I am always surprised, and a little disappointed, when I see a food festival – an event nominally designed to introduce its audience to new culinary experiences – assign exclusive pourage rights to a major brewer.
Not that there is anything at all wrong with the beers that can be provided under these arrangements. It’s just that I really don’t see how locking yourself into providing beers that are pretty much available in every bottleshop, airport lounge and PubTAB caters to the interested and engaged foodie looking to try something new and interesting. This is especially so in the day of small and local providers and with the modern gastronome’s focus on provenance.
But business is business and a lucrative sponsorship deal helps the bottom line, even if it does undermine what you set out to achieve in the first place.
And so it is always exciting when events come along that give effect to the promise that they hold out to their audience, as it is with an upcoming Brisbane food event – Regional Flavours.
I should point out upfront that I am being paid to present at this event and so you might expect that I am going to be well-disposed towards them but, even allowing for that, the festival offers a great platform for beer appreciation.
Amongst all of the celebrity chefs appearing and the food and the festivities, Regional Flavours is hosting a pop-up beer garden to be called The Hunting Club. The event organisers, the young and dynamic team at Brisbane Marketing, engaged South Bank’s Surf Club restaurant to design a themed menu that built upon the idea of flavour hunting. They then challenged me to come up with some regional beers to match the menu.
The best thing for me is that I was given a blank canvas with which to work, being asked to choose the best flavours to match the food for the public rather than from the best commercial arrangement for the organisers. It’s hard not to feel well disposed to an event that gives you that freedom. It’s certainly unusual.
The South Bank Surf Club has pulled out all stops to create an interesting menu for a pop-up bar, drawing inspiration from the unique and sustainable ingredients available to us on the Australian market. The event program describes it as “featuring everything from foraged herbs and spices to sustainable meats that aren’t often seen on our dinner plates here at home, but are driving a thriving market overseas”.
The Hunting Club tasting menu promises “big flavours, new experiences and seeks to pay homage to distinctive Australian ingredients that are readily available but all too often underutilised”. It’s the sort of language that normally accompanies a wine tasting, not beer.
The tasting menu features, amongst other things, lemon myrtle-cured salmon, camel sliders, braised kangaroo and desert lime crème brulee. I have selected beers from breweries including Burleigh Brewing, Stone & Wood, BrewBoys and 4 Pines to match.
In addition to the matched food selections, tasting boards will be available with flights emphasising beer’s ingredients. Apart from the theme of a flavour journey, the focus will be on fun and enjoying beer in the context of relaxed dining.
It’s not just beer lovers and the beer curios who will be engaged, there will be something for everyone interested in food at the festival, including the Food Imaginarium for kids.
Regional Flavours takes place over the weekend of 20-21 July. If you’re in Brisbane that weekend, head on over and say “Hi” while you enjoy some great beer and food in the Brisbane winter sun. Entry to the festival and The Hunting Club are both free.