Food and Beer Matching

Image from The Good Stuff

Food and beer, beer and food, there are plenty of eating establisments that are trail blazing, add to that a fair few people talking about matching the two and I reckon a lot more with a watchful eye on the developments to see how far this will go.  I’m open to the idea and have dabbled with tasting a few beers alongside some different cheeses and have to say it is a lot of fun and a useful learning exercise for someone looking to hone their taste buds.  (To the cynics: I do appreciate beer drunk on its own, oh and wine too!).

I have been trying my best to keep track of the recent coverage and have also taken a look back to see what went before.  I’m not saying that this all started in 2008, but as this is when the trail becomes warm, then I’ll follow it from there.

28th May 2008  the Guardian’s Word of Mouth Blog introduces Will Beckett their “Beer Guerrilla: a man on a mission to set the great British public free from boring beers” with his first article ‘Drinking Habits: pint of the unusual looking at apathetic beer choices.  Will’s mission to spread the word of good beer appears to have been decommissioned on or around 6th January 2009 having suppressed his fire through September and December 2008 including articles on ‘Beer with Gordon Ramsay and low cost alcohol.

Image from River Cottage

Jan 2009 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a busy chap tirelessly campaigning for food issues in-line with his foodie passions, but he does occasionally cook with beer and notably worked alongside Hall and Woodhouse brewery (Badger Brewery) to develop River Cottage Stinger organic Ale.  This was his beer made with stinging nettles and Hugh says that it goes well with “summer barbeques and winter roasts“, a beer for all seasons perhaps!

Jan-Feb 2009 Oz and James ‘Drink to Britain’ series heroically journeyed the length and breadth of our fair land drinking as they went, and while they didn’t get into the food matching they did a sterling job of raising the profile of beer in general with visits to several breweries, including Saltaire, Prospect and BrewDog.

As far as I can tell from the internet, things were a little quiet for the next year or so, with Nov 2010 seeing Jamie Oliver‘s Magazine Issue 14 includes a drink recipe for a Beer Cocktail – Lambs Wool  which features Kernel Centennial IPA.  Nov-Dec 2010 Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s excellent ‘The Trip’ saw Steve commissioned by the food supplement of a Sunday newspaper to review half a dozen restaurants, with Rob along for the ride.  Sadly they were wine-centric,  but did visit The Angel at Hetton (which is well worth a visit) where they enjoyed a breakfast! so no beer there then!  Maybe the next series?

June 2011 Things started to move forward when Hardknott Brewery’s Dave Bailey started a campaign suggesting to the BBC that Saturday Kitchen should give fair representation to beer and maybe to act as a platform to take beer and food appreciation to the next level in terms of its TV coverage.  While there has been little progress with this campaign in terms of actual airtime for beer on Saturday Kitchen, I’d say it has been the catalyst in us seeing an increased level of interest in the wider media.  8th July 2011 Will Hawkes writes a blog Independent’s online Notebook section and featured Dave Bailey’s campaign.  5th August 2011 Chris Mercer Guardian’s Word of Mouth Blog followed suit and offered a comprehensive run-down on wine vs beer and did a nice job of playing devils advocate.  While mentioning chefs Tim Anderson and Ferran Adria and discussing the wider debate, he also gave some column space to the Hardknott Saturday Kitchen campaign.

19th August 2011 Des De Moor appeared on a  One Show montage after briefing them on the resurgence of the brewing industry and recommending some beers for their item on food matching.  What followed, in my opinion, was a calamitous studio review of beer with food, closing with Jay Rayner making it clear that he prefers wine, a wasted opportunity (but nothing to do with Des at this point, although if they were to try this again maybe they should get him into the studio).

November 2011 sees a flurry of activity:

Image from Leeds Brewery

I’m told that Jamie Oliver’s kitchen/set had a bottle of Kernel Beer in the background, and while this is just grasping at straws I’m hopeful that beer is in Jamie’s cheffing consciousness.  Oh look, it is!  1st Nov ‘Jamie’s Great Britain’ C4 series sees him spend a day with the Leeds Brewery most likely looking at their brewing operation before sampling the beer and food on offer at the Midnight Bell.  As with other chef’s if you Google beer and their name, you get similar hits – beef and ale stew, ginger beer, beer can chicken, beer battered fish.

4th Nov James Hall article in The Telegraph on East Yorkshire Pub named best in UK .  I wasn’t the only one to express my disbelief that the entire spread was devoted to their undoubtedly outstanding food, but not one mention of beer unless you include a reference to ale in their pie.  Just an oversight perhaps? ahem.

5th Nov Saturday Kitchen‘s recipe for Braised Beef Cheeks.  The wine expert (not Jolly Olly on this occasion) took their usual stroll around the supermarket and actually stopped to point out a bottle of Theakston Old Peculier as a food match possibility, but went on to choose a red wine.

7th-10th Nov Brooklyn Brewery‘s Brewmaster and editor of The Oxford Companion to Beer, Garrett Oliver, hosts a series of beer tastings and dinners throughout the UK, including events at Oxford Brookes University, The National Brewery Centre, Port Street Bar and The Cross-Keys.

