While wine pairings have become commonplace across restaurants and hotels in South Africa, I’d only heard of a few spots that offered a food and beer pairing and they were usually in the Western Cape. I’ve been wanting to try it out for a while and when SAB World of Beer sent out an invite to join them for their own food and beer pairing with food prepared by chef Peter Goffe-Wood, I jumped at the chance.
With some experience with food and wine pairings, I was expecting some commonalities and tasting notes, but didn’t expect to learn all that much the first time around. I was so wrong though! Anton Erasmus, a trade brewer for SAB, explained each beer and it’s complimentary tasting notes while Pete followed with a detailed explanation for each course and why it was paired accordingly. Some bits I loved, some bits I think were lost on me and one or two weren’t great in my opinion, but overall a great experience.
Over five courses, we sipped tiny little beers and enjoyed some amazing food all the while discovering more about the history of SAB’s range of beers. I’ve been interested in learning more about beer since my trip to the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam and this opportunity was it.
The first course we were served was a tuna ceviche with raw fennel, a light virgin olive oil and a hint of chilli. This was paired with a Flying Fish beer in lemon flavour. I loved the ceviche, it was refreshing and reminded me of holidays, the Flying Fish was chosen because of the obvious links between seafood and lemon. I couldn’t stand the flavour of the beer to be honest, but others at my table disagreed and said it was refreshing. I’ll have to taste the orange flavour and see, but the jury’s out for now.
Our second course was paired with my student days’ favourite, Black Label. It was served with a black lentil curry in a baby bunny chow. The pairing was decided upon because of the perfumey, fruity nature of Black Label. It sounds so crazy when saying it, but I could definitely pick up those notes when actively sniffing them out. Just like a great gewurtztraminer works with curry, Black Label compliments it too.
Served with a glass of Peroni, the third course was an Italian dish to match the Italian beer. A butternut and goat’s cheese rotolo was blanketed by a burnt sage butter and sprinkled with pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Anton explained that like great Italian food, Peroni satisfies on its taste and is a slow drinking beer, perfect for the eating culture of Italy.
The fourth and largest course was definitely suited to its paired beer, Grolsch. A roughly ground veal meatloaf with mash potato and pickled cabbage graced our plates. The pairing worked well with the strong, bitter flavour of the beer complimenting the heavy flavours of the beef. Pete explained that hearty food needed the workings of a powerful ‘big beer’ taste to bring out the flavours of the food.
A delicious sticky toffee pudding with milk stout ice-cream was the last dish in the mix. Accompanied by a Castle Milk Stout, something I’m not very familiar with, the flavours of the pudding were balanced by the basic hint of sea salt. The ice-cream was a feat in itself, because cooking Milk Stout would ruin the dish so an alternative preparation needed to be used, making the process more difficult.
One of the biggest learnings that came out of the meal for me was how beer is beyond just a match for fried onion rings and burgers. It has subtle hints of flavour, like vanilla or fudge, that can work extremely well with food. A food and beer pairing is another game altogether though, I found the meal very filling with the gassy beers and heavy dishes. I only ate half of every portion served and still felt like I was rolling home! Looks like I need to train and stretch my tummy for the next one!
The SAB World of Beer offers beer and food pairings to patrons at a cost of R400 per person (a bargain for such a great meal if you ask me) and an additional R75 gets you a tour of the facility. Your paired meal will include detailed explanations of each of the beers and their accompanying course by Anton. For more info, get in touch with the SAB World of Beer.