As well as enjoying great beers produced by craft brewers, another good way to enjoy great beer is to make it at home.
With so many people having had a go at homebrewing and testing it on their mates, homebrewing has in the past had a bad reputation. Today though there is an army of passionate brewers making some truly excellent beer in their homes.
A saying that comes from a knitting blog, but applies equally to home brewing, is “It’s handmade, not homemade. Bitch”. After attending the 2010 Australian National Homebrewing Conference in Melbourne I couldn’t agree more.
The highlight of the conference, and the most interesting part for the non brewing geek, was the beer and food matching dinner. This dinner matched sensational beers from home brewers with a menu put together by Master Chef contestant and beer advocate Chris Badenoch and cooked by the staff at the William Angliss Institute.
This wasn’t a simple pick-a-recipe-to-go-with-a-beer do. Chris spoke at the dinner and talked of tasting the beers and picking ingredients then building a recipe from those ingredients. There were some unusual challenges too. The desert beer was a hibiscus blonde ale, certainly not your typical chocolate stout-like dessert beer.
First cab off the rank was an IPA made using locally grown galaxy hops matched with crisp fried chilli quail with mont labneh and pickled cucumber. The bitterness and fruity hop flavours made an excellent compliment to the sweet and nutty flavour of the quail. The dry finish and and bitterness worked well to lift chilli flavours. The home brewer, Craig Webber, spoke about his beer and explained the simpleness of the malt and the great hop flavour from the galaxy hops. Craig and Chris got it right on this one. If you want to try a similar beer hunt down the Bridge Road Brewers Galaxy IPA. It’s a one off so may be hard to find but it’s worth it if you can.
Next up was the best beer of the night and one the brewer brewed four times to get it just how he wanted it.
Michael Meissner made an amazing Belgian-style tripel that was matched with leak and parmesan souffle , beer beurre blanc and micro salad. Not a traditional light souffle, this one was a deep rich flavour that the spiciness, alcohol and fruitiness of the Belgian style tripel cut straight through. These same characters of the tripel helped to lift the flavours of the whole dish. For a commercial example check out Westmalle Tripel.
The main course was a peppered loin of kangaroo with carrot puree and liquorice pearls. The kangaroo was cooked sous vide, a French method involved boiling inside a plastic bag. The liquorice pearls sounded like and odd ingredient to me, until I tried it that is. This was paired with a lovely malty and dry schwarzbier made by Michael Guenzel. At the start of the course the brewer gave us an interesting story of schwarzbier explaining about forgotten sub-categories of German schwarzbiers. The dark malty flavours of the schwarzbier worked perfectly with the strong gamey kangaroo flavours and pepper seasoning. The liquorice pearls brought out the dark fruit flavours from the roast malts used in the beer.
Desert was where things got a bit crazy. The pairing was a mildly tart hibiscus blonde ale matched with delice of chocolate, hibiscus, sorbet and salted crumble. From its description this beer didn’t seem to be a desert beer, but on first taste it was simply fantastic. The mild sourness of the beer cut through the dense chocolate in the desert. The sorbet helped to clean up the pallet prior to going in for another mouthful. This is a very atypical and interesting combination of flavours and textures. It was a combination that rewarded all those at the dinner.
The whole evening was a true sensation of beer and food matching. Many thanks and cheers to Chris Badenoch and the brewers for putting together such a sensational sensory experience. If only more people had the opportunity to attend an event like this we would recruit many new beer drinkers – and home brewers – very quickly.
[amazon-product align=”right”]0060005718[/amazon-product]Chris has just released a book with a number of recipes including beer that is worth looking into. For a more general overview of matching the worlds beer styles with food check out The Brewmasters Table by Garret Oliver. Keep an eye on the Australian Brews News calendar and in your local press for beer dinners coming up in your area.