October is The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Month in Sydney and, in addition to the celebration of chefs, food and wine, beer gets a look in as well.
Coopers is sponsoring the Pie ‘n Pale Challenge that sees pubs create a pie to be served with a Coopers Pale ale. I have been very fortunate to be asked to judge the competition and so have the rather onerous task of sampling 33 pie and Pale Ale combinations.
I have spent the past two days in Sydney sampling pies and, if you follow my Instagram or Twitter feeds, you will know that there have been a lot of pies consumed already. And there have been many surprises.
Coopers Pale Ale is a classic, but for many pie combinations I would have have expected them to pair with darker beers, with many of the pies made on richer dark meats. The Best Extra Stout, Dark Ale and even the Vintage Ale from Coopers line-up of ales would have been my first selections in matching beers to pies. But, in the ever surprising field of beer and food matching, many of the venues visited so far have done a tremendous job of finding flavour hooks to match their pies to the Pale. Whether it was a pale ale braise, a salsa verde side, or Moroccan spices and eggplant combining to find that all important link back to the beer. Others have offered up less traditional pie fillings such as cassoulet, Burmese pork and slow-roasted pulled pork and done a great job. Even half way through it’s been a fascinating – and daunting – experience.
It’s been a rewarding exercise to get around to so many Sydney pubs, many of which I would not have had cause to visit before now. Few of the hotels have registered on the beer geek trails of Sydney but their beer offerings, in addition to the ever present Coopers, show how much Sydney’s beer scene has changed over the last year or two. They are all worth a visit if you haven’t been before, or a revisit if you haven’t been to some in a while. You might be surprised at how much they have changed.
If you live in Sydney, or are visiting during the month, check out the list of participating pubs and try them for yourself. Download the app for iPhone or Android to find the nearest Pie ‘n Pale offerings to you.
*The featured photo is the Rag & Famish’s cassoulet pot pie: a slow-cooked casserole with haricot beans, pork, Toulouse sausage and confit duck.
*Matt is being paid to judge the competition for Coopers. Trust him when he says that 23 pies in 3 days is hard work.