We review the beer and food matching masterclass experience from Red Letter Days. Raising a glass was our reviewer Sara Walker.
“This experience included choosing three tasting dishes from the menu and having them matched with beers by an expert. While I was looking forward to it, I thought the team at my chosen venue, Brewhouse & Kitchen in Wilmslow, were going to have their work cut out with me as I’m not a very enthusiastic beer drinker. I’ll have a glass on a hot day, but really I would normally choose wine.
The idea of matching beer to food in the same way that it’s usual to match wine appealed to me, though. The experience, which costs £70 for two, is held at one of Brewhouse & Kitchen’s venues across the UK. Each venue is a microbrewery as well as a restaurant, and brews its own beer.
“On arrival, we were met by assistant manager Ruaric Mackle, who’d spent 11 years working as a chef before discovering his love of beer. He was now retraining with Brewhouse as a brewer, which included learning the fundamentals of brewing but also brewing on a commercial scale.
“‘There are so many factors that go into the taste,” he explained. “The type of water you use makes a big difference, and also the type of hops – English hops are more earthy, and German hops are more fruity. To make our range, we start with a basic recipe and then tweak it. There are trends and seasons in beer, and that affects what we have on our men – fruit beer is still very big. Summer 2019 was all about big, hoppy IPAs, then in winter we’ll start to move into darker beers.’
“All this talk of beer was making me feel hungry, so Ruaric invited us to choose our tasting dishes from the menu. This included a good range of pub classics such as chicken wings, as well as more unusual options such as calamari and mussels. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets were all represented.
Once we’d chosen, Ruaric then asked us more questions about our personal tastes – whether we preferred stouts, IPAs, stronger or weaker beers. He then matched us up with three beers each, including:
- Hayman (matched with a vegetarian aubergine dish) – a Belgian beer with notes of orange and coriander
- Tongerlo (matched with baked Camembert) – an award-winning Belgian blonde made by Trappist monks
- Brewhouse’s own Tropical IPA (matched with chicken satay) – a bold-flavoured beer
- Weinstaffen (matched with nachos) – a German weissbeer from the oldest brewery in the world
“My favourite was the Tropical IPA, which had strong fruit flavours and went well with the spicy food it’d been paired with.
Gradually, it was all starting to make more sense – ‘beers with oomph’, as Ruaric put it, could handle being paired with spicy food while smoother, more delicate flavours needed something less demanding. Eating and drinking both together is supposed to enhance the flavour of both the beer and the food, and I was starting to see how that could work.
“I don’t think I’m necessarily a beer convert, but the whole process is more interesting and complex than I’d realised. I think that at £35 per head the experience is good value for money – it includes the equivalent of two pints of beer each (a welcome drink plus three 1/3 pint tasters), plus three generously-sized tasting dishes which more than made up a meal. It also included a lot of Ruaric’s time and expertise.
This would make a great and unusual gift for…well, pretty much anyone. If you’re interested in beer it’s a good opportunity to find out more, and if you think you’re not interested in beer then it’s an education! The only problem you might have is choosing a designated driver….”
The food and drink matching masterclass experience is available from Red Letter Days, price £70.
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