I’ve been pretty convinced for some time that the best beer and food match I’ve come across is fish and chips and St Austell Brewery’s coriander noted wheat beer, Clouded Yellow. We’d set up a beer festival, fish and chips had been sent out for and there happened to be some bottles of Clouded Yellow in a crate, surplus to requirements. Fantastic combination with the spiciness of the beer against the white fish.
That experience has now been surpassed, and once again St Austell was involved, this time as the host venue for an International Women’s Day beer tasting (I was one of three lucky men there). The beer in question: Fuller’s Wild River (4.5% ABV), a double-hopped American pale ale, delightful in its own right, with bold grapefruit and piney hop notes, but once a mouthful of key lime cheesecake had been taken, wow, the hop flavours are accentuated beautifully.
Leading this tasting session was one of St Austell’s in-house beer sommeliers, Julie McFeat, grandmother and great speaker, with a nice line in humour to break up her talk. She explained that there are female and male hops, and that the male hops are essentially “useless”. Encouraging some of the two dozen or so people in her audience to rub hops in their hands to release the aromas, she advised against tasting them: “They are extremely bitter — because they’re female!”
It was the first time I’d seen a beer sommelier in action, and even though I knew most of what we were told, it’s always useful to be reminded of the basics, and delightful to see the faces of people who have never properly tasted beer before. The food matching choices were particularly good and well thought out, and were mainly everyday foods, rather than dinner party specials.
For people who thought wine was better with food, Julie explained: “It’s easier to match beer with food as it’s much more versatile.”
She added: “People who don’t like beer? We can always find one for you.” How true. I’ve yet to fail this challenge with non-beer drinkers, based on my simple philosophy that there’s a beer for every taste – those individuals haven’t found it yet.
A great session, well presented and with excellent beers (all made by women brewers, or brewsters) and food. If you see one of Julie’s presentations advertised, do get along and hear her.
The beer and food matches
Woodforde’s Reedlighter (4.2% ABV, American style pale ale) with chilli nachos
Skinner’s Lushingtons (4.2%, pale ale) with pork sausage
Joseph Holt Humdinger (4% ABV, golden ale) with chicken and mayo on bread
Fuller’s Bengal Lancer (5.3%, IPA) with chicken tikka
St Austell Mena Dhu (4.5%, stout) with blue cheese
Marston’s Free Fall (7.4%, saison) with salmon and avocado
Fuller’s Wild River (4.5%, American pale ale) with key lime cheesecake
St Austell Cornish Tiergarten (4%, Berliner weisse) with raspberry sorbet