Beer invading restaurants' wine lists

EWAN SARGENT FOR ZEST
Last updated 10:02 26/06/2013

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Beer is invading the wine lists of the fanciest restaurants. Ewan Sargent reports.

Grab a cold one, knock the top off, tilt it back and chug. That's how you drink a beer, right?

No. According to experts, that will waste all the hard work that went into making the beer taste how it should.

It's fun to think of wine drinkers in caricature - glass twirling, bouquet sniffing snobs. Then we have our beer drinkers who play it straight. They get a drink. They drink it.

But beer is getting more technical and more sophisticated. The craft beer revolution is creating a new appreciation for beer's range of flavours.

Yet another step on this path is analysing how beer works best with food.

The Monteith's Wild Food Challenge, which matches beer and food in restaurants, was in the vanguard of this when it was launched 16 years ago.

Chief judge Kerry Tyack says beer is far more sophisticated than most people realise, including some chefs who put up a dish and fail to match it properly with a beer for the competition.

Many people don't realise the importance of its aroma and the big part that plays in its quality.

Two significant aroma killers are drinking beer too cold - which deadens it - and drinking it from the bottle, which, of course, blocks it from the nose.

Tyack says to taste good beer at its best, it should be drunk from a glass at a few degrees above room temperature.

Bottle drinking creates another problem. Tyack says all the sweetness-aligned taste buds are at the front of the mouth. Drinking from a bottle means they get hit by the beer first and take over telling us what it is like. Other taste bids miss out or are overpowered.

"Unlike wine, beer doesn't have the astringency and acidity, and so you need some element in the food to keep the palate awake."

But as a basic guide, the richer the food, the bigger the beer, and lighter food should get a more subtle beer.

"Where many entrants go wrong, is the last thing they put on. It's that last bit of aioli or that extra bit of sauce that throws it out of whack. They will get the venison or duck right, then they start throwing other things into the dish like berries and strawberry jam and suddenly the match is less successful."

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