Last month, I was one of 140 people to attend Feral Brewing Company’s second annual Beergustation – an evening of gastronomic indulgence unfurled across seven courses and accompanied by beers from – dare I say it – one of the world’s best breweries. It’s a big call, but given Feral’s dominance in competitions, innovation with wild yeast and barrel aging and the consistently excellent quality of their beers, I believe it’s a fair one.
As guests arrived at Feral’s original Swan Valley brew pub, they were greeted with an offering of pre-dinner drinks – Feral White, Barrel Fermented Hop Hog or sparkling wine for those that way inclined (whose attendance at a beer degustation must surely be called into question!). Having had both beers many times before and not wanting to destroy my palate for what was the come, I opted for the White – a refreshing and zesty Belgian Witbier that is now solely produced at the Brewcorp facility, of which Feral is apart owner, in Bassendean.
At six o’clock, everyone was ushered to their tables, which were arranged on the brew pub’s wide veranda. Feral’s owner and head brewer, Brendan Varis, welcomed the crowd with a brief introduction to the brewery before switching to speak about beer’s roots in history. It was a great way to set the scene for the evening, although a few of the tables had become restless, clearly eager for the eating and merriment to commence.
Thankfully they didn’t have to wait long. The first course for the evening was black sesame crusted swordfish carpaccio with sumac aioli and fresh farm lime. Accompanying the dish was Golden Ace – a refreshing golden ale brewed with Japanese Sorachi Ace hops. This was – in my opinion – the pairing of the night, with the sherbet lemon character of the beer harmonizing with the lime in the dish and simultaneously cleansing the palate from the rich aioli.
Next up was beer-baked Spanish chorizo and potato hash with pea puree and lily put capers, paired with Feral’s all-conquering Hop Hog IPA. It’s said that IPAs should be treated like milk – stored cold and consumed as quickly as possible – and when you drink Hop Hog fresh from the brewery, you understand why. The beer’s signature aromas and flavours of citrus and pine needles were so vibrant that they bordered on overpowering the flavoursome dish.
At this point, Feral’s second brewer, Will Irving, took the microphone and introduced the third course – “Dr Will’s green eggs and ham” shaved Serrano Jamon and pesto poached eggs on sourdough with sage béarnaise. Paired with the dish was the most recent addition to Feral’s bottled beer range – their Smoked Porter. The dish had a definite bacon ‘n’ egg breakfast feel to it, with the porter playing the role of black coffee.
Will had earlier spoken about a beer we would be trying that was unique to the 2013 Beergustation. Simply named Warhead, this was a special batch of Feral’s much acclaimed Berliner Weisse in its purest form, without the addition of watermelon and without time in oak. The beer was matched to a Southern pulled pork slider with gorgonzola and strawberry slaw. This was one of the better matches of the evening, with the beer’s acidity working wonderfully well with the pungent blue cheese and cutting through the fat in the pork.
We were now heading into big-beer territory, as the fifth course matched Feral’s Imperial Red Ale, Fantapants, with a shredded chicken and pineapple red curry on lemongrass scented rice pilaf with yoghurt naan. The fruit in the dish provided a nod towards the beer’s hop aromatics, while the bitterness and chilli heat accentuated each other.
The final savoury dish was also the richest – a beef cheek and field mushroom pie stuffed with spring onion beer cheese and creamed carrots. Served with the meaty-rich dish was the delightfully named Barrique Okarma – Feral’s Karma Citra Black IPA aged in French oak barrels. The beer was an absolute vanilla bomb with the oak having given it a quality reminiscent of well aged red wine. This was another successful match, the beer going particularly well with the rich, glossy jus that surrounded the pie.
Chocoholics in attendance must have been eyeing the 7th course all evening and finally it was time for them to get their fix in the form of Feral’s own triple chocolate mousse layered yoghurt cheesecake with cocoa chard. You would probably expect all of this chocolaty goodness to be paired with a big stout – and you would be right! The beer was Feral’s latest brewpub release; Boris Russian Imperial Stout, a thick, rich, bittersweet brew that is born to go with chocolate.
Certain members of the beer industry have long maintained that beer can match food just as well as, if not better than, wine. Events like the Feral Beergustation make a convincing argument for cause, demonstrating that pairing with the right beer can take a dish to a whole new level. Also worth noting is that the $120-a-head event was sold out well in advance. Let’s hope that restaurateurs take notice and start paying half as much attention to their beer selection as they do to their wine list.
Jeremy covered the dinner for Australian Brews News as a guest of Feral Brewing.