Pork fat nachos with a spicy and floral Pilsner, braised beer with the big citrus of a bitter North-west American Pale, chocolate and wasabi magnum with rosewater curd alongside the roasted caramel of a Munich style dark lager. The flavours of craft beer are enjoying fresh recognition as a complement to modern restaurant dining around Australia.
In a new initiative to strengthen the market for beer in the dining arena, the Matilda Bay Brewing Company is taking their full range of craft beers into restaurants across the country for a series of food and pairing beer events.
Following a successful wine dinner from the Foster’s portfolio at the same restaurant earlier this year, the challenge to repeat the food matching event with beer was accepted by the Hare & Grace team. The respected chefs, known for incorporating molecular gastronomy into modern Australian cuisine, dissected the flavour elements of the Matilda Bay beers and cider to present a six course meal for food and beer fans.
Located at the base of Melbourne’ Rialto Towers, Hare & Grace comfortably fits more than 50 people in a casual and creative space. Formally the New York Tavern, a relaxed steakhouse and watering hole for the city crowd, the venue was reborn as Hare & Grace in November 2010. With the new décor designed by Joost Bakker, the rabbit warren feel of the restaurant was well suited to the characterful Matilda Bay beers, which often embrace an animal element (Fat Yak, Dogbolter, Redback, Beez Neez).
Originally billed as a “Matilda Bay dude food dinner”, the event seemed to be mostly attended by staff, associates and friends of the Fosters company, but as their first real test of the concept on savvy Melbourne diners, the organisers were happy to keep the numbers manageable and focus on crafting a menu and occasion that would make an impression for the cause of beer and food.
The dinner began with a bowl of pork fat nachos, chilli sour cream and cheese ketchup matched with the Czech style Bohemian Pilsner. From the first taste of the nachos with the cleansing Bohemian Pilsner, it was clear that beer’s quality as a culinary addition to modern restaurant dining would be confirmed by the joint efforts of Hare & Grace and Matilda Bay.
The event proceedings were hosted by Andrew Walsh, Business Development Manager for Sales On Premise at Carlton United Brewers, alongside Matilda Bay’s newest brewer, Chloe Lovatt.
The lively Chloe introduced the brewery’s history and beer range to the crowd, still wearing her brewery gumboots after a long day brewing Bohemian Pilsner, the beer everyone was in the process of drinking.
An usual twist on beer and chips was introduced for the second course, matched with the Dirty Granny cider. The black calamari crisps arrived in a brown paper bag alongside a tasting glass of apple and buck horn “beer” that utilised Fat Yak for its frothy head. The flavour of green apples filled your mouth in three interesting ways via each element of the course. The chef’s love for molecular gastronomy had been given a beer stamp of approval.
Next, to match Matilda Bay’s flagship Fat Yak, Australia’s biggest selling craft beer, a cheeky twist on pizza was presented to the diners. With a prawn on the side, the pizza itself was encapsulated in a spiced tomato.
For the fourth course the underrated Big Helga lager was rewarded with a traditional pairing of Oktoberfest beer and sausage. Often described as a “perfect barbecue beer”, Big Helga continues to shine when the sausage is transitioned to a chef’s kitchen and served as uncured chorizo with broccoli cream and cured pear. The sophisticated interpretation on the enjoyment of a helles lager was possibly the event’s best example of beer’s diversity across drinking occasions, whether at home around a barbeque with mates on a summer afternoon or fine dining in a restaurant during mid-winter.
Supporting the highly regarded and multiple award winning Alpha Pale Ale was braised beef with plum, cabbage and celeriac. Beautifully moist and tender beef, such as that served at Hare & Grace, commonly evokes the match of a big red wine. Matilda Bay’s Alpha proved it is just as suitable match for the beef, with its strong floral nose, bold malt body, complex flavour and long lingering bitter finish.
The final course was voted the highlight by the majority of people attending the dinner. A chocolate and wasabi magnum ice-cream with a rosewater curd was a welcome match for the Dogbolter dark lager. For years Dogbolter has continually impressed drinkers and diners as a fine accompaniment for chocolate based desserts. As one of the original beers from Matilda Bay’s brewing history, it has stood the test of time as a beer that can be suitable across all seasons, with it’s dark roasty flavour profile but light lager body.
Trivia and giveaways rounded out the night at Hare & Grace, as many of the diners continued to chat and mingle the night away over more Matilda Bay beers.
With the evening’s menu and pairings a success, the Carlton United Brewers team will seek to partner with city eateries from across the country to further the appreciation for craft beer’s food flare.
New company parents, SABMiller, have effectively given Andrew Walsh and his team an “open licence” to grow the beer market in Australia. The Matilda Bay beers are the brewer’s prime showcase for the restaurant industry, which still lacks wide appreciation for the merits of beer as a food pairing in the same vein as wine. However, if Hare & Grace’s response to incorporating the Matilda Bay beers is any indication, the CUB are on the right track to bring beer’s merits to the menus of restaurants in all forms.
The next Matilda Bay beer dinner event is occurring as part of Queensland Beer Week at The Plough Inn in Brisbane, which has already sold out. Keep your eye on Australia Brews News for updates of further events in the future.
To view more photos from this event, visit the Brews News Facebook page.
James was a guest of Matilda Bay Brewing Company at this event with thanks to Liquid Ideas.