Coogee Café After Dark gets all types turning up; beer lovers, wine lovers, food lovers… and just lovers wanting a night out together. Apparently some of their beer-loving regulars were copping grief for attending their regular Aussie craft beer dinners from their wine loving better halves so owner Dan Hampton decided to try and cater for all and the Grape vs Grain dinner was born, offering something for everyone.
Dan’s good friend and wine rep Niall Faber matched each course with a different wine, varying in style and region and also keeping with the the cafe’s educational focus, Niall selected wines that were a little different; varieties that most punters may not have tried, but keeping within Australia.
Working to the same brief, Dan chose five beers, all Aussie and all craft. Here’s how it went down:
Round 1: I started with Stone & Wood Pacific Ale. With this Byron Brew on arrival, it was up to the guests to select what they wanted, “Beer or bubbly?” Result? GRAPE ahead by 1.
“I’ll cop that one and I actually thought the bubbles would give GRAPE more of a lead than that,” Dan said.
The Wild Mushroom & Hoisin Bite went down a treat.
Round 2: To match the steamed dory fillet with pickled ginger, chilli and mirin dressing, served on basmati rice, Dan went with Barons Lemon Myrtle Witbier, believing the citrus would complement quite well. Unfortunately most punters went with Niall’s choice of Skillogalee Gewurztraminer. GRAPE scooted ahead on the scoreboard 2-0.
Round 3: Tim’s next course of slow cooked lamb shank in red wine and date jus, served on parmesan polenta was rich and heavy, so Dan went with 3 Ravens Bronze English Ale believing it would match perfectly, offering complimenting flavours and refreshment, without over the top malt characteristics. Most agreed. GRAIN was back baby, 2-1.
Round 4: Dan has been saying it for years, but said he still gets a kick out of watching people experience dark Beer and chocolate. And what better match to bitter sweet chocolate tart, almond crust & double cream than Holgate Temptress Chocolate Porter from Victoria? Rhetorical question, of course… a landslide! All Saints Durif, awesome wine that it is, didn’t stand a chance! GRAIN draws level.
Round 5: Dan left his big gun till last, so when the cheeseboards of Australian soft blue, gruyere and guava paste made their way to the tables, so did the Mad Abbot Tripel, a 9.5% Belgian strong golden ale from Port Macquarie. “One of my all time favourite Aussie brews,” Dan said. “I was quietly confident. Actually not so quiet, I had started bragging quite loudly.”
What Dan didn’t count on was the fact that most people still have a sweet tooth when it comes to wine… so Niall’s choice of Frogmore Creeks 2008 Iced Riesling from Tassie trounced the beer, with beer hardly scoring a vote. GRAPE came home strong.
However, once the dust settled and the votes were tallied, while GRAPE won the rounds 3-2, GRAIN won overall by a single vote. Probably a fitting result, with both beverages on equal standing – if only all venues gave beer and wine equal billing.
To sign up to Dan’s regular email list to find out about Coogee Cafe After Dark’s regular events, head to their website.