The degustation meal is not uncommon at higher end restaurants. The restaurant will design a complimentary and interesting menu of smaller dishes with a flight of wines selected to match with the various food courses served. Sometimes it may even be the other way around with dishes being designed to match a wine.
For the recent degustation dinner Lobethal Bierhaus, a slightly different approach was taken again. The food menu was designed then two brewers and one winemaker were asked to match their products with it. The result was some great, and sometimes surprisingly rewarding, results.
The evening was held at the Lobethal Bierhaus but held in conjunction with Malt Shovel Brewery and BK Wines, a boutique Adelaide Hills winemaker. The meal was prepared by the Lobethal Bierhaus team so they may have had an unfair advantage but there were plenty of good matches from all participants. Over the course of the evening the brewers and winemaker spoke about their respective products and how they matched them with the food being offered. Brendon from BK Wines was in no way intimidated by the brewers and gave great insight into his pairing selections.
Chuck Hahn was on hand to talk about the James Squire beers and it is always a treat to hear Chuck talk beer. The two founders and brewers from Lobethal, Alistair and Phil, were there to tell the crowd about their beer and it’s pairing with the meal.
On arrival we were treated to the cleverly named Lobethal Philsner and a James Squire Sundowner lager as a warm up drink. Both are easy drinking lagers and probably a good selection to get people in the mood at the start of the night. The brewers and
winemaker were also mingling around and talking to people as they arrived, a small thing that goes a long way to helping enjoy the evening.
First course was a carpaccio of local venison with shaved fennel, macerated tomatoes, parmesan and balsamic. This was teamed with Golden Ale from James Squire, Hefeweizen from Lobethal Bierhaus and the BK Wines Collage Rose. The food was amazing but the drinks seemed dubious matches. The rose and hefe in particular could easily be lost in the strong flavours of venison and parmesan. The results were, however, very surprising with the sweetness of the heft in particular working with the sharp flavour of the parmesan and gamey flavour of venison.
The second course was a great palate refresher. Crispy fried chilli prawns on daikon and wake salad with ponzu dressing was served with James Squire Pilsener and Lobethal India Pale Al (another play on the brewer’s name). The prawns were fresh and worked well with the chilli and Japanese accompaniments. The two beers, while very different, provided similar buffers of bitterness and hops to clean the pallet and cut through the chill in the meal. This is a combination that looks great on paper and delivered on tasting. Bitterness, hops and chilli is a great mix and worth experimenting with at every opportunity.
Next was a course with some great matches, one very surprising. The beers for this course were bold bitter and hoppy beers; James Squire IPA and Lobethal Pale Ale. The wine selection was the BK Wines Ma Fleur Chardonnay which seemed an odd match for a Rabbit pie – slow cooked with rosemary , button mushrooms and roast green capsicum served with a spicy mango chutney. The two beers were admirable matches for the rabbit, cutting through the fat and gaminess. The hops were also a great compliment to the spicy chutney. The wine was the surprise of this course though. The fustiness and acidity cut through the rabbit refreshing and cleaning the pallet. This was a real surprise for the beer drinkers. The winemaker Brendon spoke of his preference for a dry spicy Chardonnay and he certainly convinced the crowd at Lobethal Bierhaus this night.
Yet there was more. Lamb braised with cloves and garlic served with apple, celeriac and stilton ravioli. Stilton in the ingredient list automatically draws the mind to lots of bitterness and hops to cut through the strong flavours of this truly fantastic English cheese.
However, the brewers decided to go in the opposite direction and give us some of their sweetest beers. On offer was the Red Truck Porter from Lobethal, Amber Ale from James Squire and La Bombe Pinot Noir from BK Wines. The sweetness of the beers complimented the the lamb and provided a great contrast to the strong bite of the Stilton. Normally a cheese like this is partnered with other bold flavours. However this pairing with milder flavours does work well and encourages further investigation. Another welcoming surprise.
Dessert was a huge sweet feast. The first part of dessert came in three parts; white chocolate and roast almond mud cake, chocolate orange mud cake and an affogato. This was followed by Heysen blue cheese with some dried fruit. The dessert beers were James Squire Porter and the Lobethal Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. Also available during this course was the Lobethal Devils Choice, Spiced Ale and Double Hopped IPA. The stout and porter were great matches with the sweet desserts. The double hopped IPA was the pick with the cheese. There were so many combinations available with all the amazing beers the dessert was truly a great experience to finish an amazing meal. As difficult, and potentially messy, as it may be the ability to have a number of beers to try with the dessert was an excellent experience. While you could, practically, do this with every course having one course like this in a meal is a great idea.
Many great meals, beers and wines were served over the course of the evening. Importantly there were a lot of good matches of food and drink. An event like this can go a long way towards introducing people to good beer and making them feel comfortable about having a beer with a meal. There is so much more to beer and food matching than bbq and pale generic lager. Local brewers should be encouraged to run these kinds of events and we, as drinkers of real beer, should be encouraging our unenlightened friends to come along and see what it is all about.