By now the guests at the British Guild of Guild of Beer Writers annual dinner will be seated, they’ll have seen the menu, and they’ll hopefully have enjoyed a few beers in the sponsors bars at The Park Lane Hotel. This was my fourth year as part of the team who had the responsibility of choosing the menu and more specifically the beers which are paired with the menu to the 200+ guests on the night. It’s not an easy task (which I written flippantly about before), and due to the time it takes up sadly not one I think I’ll be able to repeat in 2016. Even more regrettably I am unable to attend the dinner tonight and will be watching from twitter to see if people have enjoyed the meal and the pairings, I really hope they have, there are some corkers there in my opinion.
This year we had a full task force from across the Guild to help choose the menu and beers. As always Tim Hampson kept his watchful eyes on us. Sophie Atherton & I returned to the culinary crusade from previous years and were joined by Sir Robert Humphrey’s & Paul Hegarty.
There are a few self imposed rules which we adhere to, I touched on this in my bog on last years dinner “Beer Matching: the first rule of #bgbw“, but essentially we don’t use sponsors beers, beers from breweries affiliated with anybody on the committee or beers or breweries used in the recent past.
So this year saw a change of venue, The Park Lane Hotel, Mayfair. Very swanky. The Jumeriah served us well for three years, but new chefs, new ideas, it was time to rock the boat. We were very lucky to have an enthusiastic team in Chef Tony Fitt & Chef Andrew Bennett. Both agreed to visit The Bull in the summer for a beer dinner being hosted by Adrian Tierney-Jones and myself, they were extremely receptive and I feel it really showed in their approach to the menu and our tastings.
So, what is everybody eating right now?
Fillet of meagre bass, spiced red lentils, BBNo Witbier, spinach and lime sauce
or English golden cross goats cheese tart, textures of beetroot, tarragon dressing (v)
Brew By Numbers 01 Saison Citra, 5.5%, Bermondsey
Apart from the obvious synergy between the brewery used in the cooking and the pairing here, we really found this clean sharp saison lifted the bass dish to a new height. The gentle spritz lightening each mouthful while the saison and yeast and spices seemed find an unlikely marriage. Finally, those classic Citra hops add the squeeze of lemon to the fish and the final hint of citrus to the sauce.
With the vegetarian starter we found the saison picked out the earthy beetroot flavours while the Citra and goats cheese seemed to have a more predicable affair. It was of course lovely to be able to use the same beer for both menu choices.
Cannelloni of braised Denham Estate venison shoulder, coffee marinated loin, cassoulet of white beans and pancetta
Meantime Chocolate Porter, 6.5%, Greenwich
Firstly, this dish was stunning. Coffee enriching the venison and a beautifully light cassoulet bringing everything back down to earth. It’s obvious that the Meantime chocolate porter would pick out the coffee, but when that light smokiness picks up on the pancetta too it’s a real treat to enjoy these two together.
Cannelloni of butternut squash and spinach, coffee marinated tofu, cassoulet of white beans and heirloom carrots (v)
Hook Norton Lion, 4%, Oxfordshire
Whilst the flavours in the vegetarian dish were similar, the lack of red meat meant that the porter was a bit of a bully with this one. Then along came the Lion, an accomplished, crisp, refreshing pale ale nurturing and lifting the very tasty tofu.
Gingerbread & bramley apple pudding with crème fraiche anglaise
Robinsons Old Tom Ginger, 8.5%, Stockport
Sadly, we never actually tasted these two together, the samples didn’t turn up on the day, and as we only really had one contender, we’ll have to see how it all works on the night. Strangely though, this was one of the easiest choices we made, and was unanimous upon sight of the menu let alone tasting the dessert. I just hope this decadent ginger old friend purrs his ways into the diners affections as intended. Everybody likes cats right?
Norbury blue cheese, Peter Yard biscuits, honey
Camden Town Brewery IHL, 6.2%, London
Always one for cheese at the end of meal, the cheese platter and souffle combination was always going get my vote, and after the Lager & Food pairing dinner that Adrian hosted at The Bull in the summer, we were convinced, along with chefs Tony & Andrew that Camden IHL was only beer for the job. Somehow this lager IPA hybrid has everything needed to throw at rich creamy blues and tangy mature hard cheeses alike. If we were talking technology, it would be the latest iPhone killer, instead we’ll just have to say goodbye to port…
I feel my colleagues this year outshone me considerably in helping to select the beers, one of the reasons for understanding it’s time to step down from the job next year. But I really do feel a great deal of effort has been put in and I hope the results speak for themselves on the night. If you are/were at the dinner I’d love to hear your feedback and I’m sure my colleagues would too.
Good luck to all the entrants, it’s been a great year to read about beer!