beer and food

Beer and cheese


We’ve resolved to hold a beer and cheese tasting for our friends this year, so we thought we’d do a trial run.  Several trial runs in fact, to work out what really works, without relying solely on perceived wisdom and the experience of others.

We did consult a few references, though. As well as Garrett Oliver’s book The Brewmaster’s Table which inspired us in the first place, we also read interesting articles by Fiona Beckett (here), Pete Brown and commentators (here) and New Zealand cheese salesman and brewer Kieran Haslett-Moore, who has lots of suggestions all over his blog.

It’s clear from our initial experiments, however, that it’s tougher than it looks.  It’s not really enough to say that ‘X type of beer goes with Y type of cheese’ as there is as much variety in cheese as there is in beer.  Still, it’s a lot of fun trying various different combinations, even if we did have nightmares afterwards.

Test set 1: Pilsener Urquell and Hoegaarden

We had four quite different cheeses to match up here to get some sense of the lay of the land. There was a nice soft goat’s cheese, a not-very-posh Camembert, some (rather boring) cheddar and some Roquefort.

One of our theories to date has been that Hoegaarden works with pretty much any kind of food including curry.  We were proved wrong. The goat’s cheese didn’t influence the flavour of the beer very much, although possibly brought out a little bitterness.  The camembert accentuated the citrus notes and was probably the best match.  The cheddar — dull as it was — still managed to overpower the Hoegaarden. The Roquefort completely killed it.

The goat’s cheese complemented the PU really well — it brought out the malty sweetness but kept the balance, whereas the camembert made the PU seem watery and less bitter.  The cheddar made it harsh and unbalanced.  The PU stood up remarkably well to the Roquefort, although overall we would say that the cheese won the battle.

We really enjoyed the Roquefort and are keen to find a beer that can handle it. More on that to follow and, as always, suggestions welcome.

Photo from cwbuechler at Flickr, license under Creative Commons.

bottled beer La Ronda

A virtual tasting for beer-beginners

Versión en español

Delirium, over at “De Cervezas y otras cosas”, has set a very interesting topic for this month’s “round” (the Session for Spanish-speaking beer-bloggers). It was so thought-provoking that we thought we’d post it in English as well.

The challenge was to come up with a “virtual” tasting session aimed at people who are not beer lovers. We had to pick between five and eight beers that we would put forward, avoiding obscure microbreweries, and explain why we’d selected them.

We like to beervangelise from time to time, so it’s a question we’ve thought about a lot in the past. After much pondering, we finally came up with some definite proposals, which we put forward here.

Belgium london pubs

First encounters with Belgian beer and the Dove revisited

Boon beer at the Dove pub, hackneyRon’s been posting a fair few reminiscences recently, including a couple of posts on first encountering Belgian beer – here, and here.

My first encounters were not so cool. Around about the turn of the century, when Leffe and Hoegaarden were beginning to appear in trendy London pubs, a mate suggested going to the Dove, Hackney for her birthday.

Having got a bus to the really rough bit of Hackney, and walked underneath some dodgy railway arches to get there, I was already in a bad mood that she hadn’t suggested somewhere closer to home. I got even grumpier when I saw what was on offer – weird foreign stuff at MORE THAN £4 A PINT!!! The barstaff did try to explain some rubbish about how in Belgium you drank it from nice small glasses, but I wasn’t having any of it. And it tasted weird.

I can’t remember exactly what I drank – I think I had a fruit beer (don’t people always when they’re faced with a Belgian beer menu for the first time?) and a Delirium Tremens, because the elephants were cool. We moaned to my friend for having brought us there for quite some time afterwards.

I’m always sceptical about people who claim they’ve always been into cool stuff. I’m happy to admit to being a philistine. And I think my experience is illustrative of the difficulties that Belgian beer faces in gaining acceptance in the UK, particularly the insistence on the pint as the only measure that makes sense.

Anyway, I went back to the Dove a year or so later, when I was a bit more open to it (i.e. had a job and could afford it). I picked beers with odd names (Slag Pils! Mort Subite!) and funny beer glasses (Kwak pipes aplenty), and enjoyed the food. It became a bit of a treat. Then it became the victim of its own success, and the last time I went there before today I remember the service being dreadful, the food so-so, the beer a bit off and the whole place full of smoke and screeching media types.

Then, having watched “In Bruges” earlier this week (we liked it) we got a bit of craving for Belgian beers in “gay glasses” (to paraphrase the film) and decided it was time for a return.

We’ve learnt from past experience that places in London can go from being great to lousy to great again — the power of the internet, perhaps, as bar managers respond to comments on review websites and blogs? At any rate, the Dove was in top form today – superb food, and a great selection of Belgian beers on tap and in bottles. They also had six or so British ales on, included Oregon Best from Crouch Vale, a delicious homage to American pale ales.

The staff look like they’re all in trendy bands, but manage to hold it together long enough to carefully serve your beer in the right glasses.

It’s a very cosy spot, full of nooks and crannies and reminiscent of a pub in Ghent we went to. With the smoking ban in place, it’s an extremely pleasant place to spend a gloomy afternoon and gently souse one’s liver. Highly recommended.

We may blog more about some of the bonkers Belgian brews we had, including one that tasted like Heinz spaghetti…


Here’s a map to the Dove.