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Rescuing the Christmas menu

You don’t know yet what you should cook at Christmas or you want to liven up your typical «sausages and sauerkraut»? Then I’ve got just the thing for you! Together with Martin Droeser, the Swiss champion of the beer sommeliers, I’ve put together a five-course menu for you. He explains to you precisely which beer goes best with each dish, and above all why – in each case for traditionally-minded and more adventurous beer-drinkers! Well then: here we go!

1st course: Chestnut soup with caramelised crispy cinnamon-coated bacon

Inspired by the Christmas markets and the gourmet chestnuts you can find there, we chose this soup as a starter. A dash of cream adds a finishing touch and the chestnut itself lends it a pleasant sweetness. The bacon, caramelised with cinnamon-laced sugar, adds a salty-sweet contrast, and another component that experts likewise distinguish is the smoky aroma. It’s really guaranteed to trigger Christmas cheer all round!

The classic choice of beer to go with this, says the professional, is an uncapped cellar beer or a malty-aromatic Märzen: “But when you buy it, check that it was bottled as recently as possible. The cellar beer, you see, loses its fresh spiciness quite quickly.” Here, once again, we’re talking about the harmony between creamy-sweet and malty-spicy. The crispy bacon, conversely, with its contrast, provides a welcome surprise. The beer is best enjoyed at a maximum of 8 degrees.

For the craft beer recommendation, the sommelier has opted for experimentation, and goes for a Lichtenhainer: “This is a beer style that’s been largely forgotten nowadays, most closely reminiscent of a smoky Gose (a top-fermented beer from Goslar). It’s usually a bit astringent, pale and tangy, with a mild hint of smokiness. This striking contrast and the inherent complexity of the style combine to make the classic chestnut soup an incredibly refreshing experience.” What do you say to this adventure?

A second craft beer recommendation would be a dark smoky bock beer: “This is intended merely to exhibit an accompanying hint of smokiness in conjunction with the marked maltiness. The result in the pairing is bacon exponentially enhanced! The additional alcohol produces a warming effect – time to air the apartment. Savour this beer from a temperature of 10 degrees upwards.”

2nd course: Pink-fried strips of duck breast on lamb’s lettuce with reduced balsamic dressing, decorated with fileted orange

The second course is already a bit more substantial, and with oranges and the duck breast is a perfect match to the Christmas festivities. Here we have a red, flavourful, and above all fatty meat, contributing a discreet nuttiness. Complemented by the support of the balsamic dressing with its heavy, sweet vinegar and dark fruity undertones, which combine to delight our umami taste-buds. Lamb’s lettuce, in Switzerland also known as “Nüsslisalat”, is just a side dish here, and provides a fresh green contrast.

“As a classic beer variety, the best choice here is a Bavarian dark beer, since the full-bodied maltiness harmonises with the nutty component and the heavy sweetness of the vinegar,” explains Martin Droeser. “The craft beer recommendation would be a Northern English Brown Ale – a beer style that additionally supports the nutty aromas. Neither of these beers should be drunk too cold – the aromas are best appreciated at between 8 and 10 degrees.”

3rd course: Nuremberg sausages on sauerkraut and lukewarm potato salad

Here they are! – The typical «sausages with sauerkraut» so popular in all Bavarian households at Christmastime. A course that doesn’t entail all that much work in the kitchen and also functions just fine without any starters or desserts. The sauerkraut tastes pleasantly astringent, but also aromatic, thanks to the onions and juniper berries. It’s accompanied by the lukewarm, fresh potato salad, which provides a harmonious counterpoint. The Nuremberg sausages then contribute the fat and the additional spiciness.

The classic beer this time can be something more potent – a dark bock beer. This possesses the requisite aromatic maltiness to hold its own with the fat and the acidity to create the requisite balance.

Martin Droeser’s craft beer recommendation – a Belgian Tripel: “Should you find one that additionally contains spices like coriander seeds, that would be my preferred choice. A high sparkle and the citrus notes of the coriander, you see, lend the dish an agreeable freshness. Serve both these beers at about 10 degrees – then they’ll show to best advantage. »

4th course: Crème Bavaroise with apple-gingerbread crumble

Who doesn’t know and adore it? – Crème Bavaroise! A true classic! Loved for its intensive vanilla aromas. Here you should opt for fresh top-quality bourbon vanilla. The gingerbread crumble additionally emphasises the remaining Christmassy spices.

The classic beer to accompany this goes almost hand in hand with the craft beer recommendation. For the beer style, Martin Droeser prefers something dark, roastily aromatic. Ideally, he thinks, you should decide between these two beers:

“For all those who like it sweet and chocolaty: a sweet or milk stout, with the lactose customarily admixed, provides a delicious sweetness and a full-bodied flavour. As a rule, the chocolate notes in this beer are more prominent than in others.

Would you prefer something roasty/bitter? Then I recommend the Imperial Stout – full-bodied and heavy with prominent roasty aromas. These can range from liquorice, chocolate, all the way through to coffee. There are many varieties here that have been brewed with spices or have been matured in bourbon or rum casks, for example. The Imperial Stout has a few per cent more abv and can also be regarded as a dessert in its own right if you like. For coffee-lovers, the craft beer store even stocks stout variants that are brewed with coffee.”

5th course: cheese board with grapes and nuts

What better way to round off a meal than an exciting cheese board? Here are some suggestions you will hopefully find inspiring. Try a soft cheese, like the mild-creamy Peyrigoux or alternatively a Camembert au Calvados from Normandy. With their creamy-velvety consistency, their soft centre and their mildly astringent note of freshness, they simply melt in your mouth. As hard cheeses, consider a thoroughly matured, tart and very intensive-tasting Appenzeller or Gruyère from Switzerland. If you like trying something new, you should offer some interesting varieties of blue cheese. An English Stilton or a good slab of Roquefort is recommended here. Serve the cheese board with a choice of different hot mustard variations, like fig or apricot mustard, grapes and walnuts. Then pair the individual cheeses with each mustard combination and you’ll quickly find your favourite.

To accompany hard cheeses, the beer sommelier recommends to traditional-minded beer-drinkers an Eisbock or a barley wine, both of which have ideally been allowed to mature in the cellar for two or three years. This reduces the pungency of the alcohol, and maturation aromas like dark dried fruit, port or sherry emerge. This beer is best served at 12 to 14 degrees, since as it gets warmer progressively more aromas come to the fore.

For soft cheeses, he goes for a slightly acidic craft beer, such as a Belgian Saison – according to preference matured and blended in a white-wine cask. “Thanks to the high carbonation, the different soft cheese varieties become even more creamily delectable», explains Martin Droeser.

 

Attentive readers (who made the effort to translate them) will doubtless already have noticed that we have modified some recipes a bit. Nonetheless, I hope we’ve been able to give you some interesting ideas. So please tell me what you served up at Christmas and whether you’ve cooked and sampled the suggestions.

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