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Food and beer matching gives wine a run for its money

PUBLISHED: 13:00 22 October 2014

Prawn broth

Prawn broth

Archant

The craft beer explosion has seen food and beer matching gather real pace, thanks to some maverick thinking in the industry.

Some would even go as far as to say that beer is not only as fine as wine, it can even often handle more when it comes to the dinner table.

Here, Hogs Back Brewery master brewer Miles Chesterton and The Stag on the River, Eashing head chef Mark Evans team up to offer their dos and don’ts for beer and food pairing.

 

  1. To start, give your beer a really good sniff and let it coat your whole tongue, taking the time to absorb all the great flavour. Flavour begins with smell, so stick your nose well into the glass. Once you’ve picked up the main characteristics you’re ready to roll.
  2. In taking beer more seriously as part of a dining experience, one aspect that’s often overlooked is the use of different glassware. Think of the theatre and sense of occasion when we see the fantastic array of glasses used for serving Belgian beers. So next time why not use a stemmed wine glass for your beer and see for yourself how something so simple changes the perception of beer served with a meal.
  3. The more hop bitterness the beer has, the heartier or livelier the meal needs to be to hold its own. Don’t overwhelm your palate or meal and ruin what the chef was trying to achieve.
  4. Another general rule is keep sweet with sweet, and tart with tart. Try to keep your beer sweeter or tarter than the sweet or tart food on the plate. There are exceptions, however, like pairing drier robust beers with sweet chocolates, which works very well.
  5. Throw all of the rules out the window and experiment with contrasting and complimentary pairings. Match foods with complimentary flavours, or try contrasting them and create a slew of unique results.
  6. For those of you who are bound to the wine pairing school of thought, think of ale as red wine and lager as white wine. Hoppy beers can also be used in place of a pairing that calls for an acidic wine. 
  7. Taste is very subjective and what works for one person might not work for another. If it tastes good to you, then go for it. However, also be open to suggestions, as these tend to come with some knowledge and possible palate enlightenment.
  8. The recommended approach when pairing beer and cheese is to put mild with mild, and intense with intense, so that nothing overwhelms anything else. As for flavours, you can play on similarities (like a rich, buttery triple cream with a full-bodied stout) or contrasts (a creamy, mild goat’s cheese with a sweet, high-acid wheat beer).
  9. Think of beers along these lines: carbonation level, added flavours, sweetness from malt, and bitterness from hops. Cheeses can be characterized by firmness, age, and intensity. And simply exploring what works is always a viable option.

 

Often regarded as the poor relation to wine, beer is actually a very complex drink involving up to 12 ingredients. The principle components are: malts (that’s the sweet, part-germinated barley grains) which give both colour and flavour; wonderfully aromatic hops, the herbs and spices if you like; and finally, yeast and water, which also contribute to the flavour. All of these add differing depths and dimensions to the flavour of beer.

There are now over 130 recognised beer styles today - so plenty of room to create some interesting flavour pairings!

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