Beer Basics: Discover Rauchbier

Rauchbier is often described as ‘liquid bacon’ and, depending on your palate, this might not be the most appealing introduction to this smoked German style. ‘Rauch’ means smoke in German, referring to the beechwood smoked malt, German Rauchmalz, which makes up between 20-100% of its grist.

The tradition of smoked beer dates back to a time where all malt was exposed to smoke from the wood used in kilns during the drying process. Prior to the mid-1700s and the introduction of direct-fired kilns, most beers in Europe would have demonstrated a palpable smoky quality. Now malt can be kilned without producing smoke as a byproduct (usually air-dried), but this kilning tradition is still preserved in the German city of Bamberg.

Like most Bavarian beers, rauchbiers are lagered – meaning that they’re stored in cold temperatures during their slow fermentation. The lager yeast imparts a clean profile, letting the balance between rich malts and a varying amount of smoke really come to the forefront of this beer style. Rauchbier can range from light to dark brown in colour depending on the quantity of Rauchmalz used. Although they present a host of intense flavours, rauchbiers still finish bone-dry, resulting in a surprisingly crisp beer. The base of the beer is most commonly a Märzen, a complex and well-rounded copper lager that was once the beer served at Munich’s Oktoberfest celebrations (before it was fazed out in favour of a lighter, easy-drinking Festbier).

There are obvious food pairing choices with rauchbier, given its rich malty and uniquely smoky profile. Any proteins that can be thrown on a barbecue are an effortless match. The rich malt profile can mirror the caramelization of meat and the complementary smokiness of both melts together in the mouth. Another natural pairing is pork, a German staple foodstuff, in a myriad of forms, whether it's fresh bacon or braised pork belly.

Naturally, smoked fish can work beautifully with rauchbier, especially salmon. Smoked flavours are also ubiquitous in Mexican cuisine, so think about ancho chillies and black beans. In fact, rauchbier demonstrates a great amount of versatility that it’s rarely given credit for, so get creative. In The Brewmaster’s Table, Garret Oliver posits on the beer style’s adaptability:

It may be a stretch, but I almost think that we must have an instinctive prehistoric memory of the days when much of our food came into direct contact with fire. There’s something about smoky flavors that is deeply satisfying, something that is not easy to explain logically.
— p.342

The umami factor can also play a pivotal role in effective pairing. When served with tenderloin and creamy mashed potatoes, the beer worked with the sweetness of the pork. However, it was the gravy – enhanced with a dash of the smoked beer – that really stole the show and pulled everything together.

Modern Rauchbier:

Classic Rauchbier:

Try them with

  • Smoked foods, such as ham, pork, sausage, cheese and  fish.
  • Many forms of pork, such as ribs, pork roast or pork belly.
  • Some Chinese foods, especially black bean sauce.

Beer Basics: Discover Saison

Have you ever encountered a saison that you've dismissed as too "saisony"? If you struggle with this style of beer, you're not alone – it can be tremendously complex, boasting characteristics of its unique peppery yeast strain alongside herbs, spices and other botanicals. But it's precisely for this reason that a saison makes such a dependable beer to grab in a 750ml bottle and enjoy with just about any dish and cuisine.

Saisons are farmhouse ales that can be traced back to Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. Translated from French, saison means ‘season’, referring to the time of year that it was brewed for the farmhands. Before refrigeration, beers were brewed in the cooler months (in this case, usually March) when fermentation temperatures could be kept constant. They were then enjoyed the following summer. The historical table versions of the style were lower in strength; today, stronger examples can be found with ABVs topping 9%.

The peppery characteristics of saisons are attributed to its unique strain of top-fermenting yeast, which is thought to be related to a red wine strain. Unlike ale yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae, which ferments at 13°C) and lager yeast (saccharomyces pastorianus, which ferments at 4-7°C), the saison yeast strain prospers at a fermentation temperature of 32°C. As a consequence of this, the yeast produces a high level of phenols, responsible for its distinguishing pepperiness. Some esters can be present, which are the fruity notes often detected in ales, which usually have some citrus characteristics. Saisons are a highly attenuated style, meaning that the yeast has left very little sugar in the wort; this results in a discernible dryness on the palate.

