I’m really excited to be hosting this event to kick of a predictably busy London Beer City. I’ve been working closely with Omar the chef at the Wall SE1 restaurant in House of Vans to pair this Spanish inspired menu with my favourite Californian brewery, the legendary Sierra Nevada.
We’ll be using their signature hop forward beers as well as their Germanic pilsner and modern classic, American Porter while sharing some classic Spanish food and talking about how and why these work so well together.
After dinner we’ve even got a showing of the mumble-core film Drinking Buddies that is set in an American craft brewery.
DATE: 5th August
VENUE: (under Waterloo Station)
House of Vans, Arches, 228-232 Station Approach Road, London, SE1 8SW
£35 – TICKETS FROM GRUBCLUB
Summerfest lager on arrival
First course is slow-cooked lamb chops with Spanish omelette and fried onions accompanied by Hop Hunter IPA.
Followed by a paella with a side of cured cheese, which will surprise you with how well it works with the Pale Ale!
Next up we’ll be pairing Nooner Pilsner with pan-fried garlic prawns, as well as calamari with a side of padron peppers.
Our final treat is then churros with a dark chocolate sauce, which will send your mouth wild accompanied with the award winning Porter.
Following the brewery tour we ended up in Chimay’s beer ageing cellar, picking out a few bottles for tasting.
The two that I’m going to talk about today are a 19 year old Grande Reserve that has been kept in optimum conditions it’s whole life and an oak aged grande reserve, released last year for the first time.
This oak ageing is interesting for a few reasons; they use both American and French oak in brand new barrels then blend them together in varying quantities. First released in 2015 after five months in wood each release will have a different blend of barrels including old cognac barrels which can be seen above.
19yr Grande Reserve
Nineteen years is certainly a long time for beers to be aged for. To weather that amount of time it needs to be high strength, highly carbonated, contain wild yeast (to prevent oxidation) and ideally malt lead as hop flavours are more aromatic so will mostly have evaporated in that time frame.
The colour was a deep chestnut brown when this came out of the bottle and needed to be poured carefully, while not too oxidised it had a very definite musty character and a spirit character that brought whiskey to mind. Aroma was dominated by the mustiness of ageing but this reduced on the palette where rich dried fruit was evident.
Oak Aged Grande Reserve – Nov 2015 release
This beer was a mix of American and French oak where it had aged for five months in new barrels. The use of new barrels made the oak more evident and the vanilla smoothness of the American oak worked nicely with the rich treacle of the beer.
I found it hard not to be reminded of powerful red wines such as Barolo or Rioja Reserves here as that is normally where oak aromas of this nature would be found. My only regret with this beer is that I didn’t get a chance to play around pairing it with food as I believe it would add some totally new challenges and rewards as part of a tasting dinner.
For me it was a clear win for the oak aged beer.
The aged beer was a wonderful curiosity but I couldn’t help but feel it had passed it’s prime with respect to balancing falvours. The oaked beer however was an expression of the Chimay Blue I love but reinvented in a way that was as exciting as it was delicious.
In June this year I was lucky enough to secure a place on a trip to visit the Chimay monastery and look around their brewhouse. As it is not normally open to the public I jumped at the chance to see where these iconic Trappist Beers are made.
Trappist Beers must be made within the walls of a Trappist monastery under the supervison of the monks, the brewing must be of secondary importance to the main activities of the monastery and any money made after sustaining the monks is given to charity. Chimay is the largest of the 11 Trappist breweries in the world.
After looking around the very peaceful grounds and buildings, including the church that the monks pray in five times a day we moved into the brewhouse. What we found here was a stunningly clean, modern and professional set up, able to produce large qualities of very high quality and consistent beer. They use a single yeast strain for their four beers (Gold, Red, White and Blue as they are best known) and the control at every step of the way was exemplary.
This style of modern brewery is a far cry from the look and feel that many on the trip expect from a Belgium brewery. The reputation of Belgium breweries is more along the lines of Cantillon in Brussels (see previous posts) where wild yeasts and bacterias are allowed during the fermentation.