Why do we drink a bottle of wine with a meal? Why do we share a bottle of wine but rarely a bottle of beer? We will drink beer together but we almost never share a bottle of beer. It is indeed a very rare thing to see a group share a bottle or two of beer over a meal but standard to do this with wine.
Why has this happened? Is there something special about wine that makes it more shareable? Is it due to the, normally, higher alcohol content? Is wine somehow incredibly superior to beer when matched with food? Have we just been herded in this direction by fantastic marketing from the wine industry?
Before going any further I will pause to point out that I am also a wine lover and bare it no ill will.
Many people will have a beer at the pub. They will have a beer at a BBQ. However if you tried to sell them a 750ml bottle of beer for $30 they would laugh at you or call for you to be put in a straight jacket and sent off to somewhere with padded walls.
What has created this culture? Why is beer seen as a cheap commodity product to be swilled and not savoured? It is sure to be a combination of the ideas mentioned plus any number of other impacts over the years. The real question is what can we do about it? As beer people we often talk about brining the masses in and educating them about great beer. What better way than with a truly wonderful and complex beer over a great meal?
There are a few restaurants where you can do this. Josie Bones in Melbourne is getting raves over it’s beer list and food. Red Oak in Sydney has excellent beer and some really good meals. The Local Taphouse venues have great beer lists and good food but they are more of a pub environment. In Adelaide The Manse, a contemporary French restaurant, has added a beer course using Knappstein Enterprise Lager to their degustation menu.
There are likely others but these are probably others but they are few and far between. When you go into a decent restaurant ask them for a beer list. Ask them if they have considered getting some more interesting beers that could match well with their food. If you feel confident suggest some beers to them. A beer like Saison Dupont is a good all round option that is reasonably priced, fairly available and a wonderful beer that probably has some appeal to wine drinkers. Dupont also comes in a 750ml bottle so fits into the wine and sharing space.
If you want to do it at home there are tons of suggestions for matching beer with food out there. A great place to start is the Brew Masters Table by Garret Oliver. Oliver is the brewmaster at New York’s Brooklyn Brewery and is very passionate about food and beer. Whilst not a recipe book it offers tons of suggestions for almost every beer style. It gives you ideas rather than solutions but wonderful ideas they are.
Recently Chris Badenoch, Master Chef contestant and owner of the aforementioned Josie Bones, released his own book called The Entire Beast. It’s a great practical book that talks about cooking with beer and matching food with beer.
This isn’t a book for vegetarians but the title probably gives that away. You may be very surprised about some of the cuts of meat he suggests using but one again the title should give you a hint what it is all about.
Hit the net too. There are so many great resources. Two highly recommended sources and a good place to start are The Home Brew Chef and Flying Dog Brewery’s Beer Dinners site. Home Brew Chef has a bunch of wild and interesting ideas that use beer in places that you wouldn’t have expected. Beer dinners goes over dinners, with full recipes, that Flying Dog has done. They recommend Flying Dog matches for each course but you could substitute for whatever you want. Hit the Googles for plenty of other ideas.
Let’s make it a natural thing to share a bottle of beer. Let’s make it a natural thing to order a bottle of beer for a group of people at a restaurant. We need to start doing something about it if we want things to change.