Are You Tasting the Pith? - 15th July 07
Coming as it did at the end of a 10 day trip to France, I was in a fully chilled, recharged mode when I was invited to attend a sampling dinner for Coors and 100 or so of their London-based on-trade accounts. I was attending in my newly-minted role as media beer guru (look, that's what I was called in the accompanying mailout, and to be honest, I quite like the sound of it). The event was a showcase for their speciality beer offering, specifically matching it with food.
We kicked off with Kasteel Cru (5.2% abv), a pale, slightly hazy pilsner-style lager, brewed with champagne yeast, and served with avocado and prawn skewers. As a match it was pretty good, although it was obvious that while the Kasteel Cru is a crisp, dry, slightly astringent beer, it is also very delicate, almost being overwhelmed by the avocado - and they're not the most flavoursome of foodstuffs.
Next up, Grolsch Weizen (5.3% abv), matched with a smoked salmon Caesar salad. Now, I've pretty much given up on wheat beer, finding the Belgian varieties generally a bit soapy and with a weird frothy carbonation, and the German varieties a bit too chewy for my delicate constitution. That said, they are quite good in small quantities with food. So I was prepared to lump the new Grolsch Weizen in with the laughable Kronenbourg Blanc - a silly confection, brewed by comittee to no good effect. So I was quite surprised that this is actually a very enjoyable drop, being a good match for the food, and very pleasant in its own right. There's even a nice bit of theatre involved in pouring, and I will seek this out again.
The main course of steak and Zatec (4.6% abv) beer-battered onion rings was a match of two parts. I remember going on one of the first Beer academy courses, where it was explained that while lager can be a bit offputting to smell (the sweetcorny DMS can be a bit whiffy), it's quite nice to drink. This is the case for Zatec; if you can get over the powerfully grainy aroma, then you're quids in. I quite enjoyed it, although for me, the steak was incidental to the fantastic crispy onion rings, which given they were made with the lager, went very well with a glass of the beer itself.
Palm Speciale (5.4% abv) with Belgian waffles, maple syrup and ice cream seems like a bad idea, but it like the plot of a George Formby movie, it's turned out nice again. The key is the sweet malt in the Palm, which has a definite edge of maple syrup to it. Good beer, really interesting match, and nice to see an alternative to the "fruit beer and chocolate pudding" combo.
Finally, Worthington White Shield (5.6% abv) and cheddar. I don't think there's anything else that will more induce me to stuff myself slightly beyond capacity than a good hoppy ale and a nice bit of cheese. A classic match, a great beer - dry, peppery and marmalade-bittersweet, just what you want with a good sharp cheddar.
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