I attended my first ‘formal’ beer matching dinner a few nights ago – an event full of fun, fellowship, food, and of course plenty of fine beers. The setting, Decks Seafood Restaurant on the tranquil South Bank of Brisbane, livened up by sixty or so beer appreciating patrons after a full on day of brewing lectures and tastings as part of the inaugural Brisbane Brewing Conference.
I don’t think there would be a complaint from a single connoisseur in attendance (apart from maybe the guy that was called away early by his wife).
What I didn’t realise however, was that by partaking in such an event I would learn a valuable lesson in beer and food matching; that if you want to perfectly match cuisine and amber for a gathering then the secret is (drum roll please)… have a different & tailored offering for each and every individual in attendance!
That is simply to say that every varied palate has taste buds with varied expectations. And that’s before you add the variable of personal opinion into the mix. Should a beer compliment a meal with similar flavours, or should it provide a contrast to make the flavours of the meal stand out?
Another aspect that I have not seen mentioned to date is ‘palatial profile’. Ok, so I have coined this term myself, but this touches upon the individual’s palate with a little bit of science thrown in. Most of us know that the chemical composition of the water used to make beer can alter the style and taste of the final product considerably. Likewise the chemical composition of each beer drinker can make an equally significant perceived difference of what’s in the glass, amongst two or more different tasters.
So, even armed with the secret of food and beer matching on mass, this realization just isn’t enough until some sort of taste calibration for the individual is developed. Or maybe the whole point of the exercise has been missed completely – to sit back with an open mind, and just let the flavours unfold, mingle and tell the story.
Commendations must go to the dinner organiser Matt Kirkegaard of Good Beer Lunches, for what surely will be the start of my hops infused culinary expedition; the crispy skin pork belly with Ipswich brewed APA was certainly my highlight, and I suspect the 4 Pines Space Stout to finish may have launched the odd punter into low orbit.
With no consideration for those feeling a sense of remorse for not attending, the following pairings are those experienced on the night. An Entrée of seared scallops on a bed of rocket and fennel salad dressed with an orange vinaigrette matched with a Matilda Bay/Bachhus Collaborative Pilsner.
A mains of crispy skin pork belly on a bed of braised cabbage, apple and red wine vinegar matched with an American Pale Ale brewed by Tony Brown. A cheese platter followed with mixed dried fruit, nuts and lavosh bread with a Belgian Tripel produced by Liam Ahearn.
And to top it all off (and perhaps the most challenging combination to co-ordinate), a dessert consisting of chocolate mousse, sour cherries, coconut shards and a side of handmade stout ice cream was served with the 4 Pines Vostok Stout (the beer currently being designed for consumer space travel!).
It obviously makes sense to conclude with a higher gravity beer such as a stout (after all, it would be difficult to move from a dark beer to a light), but in my tastebuds opinion it is not an easy task to alternate this with a full bodied dessert. Or maybe I should just reserve this judgement until trying all these combinations again – takers anyone?