A match-fit Tom Oliver snatched a draw from the ever inventive Mitch Adams in this year’s Beer v Cider food pairing challenge at Imbibe Live.
The battle of the ambassadors had been a long time coming. Back in 2017, Oliver of Oliver’s Cider & Perry triumphed over Adams, now operations manager at Euroboozer.
Dishes to match came from Tim Anderson, chef/proprietor of Brixton’s Japanese hotspot, Nanban. Deliberately going beyond the basics, our two sparring partners faced exquisite spicing, subtle savoury hits, plus flavour balances which magically appeared both intense and subtle at the same time.
The first round saw a panko-fried pork loin sandwich with vanilla mayo, jacked up with jerk tonkatsu sauce. First out of the traps, Oliver chose Dunkerton’s Organic Cider classic, Black Fox, with its bittersweet notes, ‘appley-ness’ (both of skins and flesh) plus natural sweetness. ‘I hope it will enhance or at least complement, Oliver said.
Adams meanwhile took another tack, employing the rye in Schremser’s Ruggen Bio Bier, to add pepperiness into the spice equation.
The audience verdict? Miraculously, a 50:50 split, so Anderson cast the deciding vote for cider. As well as sweetness and fruit flavours, “I like the acidity,” he explained.
Next up, a seriously good-looking Caesar salad – or ‘Japaneasar’, as it was rechristened. Crispy noodles, fried garlic and shaved parmesan nestling in a Romaine lettuce boat with katsuobushi-miso Caesar dressing. Oliver’s choice, Sheppy’s Kingston Black – a well-honed exposition – narrowly lost against the Moscatel-barrel-aged majesty of Stiegl’s small batch rarity, Sonnenkonig IV BA Double IPA. So 1:1 into the third round.
Time for roasted rainbow carrots with citrus zest and pecans. Adams scored once more, despite an inspirational attempt from Oliver: the hopped méthode traditionnelle perry from Estonia’s sparkling maestro, Jaanihanso. It was Mikkeller’s Chinese Food Vesterbro Pils that won out, beautifully targeting both savoury and spicy notes.
Finally, Anderson’s unique take on profiteroles – choux buns filled with yuzu-and-chilli-infused whipped chocolate – threw our opponents somewhat. They guys pushed to wheel out the big guns: a salted caramel cider from Dudda’s Tun, Oliver triumphed over Mitch’s similarly contemporary offering, Tiny Rebel’s jam-doughnut in a glass, Pump Up The Jam. ‘That was fascinating,’ said Oliver. ‘I didn’t know where it would go.’
‘If I’d have turned up to a cider and food matching and had those four dishes and those four cider, I’d have had my mind blown,’ said Adams. ‘If I’d have turned up at a beer and food matching, I’d have been equally happy and impressed.’
For Anderson, the surprise was how well the ciders went. There’s already talk of a rematch, although no-one seems keen to wait two years. I sense Nanban will be getting a familiar ‘table for two’ booking before too long.