Enjoy beer and food together? I would never have believed it......
Take someone with a life-long aversion to beer, a delayed flight and a dose of jet-lag and you do not have the ideal set of circumstances for enjoyment of the OWC Craft Beer and Food Pairing Event, which was held in conjunction with the final year students of Oxford Brookes University School of Hospitality Management. However the combination of the students’ enthusiasm and skill with the interesting commentaries on the beers provided by the guest speakers (almost) succeeded in converting this non-believer.
The craft beer movement is gaining momentum in the UK and is already a fast-growing phenomenon in the US, where there are around 2,000 craft breweries nationally. The Denver (Colorado) area alone boasts over 150 and restaurants are beginning to list the available beers, along with their descriptions, just as for their wines.
Speaker Jeff Rosenmeler, the founder of Lovibonds, claimed that beer makes a better match with certain foods than wine, for example with cheeses. He also encouraged the ladies present to drink more beer, claiming that yeast is a type of superfood and has beneficial effects on both hair and nails.
Mattias Sjoberg of Compass spoke passionately about the concept of terroir as it applies to hops and their characteristics. With the nature of both the hops and malt changing from season to season, the production of beer is a careful balancing act. Complexity can be added through beer ageing, often done with stronger beers in old whisky or bourbon barrels. Mattias too claimed health benefits for beer, since it contains a number of B vitamins and other micro-nutriirents!
So, how were the beers paired?
• On arrival, we were treated to two contrasting beers – Lovibonds Henley Gold and Compass Isis Pale – alongside canapés of tuna tartare on cucumber slices and wild mushroom tartlets (the latter served hot).
• Lovibonds 69 IPA was served with a starter of Oxford goats’ cheese crostini, fennel and an orange marmalade.
• Shotover Prospect was served alongside a dish of pan-seared cod’s cheek, mango kutcha,. coriander foam and a fragrant coconut sauce.
• Compass Tannenbaum was presented with slow roasted pork belly, black pudding, roasted rhubarb, celeriac puree, celeriac crisps and a pork jus.
• Brakespear Triple was served alongside a dark chocolate torte with savoury (parmesan) ice cream.
Beer tasting notes:
The Lovibonds Henley Gold (4.6% ABV) is an unfiltered wheat and barley beer, with distinct aromas and flavours of banana and cloves.
Compass Isis Pale (4.9% ABV) is fuller bodied than the Henley Gold, with a sweet maltiness on the nose and a surprisingly gentle bitterness on the palate.
It was generally felt the Henley Gold provided a better match with the tuna and the Isis Pale with the mushroom tartlets.
Lovibonds 69 IPA (6.9% ABV) is a US-influenced ale made with the US hops Centennial and Columbus. On the nose it had notes of spices and citrus fruits, providing a good complement to the strong goats’ cheese and marmalade flavours.
Shotover Prospect (4% ABV) is a traditional country beer, a low gravity bitter with a large mouth feel. It is made with a combination of English and New World hops and presented as a stronger taste profile with less mousse than the IPA. Generally this beer was thought to balance well with the accompaniments to the fish, but to somewhat overwhelm the flavour of the fish itself.
Compass Tannenbaum (6% ABV) is, as its name implies, something of a German influenced Christmas beer – it has local pine needles (from Christmas Common no less) added to the brew. Made with a percentage of German sour malt, it is strong, dark and complex with a rather herbal nose and palate profile. The Tannenbaum provided an excellent balance to the fatty pork and sharp rhubarb flavours.
Brakespear Triple (6/7% ABV) is triple hopped and triple fermented, hence the name and is made using Target hops. This gives a rich dark flavour profile with notes of molasses and rum, which provided a magnificent complement to the rich dark chocolate torte, but was felt to somewhat overwhelm the flavour of the parmesan ice cream.
So did the evening succeed in convincing the OWC attendees to drink beer instead of wine with their meals in future? The vote taken at the end of the evening was inconclusive – but that in itself is something of a triumph for the skill of the students in presenting a group of dyed-in-the-wool wine aficionados with such a challenge! I am sure a lot more beer will be consumed at mealtimes by OWC households in the future!