*Is this post sponsored? No, but I am friends with the owners of this business, I get free samples sometimes and they have donated to events I’ve put on in the past. That said, I wasn’t asked to write this. I like this recipe; it’s seasonal and relevant. I hope you like it, too!*
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Yes, folks, it’s officially the holiday season in Ireland. My Siùcra Shack Christmas Cake is on sale at The Green Sheep, I’ve been very, very busy with holiday parties, craft fairs and our first Green Sheep pop-up event (which will be explained in greater detail in my next post).
It’s also that time of year where my favourite local brewery brings out their Christmas beer! I wrote recently about White Gypsy, a craft brewery in nearby Templemore run by my friends Cuilan and Sally Loughnane, during Indie Beer Week when they had an evening barbecue. It was a great night and, with their recent rebrand, a great way to launch their new look.
Cuilan developed this special Christmas beer, called Yule Ól, fashioned after the holiday beers found in Scandanavia (generally called Juleøl; for more information on Scandanavian Christmas beers this Serious Eats article is great).
White Gypsy Yule Ol is an easy-drinking, medium-dark beer that’s been aged in an oak barrel. I first tried it two years ago when I was featuring White Gypsy in an article for The Tipperary Star. That’s when I took these photos, so while the branding in this post is a bit dated (see above photo for the new look), this recipe is one I’ve been using ever since.
Crispy bacon lardons, sharp cheddar cheese (I like to use our local Derg Cheddar, but any aged cheddar will do) and a scattering of spring onion, along with the beer, make this an irresistibly delicious dip. The most appropriate accompaniments for a hot beer dip are pretzel bites – preferably homemade. They are really easy to make, so do give them a try alongside the dip recipe. Crispy pretzels will not be as good; soft store-bought pretzels are a fine substitute.
This hot dip just screams Christmas to me. My brother made it for me a few years ago (obviously with different beer, but I digress), so I have to credit him with the idea (thanks Rory!). Make it this Christmas and share it with your family and friends. You will be popular. If that kind of thing matters to you.
Interested in other Winter beers you can find around Ireland this year? This article from FFT.ie is a good place to start!
Hot Yule Òl & Bacon Dip with Pretzel Bites
For the pretzel bites:
4 1/2 cups/600g plain flour
3 Tbsp baking soda
1 Tbsp dry active yeast
1 tbsp honey
1 1/2 cups/375ml warm water
2 tbsp salt
1 Tbsp oil
Flaky Sea Salt (for pre-bake sprinkling)
For the dip:
1/2 cup/125ml White Gypsy Yule Òl (or another lager/ale)
1 package pre-cut bacon lardons or pancetta (about 100g)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp plain flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 heaping tsp dijon mustard
3/4 cup/200ml milk
1 1/2 cups/400g shredded sharp cheddar-esque cheese (Derg Cheddar or Daru – both Tipperary cheeses – are divine in this dip)
Sliced spring onion or chives, for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
Make the pretzel bites:
- In a bowl, activate the yeast by combining it with the honey and warm water. Let this sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast is “blooming”. Add the oil, salt and flour.
- Mix and knead for 5 minutes. Place back into the bowl, cover with a clean cloth and let rise one hour.
- Punch down the dough. Divide into six portions. Roll each portion into a long rope, then cut each rope into 2 inch pieces.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the baking soda, then boil each piece of dough until it floats to the top of the water. Place the pieces on a clean towel, briefly, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Sprinkle each piece with a generous amount of flaky sea salt. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C (400°F) for about 15 minutes. The bites should be a dark golden brown and chewy but soft.
Make the dip:
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, fry the bacon or pancetta until crispy. Remove and drain on paper towel.
- In the same pan, add the butter and then, once melted, add the flour. mix well and cook over medium heat for one minutes. Add the beer and cook for another minute before adding the milk. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat.
- Add the cheese, dijon and cayenne. Stir until the cheese is melted and everything is incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Pour the dip into a bowl and scatter the bacon over the top, as well as the finely chopped spring onion/chives. Serve immediately or reheat the next day to serve with the pretzel bites.