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Pair to Perfection: A guide to beer and food matching

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Want to engage more with your customers on the beer front? Have you considered putting on a beer and food pairing but might be at a loss as to where to start? If so, we’ve got beer & food expert Melissa Cole ‐ author of The Beer Kitchen ‐ to give you some easy‐to‐follow advice, on how to run everything from a simple showcase to a full‐blown gastronomic delight.

Turning Tides

The food landscape of the UK has shifted in such a seismic fashion in the last 10 years or so, you’d be hard‐pushed to recognise it through the lens of a decade ago.
From being all about French‐style cooking and snooty waiters to a more laid‐back approach and a focus on home‐grown produce and talent, it’s a whole different scene.

But, let’s face it, beer still hasn’t gained its rightful place at the table,  but with a little effort from all of us, it won’t be long before it takes a starring role alongside our meals. Here are some tips on how to start.

Simple Pleasures

If you’re a novice beer and food matcher there’s a great phrase you should know, and it’s K.I.S.S. – shouted at me in
a true Army voice by a dear friend of mine ‐ and it means Keep It Simple Stupid (obviously I am not implying you are stupid but, at the time, it was pertinent to me!).

1. Use a mixture of lagers and ales – don’t go too esoteric straight out of the gate ‐ think things like Magic Rock Saucery, Vedett White and Budvar Dark.
2. Do something simple - like a beer & cheese or beer & chocolate matching
3. Keep it small - no more than 25 guests
4. Make sure your staff have tried all the matches and are knowledgeable about them - this is absolutely vital!
5. Ensure you offer some no/low and gluten free options too - there are plenty of tasty options out there, like Brooklyn Special Effects and Daura Damm

Stepping It Up

Presentation is key here, make sure you’ve got elegant glassware & well‐trained staff
1. Greet guests with an aperitif of high‐quality lager or golden ale in a champagne flute ‐ like Freedom Organic Helles or Curious Brew Lager
2. Step up to a five course ‘canapé’ menu
3. Engage with both FoH and BoH staff to offer their thoughts on pairings
4. Choose less obvious beers & old favourites for your menu to encourage both comfort and experimentation ‐ like Einstok White Ale and Timmerman’s Peche ‐ and pair them off to give two matches per course, giving people the chance to choose which one they favour and provoke conversation
5. Create fun recipes with the beer itself like a Schofferhoffer Grapefruit Radler Sorbet as a palate cleanser
6. Get staff to choose their favourites and present to your guests why they love them
7. Provide feedback forms to the guests and take a vote on the best pairing for each course

Master Level Pairings

This could be the time to get a professional in, there are plenty of excellent Beer Academy‐qualified beer sommeliers out there and people who have worked hard to get their very in‐depth Cicerone certification too. There are also brewers out there who are extremely adept at offering their beer and food matching services… or, of course, you could do it yourself, but my suggestion is to do at least one event with an established expert first, it takes a lot of pressure off you and gives you the opportunity to learn the ropes a bit!

Learn more about pairing beer and food with our handy guide. Register here to order online at Matther Clark Live. 

About the author

Melissa Cole

Award-winning writer Melissa is widely acknowledged as one of the UK’s leading beer & food experts. Renowned for her sense of humour and ability to translate complicated beer jargon into something everyone can understand, she’s already seen success with her debut book Let Me Tell You About Beer.

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