Following a lot of banter on twitter started by Dave Bailey & Neil Bowness regarding how well beer is portrayed in the British media. In particular the lack of beer & food matching on Saturday Kitchen compared to Wine, Tim Atkin & Adrian Tierney-Jones agreed to host a Beer vs Wine and Food matching evening to see which really is better with food. The chefs at The Thatchers Arms designed a five course menu and asked the beer & wine experts to come up with pairings for each course. Originally Tim was up against the formidable duo of Melissa Cole & Adrian, but sadly due to personal reasons Melissa had to pull out (if you missed her at the event, why not buy her book? You can also buy Adrian’s latest book ‘Great British Pubs‘ which we’re thrilled to be featured in).
Tim asked if we could keep things light-hearted and make the evening a charity event if the hosts gave their time for free. Keen to raise as much as possible for their chosen charities, Amnesty International if Tim won & Help for Heroes if Adrian won, we set about getting as much of the evening sponsored as possible. Adnams kindly offered their support, as did the online retailer Slurp. Because all of the wines and beers had been kindly donated by these two companies it meant a massive chunk of the £30 ticket price could go to charity. Follow the links from the menu below to cellarandkitchen.adnams.co.uk or slurp.co.uk & slurpbeer.com to purchase any of the evenings chosen drinks to sample yourself (apologies if some of them are currently out of stock, that would be our fault!) . We also managed to get much of the menu subsidised by John Colemans Butchers, Direct Seafoods, Bookers & our newest supplier The Fair Game Meat company who all generously supported the event with a mixture of free and cost price food for the menu.
It took a while to arrange a date suitable for everybody but we finally settled on October 28th 2011, the start of British Pub Week. The event drew a lot of attention particularly with our fellow tweeters. Beer Writer Des De Moor was first to book alongside Dave & Ann instigators & owners of Hardknott Brewery, Video Blogger Nathan Nolan, a gaggle of Adnams representatives Delyth, Harriet & Head Brewer Fergus and Journalists from the Publicans Morning Advertiser & The On Trade Preview to name a few! Many of our faithful locals also attended and one member of staff booked the night off especially. In all, an incredibly diverse guest list of just over 50 people sat down for the five course meal meaning a total profit of £1060 for the winning charity.
After a short introduction, I handed over to Tim & Adrian to talk the diners through the pairings with each course. They both talked passionately about their chosen beverage, keeping things amicable with a few jokes and anecdotes. Sadly I wasn’t taking notes and can’t remember any of the tales, except that if you’re in Chile and you want Merlot you have to ask for Merlot Merlot or you’ll end up with Carmenere! Guests were allowed to vote for both beverages if they thought they worked equally well. The evenings events were also reported on live on twitter under the hashtag #beervswine by many in attendance, and a few who weren’t, (view an analysis of all the tweets by archivist.com) with Guardian Journalist Fiona Beckett tweeting to nearly 9000 followers “Follow @ThatchersArms Twitter stream for next couple of hours for epic battle btw @ATJbeer and @Timatkin“.
So here’s how it all worked out…
Carpaccio of Venison Loin & Beetroot with Port & Mustard Vinaigrette
(V Carpaccio of Beetroot with Port & Mustard Vinaigrette)
Beer: Duchesse de Bourgogne 6.2% (slurpbeer.com £2.45 33cl)
An oak aged Flanders Red Ale from Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium
Wine: 2008 Casa Rivas Carmenere Gran Reserva 14.5% (Adnams.co.uk £12.99 75cl)
A lost bordeaux grape now native to Chile, Maipo Valley
The sourness of the beer paired perfectly with the acidic dressing and the big spicy wine complimented the rich venison. However it was a landslide victory for beer 41:20
Home Smoked Mackerel Fillet with Pickled Samphire & Lemon Dressing
(V Smoked Ribbons of Aubergine, Pepper & Courgette w Pickled Samphire & Lemon Dressing)
Beer: Adnams Explorer 5.0% (Adnams.co.uk £13.50 12x500ml)
Fruity, citrus hops with a biscuity malt backbone
Wine: 2010 Telmo Rodriguez Gaba do Xil 13.5% (Adnams.co.uk £9.50 75cl)
Hugely refreshing, aromas of honey & apple peel, Valdeorras, Spain
The citrus flavours in the beer worked well with the pickled samphire & lemon, but there wasn’t quite enough malt to stand up to the smoked fish. The wine did a stunning job of lifting the smoky flavours and cutting through the acidity. A 21:30 equaliser for wine.
Delicate Sri Lankan Red Chicken Curry with Cardamom Rice & Poppadums (medium)
(V Vegetable Curry as above)
Beer: Schneider Weiss Original 5.4% (slurpbeer.com £2.60 50cl)
Amber Wheat beer brewed since 1872 in Kelheim, Germany
Wine: 2008 Cape Barren Estate Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre 15% (Adnams.co.uk £13.50 75cl)
Delicate to start opening up to a butch Oz red from the McLaren Vale, South Australia
The beer cleansed the palate after each sip but for a delicate curry, those who like it hot much preferred the red wine which enhanced the spice in the dish. Only a narrow win for beer at 32:24.
Lemon Tart with Raspberry Coulis
Beer: Adnams Solebay (Adnams.co.uk £10 750ml – Currently out of stock, back soon!)
Champagne Style beer with pilsner malt & Nelson Sauvin hops & lavender
Wine: 2009 Fontanafredda Moscato d’Asti (slurp.co.uk £9.85 50cl)
Medium bodied sweet dessert wine from the Piemonte region of Italy
The lovely citrus flavours of this stunning beer worked wonderfully with the lemon tart, but the sharp raspberry coulis hindered things a little. In contrast the only wine that was weaker than beer all evening was a delicate lightly sparkling 5.5% cousin of Asti Spumanti. The summery elderflower flavours sealed a 14:39 win for wine leaving it all to play for on the last course!
Handmade Dark Chocolate Petit Fours
Beer: Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12yo 8.0% (slurpbeer.com £3.60 50cl)
Dark Scottish Ale aged in Highland Park Whisky casks
Wine: Lustau San Emilion PX (slurp.co.uk £16.40 75cl)
Award winning dark, sweet, rich sherry from the Jerez region of Spain
The luxurious, rich, sweet sherry was a little too cloying for some with the chocolates, and the alcohol flavours in this exquisite beer were a touch too far for others. After a re-count due to confusion & light hearted allegations of cheating it was a dead heat at 28:28!
So clearly beer is, at the very least, equally as good with food as wine. Tim & Adrian shook on the affable outcome raising £530 each for their chosen charities. Perhaps now it’s time for Saturday Kitchen and the rest of the media to give equal coverage to our home grown beverage beer as they do to wine.
“It was as natural as eating and, to me, as necessary. I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking a beer.” – Ernest Hemingway
“If food is the body of good living, wine is its soul.” – Clifton Fadiman