Winter Warmer: when the beers are winter – Italian Cuisine


Intense personality, strong body and alcohol content, sometimes notes of spices and festive scents: these are the Winter Warmer, the beers that warm hands and heart in front of the lit fireplace


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They are part of those that are defined seasonal beers, i.e. those typically produced in a particular period of the year, when the ingredients are available fresh. For many breweries and micro-breweries, brewing seasonal beers is a tradition, especially during the winter months. The beers in winter, in particular, have an ancient history: before the industrial revolution in England, in the mid-eighteenth century, some beers were aged in cask (typically oak), for months and even years, a practice that greatly increased their profile aromatic. During the aging period, the tannins released from the wooden barrels added particular aromas to what were called Old Ale at the time, while the wild yeasts gave the beers a slightly sour taste. The origin of the Wassail (from old English was hál, literally 'to your health'), a hot punch traditionally prepared for the Christmas holidays by the monks: based on beer with a high alcohol content, apples and spices, it was widespread in southern England during the Middle Ages and today takes the most pleasant and Italianized name of mulled beer.

194913 "src =" "width =" 210Later, the winter Old Ale will take the name, also in England, of Winter Warmer (literally “winter-warmer”). Today a Winter Warmer is a traditional beer that is very rich in coming malt produced in the cold months: it usually has a structured body and is quite dark – but not as dark as one stout. Sometimes, winter beers are scented with spices (although they are not an indispensable ingredient), especially in the United States where they are called Christmas Beer.
The American Christmas Beers they are usually strong malted and spiced with a variety of ingredients, including cinnamon, orange peel, star anise, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and even vanilla. These caramel-scented malt beers evoke the familiar aromas of freshly baked bread mixed with citrusy spices.

194914 "src =" "width =" 210In Belgium, where beer is serious business and every village or town has its own brewery (remember that the Belgian beer was declared a "World Heritage Site" by Unesco for the richness and diversity of local types), winter beers took hold during the Second World War, when local breweries decided to compete with the popular Scotch Ale introduced by British soldiers stationed in the country: the new born were dark and malty beers, more alcoholic than average and often quite sweet, sometimes strongly spiced, ideal for the winter cold. For example, the famous Chimay Bleue Trappist beer was born in 1948 as Chimay Bière de Noël (Chimay Christmas Beer); in 1954 it will take the name Chimay Bleue back to favor its production and sale all year round.

194916 "src =" "width =" 210The main feature of winter beers is the alcoholic potency: the average alcohol content by volume varies between 6 and 12% vol. They contribute to the taste particular yeast strains, which may have notes reminiscent of the typical Christmas sweets: sultanas, plums, brown sugar and, of course, alcohol. All Winter Warmers are products that give their best in accompaniment to robust and spicy dishes such as braised meats and stews, full-bodied seconds of slow cooking red meat; often, the meat is perfumed during cooking by the beer itself, because it further enhances the taste while maintaining a certain lightness, thanks to the yeasts. Still niche drinks here are refinements to taste alone or in company, perhaps in front of the cheerful fire of a lit fireplace or comfortably seated on the sofa.

If we have inspired you or even just intrigued you, here are some greedy dishes with the scent of beer, to be enjoyed with a Winter Warmer, we suggest the pumpkin soup with juniper, the pork fillet with beer, the braised meat with small turnips and, to finish in beauty, the orange donut.

January 2022
Francesca Tagliabue

Posted on 12/01/2022


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