Friday, 27 June 2008

Beer O’Clock: Go wild with beer and food!

In another of our regular Friday Beer O'Clock posts, Neil Miller from radio, TV and Real Beer wants to tell you all bout the frustration of bad beer lists.

I went to a very good French restaurant last night but the best beer I could find to go with my trio of duck was a Stella Artois. Today, I’m heading to an excellent European bistro which has all the teas available listed on their website, but sadly none of their beers. It got me thinking again about how beer is treated in many eateries and it reminded of a column I wrote last year for The Wellingtonian:

I once bemused an impeccably dressed waiter in a fine (and expensive) Wellington restaurant by asking to see the beer list when ordering. “We do not have a beer list, sir. Why don’t you tell me what beer you would like and I will see if we have it?”

Of course, wine drinkers were not forced to guess the cellar selection. The establishment took great pride in its extensive wine list. It even offered eight different types of tea. As it turned out, it had exactly six nondescript beers, none of them deemed important enough to be put on paper.

This sent the clear message that they assumed all beers tasted the same (fizzy, cold, sweet) so there was really no reason to offer a selection. Underlying that was an assumption was that only wine can match with food.  Beer – they believed – was just beer.

Sadly, this attitude is all too common in many otherwise excellent eateries. It is a genuine shame because customers are missing out on all the variety and the flavours contained in a fine beer and food match.

A well-made beer can provide a depth and range of flavours which can compliment or contrast with quality food. A bitter beer also has the ability to cut through oiliness or richness in a dish in much the same way the tannins in red wine can do.

In Wellington, bars like The General Practitioner, The Tasting Room, Leuven and the Malthouse have made a commitment to using beer as an ingredient in a number of dishes and also recommending well-considered beer matches on the menu. It is a real attraction.

I noted in the column that much of the momentum behind beer and food matching has been generated by the Monteith’s beer and Wild Food Challenge. The 11th year of the Challenge begins shortly. The contest dates are:

North Island: 13th July - 3rd August 2008
South Island: 20th July - 10th August 2008

Full details will be posted soon on the Monteith’s website and keep an eye out for the signs around town.

Go wild with beer and food!

Cheers, Neil

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