The taste of beer used to make me screw my nose up…then I moved to Canberra for uni and it was the only thing I could afford to drink…and I learned to love it. So much so that, at one point during my stellar drinking…er…academic career, I could scull a middy through a straw in 11 seconds. Oh yes. My mother was so proud.
Anyhooooo. It’s been quite a few years since the VB-guzzling days of my youth and, in that time, beer has had quite the makeover. With more than one hundred microbreweries now operating in Australia, interesting and diverse styles of beer are becoming more and more readily available…but one aspect of craft beer that has yet to really take off is the idea of beer and food pairing.
If you’re a MasterChef fan, you’ll know that Series 1 contender, Chris Badenoch, was one of the first to really push the concept in the mainstream media…but it’s not something I’ve seen a lot of since. Then I heard that The Durham in Kingston are hosting a Beer and Food matching lunch this Sunday.
As a mad keen foodie who knows her way pretty well around wine and food matching, I was intrigued to find out how pairing principles work for beer. I asked local craft beer expert, Dan Rayner, to explain.
Most people will have some experience – or will at least have heard of – matching different wines to different meals or flavours but matching beer to food is a relatively novelty here in Canberra. But, with a far greater diversity in styles and flavours of beer out there now (compared with wine), beer is arguably a far more versatile beverage to pair with food.
Just consider how well a crisp, grassy hoppy, dry lager cuts through a Thai curry or imagine how Little Creatures Pale Ale with strong fruity hop bitterness balanced with a malty sweet body might go with something as simple as a beef burger at your local pub.
When considering beer and food pairing the first thing to remember is the three “C’s”: complement, contrast and cleanse.
The first one, complement, is pretty straightforward. Getting a beer like a rich English old ale, for instance Greene King Strong Suffolk Ale, aged in oak, amber in colour with flavours of toasted nuts and burnt toffee paired with rare roast beef, caramelised onion gravy and potatoes. The sweeter caramelised characters in the beef dish are complimented by the malty, toffee, vanilla and nutty characters in the beer.
Contrasting flavours can sometimes bit a little more difficult; the idea is that the flavours in the beer and those in the food will match but might be vastly different. Imagine dark berry compote with something chocolaty – very different flavours that harmonise perfectly.
In exactly the same way a Belgian fruit beer, like Timmermans Framboise (“framboise” is French for raspberry), sweet and slightly sour but intensely raspberry would be a perfect match for a rich, dense, dark flourless chocolate cake.
Cleanse, the final pairing method is pretty much as it sounds; the beer is there to cleanse the palate of the dish with every mouthful.
A battered dish, like tempura-battered soft-shelled crab or even something more mainstream like fish and chips can leave the palate a little oily and this is where a big, fluffy, Bavarian hefeweizen (wheat beer) like Franziskaner or a light, yeasty Australian pale ale like Stone & Wood Pacific Ale comes into their own. The high carbonation of the hefeweizen bubbles away in the palate stripping away the oils leaving the mouth fresh and ready for the next bite of battered fish!
And with all of these ideas one must consider the size or boldness of the beer with that of the meal. There’s no sense in pairing a soft, subtle Belgian-style witbier like White Rabbit White Ale with a big rich meal like duck confit, the duck will almost certainly overpower the beer and the light flavours of coriander seed and bitter orange peel in the witbier will be lost – better to match this beautifully balanced beer with something equally delicate like summery salads, light-flavoured fish or seafood or maybe a goat’s cheese omelette.[/box]
If you’d like to learn more about craft beer and food pairing, or just savour the experience first-hand, pop along to the Durham Castle Arms in Kingston this Sunday 22 May. Events kick off at 12:30pm and you’ll get a six course lunch paired with five of Australia’s best craft beers and one British cider all for $49 per person. Call Adrian at the Durham on 6295 1769 to book.