When the Parish Fair goose is brought to the table with dumplings, red cabbage and a rich beer sauce, then Bavaria is all set for the culinary winter season. The native cuisine steps up a gear. It’s time for all the senses to get involved: for the aromas of roasting and gingerbread spices, the taste of freshly sliced winter vegetables, the sweetness of baked apples and almond stars. And for the aromatic diversity of the Bavarian winter and Christmas beers! In Bavaria’s brewery cellars, these have been slowly turning into exquisite specialities.
From midsummer through to winter, the seasonal speciality beers gradually become richer and more substantial. Many of Bavaria’s winter and Christmas beers have a higher original gravity, and therefore retain more of the aromatic ingredients from the raw materials of malt and hops. There are strict regulations governing festival beers and Bock beers (strong beers): the winter festival beers have to have a minimum original gravity of 13 per cent, and over 16 per cent for Bock beers. A very special treat full of character!
There are top- and bottom-fermented winter and Christmas beers, dark and pale varieties, juicy aromatic beers, and full bodied giants. The seasonal specialities have evocative names: Winter’s Tale and Snow White, St. Nicholas Bock or Snow Waltz, Winter Boar and Franconian Christmas. And naturally, wherever there is a famous Christmas market there is also a Christmas market beer. The labels on the bottles are designed with love and creativity, often becoming collectors’ items.
And as for the beers: each one is more beautiful than the last! They range from bright and frosty pale shades to the warm, intense colours of the strong beers. Bock and Doppelbock shine in golden yellow and amber or in fiery dark, almost black tones. They offer a sumptuous malt bouquet and their round, “soft” aroma is much appreciated by the ladies too. Caramel notes alternate with aromas of crusty bread, toast and coffee in these dark specialities. It all depends on the composition of the master brewer and his preference for stronger or milder variations. It is fitting that these strong Bavarian speciality beers are served not only in traditional tankards but also in small, elegant glasses.
Heavenly festival beer cuisineThe shorter the days, the more fun it is to cook and bake together. Chefs and gourmets love to use Bavarian beers as a high-quality cooking ingredient. With their fine spiciness, they add a special touch to many festive dishes. Along with the classic Bierbraten (beer roasts), Bavaria’s chefs are constantly creating new beer-based culinary delights - beer and mushroom soup with a pastry crust, fillet of wild rabbit with rye beer dumplings and celery puree, or Bockbier parfait with apple and ginger sauce.
Winter and Christmas beers on the menuIn most cases, the beer used in the cooking also makes the perfect accompanying drink to the meal. It is, however, a good idea to start the menu with mild, light beers and then, as with wine, to move onto the more full-bodied, intense flavours. A light and sparkling wheat beer works well as a stimulating aperitif or a fresh accompaniment to starters and salads. Hearty roast meats require a full-bodied winter beer; for a hearty game dish a smoked beer can be a good choice. Over dessert the Christmas beers and winter Bock beers reveal their aromatic opulence: the subtle malty sweetness comes through when enjoyed with Stollen, Nuremberg gingerbread or traditional Christmas cookies.
An evening by the fire after a beautiful winter’s day: Now is the time to sup a glass of Christmas or winter beer that tickles the taste buds and, thanks to its hop content, ensures a pleasant sense of relaxation. The Bavarian winter specialities are warming and invigorating in equal measure. And their quality and unique variety of flavours make them a very special treat. No wonder we look forward to the “time of tranquillity” and the great culinary pleasures it brings.
More information and recipes can be found at www.bayerisches-bier.de