Cut // Compliment // Contrast – Beer and food interactions

Beer and food matching is an area only now starting to get the attention it has long deserved. For many there is still an expectation of wine with food and beer is seen as a stand alone drink, I think this is not just a waste but truly sad that people are not finding the areas where beer can even exceed wine in matching with food.

I’m often asked how I go about putting beer and food together, something there is no right or wrong way to do. At times you look for an historic or geographical story to support the pair and other times it is purely for how well the flavours work together.

Below is a brief overview of the process and considerations that I have when doing a match.


Strength with strength

This is the most essential rule that I always start with. No matter what the interaction is, if either the beer or the food is significantly stronger in flavour than there will not be a great interaction between flavours as one of the pair will be over powered.


Cut, Compliment or Contrast

This is the most fun section of the pairing; cutting is often done with acid (sour beers) or bitterness, contrasting and complimenting is done by thinking of the specifics of the flavours within the beer. This can be a mango aroma on an IPA, coffee and and chocolate in a porter, clove in a wit beer etc.

A good starting point is to identify a key flavour in the beer and to think about classic matches eg, citrus is often served with white fish and cherry often served with chocolate deserts.



Decide if the beer is heavy or thin and how with will interact with the textures of the food.

Example: A rich, meat heavy stew might seem off if paired with a low strength, highly attenuated beer (eg light lager) that has a very light mouthfeel but will fair better with a heavy beer (eg stout) where the textures won’t clash.



The carbonation is a very useful to scrub the palette and leave you ready to enjoy each bite of the food without them becoming cloying. This is the key reason that in my mind beer surpasses wine for pairing with cheese.



Balancing all of these elements is the reason that finding a good match requires such an extensive knowledge of work beer styles.

I hope this was useful, I’ll be sharing the specifics of a few pairings over the next few months to make the interactions a little clearer.



Beer Sommelier Certification – Now the real learning begins


Following my assessment yesterday at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling HQ I am now a Beer Academy certified Beer Sommelier.

This is someone that I’ve been working towards broadly for a couple of years and very intensely over the last few months.
It was a nerve-wracking hour and a half with some really challenging styles to identify eg Dunkelweissbock, Flemish Red, Black IPA and I was very pleased to be told that I’d passed!

One of the most exciting things about beer at the moment is its constant innovation and development. It’s amazing that in a couple of years people sitting the assessment might be identifying styles that hardly exist now. One thing to be very clear about is that this isn’t the end of the process, more the start; I’m happy to say that I’ve got lots more beers to taste and learn about. Bring it on.

What it includes:
1. Assessment of portfolio
2. Style identification of 15 beers
3. Off flavour tasting of 5 spiked samples
4. Knowledge of beer and food matching

Yeast Strains – Russian River Tasting


Russian River are one of the USA’s best known craft breweries, infamous for their Pliny the Elder.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on these two beers; Sanctification and Damnation

Damnation is a strong Belgian Golden Ale, it has the classic ester aromas of a Belgian yeast but with a cleansing bitter finish. This beer really balanced the fruity weight of the high notes with the solid hop bitter punch at the end, without which, I find Belgian Ales can become cloying.

Sanctification, an ale dominated by Brettanomyces yeast which had a deep, farmhouse funk on the nose and over the palate.
The Brettanomyces is an aroma instantly recognisable to people familiar with natural wine or traditional ciders.

25th February – Beer and Food Matching at The Hydrant

For this event Fuller’s asked me to pick five beers (I was given free reign to get in whatever I wanted) that I thought would make for an unusual and informative night. Once these were picked I worked with Alex, the Hydrant’s Head Chef to design dishes that would work with each of the beers.

Each of the beers either complimented, contrasted or cut through the dishes.

We had 25 people come out for the night, most of whom had never considered beer and food pairing before or tried some of the more unusual styles of beer.


The Menu

First Course: Frontier Lager – Fuller Smith and Turner

Seared scallops with bacon salt, Frontier-pickled shallots, cucumber and pea shoots.


Second Course: Jaipur IPA – Thornbridge

Confit guinea fowl leg served with onion puree, stem broccoli, quinoa crumbs


Third Course: Chimay Gold – Chimay Brewery

Belgian Rarebit made with cheese from the Trappist Monks at Chimay


Fourth Course: Rauchbier Märzen – Aecht Schlenkerla

Venison loin with layered celeriac topped with wild mushrooms and pan juices


Fifth Course: Imperial Stout – Fuller Smith and Turner

Rose water syrup infused chocolate and cherry torte

NINKASI: In praise of experimentation, for it’s own sake

2016-02-09 17.45.17

Welcome to the first of my new series “In Praise Of” where I will wax lyrical about an area of beer that is niche but (I believe) essential to the dynamic and rich beer culture we enjoy today.

