Nick O / 24.09.12
Beer and food matching is becoming an increasingly popular way of winning people over to the merits of craft beer. From the way a hopped-up IPA can take a spicy dish to another dimension, through to the guilt-inducing indulgence of rich chocolate pudding with a smooth stout, beer works on many levels that can’t be matched by other beverages.
But what if you take it a step further, not so much going for a food and beer pairing, but rather a food in beer pairing? This was the challenge laid out to Sydney home brewers as part of the Beer Mimics Food theme that will be running throughout Sydney Craft Beer Week (SCBW).
For a special edition of the monthly BrewShare, which sees keen home brewers gather to create a beer centred around a particular style or theme, brewers were encouraged to think about putting food and beer in the same glass. Specifically, what food and what beer was left up to the brewer to decide, but it was essentially a chance to channel Willy Wonka and come up with a unique, palate-bending experience. And, a bit like Charlie Bucket being thrown the keys to the Chocolate Factory, the reward for coming up with the best recipe in the competition was to have it brewed commercially at 4 Pines.
What came out of that deliberately vague set of rules was an incredibly diverse range of entries which included Pumpkin Doppelbocks, Choc Mint Stouts, Green Curry Wits, Chocolate Coconut Cherry Porters, Imperial Curry Stouts, Ginger Belgian Wits, Choco-Strawberry Porters and even a Breakfast Stout – the perfectly balanced breakfast with enough bacon, oats and coffee to perk up anyone’s morning. Certainly, there was little question that all these beers pushed the boundaries of the term ‘meal in a glass’.
Through a knockout process, all the beers were peer-judged by the brewers before gradual elimination left four brews to be judged by a four-person panel of experienced palates, including Andrew Tweddell, the head brewer at 4 Pines (pictured above) and the man with the job of scaling up the recipe.
The eventual winner, brewed by Anna Lyons and James Hatherly, was a Mexican-inspired Chili Ruby Adobo Ale, nicknamed ‘Gabrielle’. And since The Crafty Pint has been asking brewers about the stories behind beer names recently, Anna was good enough to offer up the background for Gabrielle.
“[It’s] not very Mexican,“ she said. "We follow the South Pacific hurricane naming schedule to identify each beer we brew, but we’ll probably have to come up with a better name for this one now.”
The inspiration behind the beer itself was, as Anna describes, “a deep love for slow-cooked, Mexican style pulled pork in adobo sauce. If this hasn’t ever found its way to your mouth, it’s a little smoky, a little spicy, a little sour and a lot of chilli.”
To get all this coming through in the beer, they used cumin, blood oranges, chili and a small amount of peated distillers malt.
Says Anna: “The cumin was added during the boil [a few minutes before flame out]. It wasn’t much, but we had no idea how noticeably it was going to affect the flavour. The use of jalapenos was much more controlled. We steeped them after primary fermentation had completed, allowing us to regularly taste the beer and bottle as soon as the flavour of the jalapenos was coming through strong enough."
Most in the room had tackled chili beers before, but this was quite a unique take. While it managed to maintain the presence of the chili, there was no hint of the fire that normally gets sent tumbling down your throat – quite an impressive feat.
The next part of the challenge takes place this week as Anna and James (who was overseas during the competition’s judging so missed a chance for some early gloating) head out to Manly to work with Andrew on the scaled-up version. The beer itself is due to be released during SCBW at 4 Pines and The Local Taphouse Darlo.
With more than a few people likely to want to try the beer when it’s released, it’s probably fair to ask what food you should pair it with. Anna recommends “slow cooked, pulled pork in adobo sauce, served in tacos with black beans, corn, tomato, coriander and lime."
And who are we to disagree?