. The sweet taste, bitter blackened burnt, nuttiness and braised, caramelized integrity of dishes… It’s such a contrast! The scallops’ brininess with the stout’s maltiness, refreshing and cleansing the palate, but the beer still retains its identity. While the hops in the beer are playing with the sauce, the scallop has been cooked with.
🥂 Starter 3
The beer: Solvay Society – Superposition (Witbier x Session IPA, 3.7%)
Witbiers are often brewed with unmalted wheat, pilsner malt, coriander and curacao bitter orange peel. Instead, session IPAs are the little version of IPA, nor is it a Pale Ale, nor a British-styled sessionable pale beer, instead it fills in the middle of a hoppy pale ale. Reduce the strength in an IPA, lose some of the maltier middle of a Pale Ale, load up the hops on a golden ale, dry it all out and give it a pokier bitterness and you’re in the Session IPA zone.
This is another masterpiece from Solvay Society, the London Belgian inspired brewery. A Session IPA’s intense citrus and tropical fruit aromas and a Belgian Witbier’s peppery spice exist simultaneously: lemon sherbet and slight clove aroma with a silky mouthfeel, a touch of white pepper finish, all at an easy 3.7%.
Paired with: Salmon & potato croquettes with homemade sauce
Witbiers are fabulously flexible regarding food matching – the beer world’s equivalent of crisp white wine. These croquettes, entirely made and not greasy at all, we’re delicate but with a firm piquant profile. This coriander and bitter orange peel gave it a bright spice alongside a light body, perfect with the salmon and the herbs inside the croquettes. The hot homemade mayonnaise was getting washed by the hops in the beer, providing an ideal counterpoint to the sharp, zesty flavours of lime, coriander, garlic and chilli.
The beer: Brouwerij Verhaeghe – Duchesse De Bourgogne (Flanders Red Ale, 6.2%)
Duchesse de Bourgogne from Brouwerij Verhaeghe is the traditional Flemish red ale. This refreshing ale is matured in oak casks; smooth with a creamy texture and interplay of passion fruit, chocolate, and a long, dry and acidic finish. After the first and secondary fermentation, the beer goes for maturation into the oak barrels for 18 months. The final product is a blend of younger eight-month-old beer with 18 months old beer, while the Duchesse de Bourgogne’s average age before being bottled is 12 months. This Belgian brew is a unique sour, with vinous characteristics. While it can come off vinegary, it has ripe fruit notes to it, so you’ve got some dark cherries, some plum, maybe some sour cherries as well. The beer is aged in wood, which gives that beer a whole new dimension.
Summer truffle cream tagliolini with crispy pancetta and walnut kernels
Here we have a full-on exploration intermingling of sweet from the cheese cream, earthiness from truffle, umami and fat from the pancetta. All of these flavour elements harmonizing deliciously with the sour beer’s balsamic profile: It cuts through the truffle’s richness and has that almost vinegar-like element that works like cheese and pickles. Since the most potent fermentation-derived note is acetic, adding some funky flavour from the walnuts’ pancetta and earthiness may help the beer to read more complex. This might bring forward some other fermentation dimensions in the beer: this combination also showing a contrasting plate of the same ingredients, served as a mushed-up mess.
The beer: Brouwerij De Glazen Toren – Ondineke Oilsjtersen (Belgian Tripel 8.5%)
Ondineke Oilsjtersen from De Glazen Toren is a classic Belgian Tripel. Brewed using traditional methods and made from all-natural ingredients including artesian water, malt, hops, yeast and liquid candy sugar, this is an unfiltered top-fermented and bottle conditioned. As in the Saison, no spices are added. Ondineke pours a hazy gold with a frothy white head. The sweetness balanced perfectly by hop bitterness while notes of apple, pear and citrus balance spice notes of clove and white pepper. The 8.5% ABV is well hidden. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and creamy with a finish that is tart, dry and slightly bitter. Aromas include orchard fruits, banana, spice, yeast and caramel.
Paired with: Glazed pears & Pecorino cheese Roast Pork loin with roast potatoes
Belgian tripel strikes me as pretty tough to pair with food. That distinctive banana-and-spice blend of Belgian yeast is there. There are often herbal flavours, too, and delicate stone-fruit notes like apricot complete the picture; this sweetness, high alcohol, and fruity esters all pose different pairing challenges. Cheese is probably most straightforward, but these beers are singing with rich pork dishes. Sweeter versions of the style like Ondineke have flavours reminiscent of the sweetness that comes from meat cooked with fruit. It’s a stellar compliment to the Pecorino and even better contrast to the pears. The beer leans a bit sweet and makes a perfect partner for the potatoes, standing up well to these meats’ concentrated flavours.
The beer: Kernel Extra Stout – Raspberry (Export Stout fermented w. raspberries, 7.0%)
An annual special release Export Stout refermented with 100grams per litre of British raspberries to add a tart and fruity sweetness to our ordinary roasted and luxurious Export Stout. Export Stout Raspberry. Blend of stouts conditioned in a stainless tank for six weeks with 100g/L whole British raspberries.
Paired with: Dark Chocolate & Mascarpone stuffed Pandoro
Isn’t a real Christmas meal if there isn’t a good Pandoro in the table, especially if it is a stuffed one even more if the filling is rich & powerful dark chocolate and Mascarpone cheese. Berry-infused stout? This makes an excellent final pairing. The dark chocolate marries so naturally, while the berry notes help to cut through the creamy Mascarpone. I love when a dessert doesn’t give me too much sweetness, but actually, it’s capable of going through 3 different tastes. Here we have sweet, bitter and sour… a match made in heaven!