Friday, 20 August 2010

My first beer dinner, "Making Beer and Food Dance", The Mitre Knaresbourgh

Plenty of other bloggers have covered beer dinners before but not I. But since the whole Beer and Cheese evening flop last month I have been searching for the answers. Why did it fail? What went wrong? I already had a good idea why but this event confirmed it a bit more. People turned up, I would say in excess of 30 people turned up, not bad for a tuesday night. Pretty soon the advantages of this event over mine became obvious. For a start the The Mitre is a pub easily accessible by rail or road situated in a densely populated area. The pub itself is part of the Market Town Taverns pub chain and the event owned by feva. Because of the quality of the beer range already available at the pub, no extra beers were bought in. Finally, tickets were strictly pre-paid for, meaning no names on the list of people who had simply just claimed they would turn up but then never do.

Anyway on to the dinner. 'Making food and beer dance' involves six food and beer pairings:

Aubergine Pate

with chestnut puree and melba toast

Beer: Leffe Blonde

Easy going, quite nice, with mainly of rich and sweet notes making it work.

Miniature glazed chicken drumsticks

with bourbon & chilli glaze; served on crisp Little gem lettuce

Beer: Copper Dragon Golden Pippin

Nicely paired and quite subtle. Probably more subtle than the first. A bit more hops (maybe a Sierra Navada Pale ale) and spice would have made it magical.

Crisp Beer Battered Salmon Goujons

With a lemon & herb mayonnaise

Beer: Paulaner Weissebier

This beer pairs great with batter and the salmon itself. At this point I was pleased things were getting better.

Steak and Ale Pie

with handcut chips & vegetables

Beer: Black Sheep Ale

My initial thoughts were; Any amateur can think of this pairing, it sounds so obvious and unadventurous. But you know what, it works, and it works brilliantly. The cask conditioned Black Sheep Ale was beautifully fresh and in perfect condition. Last time I remembered having this beer tasting so good was at the actual brewery. A good lesson, never over look the obvious.

Dark Chocolate Pot

with strawberry and vanilla shortbread

Beer: Timmermans Strawberry

Super sweet fruit beer meets sweet chocolaty fruity dessert. Straight from the textbook, and all the elements seemed to work together well.

Selection of Yorkshire Cheeses

with rhubarb chutney, grapes and biscuits

Beer: Kwak

Looking at the menu, this was the one I was looking forward to the most. Yorkshire Blue and Wendsleydale were the two cheeses I could identify, a third unknown medium-hard goats cheese was also present. The bold, slightly sweetish nature of the 8% Kwak provided a natural contrast for this dish, whereas the Belgian yeast character found harmonies. Both the rhubarb chutney and grapes really integrated well in this and this, as many may guess, was my favorite of the six preparations.

So overall a great night, and I learnt a fair bit too, like some of the obvious difficulties in organising, hosting and running a beer and food event. A big issue is getting the right dishes ready at the right time brought out with the correct beer. This was handled really well on this occasion but felt a certain degree of urgency from the staff at points when the service was slowing up. Everyone must work in synchrony, and is dependant on the kitchen staff allot. Then you have issues I'm already familiar with like getting tickets in, knowing how much food to buy in, how much beer to buy given your estimated sample size per person and so forth.

I managed to get a good chat out of the bloke running the show, Ian Fozard, who owns The Mitre and the Market Town Taverns Pub chains. His presentation was also something to take note of. No talking through every combination on how it works, where the style comes from etc bombarding the audience with information. Each dish started with a quick introduction, then it moved on. The beer selection also caught my interest, all tailored for the curious armature, no extreme beers or anything beyond the vaguely challenging. OK I didn't discover any new and exciting beers but I liked the way it captured the interest and intrigue of the audience who seemingly had little to no knowlege of many of these beers and how they could be paired with food. In the same sense that it's better to teach school children A-B-C before you cover molecular physics. Makes sense. One thing I wish at the end of the night is that Market Town Tavern Pubs could be more widespead. To find a pub with this kind of beer range in Northumberland would be great, as the count on a whole has little to compete with it. And when I say 'it' I mean a diverse, international, quality beer range found on cask, keg and in bottled form, good food, whisky, wine, the whole package. So a good set of pubs which I might be looking out for this weekend as I will be beer hunting in Leeds. 


ChrisM said...

Sounds like a great evening. I've not been to the Mitre, but I am certainly a fan of Market Town Taverns, I have frequented Brigantes in York for much of this past year. I agree, though, that it'd be great to see them more widespread.


I thought you 'lived' in the John Bull? :-p (OK, maybe the decor doesn't live up to the MTT standards, but the beer!?)

ChrisM said...

Oh, the quote didn't work. Inside the '<>' should be this: "One thing I wish at the end of the night is that Market Town Tavern Pubs could be more widespead. To find a pub with this kind of beer range in Northumberland would be great."

Rob said...

Yeah the John Bull is better for Belgian beer and Whisky but not decor, international beers or food. Beer hunting in Tyneside/ Northumberland is quite different from Yorkshire. Yorkshire seems to have an air of superiority about the place when it comes to beer. So it seems natural that Market Town Taverns would adopt that county as a natural habitat.

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