The most famous version of a  saison is Saison DuPont from Brasserie Dupont, which has been brewed since 1844 as a farmhouse product, originally sold alongside artisanal foods such as honey. Today, you’ll find it available in any repiutable bottle shop (and for a reasonable price too). If you’re uncertain about the style generally, Saison DuPont is a great starting point.

When it comes to pairing with food, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more versatile style than saison. Honestly – this is where it really shines. Although it hails from Belgium, saisons have the perfect flavour profile to complement anything from Mexican to Thai dishes; its gentle phenolic spiciness – usually described as cracked black pepper – harmonises beautifully with fiery foods. Additions of herbs, such as coriander, marry effortlessly with fragrant dishes, while the effervescent carbonic bite scours away any rich textures, easily vanquishing greasy cheese or fatty meats. The food doesn’t need to be heavy, as crab cakes or Vietnamese summer rolls can happily pair with a Saison Dupont. Just ask Garret Oliver, who extols the virtues of these pairings in his food and beer bible, The Brewmaster’s Table:

Saison is not just versatile – it’s downright promiscuous. It seems to go with almost everything. The carbonation, right aromatics, spice flavours, peppery notes, dark earthy underpinnings, and racy acidity gives these beers a hook to hang their hat on for a wide range of dishes.
— Garret Oliver, p. 190.

When it comes to modern and local iterations of the style, you’ll struggle to find anything more thirst-quenching than East Sussex’s Burning Sky Brewery, whose Saison à la Provision is a refreshing take with additions of lactobacillus and brettonamyces for a crisp, dry and tart take. I’ve always been a fan of Bermondsey’s Brew by Numbers’ saisons as well, which are highly drinkable and can be deliciously adventurous – 01|27 comes to mind, a beetroot and fennel saison.

If you feel ambivalent about saison as a style, it’s worth picking up a bottle of Saison DuPont to pair with your next meal, especially if you’re partial to Thai or Vietnamese food. 

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Modern Saisons:

  • Saison à la Provision, Burning Sky Brewery (6.5%)
  • Any Brew by Numbers saison (ABV varies)

Classic Saisons:

  • Saison DuPoint, Brasserie DuPont (6.5%)

Try them with:

  • Vietnamese summer rolls with prawns, shredded vegetables, beansprouts, heaps of coriander and mint
  • Spicy Thai salad with shredded vegetables, chillies, coriander, cashew nuts and zesty lime and soya dressing
  • Spicy crab cakes

Wellington, New Zealand: A Craft Beer Guide to the real Windy City

Famed for its blustery gales and changeable weather, Wellington, New Zealand, is also lauded as the country’s craft beer capital. Over the past decade, breweries and craft beer bars have popped up in abundance across the city. These have been embraced by locals, expats and a thriving student population.

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital and second largest city. More than 60% of the central city’s population is under 40, according to the 2013 Census, and it has strong connections to the arts, acting as the base for the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts and the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, lending a dynamic and bohemian feel to the city.

The city's creative soul extends to eye-catching street art. Murals and art installations are scattered around the city’s centre, including lively Cuba Street, a bustling pedestrian mall that hosts the city’s iconic Bucket Fountain sculpture. This energy gives the city a pulse that starkly differentiates it from Auckland, New Zealand’s most populated city, located 493 kilometres away.

David Bowie Mural Wellington

In recent years, craft beer has joined the ranks of precious commodities, including their world-renowned wines and exceptional coffee, among the local Kiwi population. It has also become a tourist attraction in its own right. The joy of Wellington is that the central city can be navigated from one side to the other in under 30 minutes, making many of the unmissable venues and breweries easily accessible from one another.

