The theme to this years Beer Festival has been ‘new’ East Anglian beers, all first brewed in the last 12 months. We’ve lucked out with some stunning beers, albeit that the range of styles hasn’t been as broad as we’d have liked, many are golden and highly hopped as has been the trend for 2011. I was keen to make sure that we didn’t just match different gold hoppy beers with each of the seven courses, so I did also look to our bottled beer selection for inspiration.
If you like the look of this menu and would like to get involved in one of our food matching evenings, we have a Beer vs Wine & Food Matching evening on Friday October 28th. Saturday Morning Kitchens Tim Atkin & Beer writers Adrian Tierney-Jones & Melissa Cole will be hosting and pairing a wine & a beer with each course, who wins? YOU DECIDE! The evenings proceeds will all go to the charity of the winners choice, tickets are £30 and bookings are essential.
Back to our Beer Festival, here’s the menu and how things went…
First Course: Carrot & Beetroot Borscht with Pilsner Urquell
The rich malt flavours in Pilsner Urquell pair perfectly with sweet beetroot and the bitter saaz hops clear the palate after each sip making this rich soup ever so slightly more delicate. Although our version of the soup was vegetarian, traditionally it would contain bacon and the Pilsner Urquell would come into it’s element here also pairing beautifully with the caramelised meat.
Second Course: Chorizo Scotch Quails Egg
with Crouch Vale Cluster
Hops and spice go together like Butter & Jam, which is why Curry and IPA are frequently matched together. With chorizo some malt is also needed to compliment the pork and the golden fried breadcrumbs, so Cluster, with a full flavoured thirst quenching biscuity malt and clean fruity hops came together perfectly with the spice. This beer was in great condition with a little bit of carbonation helping to cut through the runny quails egg yolk.
Third Course: Diver Caught Scallop with Smoked Norfolk Dapple wrapped in Smoked Bacon with Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier
The Rauchbier is a German smoked marzen, dark brown with a rich smoked malt base; this isn’t a delicate beer, it’s a Juggernaut of flavour. It’s not for everybody, what I’d call a ‘marmite beer’, you either love it or hate it! Usually I would pair this with a rich wintery venison & smoked bacon stew, but I wanted to try something different. The light carbonation in this beer helps cut through the fatty smoked cheese & the rich coral sauce, the meaty smoked malt matching perfectly with the smoked bacon and the background fruity & orangey notes bringing out the flavour of the scallop.
Fourth Course: Crouch Vale Yakima Gold Sorbet with… you guessed it…
After such a strong flavoured beer we decided a palate cleanser was in order. This sorbet starts with a sweet sugary flavour along with the fruity hops notes. The rest of the hop flavour in the beer soon takes over and the bitterness rushes over your tongue refreshing your palate. We served this with the cask version of Yakima Gold, not especially as a considered pairing, but to demonstrate where the flavours in the sorbet stem from. In actual fact the match was terrible, the beer was too light and didn’t have enough malt to stand up to the initial sweetness, the sorbet however was fantastic.
Fifth Course: Lamb Chilli & Mint Burger with Erdinger Dunkel
The second of our bottle beers for this menu. Dunkel is a dark wheat beer, generally dunkel aren’t as rich as British dark beers, they are more akin to continental dark lagers, quite light, hoppy & gently carbonated, but still with roasted malt & chocolate flavours. The fizz is key here cutting through the fat in the burger while the caramel malt become almost one the grilled meat. The higher alcohol content (5.6%) helps wash the spice from the palate (the peppery heat in a chilli is soluble in alcohol) while the mint in the burger & the roasted malt in the beer cool & refresh. A show of hands revealed this as the favourite match of the evening.
Sixth Course: Autumn Berry & Vanilla Cheesecake
with Mauldons Blackberry Porter
I’ve matched stout and cheesecake before with great success. The dry finish cuts through rich creaminess of a fresh cheesecake. The roasted chocolate & malt flavours cut through the sweetness ensuring the dessert doesn’t become to cloying. So usually a dark beer is matched because it contrasts to the dessert, in this case I was going for a compliment of flavours. The sweetness of blackberries in the beer married really well with the autumn fruits, there was still a bit of dryness on the finish, definitely a match for those with a sweet tooth!
Seventh Course: Homemade Dark Chocolate Petit Fours with Adnams Tally Ho 2009*
Probably not the beer I would choose if this was just about the chocolates, but this is a really special beer. Brewed in July 2009 and cellared since then, I wanted to show it off! The initial alcohol flavours in this 7.2% barley wine have slowly mellowed over the months in the cask and the sweet roasted chocolate and malt flavours have been accentuated. This actually made a great match with the bittersweet flavours in the dark chocolate which sidled up nicely to the dark roasted malts in the beer.
My favourite match for a strong dark ale is Blue Cheese, so as a little treat we also brought some Norfolk Binham Blue Cheese out to try with our Tally Ho. Opinions were split between the chocolate and cheese matches, but nobody was in disagreement that this aged Barley Wine was the beer of night!
*Ok so this wasn’t a new brew for 2011, but it is the first time this vintage has been drunk this year at The Thatchers, and besides, if you can’t spoil yourself at a beer festival, when can you?