Recently I was browsing the blog of a new Cardiff-based beer blogger, István Lechner. Already I enjoy his fresh, lively and joyous approach to beer, with its attractive picture-led articles. However, it was his personal manifesto that struck me as particularly interesting:
“Unlike a sommelier I’m trying to pair up beers with music, movies or pop culture, because let’s be honest. We all would like to go out and eat game meat with our oak aged ale but 95% of the time when we are sampling beers, we are with mates in the pub or at home and nobody knows how to cook game.”
It’s a fair comment; I’ve often been in that situation where I’ve obtained a rare bottle of some porter, possibly aged in 30 year old Highland Park whiskey barrels for 12 months, with nothing in the fridge but a wilted celery stick, or vice versa, after some grand looting of a food festival, bags brimming with cheese and meat, I open the beer cupboard to find nought but a bottle of banana bread beer. Or, as István suggests, it’s late and I’ve worked 10 hours and I don’t want to figure out how to cook a pheasant.
But this is why sommeliers exist, to try and make pairing food and beer easy, to cut through the myths that it is difficult and not worth doing. Lately my collection of beer and food books has been growing, and while I’m neither chef nor sommelier, I thought it would be good to take the Beer Sommelier approach to the high street – to see if the humble corner shop or express supermarket found in every town can yield great pairings, whatever the time or day. This is the Everyday Beer Sommelier Challenge.
The Shop: Waitrose, Queen Street, Cardiff
I thought I’d start easy here. It’s also a litmus test. If I can’t match beer and food with the offerings of even the humblest Waitrose, I don’t belong in the food and beer matching game. The Queen Street Waitrose is not much bigger than a corner convenience store, but well stocked nonetheless.
The Meal: Avocado and Crab Salad paired with Weisse Beer: serves 2 (this recipe is obtained from the Thornbridge Craft Union book*)
115g crab meat
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Mix all the salad ingredients together in a bowl, using two thirds of the crab. Season with salt and pepper.
Prepare the dressing, add two thirds of it to the salad and mix thoroughly.
Serve in two bowls. Garnish with the remaining crab and dressing. Add a hunk of nice rustic bread with some optional olive oil on the side for dipping.
The Beer Match: Craft Union calls for Schneider Weisse Tap 7 or Thornbridge Versa. Waitrose only had Erdinger Weisse; it may not have been the best possible match, but it was still a very good match; the light, delicate salad and slightly sweet, creamy meat of the crab balancing well with the wheat beer. Next time I want to try an Otley or Artisan wheat beer, and drizzle more lime on the salad.
I’m unclear if reproducing it here is infringement of copyright: I’ll remove it if asked; in the meantime, I strongly recommend you buy this book, it’s sublime.