Fork & Brewer 

14 Bond Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Fork & Brewer Wellington

Posed as Wellington’s premier craft beer bar, Fork & Brewer is a microbrewery offering a range of their beers across an impressive 41 taps, with room for guest beers to pour. The immense curving bar takes prominence in the venue, but there are plenty of booths and even outdoor balcony seating to enjoy. The venue is very polished – although touches like quirky utensil-themed keg handles give it plenty of personality– but isn’t unwelcoming. We enjoyed some flavoursome beers bursting with New Zealand hops and even a few refreshing wheat beers.

Fortune Favours

7 Leeds St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Fourtune Favours Wellington

Operating out of an old dip stripping factory, Fortunate Favours brews onsite on a 1,000L kit – a remarkable feat when you spot the tight corner where the brewing kit sits. Fermenter vessels are lined up, enclosed behind glass within eyeshot of the bar, and menu boards describe the beers that are pouring or fermenting. The venue is spread across two levels and also offers tempting cheese and meat platters for the peckish. The bar is also located literally a stone’s throw from Golding’s Free Dive.

Golding’s Free Dive Bar

5G / 14 Leeds St , Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Inspired by classic American dive bars, this is a great stop for both their beer selection and for first-rate pizza supplied by local pizzeria, Pizza Pomodoro. Under the neon glow of the ‘BEER’ sign affixed above the door, we were greeted warmly by clued-up staff. Here, we savoured pints from local breweries on a few occasions, even bumping into one of the Garage Project’s founders, Jos Ruffell, during our first visit. If the industry is drinking here, then you can guarantee that the beer served up is both fresh and in pristine condition.

Golding's Dive Bar Wellington

Whether pulling up a stool to the bar or being deft enough to secure a table, the atmosphere in Golding’s is electric and the beers were tasting sublime. It gets busy in the evenings and we struggled to find a seat, but persistence paid off and we were rewarded with pints of Orange Sunshine, a pithy citrus wheat beer from Garage Project, and a hot Don Mimi pizza that quickly dosappeared.

Husk

62 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Husk Wellington

Set down an alleyway adorned with twinkling fairy lights, this craft beer bar and coffee roastery is home to Choice Bros brewery, which is brewed and served up fresh onsite. The styles are modern and experimental, giving patrons a lot of intriguing beers to wade through. With 12 taps, one nitro and two handpulls, they aim to not only appease the beer drinker, but also those with a penchant for natural wines or barrel-aged cocktails.

The food menu is also impressive, serving up bar food with a contemporary – and aesthetically pleasing – touch. Plated beautifully and delighting palates, the chickpea Apocalypse Now burger and haloumi fries were excellent accompaniments to our selection of beer, which included an excellent collaboration with Modern Times Beer, a City of the Wind IPA that was replete with ripe peach and soft mango notes.

Stay tuned for more on The Garage Project next week. Thank you to Jack Dougherty for some of the stunning photography featured in this post.

Poppies Pale Ale: Five Points perfectly paired with fish n' chips

It’s been a busy few months for The Five Points Brewing Company with the release of their Field Day Citrus Pale and their acquisition of the adjacent arch at their Hackney Downs site. Despite this, they’ve made time to collaborate with Poppies, London fish and chips stalwart, on a beer brewed to perfectly complement the nation’s most iconic dish.

Poppies Pale Ale is launching today, on National Fish and Chips Day, and will be available at all Poppies sites across the city.

Poppies Soho London

Most Londoners will know Poppies because of its venerated fish and chips. In a city where such a classic and simple dish can go so wrong, Poppies is always a safe bet. It’s down to their legacy and attention to quality; the fish used is delivered straight from Billingsgate market and is filleted in-house by skilled staff. They’ve been serving up great food since 1952, when Pat ‘Pop’ Newland founded the Spitalfields site. He was the real deal: a born and bred East Londoner who began working on a fish and chips stall on Roman Road Market at the tender age of 11.

