Sunday, 28 August 2011
Light and dark
BeerandfoodBeerandfood BeerandfoodBeerandfood…Say it enough times and it becomes the most natural thing in the world — as natural as wineandfoodwineandfood even. So here we are on Saturday evening in the marvellous Kilverts in Hay on Wye and a woman who has come to the ‘beer vs beer’ dinner at which Mark Dredge and I are sparring partners tells us that she had bought a glass of wine into the dining room with her but after tasting some of the beers on show she will be staying with beer (the glass of Chardonnay, well I presume it’s Chardonnay, it’s honeyed yellow, limpid in the glass, stays untouched for the rest of the dinner). Another woman says that she has to find a way of getting her friends back home to taste beer and the debate that follows as Mark and I discuss why we matched a variety of light and dark beers with dishes such as a creamy Stilton-soaked risotto, fresh succulent sardines and a rumbustious beef Wellington is like a gust of fresh air and the sound of heavenly trumpets to Mark and I as we sit back stuffed and replete with some of the best grub I’ve yet to have in a pub. The evidence? The Stilton and roast shallot risotto is served with Orval and Rochefort 6 — a battle of the Trappist beers. In my opinion Rochefort 6 adds sweetness to the dish, while Orval (my choice) lets the sunshine and showers of leathery Brett and bright orange citrus embrace the dish; the bitterness also helped to cut through the creaminess. Second round: sardines with a deconstructed ratatouille. Crumbs this was a tough one, the oiliness of the sardines and the acidity of the ratatouille; I choose Otley’s black IPA Oxymoron, while Mark went for Jever Pilsener. I wasn’t convinced by the Jever and thought it accentuated the oiliness, though I wasn’t too convinced by the Oxymoron and its dalliance with the food either. The dark notes might have been too much. The conversation ebbed and flowed across the table, beer its current — said time and time again, these are good beers in their own right. Goose Island IPA (me) and Aventinus went forward to the match with the beef Wellington, both of which fitted gorgeously — the choice of the IPA was seen as slightly dubious by some, but the generous orangy, Muscat notes and the generous bitterness more than stood up to the fabulously cooked beef. Aventinus, however, shaded this contest and I suspect if it had been my choice for dark beer then that is what I would have picked. Finally pudding, a chocolate fondant with bucks fizz ice cream (a revelation in itself) — me: Waen’s Porter House Blue which is made with fresh blueberries — some added in the mash, others added at the end of the boil, a porter/stout hybrid that has a slight sweetness at the end. Meanwhile Mark went for a Boon Kriek, which went down a storm with the audience though Porter House Blue also had its fans. We asked everyone to mark the matches out of ten and for each dish until the pudding you could have put the proverbial cigarette paper through the results, for instance 35 against 36 for dish one. But the pudding saw the Boon Kriek saw Mark really pull away, though I was impressed with the first Waen beer I have tried (they’re a brewery whose beers I want to research more). And the result? Mark won, but beer and Kilverts were the real winners on the night — if you are anywhere near Hay do get down today or tomorrow for the end of their beer festival. And I’d welcome all comments on the matches.