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In the latest issue of Beer & Brewer we look at how to pair beer and food like a pro. Below is an extract, for the full article subscribe here.

 

It’s safe to say craft beer has never been hotter. While recent official figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the amount of beer being drunk by Australians was at a 68-year low, the statistics for craft beer tell a very different tale. Craft beer is growing exponentially, albeit off a small base, with Australia now home to an impressive 350-odd breweries and brewing companies, up from 230 this time last year.

With craft beer growing at record rates, people are no longer just enjoying a few cold ones at the pub before dinner, they’re looking to enjoy beers with their meals.

“Nothing annoys me more than going to a restaurant, which has an incredible food offer, a well thought out wine list and six indistinguishable lagers slapped on as an afterthought at the end of the wine list,” explains Kirrily Waldhorn, aka the Beer Diva.

 

The Three C’s

The basic rules to beer and food matching follow the same principles as matching wine to food, and that is firstly ensuring the flavours in the pairing are balanced. For instance, if we look at wine, a sommelier would never pair a delicately seared scallop with a hearty shiraz, as the shiraz would dominate. The same goes for beer and food; a light Belgian witbier would definitely lose the battle against a chargrilled steak.

“I’d always challenge people to be creative first, so there shouldn’t be rules! However, there is common convention that helps called the three C’s,” explains Malt Shovel Brewery head brewer, Chris Sheehan.

“The three C’s:

Complement – essentially match like with like. Align flavours and intensity across the beer and food. Contrast – play different flavours across each other in the beer and food, opposites can match! Cleanse – is using the bitterness or the carbonation to cleanse the palate of creamy, oily or even spicy flavours. Ever wondered why you can’t say no to a cold beer when eating spicy Asian dishes?”

 

Craft Beer Venues

One venue that has been championing craft beer since well before moustached hipsters discovered the joys of growlers is The Grain Store in Newcastle. Owners Corey and Kristy Crooks have been beating the craft beer drum for years and this dedication is reflected in all aspects of the venue, including the food menu, which has a beer style matched to each offering.

“With being a venue that focuses on showcasing the best in independent Australian craft beer and the many versatile matches it has with food, we find it very important to educate the customer on how complementing a beer can be with specific dishes and breaking down the barriers that good food should only be enjoyed with good wine,” explains Corey Crooks.

“When designing our menu, we carefully factored in flavours and aromas that are going to work symbiotically with our extensive beer menu. We have guidelines with beer suggestions against the majority of our menu that follow the rule of three C’s, which refers to ‘complementing’, ‘contrasting’ and ‘cutting-through’.

“An example of the above is a hoppy IPA (India pale ale) alongside our Buffalo wings (spicy). The bitterness acts like a hot knife in butter cutting through the spice. A complementing example would be a chocolate porter with a rich chocolate dessert. And a contrasting match could be a saison (farmhouse ale – slight sourness and tartness) against a sweeter sticky BBQ pork belly.”

 

Trends to Watch

The great thing with beer and food is that anything goes and there is not a food that beer cannot match to.

“Get your crazy on! Beer comes in that many styles, colours, types, flavours, why wouldn’t you experiment? You may get a few wrong, makes all the more reason to try again,” said Sheehan.

As for exciting new trends in beer and food matching, it seems dessert and cheese is where it’s at.

“We are definitely starting to see beer as a credible partner to cheese and many wine writers would agree that beer and cheese is a sublime pairing,” says Waldhorn.

“Brewers are barrel-ageing beers, which impart incredibly rich characters that will stand up to decadent desserts and full-flavoured, slow cooked styles of cooking. Dessert and beer is still relatively undiscovered but can make for the most wonderful pairing when done well!”

We are also seeing food make its way into the brewing process, with beer events like the recent GABS Beer, Cider, & Food Fest encouraging brewers to experiment.

“Just look at any of the festival beers at GABs, we infused lemongrass into a traditional German Maibock for something different,” said Sheehan.

 

TOP FIVE BEER AND FOOD MATCHES

Malt Shovel Brewery head brewer, Chris Sheehan, shares his five favourite beer and food matches.

  1. Porters with desert, porter and black forest cake.
  2. Beer and cheese in general. The carbonation and bitterness combine so well with the richness and creaminess of cheese.
  3. Crisp lagers with Asian spice.
  4. Roast beef and a rich malty English ale.
  5. Beer and glass…no, not literally, I mean beer out of glass! You wouldn’t drink wine straight from the bottle and when you spend your hard earned on great beer – serve it properly and enjoy the aroma!

 

KILLER BEER & FOOD MATCHES TO TRY

Kirrily Waldhorn, aka Beer Diva, shares her ‘reliable favourites’ when matching beer with food.

  1. An indulgent English-style amber ale alongside a heavenly slow-cooked pork belly.
  2. A Belgian dubbel rich in rum and raisin characters is perfect with a big scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream…the grown up coke float!
  3. A rich, decadent stout (poured into a Champagne flute) contrasts perfectly to the sweetness found in a gooey chocolate pudding.
  4. A pungent washed rind cheese, with a rich Belgian tripel.
  5. Freshly shucked oysters are amazing paired to the citrus tones of a German Kölsch.

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