Image from Thornbridge Brewery FB

11th Nov BBC1 Nigel Slater‘s ‘Simple Cooking’ saw Nigel, Tom (the Wild Boar Man (from Thornbridge Hall) and Jim Harrison (Thornbridge Brewery) cook a Wild Boar burger, with Boar fed with grain from the brewery, along with Jaipur Tempura vegetables.

11th Nov Will Hawkes in the Independent online showing that beer and food matching is gaining recognition.

18th Nov Will Hawkes published once again but this time in both the online and the paper editions, letting us know all about the editor behind The Oxford Companion to Beer, his recent promotional tour and a big thumbs up to beer and cheese matching.

If you have read this and think you might like to give this a go, then look no further than books from Garrett Oliver (Brewmaster’s Table) and Fiona Beckett (An Appetite for Ale).  Of course, if you want to dabble without the financial outlay then check out The Good Stuff, Eating isn’t Cheating, The Beer Prole, Gastroturf and CAMRA (sorry to anyone that I’ve missed).  Keep up the good work one and all!

Please feel free to make comments with anything I’ve missed and I’ll update the post.  Thanks.

Beer and Chocolate


Picture

Biere Belge D'artisans

There is a lot of radio chatter at the moment surrounding what appears to be the ‘new wine’ (only joking Leigh!), no not the new wine, just beer in its own right.  Not only beer, but beer and food, see The Good Stuff and Called to the Bar for some recent insight into this.  I’m interested in both of these culinary components and whole heartedly agree that there should be more food and beer pairing happening, although I have also met a skeptic, my wife, who cannot comprehend how anyone could drink a pint of fizzy beer with each course of their meal.  For the sake of marital relations and also as an ulterior motive for generally championing my rampant interest in all things beer, I refrained from a forehead-slap, although I did think of doing it and that made me feel better.  I went on to explain that there are many different styles of beer and that not all beer is fizzy and served in a pint glass.  She humoured me by listening with one ear while using the other to stay tuned to The Great British Bake-Off on the beeb.  My tired brain caught up with itself and realised that I could demonstrate my ramblings and disappeared off to the kitchen (and to the beer fridge – yes a dedicated beer fridge *smiley face*).  I wasn’t in the room anymore to confirm this, but I think she was glad that I’d gone.  Without asking (rock n roll) I pre-heated the oven and swiped the box of Gü Chocolate Soufflé‘s from the fridge.  I know these aren’t the real thing, but neither am I the kind of guy who can knock up a soufflé on demand.  So the puddings were in the oven and I reached for the bottle of beer I knew would come in handy some day.  Today!

PictureA few months back I bought a mixed case of La Rulles Belgian beers from Ales by Mail.  As far as I am aware Ales by Mail are still the sole UK distributor of these beers.  The case included bottles of La Rulles Blonde (7%), Brune (6.5%), Triple (8.4%), Estivale (5.2%) and two bottles of Jean Chris Numero 1 (6.0%).  It was the Jean Chris Numero 1 that I knew I was going to pair with this pudding and hopefully demonstrate the beauty of beer and food to my wife.  She likes chocolate and she doesn’t hate beer, so I knew I had a chance of proving a point.  The Jean Chris Numero 1 was a collaboratively brewed at the Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles along with Christophe Gillard, the owner of Miorge Mihoublon a bottle shop in Arlon (Belgium), and his friend Jean who is a local chocolatier, based in Habay-La-Neuve (also Belgium).  Jean created three praline chocolates designed to go with the beer, sadly I had to settle for a chocolate pudding, but was confident that it would still be a tasty match.The beer is a 6% Belgian Pale Ale, non filtered, non pasteurised and bottle conditioned.  It’s made with Pale Malt – Munich and single hopped with Amarillo to a pleasant 40 EBU (released in 75cl bottles).

Picture  So, the puddings were out of the oven  and the beer poured into two tulip glasses, I was proud to be showcasing the beer and my novice ability to match the two together.  I re-entered the front room and presented them to my wife, who turned to me and said; “I’ve just brushed my teeth so won’t have any this time”.  I masked my frustration and fought back a tear and decided the best thing to do was to eat both puddings and drink all of the beer myself.  Imagine if I had prepared one pudding and poured one glass of beer for myself, she’d have wanted some then! Unbelievable!  Anyway, the chocolate soufflé and Jean Chris Numero 1 where a brilliant match.  There was no fight between the fruit and bitterness of the beer and the sweetness of the chocolate.   Puddings finished, I still had a glass of beer left in the bottle so poured that to drink on its own.  It still poured the same deep gold and had a bready, citrus aroma, but it was now, without the chocolate to accompany, that I realised how sour the beer was, sour in a good way of course, but to my relatively unconditioned palate to the likes of Belgian lambics and gueuzes this was probably a good introduction to what you might expect from the real lip-puckering deal!

Thanks for reading.

If you have read this and used my links to the excellent blogs on food and beer and still doubt the power of this pairing, then check out some more recent examples of genius at work:
Check out  Eating isn’t Cheating for regular food and beer pairings and also recent media activities involving David Bailey of Hardknott (re: Saturday Kitchen) and Des de Moor’s valiant effort to assist BBC’s the One Show, although they could have used his input a little less sparingly!  Also, Raising the Bar and Gastroturf provide details on their International IPA Day Feast at the Dean Swift, London.