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La Ronda #7: Beery Christmas

For the December edition of "La Ronda" we chose something not very original, but still interesting, I think. The topic was the following:

"What beer, or beers, will you drink with your Christmas dinner or lunch?. And since the Spanish speaking beer bloggers are not from beer countries, they were also asked to talk about the reaction fo the family.

As mentioned in the previous post, this was going to be a very special Christmas for us because it was going to be the first we would be celebrating at our new home.

Everything turned out very well. We had bought the tree a couple of weeks earlier. On Monday 22 we went to buy the fish that would be dinner, a carp, following the tradition of going somewhere where they are sold alive. Tuesday afternoon we decorated the tree and prepared the potatoe salad, and Wednesday morning we finished preparing the table and left everything ready to receive my in-laws.

I had left a few bottles of Svijanský Rytíř chilling outside. They were soon opened to drink with open sandwiches and cold cuts. We also had a glass of malinovice (raspberry schnapps), home made, that one of my clients gave me as present (those are clients!!!).

Later, while we were raiding the trays with vanoční cukrovy (Christmas biscuits) that my wife and mother in law had baked, I opened a bottle of Herold Tmavé that had also spent some time outside. It was a very pleasant combination. The cukrovy atenuated the sweeter notes of the beer, leaving only room for the more interesting roasted notes to fully express themselves.
It was time for dinner. First, fish soup that I made with the bones and other parts of the carp. It was tasty and mild, good to open the appetite. Main course, traditional fried carp with potatoe salad in two versions, mine and my father in law's, each very different, each delicious. The choice of beer for dinner was almost last minute. I had picked one already, but on the Thursday before I stopped by at Pivovarský Dvůr Chýně and picked two 1,5l bottles, one of them was of their Vanoční Světlý Speciál 14°. It was those almost signature fruity notes of all the beers from Chýně, one of the best Czech micros, but with a fantastically dry and bitter finish. Needless to say, the beer paired wonderfully with both fish and salads, of which we ate tonnes. We all liked it and not a drop was left after dinner.
After opening the presents (I got a pipe from my wife! how cool is that!), it was time to raid the cukrovy again, after a shot of malinovice to help digest the dinner, of course. For that moment I had chosen a beer that I aroused my curiosity at the last Christmas Beer Festival, Nørrebro Bryghus Julebryg, a season special brewed with malt, wheat and oats malts, together with a secret mix of Christmas spices. I served it at room temperature. It is a very delicate beer. Pours a dark amber, with a good looking compact head. Its bouquet has cinnamon, nuts and perník (gingerbread). And it does taste almost like perník juice, it's got that mellow sweetness with a mildly spiced touch. The finish is short, warm and with a subtle rum note. I loved this beer. It shows that a beer doesn't need to be extreme to be memorable. It's like an elegant lady, but not glamourous, attractive without the need of any sexy clothes.
As in many other countries, here in the Czech Republic, Christmas celebration does not end on December 24, it goes on a day or two more. Christmas lunch would be roasted duck with knedlíky and sauerkraut. While we prepared with with my mother in law, a couple more Svijany went down. To pair with this feast I had chosen the other beer I had brought from Chýně, Tmavý Speciál, also fermented at 14°balling, also with a relatively low 5%ABV. Again, the choice was right. Those fruity notes (I think I could recognise a beer from Chýně with my eyes closed thanks to them) contrasted very well with the home made sauerkraut and complemented the taste of the duck, to wrap everything in an intense roasted coffee finish that reminded me more of a Stout than of a Czech dark Lager. I wolfed down almost half the duck, two servings of sourkraut and about 10 knedlíku. The beer was all drunk, too. If it hadn't been that we decided to go to Prague to see the Christmas markets in Old Town Square, I would have slept until Monday.
When we came back we ate some home made sausages (also present from a client) with some of the left over potatoe salad (we still had a lot of it). With that I drunk Louny Hořký Speciál 13%, which, like the 11% that I had tasted at the Christmas Beer Festival, disappointed me, not because it was bad, but because it didn't fulfill the promise of extra bitterness.
But the celebrations didn't end there. Another part of the family came over on Friday to have roasted turkey with potatoes, and also soup with liver dumplings. I paired the food with Svijanský Baron 15%. The strongest beer from Svijany, that did a pretty good job with the turkey and side dishes. Again, I ate a lot.

More presents were opened after lunch. Several tonnes more of cukrovy were eaten (and we still have a couple more tonnes in the pantry). During the afternoon I opened other beers. Rebel Vanoční Speciál, a 14° gold lager. Nice, it would have been an adecuate pairing for the carp and potatoe salad, but that didn't impress me much. Poutník Speciál 14%, another gold lager of the same balling graduation, but somewhat drier. Janáček Vanoční Speciál, which I had already tasted in my visit to Hradec Králove, of all the Czech Christmas beers of 14°balling this is the one I liked the most. And also the Louny that was left, Hořký Speciál 16%, a little better than its little sisters, more syrupy, with more character, but that also fails to fulfill the promise of extra bitterness.
It was already dark outside (which means anytime after 4.30PM) and I opened a bottle of Schlenkerla Urbock to drink with a cheese and smoked meats platter. I have become a fan of "smoked" beers, and this one was just what I expected. Almost black, with a generous head of a ligth beige colour. The nose reminded me of schwardsvalská šunka a smoked cured raw ham that I like a lot, together with caramel and nuts. It tasted somehow like a tea made of that ham, with those strong wood notes it has, followed by caramel and mild cocoa with nuts. Delicious. It was very surprised when my wife, my nieces and my brother in law all said they liked the beer a lot.
It was a very nice Christmas celebration. We are both very happy with how well everything turned out. Everyone liked the beers I chose, only my wife regretted not being able to drink more of them. There will be a chance next year.

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