Belgian Beer

Boon Gueuze Arancini with Arla Havgus

This is something new - at least on these parts. Back when I was writing in danish, I did occasionally do some food recipes involving beer. This one started out as a Gueuze risotto, but quickly turned into a full on Arancini attack. After my former work place shut down, I've been missing my regular doses of cheese filled arancini, but no more!

The wanted future of every risotto ever. Why? Because you can add more cheese!

The wanted future of every risotto ever. Why? Because you can add more cheese!

The main inspiration here comes from Jamie Olivers risotto, yet I've tweaked it so far that no one would notice. It's been simplified to my liking and I've added a bunch of cheese from local vendor Arla Unika. They're as geeky about cheese as I am about beer, and they were quick to guide me with cheese for my risotto and giving me tasters. Havgus, a medium-hard cheese, is the base in the recipe, but with the big brother Havgus XL, who's a bit stronger in the flavors, it all came full circle and adds an extra layer of taste to an already rich dish.

Havgus is a bit nutty, salty and fruity, some would even call it funky, which goes hand it hand with the beer chosen - Boon's Oude Geuze, an affordable alternative to a complex lambic blend, that'll satisfy even the hardcore lover of sours.

Ingredients for the risotto

2 tbs oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

400 gram Arborio rice

150 ml Geuze

1 liter chicken broth

25 gram butter

100 gram cheese (80% Havgus + 20% Havgus XL)

+ more cheese for filling! About another 100 gram or however much you like in there.

+ Salt, pepper and thyme

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup of bread flour

How to make it

1) Heat up the oil in a big pot and fry the onions, garlic and celery for about five minutes. Don't let them take any color.

2) Add the rice, turn the heat down to above medium and fry them for about a minute while stirring. Stirring is important - keep stirring.

3) Add the Geuze and stir until the it's absorbed into the rice.

4) Turn the heat down to about medium and add the broth little by little. Add about 10% and keep stirring until it's absorbed. Save the last 10%. It'll take about 30 minutes, but try biting the rice - if they still have a little bite, they're about done.

5) Turn the heat to medium low and add butter and cheese. Time for the last stirring session (is your arm hurting by now?). It needs to be creamy and wet. If it's too stiff add some more broth.

Now you have a risotto, and you could garnish that with salt, pepper, thyme and some freshly shredded cheese and serve it, or...

6) Let the risotto cool down in the fridge

7) Take a large spoon of cooled down risotto. Shape it into a round circle and put a cube of cheese in the middle. Fold the sides of risotto around the cheese and shape it into a ball. Repeat until you're out of risotto.

8) Whisk the eggs together in a shallow plate and put the bread flour in another shallow plate. Dip the risotto balls in first the egg and then the flour.

9) Deep fry in oil over medium heat. The butter on the inside should be melted, while the outside is crispy. Serve as a starter, with a dip of choice.


Stille Nacht Vertical 2005-2016

I'm not a fan of what most people around here consider a Christmas beer. The supermarket highlights a stronger and sweeter pilsner, while the craft breweries have traditionally opted for the occasional addition of various spices. None of these really call out to me, although I can enjoy a few each year around Christmas.

12 years of Silent Night! 

12 years of Silent Night! 

One Christmas beer serves as the exception though. It's basically the Orval of Christmas beers. Loved by most, and always worth a sip or three...

Although, let's be honest, usually more than three sips!

I'm obviously talking about Stille Nacht from De Dolle in Belgium - and this season I found myself invited to a vertical tasting ranging from 2005 through 2016. We started off with the latest and worked our way backwards to see the evolution of sugar.

It was an interesting journey right from the beginning as we started with a young, pungent strong ale. It's surprisingly hoppy from the Nugget hops and it leaves the beer with an overall floral and herbal feeling. The booze is very present in both taste and aroma.

As we get served 2015 it feels a bit too cold. The aroma and taste are at a standstill. The finish is classical Stille Nacht, but it's hard to find a deeper meaning at the bottle of this particular glass.

As we reach 2014, we're back on track. The booze is still present, but the herbs have mellowed out a bit and let some vanilla and caramel shine through.

All the way down to 2010, we seem go the same route. Everything gets a little softer, a little smoother and a little more subtle. I guess it's called well rounded. Oddly enough 2012 seems more herbal and boozy than its fresher counterparts from 2013 and 2014.

2010 also marks the clearest of the Stille Nacht from tap. From here on out, we're drinking vintage bottles. Slight changes are expected...

However, as we let out 7 year old oxygen from the bottle, we can tell we're in for something very different. 2009 gives notes of toffee, oak, prunes and raisins; it makes it seem like a completely different beer. In a blind tasting I would guess it was a barley wine.

Dig in... 

Dig in... 

As we dive further in we're again looking at something unlike our previous glasses. 2008 is much clearer and lighter in color; it almost resembles a whiskey more than a beer. Both the nose and taste bring similar notes to 2009, but it comes off a bit thinner and my mind wanders towards a good port wine.

As we're starting to see the end of our journey, so is Stille Nacht. 2007 and 2006 both seem to have faded past their peak. It could be due to storage, but they seem dustier and lighter. The booze seems to have returned as well and they generally don't seem as well rounded anymore.

At the final stop, the grand finale, 2005, we're sipping one of the easiest drinking 12% beers. It could be that we've been through ten other vintages, but it seems easier on the palate. Less booze and more mild vanilla, prune and oak characters than we've adjusted to by now, although still with a little dusty edge to it.

So, what's the moral of this story?

I have great friends?

Stille Nacht is a great beer?

Probably the biggest Stille Nacht fan in the world. Thanks for inviting me Tony! 

Probably the biggest Stille Nacht fan in the world. Thanks for inviting me Tony! 

I'll go with both! And then I'll advise to go for either a three year old Stille Nacht if on tap or a seven year old in bottles.

Next year I hope to try 2008-2010 to see if I'd still pick the same as my favorite. For science, of course!