Although Poppies has been around for over half a century, their ethos is modern and all of their fish is sustainable. Their partnership with Five Points intrinsically fits too; here are two companies firmly rooted in East London and have similar local focus. As you’d expect from the brewery, Five Points didn’t take this challenge flippantly – Poppies Pale Ale was meticulously devised and brewed to ensure that it was the superlative companion to Poppies’ specialty dish, from complementing the crispy batter to cutting through the hot, stodgy chips.

Beer and food matching is something that’s increasing in popularity, as the growing number of pairing events hosted by breweries around London demonstrates. But do we really need a curated beer to accompany our cheeky hit of fish and chips? Well, Poppies Pale Ale stands on its own as a highly drinkable pale. In accordance with the local focus of Poppies, the beer uses only British malts and hops, which gives it bitterness to cut through fatty foods, but has enough zesty citrus in the body to balance this and make it intensely refreshing on its own.

Five Points Poppies Pale Ale

A lot of care has gone into getting the recipe just right, from the involvement of beer sommeliers from drinks agency Boutique Bar Brands to having the Poppies team give their feedback. This is the first time Five Points have worked with a restaurant to brew a bespoke beer and, based on the reactions of the team, they seem delighted with the result. So here we have a beer that stands on its own as a worthy choice, but also tastes exceptional when fish and chips are added to the equation. If it comes down to savouring a beer solo, or over a box of steaming chips and flaky battered fish, I know what I’d choose, though.

The beer will be unveiled across all Poppies locations – that’s in Spitalfields, Soho and Camden – from today.

Thank you to the team at Five Points for inviting me along to a preview tasting of Poppies Pale Ale.

Fourpure x Beagle: a beer dinner in Hoxton

If you’ve ever passed through Hoxton Overgound station in East London, you’ve likely clocked Beagle. This sleek bar and restaurant sits underneath railway arches and specialises well-executed British fare. They have a tidy selection of local and craft beer at the bar, making it an ideal location for a curated beer and food pairing. Their recent partnership with Fourpure Brewing Co demonstrated just this.

Fourpure kick-started their quarterly beer and food pairing series here earlier this month, working with Beagle’s Head Chef, Thomas Ryalls, to serve up an impressive three course dinner complemented with five beers. Diners heard from John Driebergen, head brewer at Fourpure, who briefly discussed the thought process behind the pairings. While scrupulous care had evidently gone into every ingredient on the menu, the atmosphere was kept light, friendly and casual.

Fourepure Brewery Beagle beer dinner

Guests sat down to a palate cleanser to whet the appetite, Tea Time, a session IPA with brash American hops, infused with orange and lemon zest and a healthy does of Earl Grey tea leaves. The result is a zingy and clean beer, as refreshing as a citrus-laden iced tea on a sweltering afternoon. It slipped down as conversation flowed, servers happily topping up glasses before the first course appeared. This bright and easy beer was the perfect conversation starter and set the fluid, lighthearted tone for the evening.

Fourpure Brewery Beagle beer dinner mussels

The starter emerged from the kitchen, a heaped plate of mussels, cured pork cheek, chili and coriander. The mussels had been steamed with Spice Rack, a complex IPA with evolving flavours inspired by – as the moniker suggests – the perennial spices found in every household spice rack. On the palate, there’s an abundance of citrus, some wood, pine and a hint of warmth. The mussels were plump, fat with the juices of the punchy broth. The IPA worked magnificently here, lending a clean zesty profile to the stock that tasted great mopped up with some rustic bread.

