Thursday, 5 September 2013

Beers, Burgers, Booze And Bloggers : An Evening Of Beer And Burger Matching With Jane Peyton And Ocado

Beers, Burgers, Booze And Bloggers
An Evening Of Beer And Burger Matching With

If I have to think of my ideal evening eating and drinking, then burgers and beer would be about as near perfect as it gets. There are few things I love more than a tasty meat patty (it matters not to me which meat it is) and a beautiful pint of beer, or more at lunchtime or in the evening, be it at home or abroad, and it would seem that I'm not the only one who thinks so. According to Professor Stephen Emmott in his book on imminent global ecosystem disaster, Ten Billion, around five billion burgers were consumed in the UK alone, and although statistics show that beer consumption has fallen over the last five years, in 2011 we were still drinking around 15.2 million pints each day (source Mintel), and it would seem reasonable to assume that a good many are combined as a meal.
On Tuesday 13th August, I, like a good many others was at the Great British Beer Festival when I received a message on twitter inviting me to an evening of beer and burger matching in London. Sponsored by Ocado and hosted by the Principal of the School Of Booze, beer sommelier Jane Peyton, how could I say no?
And so it came to pass that I found myself in The Square Pig in Holborn with a glass of Thornbridge Jaipur and a menu of beer and burger pairings in front of me. It soon transpired that I was the only beer blogger invited which I have to admit made me feel rather honoured, with the rest of the assembled company being made up of food writers, food bloggers and, I have have to admit that these were both new to me, meat and burger bloggers. After talking to the event organisers (particularly Fran from whom the invite came) and Jane herself I fell into conversation with Chris, whose blog AllThingsMeaty is pretty much self explanatory. Looking at the menu there were four beer and burger matching courses, with both meat and vegetarian options (with the vegetarian options having slightly different beer selections) with the beers coming from Ocado's online bottled beer selection (currently numbering some 144 bottles) and the appropriate pairing made by Jane.
We were soon ushered into our seats as the first burgers were ready to come out.
Jane gave a short presentation on beer, its history and how it is produced, passing round samples of different types of malts to taste and hops to smell around the tables, which consisted of around twenty of us, as the first plates arrived.
First up was 'The Real Deal Cheeseburger', a beef patty covered with smoked flavoured Ilchester Applewood cheddar and paired with the Jaipur, which I have to confess I was on my third glass of. Beer is a drink that works so well with food, its flavours can compliment or contrast in ways that wine cannot and has more variety and range of tastes and textures, and it worked extremely well here with the bitter grapefruit and citrus hop prickle of the 5.9% Jaipur cutting through the fatty, creamy, saltiness of the burger very well indeed. It was interesting to discover what the foodies around me thought of the match, which was very favourable, and they passed on their verdict on the burger, again favourable while I was able to talk about the beer and the brewers to those around me.
It was at this point that Zan, Chris's friend from across the pond and owner of Bleeker St Burger arrived, and found a seat opposite Chris and next to me. She had missed the first burger and beer combo, just, but was a fantastic source of information relating to burgers in general and specifically the burger vendors of London throughout the evening. The next burger, 'The Mexican Burger', marinated chicken breast with guacamole and sour cream, was meant to be paired with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, however as this was apparently out of stock, it's a great beer so I can believe that, the organisers had substituted Castle Rock's Harvest Pale. This was a real shame as the grassy lime flavours of the Sierra Nevada would have complimented the sweet marinated chicken wonderfully whilst the bitterness would have cut through the sour cream and guacamole dressing. Imagining this combination made me salivate, but the Harvest Pale with its less vigorous flavour and bitterness didn't quite work. Fuller's Honey Dew was also put in front of us, and its honey flavours worked nicely too, but it wasn't the Sierra Nevada.
Midway through now, we had a brief break for a 'Beer Tasting Challenge' which Jane had prepared, matching five good beers, again available from Ocado (it was their event), Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer, St Peters Mild, Brakspear Triple, Shepherd Neame Double Stout and Theakston's Old Peculier, with aromas and flavours that she had written down. I will admit that I didn't win despite being the only beer blogger, but I did spend most of the time having a great conversation about beer with one of the organisers in my defence.
The third burger duly arrived. 'The Dracula', a Lamb burger with aioli was paired with 2.8% Mann's Brown Ale, a beer that I hadn't had for many years, and one that I was quite sceptical about. My fears proved to be unfounded as the mild toasty chocolate flavours combined wonderfully with the lamb, combining and complimenting beautifully and for me it was the pairing of the evening. I'm not sure that I'd buy the beer to drink on its own but if it was on a menu and I was having a lamb burger I think I'd go for it again.
The final burger of the evening, 'The Sweet And Savoury Burger' was one I was particularly looking forward to. Beef with mango chutney and parmesan cheese paired with Bateman's Dark Lord seemed a wonderful match, the rich Ruby Porter combining with minced beef, fruity chutney and salty parmesan in a delicious climax, but it didn't quite end that way. Whereas the beer impressed the burger was dry and un-inspiring caused, according to the experts around me, the meat being over-worked.
Fortunately the company and conversation was compelling, informative, interesting and diverse, so much so that the final burger and beer of the evening caused us to go a little way passed the designated nine o'clock finishing time.
All too soon it was time to go, and whilst some die-hards continued talking and drinking I alas could not. Upon leaving I was presented with an Ocado cloth bag containing three beers (Bath Ales Barnsey, St Peter's India Pale Ale and Hall And Woodhouse's Badgers Poachers Choice) and a cider (Orchard Pig Truffler) as well as some rather nice Dartington Crystal beer glasses, all of which I assume are available from Ocado too. This was a rather nice gift and while you may assume that it may be a way of buying a good review, in truth it was a very good and enjoyable evening and while the beer and food matching was central to the event, the company and conversation is what made it really special. I've made no secret in declaring Ocado's involvement in this event, and although you may be cynical you might want to cast your eye over their beer range if you haven't already done so. I think you may be pleasantly surprised.

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