About a year ago we did a beer versus wine smackdown on the Beer Show on 4BC. Three foods matched to three beers selected by me and three wines selected by James McIlwain from Southern Cross Wine Merchants who does a wine show on alternate weeks. On that occasion beer lost, 2-1. I was devastated.
Last night we had a rematch. Beer won and won well.
The three foods were prawns, chicken satay and dark chocolate. The matchups were:
Prawns: Schneider Weisse Original –v– Meadowbank 2006 Riesling (Tasmania)
Chicken Satay: Singha Lager –v– d’Arenberg 2006 Grenache (McLaren Vale)
75% Cocoa Dark Chocolate: Trois Pistoles –v– Rutherglen Port.
The judging was done by the host, Walter Williams, his producer, myself and James. Beer won the prawns match 2-2, but on points. Not convincing. I think if I had gone with Ian Watson’s suggestion of a nice golden lager, such as Jever Pilsner, I would have even done better, but the Schneider Weisse is an old favourite and I couldn’t be told. It worked but not perfectly.
With the chicken satay I had no clue what to match, as I wasn’t sure how it would be prepared. It ended up being quite spicy. I hadn’t had a Singha for several years and hadn’t realised that what was once an aromatic and fairly distinctive lager of 6% abv is these days a much sweeter, less hoppy beer of 5%. It was steamrollered by the spice in the sauce. Nice enough, but just didn’t stand up. In hindsight, I would have gone with something bolder – maybe even Alpha Pale Ale. I was amazed at how well the Grenache worked with it. Even I gave the round to the wine. Beer 0-4.
Then came chocolate. I knew I was on a good thing here. I pulled out Trois Pistoles from Unibroue. The Port went really well but the Trois Pistoles was superb with the dark chocolate. James declared the round even before the judging. Beer 4-0. Then I pulled out a haymaker…I had a packet of chocolate covered blueberries from the Noosa Chocolate Company. I passed them around and the panel tried again. The beer tasted very different, but worked. The panel was in raptures. Beer 4-0 and dancing around singing “In your face, wine!”
It was great fun and, as always, I found some wonderful flavours in wine and some surprising matches – that as a largely non-wine drinker I often forget. James is a great bloke with a fantastic palate. We might try and do a dinner somewhere together doing the same thing.
The great thing for me is that beer always holds its own in the match ups…something that surprises many and is another reason why increasing the profile of beer and food matching is good for beer.