Just in time for the holiday season, I was recently invited to a Christmas beer and cheese paring organized by French bièreologue Elisabeth Pierre.
Christmas beers used to be brewed from the cereals that were left over in the granary at the end of the harvest season. Today, they are specially concocted for beer aficionados at Christmastime. At the tasting, which took place at Tempero restaurant in the 13th arrondissement, Elisabeth presented five different French artisanal Christmas beers and a selection of French and Swiss cheeses.
We tasted Mandrin Bière de Noël (pictured above), a cloudy, light-amber, fruity-tasting beer with no bitterness with Vacherin Mont d’Or, a soft, smooth, creamy, cow’s-milk cheese from Switzerland. The beer is brewed by Brasserie Artisanale Dauphiné located in the Rhône-Alpes region.
La Joyeuse, a triple-fermented beer from Le Berry (a province under the Ancient Regime), is brewed from regional malts. An amber beer, it almost has the flavor of light molasses. I learned that it had been brewed with liquorice, which must have accounted for the flavor that I tasted. It was served with Gruyere cheese from Switzerland (not pictured), a mild cheese with delightfully crunchy Tyrosine clusters (tiny protein clusters that form as cheese ages).
Gaillarde de Noël, a blond, cloudy beer from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, had a sweet-honey aroma and tasted bitter and fruity at the same time. The brewery was opened only 20 months ago in the little town of Gignac by husband-and-wife team Elisabeth and Benjamin Moinet.
Elisabeth poured a cervoise brewed by La Rouget de Lisle in the town of Bletterans in the Franche-Comté region. She said that cervoise is a beer that is brewed without hops, the flavoring agent that gives beer its distinctive bitter taste. The beer had a sweet honeysuckle aroma and a honey-like flavor. We tasted it with La Fourme de Montbrison (pictured with La Joyeuse), a cow’s-milk blue cheese made in the Auvergne region in southern France. The Fourme de Montbrison is perhaps the mildest blue cheese that I have ever tasted, and I thought that it went well the mildly-sweet cervoise
Merry Chrismouss, a Christmas beer brewed by Entre 2 Monde in the Vallée de la Loue in Franche-Comté, had an aggressive, bitter-coffee flavor. All of the beers produced by this company are unfiltered, unpasteurized, and re-fermented in the bottle. It was the beer that I liked the least, and as far as I could tell, it didn’t go with any of the cheeses.
Elisabeth’s beer and cheese tasting was a great occasion to learn more about the world of beer, and I was happy that I had the chance to attend.
Have a very Merry Chrismouss sampling the Christmas beers that you find at your favorite beer supplier!
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