Beer and food have long gone hand in hand, but craft beer club Beer52 has brought this relationship to a whole new level. The brewers have teamed up with 13 London restaurants to create a series of one-off beer inspired by each venue's cuisine.
‘It was important that [the beers] represented the spirit and the culture of the restaurants we worked with, whether that meant using specific ingredients or capturing their daring willingness to break the mould,’ said Beer52 head brewer Chris JJ Heaney.
Heaney, formerly of Bermondsey brewery Partizan, visited each restaurant, tried their food and developed recipes tailored specifically to its menu.
‘They cooked [Heaney] food, explained about their ingredients and then had a discussion about what would be the perfect beer to match,’ Beer52 co-founder Fraser Doherty told Imbibe. ‘Some had a favourite ingredient they really wanted to feature, others were more interested in developing a great food pairing.’
For Chinese-style tea room and restaurant Bun House in Soho, Heaney created a pale ale flavoured with kumquat (a small citrus) and chrysanthemum flowers. ‘We sampled Chinese spirits and tea, and tried to get as much of that character in a beer as we could,’ he said.
The resulting beer is a perfectly sessionable ale, with a delicate floral nose and a comforting malty palate. ‘We wanted something that would be easy-drinking and pairable with a lot of food that we do,’ commented Bun House co-owner Alex Peffly. ‘What you’d usually drink with this food is a very fragrant or aromatic tea [...] so it made sense to use these very distinctive Chinese tea characteristics.’
Heaney used another citrus fruit, yuzu, to develop the recipe of a New England IPA to match Freak Scene’s south-east Asian-inspired menu. ‘We tried to reflect some classic Asian iced tea flavour combinations,’ explained Heaney. The resulting nose is markedly citric, with lime and orange peel notes and some candy fruit undertones. The palate is delicate, just mildly bitter, and ideally balanced to match the elegance of the cuisine’s flavours.
He went for citrus fruits again in his classic Belgian witbier, brewed to complement the Peruvian plates at Martin Morales' Ceviche. The restaurant specialises in – you guessed it – ceviche, the Peruvian dish typically made with raw fish cured in citrus juices.
‘This witbier's gentle natural acidity [seemed like] the perfect companion [for Peruvian cuisine],’ said Heaney. In Brussels, witbiers are typically matched with mussels, so the decision was certainly influenced by a traditional, well-oiled pairing with shellfish.
But when looking to brew a beer for Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, a popular west African spot in east London, Heaney went totally off the beaten track.
‘Zoe’s a great fan of beer, particularly dark beers,’ he said. ‘We wanted to make something lightly spiced, which evoked the rich, distinctive flavours of her style.’
He decided to use chilli peppers in his porter. While the nose is delicate, a little herbaceous, almost ethereal, the palate discloses a severe spicy kick, which requires hearty, rich foods to stand up to it.
The collaboration range includes further brews, some quirky, others a little less daring: a Belgian dubbel with figs made for The Cheese Bar in Camden, a single hop IPA for all-day cafe The Good Egg, a New England IPA for pizzeria Radio Alice, a rice lager for Japanese restaurant Nanban, a stout for bakery Lily Vanilli, a West Coast IPA for Korean-inspired restaurant JinJuu, a spiced saison for Dum Biryani, a pale ale for Club Mexicana and a session IPA for Venezuelan-style Arepa&Co.
All recipes were developed by Heaney in collaboration with the chefs and brewed in Belgium at Anders brewery.
The new range is part of the larger, ongoing Table project, which focuses on developing the connection between beer and food. 'Over the year we hope to do more collaborations,' said Heaney. 'We want to collaborate with bakeries and even honey farms, so more “Table” beers will be released.’