Fourpure Brewery Beagle beef ribs

The meticulous approach taken with the menu was epitomised in the main course: beef short ribs, celeriac and ember-baked cabbage with Morning Star, a French oak and vanilla porter. The beer was delivered to Beagle days in advance, allowing the beef to be thoroughly marinated and braised in it. Tables shared a hulking plate of charred meat, which effortlessly slid off the bone, taken in with silent awe from diners. The Morning Star is a tremendous beer, its rich but sweet characteristics seeping into the beef and congealing into a moreish crust. The beer’s body, replete with chocolate and vanilla, and its creamy, smooth mouthfeel, made it a delight. Even the celeriac – obscured beneath a feathered head of cabbage – was surprisingly flavoursome, standing up to the richness of the beef.

Fourpure Brewery Beagle blood orange curd

The final course was accompanied by Juicebox – Fourpure’s citrus IPA. This year’s version is jammed with even more robust citrus flavours coming from the copious amount of orange zest added at multiple points in the brewing process. The dessert, a blood orange curd with buttermilk sorbet, brown butter milk crumb and mint, was aesthetically on point and the perfect foil to those meaty ribs. Tartness from the blood orange was juxtaposed with the clean, icy sorbet and a wisp of sharp mint. The bursting aromas and rush of tropical flavours in Juicebox was perfect to wash down the subtle dish.

The evening drew to a close with a coffee brown ale, Tennessee Coffee Ale, a malty beer infused with coffee from Union Hand-Roasted Coffee beans and American Oak. The intensity of the coffee dominates, followed by notes of dark chocolate, caramel and finishing with light bitterness. This is a truly satisfying beer for coffee aficionados and was a pleasant way to round off a meal.

This was another victory for the beer and food pairing evenings that are becoming increasingly popular around London. They not only represent great value – in this instance, £35 per head for a four course meal and five portions of beer – but act as a great introduction to appreciating the unique characteristics of certain styles of beer. It's also a chance to meet the faces behind London's craft breweries, as the Fourpure team were on hand to answer questions and chat about their growth and future endeavours.

Fourpure will be hosting more beer dinners in the future, ensuring that each event is as meticulously calculated and executed as this inaugural foray. They've found a wonderful balance between great quality food and a relaxed atmosphere, making everyone feel immersed with the experience without being lectured. Getting the tone right is crucial, but Fourpure have sussed it.

I was invited along to the Fourpure x Beagle event by the brewery, but this is no way has influenced my enthusiasm for food and beer pairing.

Truman's RAW Lager has landed at The Eagle

Beer and food pairing soirées are becoming increasingly popular in London, demonstrating the versatility of beer and its ability to not just complement, but elevate, a dish. More craft breweries are adding curated food and beer evenings to their events calendar, usually collaborating with a renowned chef or an established restaurant. 

Every style of beer boasts unique characteristics based on its recipe. Malts can be pale, roasted, or blended to create a fuller mouthfeel; yeast can impart notes of banana, spices and bubble gum (as seen in Belgian styles), or can be completely neutral. The hops play a crucial role in lending bitterness and aroma, which can range from the bursting tropical notes in antipodean hops to big hits of grapefruit and resinous pine present in US varieties. Some styles can be brewed without treating water – alkaline levels should be monitored for clean, pale styles, but untreated water can be used in richer dark beers, such as stouts and porters.

Each ingredient used in brewing therefore plays an integral role to taste, aromas and appearance. So it’s not surprising that chefs are recognising the pairing potential of beer and dishes to showcase the former's unique properties. It presents a whole new challenge to enlighten and surprise diners.

The coupling of beer and food can work very well, but there’s an element of execution that must be adhered to: mostly a well-trained palate to pair options with each course – even the vegetarian options, as what works with a beef tartare will likely not come together well with garlic mushrooms – and the timing is crucial. Thought must be given to serving temperature, as some of the beer's flavours mature or mellow out as it warms up. If pouring straight from the tap, the beer might need to sit for a few moments before all of its qualities fully develop.

