With so much emphasis on food over the Christmas period it’s easy to forget about refreshments. We sent Amanda Noble to speak to some experienced brewers, and help you plan the festive drinks menu…
Planning your Christmas dinner can be a bit of a daunting task, and for foodies, choosing what drinks to pair up can be just as important as the food on your menu! Think of a full bodied Port with Stilton, or a warm brandy with after dinner chocolates and it’s clear how flavours, bodies and aromas from wines, ales and spirits all complement foods in their own way. But how can we optimise our drink choices? We caught up with wine expert, Alex DeWitt and Tom Jenkinson, Head Brewer at The Chiltern Brewery, to share their thoughts on food and drink pairings and ensure a festive taste sensation!
‘Red with meat, white with fish is a guideline, not a rule,’ says Alex DeWitt of Risborough Wine Club. ‘As red wines contain tannins from the grape skins which are strong in flavour, they can overpower delicate flavours in fish and light foods. However, wine is all about enjoyment, so I advocate drinking whatever you fancy. Try a light bodied Pinot Noir with chicken, turkey or sea bass, or a big oaky Australian chardonnay with a steak – nothing wrong with that!’
‘As the four elements of wine are alcohol, acid, sugar and tannin, it’s these elements you should try to identify and pair with food’ explains Alex. ‘For example, acidic wines, such as a Riesling, would be good to cut through oily food like salmon, mackerel, or even a curry. Wines with a lot of alcohol and tannin, like an Australian Shiraz, go well with strong foods which won’t be masked by the strong wine. Wines with a lot of sugar, like the famous dessert wines of Sauternes or Tokaji, would make a good aperitif before dinner, as well as being paired with desserts or cheese.’
‘Beer is a natural partner for food,’ states Tom Jenkinson. ‘We advise during our tutored beer tasting sessions that to determine what beer to match with foods, think of dark beers as you would red wines and lighter or golden ales as white wines. Strong beers (6%+) are great alternatives to dessert wines or brandy, and light hoppy beers or sparkling ales act as ideal alternatives for aperitifs. Our John Hampdens Ale, for example, is smooth and floral, and matches well with salads, chicken and fish, whereas our traditional Battle of Britain Ale matches well with red meats and strong cheese. Our festive offering, Glad Tidings, pairs up perfectly with fruit cake or even Christmas pudding!’
‘By the sheer variety of ingredients used in beer we have the opportunity – as Brewers – to produce a wide spectrum of flavours to match with food,’ explains Tom. ‘Not only do we have dozens of malt varieties, we also have dozens of hops. We can also age beer or mature it in old wooden whisky casks – producing wonderful flavours – all making beer an extremely versatile way to not only flavour dishes, but to enjoy as the perfect accompaniment to them. Pairing beer with food has only relatively recently been overshadowed by wine in the last 20-30 years. We are now only starting to re-re-establish the balance! Beer and food matching isn’t a passing trend, and it should be here to stay.’
Risborough Wine Club is a local community wine tasting club held at Princes Risborough Community Centre, Buckinghamshire every 3rd Monday of the month from 8pm. Further details can be found at www.facebook.com/RisboroughWineClub
The Chiltern Brewery is a second generation family run brewery in Terrick,, Buckinghamshire founded over thirty years ago and specialising in brewing one of the widest ranges of draught and bottled beer styles of any small brewery in the UK using malt and hops supplied by British Farmers. Further details on The Chiltern Brewery and beer tasting sessions can be found at www.chilternbrewery.co.uk