Is Beer the new wine? The first question of Ed Hughes’ beer and food matching masterclass was in the name of the session – to which Hughes’ answer was a firm no – it can’t be, because at 9,000 years old, it’s older than wine.
The very first Taste Zone session at Imbibe Live 2017 – and it was a memorable one – took visitors on a beer and food matching journey, with leading beer sommelier and head of customer/consumer hospitality at Sharps Brewery. Hughes’ mission is to change perceptions about beer and present it as a real alternative to wine when it comes to food pairing.
The session, in association with Brew + Press, featured a tasting of six beers from the brand’s portfolio, with three matched to an amuse bouche from nearby pub The Cumberland Arms.
Hughes’ love of all things hops was partly inspired by a trip to Belgium; seeing the care, attention and pride that was taken in serving the country’s famous beers. He challenged the audience to see who could tell the difference between lager and ale, as well as how many of his ‘students’ would order a beer to go with food in a fine dining situation. Eager listeners helped identify flavours and styles of the beer line-up, deftly picking out tasting notes such as the powerful banana flavour present in beer number five, La Trappe Quadrupel, tasted on its own.
The roasted bitterness of Sharp’s red IPA Wolf Rock was matched to burrata, basil and tomato, whilst the bold favours of Chieftain Irish Pale Ale stood up to the smokiness of ham and chorizo terrine, served with pineapple and chilli. Finally, the cranberry-tartness of Rodenbach Grand Cru, an archetypal sour beer, shone through perfectly when paired with cheese.
To help the audience focus even more on discerning and understanding flavour, Chieftain was served again at the end of the session, this time in an opaque black cup, demonstrating the effect of removing one of the senses when tasting.
‘Beer has four key ingredients whereas wine only has two, so beer has a much wider range of flavours. Visitors can expect to learn about beer’s flexibility and range,’ said Mitch Adams, Imbibe Live Beer Ambassador.
Is beer and food matching the future? ‘Drinks and food matching is the future!’ said Adams.