The Eagle Pub in Ladbroke Grove

Interestingly, pubs are now not just offering beer matching with their food, but are now creating menus entirely inspired by the beer. This is the approach taken at The Eagle in Ladbroke Grove, who reached out to East London’s Truman’s Brewery to produce RAW Lager, a kolsch-style beer served from a tank, transferred directly from the brewery. Unfiltered, unpasteurised, the beer arrives to the pub within two hours of leaving Hackney Wick, where it's served fresh to customers. It's comparable to drinking straight from the brewery’s fermenter tanks. The lager is clean as a pin and intensely drinkable, unadulterated by exposure to light or added gas, lacking any metallic bitterness that you often find in generic lagers.

This tank beer concept is not new to the UK. Drinkers have been enjoying drinking Pilsner Urquell straight from large copper tanks at Draft Houses around the city since 2014. Even Meantime Brewery have a Brewery Fresh London Lager, where punters can enjoy beer that's been dispensed directly into tanks in selected venues. But Truman's claim that unlike these big breweries, they can categorically guarantee that all of their tank beer is being brewed in London and believe to be the first London brewery to offer this in pubs.

The Eagle was recently acquired and renovated by Hippo Inns and has only been open to the public for a few weeks. Appropriately, the pub was historically a Truman’s pub – back when the original brewery was in operation (it was sold off in 1989). It’s modern and spacious, with an impressive event space upstairs. It’s been readily embraced by locals and the RAW lager has proved popular: there's been some nail biting moments when only a few pints were left in the tank and shipments were en route. The beers are predominately from Truman’s range on keg and cask, but there are two rotating lines reserved for other craft breweries.

Stan Perry Truman's Eagle Pub

Their menu is Bavarian inspired – another push by the pub to do something a little quirky – and their head chef is Stan Perry, formerly of Soho House, who has designed a menu around Truman’s beers. Meats are basted in Truman’s, their bitter is incorporated into a bone marrow pie and ale is used in the batter for fish and chips. Each of the ingredients have also been specially selected to complement the flavour profiles of a particular beer.

The Zephyr, a hoppy pale ale served in cask, was paired with fattier foods, such as the crispy knuckle of pork. The Gypsy Queen, a seasonal oatmeal pale on cask, favoured the dressed Dorset crab with saffron aioli. It worked well with fish across the board, including the zesty pickled herring to start, while the Zephyr sang with the richer pork terrine and Gruyere soufflé.

The Eagle Truman's Dorset Crab

The RAW Lager was the perfect palate cleanser, clean and subtle, which also cut through the heartier dishes, including smoked mozzarella macaroni and cheese, chicken schnitzel and a duck’s egg. The food is superb and the Bavarian twist means that the dishes have the bready, rich qualities that favour a clean-drinking pint.

The deserts were equally as delicious, including a decadent banoffee pancake and chocolate fondant. Both paired well with Truman's Runner, a Best Bitter with nuances of roasted malts and caramel: it matched the chewy toffee notes in the former and the intense richness of the latter. A velvety stout might have also done the trick – especially with the fondant.

Food and beer pairing is a great concept and introduction to presenting beer as a complex drink that merits further appreciation in the culinary world. These events tend to attract foodies and beer drinkers alike, but The Eagle have painstakingly ensured that their menu - and the quality of their offerings - match the calibre of the beer. By taking inspiration from beer's nuanced characteristics, this is just another step towards making it a more accessible and versatile drink for all.

This partnership between Truman's and The Eagle impresses on both the beer and the food front. Hopefully we will see RAW Lager available fresh from more local East London outlets soon, however, because if a full three course lavish meal isn't your thing, a pint of beautifully fresh lager can never be topped.

I was invited to The Eagle to sample the menu and beer by Truman's, but this is no way has influenced my enthusiasm for food and beer pairing.

