Wednesday, September 20

Expert’s View – John Porter, Beer Sommelier

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Time to get clever with beer and food matching

Beer sommelier and journalist John Porter believes it’s time to start building on the basics for pubs matching beer with food

Someone asked me recently why it is that we seem to lag behind the curve of beer and food matching, compared both with the US and much of Europe? It’s certainly true that, for a nation whose national drink is beer, it’s usually far easier to get a glass of wine with a meal when eating out than it is an appropriate beer.

I suspect part of the reason is simply due to the way the on-trade has evolved in the way it approaches food. If I walk up to the bar when I arrive, then there’s – in theory at least – a wide choice if draught and packaged beers, but when I’m sitting at the table I’m likely to be handed the wine list by default.

We shouldn’t be too pessimistic; more pubs and restaurants than ever are routinely making recommendations for beers as well as win with dishes on the menu, and the There’s A Beer For That industry campaign is doing sterling work with its consumer and trade information.

Even so, I wasn’t the only British beer writer who came away from a recent beer & food matching evening in London, hosted by Adam Dulye, the executive chef of US trade group the Brewer’s Association, with the spring in my step slightly subdued. Not because the matches Adam came up with in partnership with the team at Sager & Wilde restaurant weren’t good, but rather that they were far too bloody good,

Examples of Alan’s wizardry included a grilled peach salad matched with Seacoast Pilsner (4.9% ABV) from the Coranado Brewing Company and tagliarani pasta with Big Swell IPA (6.8% ABV) from Maui Brewing of Hawaii.

However, it was the dessert, a lemon tart, which saw Alan really flex his matching muscles. With many of us around the table agreeing that we’d have contrasted the tart with a strong, dark beer, Alan instead perfectly complemented it with the delicate Optimal Wit (4.9%) wheat beer from Port City Brewing. “The aim is to leave you feeling alert and refreshed,” he said.

Is it time to follow Alan’s lead in the UK and be more ambitious with our beer and food matching rather than take the obvious route? Could be.

  • Showing that the Europeans also know a thing or two about serving beer with food, a range from Barcleona-based artisan brewery Cerveses La Pirata is being imported by Morgenrot. All great with tapas-style menus, try the ViakrucisIPA (6% ABV) with spicy food, the Black Bock (11.2% ABV) stout with seafood and the Deep Inside porter (6.8% ABV) with rich cheeses.

 

  • I’m not usually a big enthusiast of no/low alcohol beers – I think there are generally better soft drink options if you’re not having a “proper” beer – but I have to commend Big Drop Brewing Co for its 0.5% ABV Chocolate Milk Stout, which is better than many stronger beers. I may be persuaded yet.
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