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Thursday, 1 April 2010

Easter Beer

It seems odd that there isn't a huge tradition of Easter beers - I mean, we have beers for almost every other festival and season, so why not Easter?

I'm diabolically playing devils advocate of course, and somewhat disrespectfully, given the Christian nature of the festival (please note: other deities and pagan rituals are available). Of course there are still Easter beers, but we don't get to hear about them very much. The Belgians (and when it comes to beer, it's always the Belgians, isn't it?) still have a tradition of paasbier, although it's hard to say that this refers to any particular style. It fits in with the tradition of brewing festival beers that something special might be created, but does it fall into a defined style? Does it 'eck as like (as we say in Yorkshire).

Scandinavia has its paaskol, and Germany has its osterbier, but again, these don't refer to particular styles - they can be anything from pale lagerbiers to dark ales. What might go well at Easter in the UK? You may as well ask what goes well with chocolate eggs.

One of the great matches is Belgian kriek (cherry) beer. A lot of connoisseurs can be a bit snooty about the more commercial offerings from Lindemans, Mort Subite, St Louis and Timmermans, but the key here is the sweetness. To match a beer to a dessert, it needs to be a bit sweeter to work well. We can gaurantee that the blend of sweet cherry beer (it doesn't work so well with the unsweetened artisanal offerings) and chocolate is enough to convert any sceptic.

If you think that fruit beers are somehow a bit sissy (you're wrong, but we'll move on), then let's go to the other extreme - chocolate stout. Both these beers have the rich, smooth taste of chocolate, but only one is made with it. The Wells & Youngs beer actually has chocolate added to the brew kettle, the Brooklyn version is a heavy imperial stout, although has a rich, sweet drinkability to it. If pairing it with chocolate sounds like too much of a good thing, then serve it accompanying any creamy dessert - creme brulee is perfect. Or if you fancy something even more outlandish, put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in your beer for a grown-up version of a Coke float. Watch out though - the carbonation in the beer will make things get quite lively! You can see how it works in this video from Zak Avery, recorded a couple of years ago:

3 comments:

  1. I have to admit, I only came across German Oster-Festbier last week, when a neighbour dropped off a bottle. I like the idea of seasonal festbiers, even if there's nothing common to them other than the naming :)

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  2. having spent some time in Sweden, I always look forward to the release of Easter beers (påsköl) . That this happens barely into lent matters little, it seems.

    Påsköl are generally brewed to go with the Easter meal - a buffet feast based around baked ham, but it's a fair bet that pickled herring will be involved too. This gives brewers a fair range of styles to aim at, even if most tend towards a darker, maltier ale-type.

    If there's no tradition associated with a feast day in the UK, we do seem to be getting more Spring themed seasonal (often golden) ales. I like that.

    Although I would really like a bottle of Jämtlands Påsköl right now.

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  3. Barry, we're half-and-half on it - we love the traditional Oktoberfest beers, and aren't so keen on ordinary helles being labelled as Oktoberfestbier. But then again, if it raises the profile of beer, particularly ones with slightly manic illustrations of rabbits as depicted in your blog post, then great!

    Jerry, isn't it a bit cruel to release seasonal beers at the start of Lent - isn't beer the most common thing to give up?! I guess it means you can lay down a supply to break your fast at Easter.

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