 

       

Beer & food pairing: keeping things simple

You’ve probably already noticed, but beer and food pairing events are very much on trend. As far as routine brewery events go, pairing nights are catching up with the abundance of tap takeovers held in pubs across London, which easily amount to several on any given week. Whether it’s a lavish five course meal with drinks curated by a Cicerone-qualified expert, or a more modest monthly beer and cheese night, beer drinkers are discovering how hops, malts and yeast can harmonise with the ingredients used in a dish. Both beer and food recipes can be dissected into a list of individual components, each imparting a distinct flavour. There’s a wide scope for these to play off each other – the trick is finding the perfect pairing.

Demonstrated at the Darker Days III event held at The Duke’s Head at the beginning of the month, Ghanaian food was matched with some surprising contrasts – from barley wine to imperial stouts – and British beer was married with a cuisine influenced by warm climate and some ingredients that aren't indigenous to these shores. Despite being a world apart, the drinks and dishes came together in unison. Warming spices in the barley wine were mirrored in plantain bites, chicken encased within a malt-based batter hummed with the chewy notes of a brown ale and a chocolate brownie was matched with a silky, rich imperial stout.

Some of these flavour combinations are elementary and classic - chocolate will always marry well with a rich, chocolatey stout, for instance. And spicy foods will always call for something clean, like the crispness or a pilsner or an easily downed lager. These innocuous pairing rules aren’t controversial or deemed acquired tastes; slowly people seem to be coming around to the notion that exemplary food can be safely complemented with beer. Despite this, It will undoubtedly be some time before we’re met with anything but a wine menu in an upmarket restaurant. But there are rumblings afoot.

Beer aficionados might curtail red and white wines with confidence and ease, flipping to the back of a hefty drinks menu to see what beers are featured. A recent trip to The Ginger Pig in Brighton saw us doing just that, opting for a balance of local beers from Dark Star Brewing and Gun Brewery in addition to a bottle of wine to accompany an extravagant three course meal. For our mains, we stuck with wine, but in retrospect, the ribeye steak with its creamed shallot and red wine sauce could have withstood a malty red or brown ale, given the depth of the jus. The roast skate wing, a fish dish that would traditionally call for a crisp white, could have equally paired with a pilsner, where there’s little risk of hops dominating the palate and detracting from the lightness of the dish.

Last week, International Izakaya, a food and beer pairing evening, was held in Shoreditch. It was aimed at those in the restaurant industry, foodies and writers. It promoted the beer/food matching concept, emphasising that it applies even with more refined cuisine. For the occasion, four London chefs, including Elizabeth Allen, former head chef at Michelin-starred Pidgin, served up a menu that comprised ‘beer bouches’ and several courses. Each dished was served alongside a selection from a Ciceron-qualified beer sommelier. The beers were rare, including the Halia and Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island’s vintage ales range and Birra del borgo’s L’Equilibrista, a wild sour with pronounced wine characteristics from an Italian brewery. The food was as extravagant as the beers. All was on point, but the simple enjoyment of the marriage between food and drink was lost in the grandiose offerings of the occasion.

A more bare-bones and achievable attempt can be replicated at home. We held a dinner party with friends on the weekend, with homemade tandoori chicken, potato saak with raita, poppadums and coconut rice on the menu. Although the temptation of going against the grain - and what was coherent to my palate - with something smouldering to match the tandoori flavours or perhaps something with an acerbic edge to cut through the spices, it was still a pilsner, the Five Points Brewing Co’s Pils, and the Lightbulb Extra Pale Ale from Verdant Brewing Co that were the clear frontrunners. But maybe that's the trick: not to over-egg things.

Like our meals, which don't need to be convoluted to be delicious, sometimes simplicity is best. But the quality of a beer still makes a difference - other macro brewery pilsners were sampled, but lacked flavour profiles that were pronounced enough to stand up against a fiery tandoori main. While open to the unexpected, there's no denying that a solid pilsner or lager can still enhance a meal, but, like experimenting with styles of beer, there's still room for defying our senses. Suddenly a rich porter with a steak might just make sense.

I was invited to Word of Mouth's International Izakaya beer and food pairing meal at the Hill & Szrok Public House as a guest.