A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to attend a beer and food matching evening, courtesy of Heineken. Several different sessions were taking place in Cork and Dublin and I put my name down for the dinner at Siam Thai in Dundrum Town Centre.
I was curious to see what Heineken would offer at this event, and how they could make their big name brands stand out. It's possible to argue that they are Goliath, striding into the growing Irish craft beer movement, potentially at the expense of the smaller breweries. However, I have to say that I enjoyed the event immensely and found it very educational. The knowledgeable Fiona Smith from the F&B Partnership was our tutor for the evening, and she gradually took us through the different ways of experiencing and tasting beer.
A special menu had been selected for us at the Siam Thai. We were to have a mixed starter plate with each starter being paired to a particular beer. This would be followed by our choice of main course, again with a suggested beer pairing. All tables were set with a selection of large wine glasses, which were used for tasting the various beers.
- Chicken and pineapple skewers with Paulaner
- Salmon cakes with Zywiec
- Laab gai salad with Tiger
- Sweet and sour chicken with Zywiec
- Lamb with Thai herbs with Paulaner
- Panang pork curry with Moretti
- Massaman chicken curry with Sol
- Red curry prawn noodles with Heineken
Fiona kicked off by informing us that beer had the same basic properties as wine, particularly when it came to pairing with food. In fact, beer actually has a broader spectrum of flavours than wine and comes in different colours including dark, amber and white (naturally cloudy or unfiltered beers).
The quick guide to tasting beer..
- When pouring beer, the glass and bottle should never come in contact
- Take short sniffs of the beer to get the aromas
- Stir the beer with a spoon to build up a head, which you then taste to get an indication of the hop level. Hops attach to the CO2 contained in beer, so the head on a beer will contain lots of hop flavour
- Taste the beer in slurps (yes slurps!). This will get lots of air into the beer, giving you a chance to taste the flavours
We moved onto our first beer, Paulaner, which was paired with chicken & pineapple skewers. We poured the beer into the wine glasses, swirled and sniffed as instructed, revealing tropical fruit smells. Paulaner is a Hefe-Weissbier from Bavaria, but I really pleasantly surprised to find lots of banana flavour in the beer, something I'd never noticed before.
|Zywiec beer and a tasting notes booklet|
Next up was the Polish beer Zywiec (pronounced zee-vee-ek), a darker beer made from barley. As a result this had a darker, maltier aroma and flavour. In fact, I thought of Maltesers when I sniffed it. It has more hops than the Paulaner as well as hints of lemon, which meant that it paired very nicely with the salmon fishcakes
The last of our starters, spicy Laab gai salad, was paired with the Malaysian Tiger beer, which has been brewed since 1932. Author Anthony Burgess even named a novel "Time for a Tiger" after the famous advertising slogan "It's time for a Tiger". This was hoppier than the previous beers, but it's light and fresh flavours meant that it balanced the spicy chicken salad quite well.
Suggestions had been given for our main course pairings, but I declined the suggestion for my main course choice of lamb with Thai herbs, and instead chose another bottle of Zywiec. This beer had been my clear favourite of the 3 tasted so far and I wanted to enjoy it some more. Himself chose Moretti to accompany his red curry prawn noodles. As we were eating and slurping beer, Fiona was doing some rounds of the tables, answering any additional questions that we may have.
The big lesson of the night was to serve beer in glasses that are wide enough to give you a chance to really smell the beer. I had been surprised to see big red wine glasses on the table, but they were the perfect vessels for the beers. Some of my previous thoughts about beers were overturned on the evening. Prior to this event, I would never have ordered a Paulaner of Zywiec, but this tasting event really opened my eyes (and nose) to their fruity aromas and flavours.
A big thank you to Fiona and the crew from Heineken and Thinkhouse for organising this great event. For more information on the Heineken family of beers, events, and suggested food pairings, visit www.thisisbeer.ie.