Beer & Food: A Feral Feast
Anthony Williams / 15.08.12
It’s kinda nice having Australia’s best craft brewery in your backyard (or Australia’s most awarded brewery if you prefer). It’s even better when that brewery decides to host a seven-course Degustation Beer Dinner and you score a couple of tickets; this must have been what they were thinking of at the licensing department when they decided to print ‘State Of Excitement’ on WA number plates all those years ago. Let’s just say Saturday, 11th August, was a good day.
Arriving at Feral, up in the northeastern reaches of Perth’s Swan Valley, it quickly became obvious that your humble scribe wasn’t the only beer enthusiast to be, well, enthusiastic about the brewery’s Degustation Dinner. A reported 130 punters were partaking in pre-dinner drinks, from a choice of The Runt Pale Ale and Karma Citra Black IPA), and it wasn’t long before the congregation was seated and welcomed by Feral’s co-owner and head brewer Brendan Varis. With typical humility, he seemed genuinely surprised by the turnout, recalling how a similar event several years earlier had struggled to attract 30 guests: a reflection of the exponential growth and success the brewery, and craft beer generally, has enjoyed – and truly deserved – in recent times.
That growth was also reflected in the first course of the evening, with super-fresh White Ale (a Belgian-style witbier) served alongside a dish that featured black pudding, shaved truffle, a poached quail egg and wasabi hollandaise. Appetite whetted? It was.
As Brendan explained at the table, the White – its vibrant, zesty lemon and spicy coriander characters practically dancing across the palate – was from the first batch brewed at Feral’s Brewcorp development (a MUCH-larger capacity brewhouse, built in a partnership with fellow WA crafty Nail Brewing). Put simply, it was the best Feral White this supportive critic had tasted in a long, long time. Bravo – what a way to start!
From that early high, the gourmet hordes “struggled” through scallop pie – matched with Golden Ace (Belgian-style Golden Ale) – and chocolate chilli pork belly – with a Smoked Porter, before the palate cleansing combo of oysters and Watermelon Warhead. The last of these was Feral’s contribution to the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (part of Melbourne’s 2012 Good Beer Week in May) – a take on the Berliner Weisse style – and it was still turning heads with its tart, lacto-lemon acidity, subtle hints of watermelon and dry, puckering finish.
Taste buds scrubbed, all were ready for the fifth course of the night: lamb shank faggot and pan-fried gnocchi, with chilli sage butter and braised fennel. The beer match: Hop Hog, of course.
Feral’s all-conquering American-style IPA was simply superb, as usual, with its hop-driven characters and bitterness providing an ideal counterpoint for the flavours of the dish. It was just delicious, as was the combination of a multi-dimensional dessert – chocolate panna cotta, strawberry meringue mess, banana crumble, and rose and black pepper ice-cream – and the multi-faceted, multi-award-winning Nail Stout (from Feral’s Brewcorp collaborator). All that was left, after such glorious indulgence, was to loosen the belt buckles, sample a little homemade beer cheese, and recline with a glass of the utterly sublime, 2011-vintage Razorback barley wine; and, of course, to express eternal gratitude to the poor suckers – er, I mean skippers – who would handle of the long drive home.
Feral and fiancée willing, we’ll do it all again next year… Cheers!
Thanks to Anthony Williams, beer writer, distributor and event host for this write up. He’s a founder of the regular BEERtasters nights in and around Perth – for more info, check out the BEERtasters Facebook page.