As the UK continues its love-in with US craft beer, Kate Malczewski heads to Brat to explore the versatility of these American brews paired with seasonal British food
There’s no doubt the nation’s thirst for craft beer is still on the rise and it appears we've got a penchant for the stuff from the other side of the Atlantic. Last year, exports of US craft beer to the UK were up 7.1%, according to the Brewers Association.
Of course, where thirst goes, hunger follows – so it makes sense for UK on-trade operators to explore the food-matching potential of American craft beer. But what makes a good pairing? Brewers Association executive chef Adam Dulye set out to investigate this question at a recent beer and food matching event at Brat, in collaboration with the east London restaurant's chef Tomos Parry.
‘One of the goals with beer and food pairing is to broaden the conversation about quality, about a sense of community and a sense of place,’ said Dulye.
To amplify this conversation, he invited seven American craft brewers to the event to share their beers, their experiences in the industry and their thoughts on his matches.
Guests included Andy Barr of Fifty Fifty Brewing Co; Jesse Brasher of West Sixth Brewing Co; Jennifer Glanville of Samuel Adams Boston Brewery; Garrett Marrero of Maui Brewing Co; Richard Miller of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery; Lisa Pumphrey of Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery; and Lynne Weaver of Three Weavers Brewing Co.
After a warm welcome from beer sommelier and Brewers Association rep Lotte Peplow, the group sat down to a series of pairings. First up was a plate of grilled young leeks with fresh cheese, which required the juicy, hazy character of Sam Adams New England IPA to cut through the creaminess.
The whole wild turbot served next was an undeniable showstopper with Maui Brewing Company’s Big Swell IPA. The contrast between the bitter beer and the mild, meaty fish brought out an unexpected, but pleasant sweetness in the dish, complemented by the IPA’s tropical flavours.
But the beef course proved the most surprising – and, for many at the table, the most delicious.
At first glance it looked fairly straightforward, with rare Moorland beef, potatoes and a simple plate of fresh tomatoes served alongside Fifty Fifty Brewing Co’s Barrel-Aged Donner Party Porter and Lickinghole Creek’s Enlightened Despot Imperial Stout.
Dulye explained the idea behind the pairing. ‘The potatoes have been smoked over hay, which is about as close as you're going to get to cooking food inside a barrel,’ he said. ‘The tomatoes are perfectly in season and have the acidity that will allow you to move between the two beers without affecting the flavour.’
‘I love the beef with the porter and the potatoes with the stout. The potatoes really bring out more smokiness in the beer,’ noted Glanville.
Meanwhile, the tomatoes worked as a refreshing palate cleanser, just as promised. ‘I was a little worried about the tomatoes,’ Dulye admitted. ‘You’ve got to get them just right, with the acid hitting to be able to work with the porter and the stout. But I think with the smoke of the potatoes and the richness of the beef, you need something.’
The meal closed with a generous slice of burnt cheesecake with peaches, crème fraiche and a pour of West Sixth Brewing’s Meadoweisse. The remarkably tart beer kept the dessert from becoming too sweet, instead highlighting its fruity and tangy qualities.
‘The beer and food landscape is shifting and we’re seeing more and more consumers seeking out an experience when they go out,’ commented Dulye.
To learn more about pairing craft beer and food, download CraftBeer.com’s free course.