The Wild Beer Co are well known for innovation and excellent beers; constantly trying new things that others haven’t even considered let alone attempted. This beer is a saison (but stronger), that used New Zealand hops (not Noble Hops) then has apple juice added before being fermented with wild yeast strains (as is common in a saison). As if this wasn’t enough they then bottle-condition the beer (something I nearly always support) with a champagne yeast.

This all leads to a rich but exceptionally refreshing beer that cuts through rich food flavours like a warm knife through butter.

This isn’t a beer for everyone and it isn’t a beer for everyday but I would like everyone to raise a glass to the brewers who constantly push boundaries for no reason other than that they haven’t been pushed before. You never know what will make it’s way into mainstream beers but I’m pleased that there will be lots of tested, innovative styles to learn from.


Camden’s Sale: Short view – Long view

camden town

Most of you will have heard by now that Camden Town Brewery has become a wholly owned subsidiary of AB InBev (the worlds largest beer company).

Below is my take on what it means for those of us who love drinking great beer.


SHORT VIEW – Positive for drinkers

If you’re already a fan of Camden’s beers this is good for you. With the cash injection they can make more of their beer in the UK (they were over capacity and brewing some in Belgium before the acquisition). They will also have access to the ABInBev distribution agreements and tied estate that will open thousands of doors overnight.

Jasper is still in control and they have the same brewing team so there is no reason to expect a drop in quality or the extend of experimental brews being produced. If anything, they can be expected to increase as they gain access to equipment and expertise.


LONG VIEW – Bad for drinkers

If we fast forward 10 years the beer landscape will almost certainly be in better shape than it was 10 years ago when bland beers ruled the taps but the same problems will exist.

While I think there will be decent, flavourful beer in most bars for a market to remain dynamic it must have constant change, challenge and innovation, something that little brewers are far better at than big brewers will ever be.


The AB InBev future of craft beer:

They acquire some great brewers both sides of the Atlantic and leave them alone while they continue to deliver double or triple figure growth year on year. As this slows down we will see the old systems of control coming into play, these include huge listing fees, ownership of distribution networks and technical agreements that prevent other brands sitting on a bar.

It may sounds great that when you walk into a large venue you will see Camden Town or Elysian on the bar alongside Stella or Budweiser but it is worth remembering that in the owned craft brands becoming part of AB InBev they will be used to block out new entrants and feed back into the system that led us to the world of generic flavourless beers separated only by branding.


To summarise, it will become increasingly hard for new beers and brewers to get on the bar and as such no new Camden Town, Meantime, Elysian, 10 Barrel, Lagunitas or Goose Island breweries will be able challenge what is or isn’t good beer and that leads to a less exciting time for beer drinkers.






The Camden Town Press Release:

*Image from this release


Papa Del’s Event – 26/11/2015


This talk was focussed around one of Papa’s large, sharing tables that are made from doors over 700 years old! It was great fun having a beer that is dominated by each of the three keys ingredients (Frontier – Malt, Chimay – Yeast, Sierra – Hop).

Both of the planned matchings went even better than expected, the pizza and cider took the gong for best match, the sweetness of the cider working with the slat in the gorgonzola and the bubbles helping to scrub through the creamy goat’s cheese. The bacon brownie was a dream with the Black Cab stout and brought out a vanilla character in the beer that normally stays hidden behind the coffee and dark chocolate. Matt (the owner) had tried to persuade me to use the salted caramel brownie instead but when the two were compared side by side his faith was restored.


Beers tasted:

Frontier Lager (draught)

Chimay Gold (draught)

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (can)

Sierra Nevada Celebration  (bottle) – only arriving in the UK that morning in keg!


Four Cheese Pizza – Cornish Gold Cider (draught)

Maple and Bacon Chocolate Brownie – Black Cab Stout (can)

Salted Caramel Brownie – Black Cab Stout (This was more to prove a point!)



It was also great to meet their wine supplier Dan, we’ve already started planning a five course wine VS beer pairing evening which will be LOTs of fun in the New Year!

Next Event – Papa Del’s

Free entry including a complimentary half pint.
Thursday 26.11.15

Papa Del’s are teaming up with Fuller’s and their wonderful Frontier Lager to bring you a unique look into how beer & food can work together.

At 19:45 Ben Sedgwick of Westside Drinks will be offering an exciting insight into how beer is conceived, created & perfectly matched with some of our delicious food.

There will be tasters, sliders and an opportunity to win some FREE BEER!

If you like your beer and fancy learning a little more about what goes into it then come down and join us.


Papa Del’s, London, N6 5AA

Found directly opposite Highgate tube station


Sierra Nevada Tasting – Mall Tavern – 28th October

1440 x 443

This was a great event at a fantastic pub.

We went through, the processes involved in making beer, the history of Sierra Nevada and how their ethos differentiates them from other breweries.

It was really good fun to try a range of styles from Sierra and to have the opportunity to pair a range of beers with the blue cheese chicken wings and charcuterie that the pub laid on.

Beers tasted:

Pale Ale

Hop Hunter

Southern Harvest IPA