Lotte Peplow Interview – Great British Chefs
The UK is now home to the most breweries per capita in the world, but we’ve still got a way to go when it comes to matching beer and food. Lotte Peplow from Great British Chefs takes a look at how the British craft beer scene differs from its US counterpart.
Enjoying a pint with a meal has been woven into the fabric of British society for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that matching the versatile and complementary flavours of beer to a range of different foods became popular and started to infiltrate the high-ground held by wine. Nowadays craft beer is a booming trend with more breweries per capita in the UK than anywhere else in the world – a trend that has been fuelled by small and independent American craft brewers who are widely credited with igniting the global craft beer movement.
Much of British cuisine lends itself to beer – think hearty winter stews, casseroles, pies, Ploughman’s, steaks, ribs and burgers. Restaurants and pubs are innovating with beer and food pairings and exploring the huge range of flavours beer has to offer, but will it ever usurp wine at the dinner table? The answer lies across the Atlantic.
In America, beer and food pairing is a sophisticated, highly developed art form involving culinary skill and brewing expertise. It is also uniquely collaborative with small brewers working together with independent suppliers from the local community. Five-course beer and food pairing menus are commonplace and nearly all establishments from basic bars and diners through to white tablecloth restaurants offer an extensive beer list alongside menu suggestions. Special beer and food pairing events attract interest from all over the world.
The Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade organisation that promotes and protects small and independent American craft brewers, organises Paired (part of the Great American Beer Festival) – a feast of sumptuous taste sensations involving twenty-one chefs and twenty-one breweries who each make two bite-sized delicacies perfectly paired with just the right flavoured beer. Tickets costing the equivalent of £120 sell out very quickly and 1,500 people attend per night. Adam Dulye, executive chef of the Brewers Association and mastermind behind Paired, recommends that beer should be one of the flavour components of a dish; the only difference being it’s in a glass, not on the plate. ‘Hops are insanely food friendly,’ he says. ‘They don’t need a lot of fat, they don’t need a lot of heat but they do like to be lifted up and play with the roof of the palate, across your tongue and on the nose. We’re looking to challenge people in a way they never have been before and create excitement about beer and food. The quality of beer from the brewers and ingredients from the chefs are changing people’s perceptions of how the two can go together.’
The wildly diverse range of beer styles in the States and constant innovation in the brewing industry is the ideal bedrock for such marriages of flavour. Americans are truly passionate about their beer and food culture. Anyone thinking a pint of bitter and a Ploughman’s is a good match should try a Maui Blood Orange Lorenzini Double IPA (7.6% ABV) made with Azacca hops, containing a bergamot character similar to Earl Grey, paired with ham hock terrine, buffalo sauce, dehydrated blue cheese, micro celery and a sprinkle of sweet, crispy carrot cake! Or New Holland’s Incorrigible, a 4.5% ABV white sour ale made with Michigan blueberries and blackberries, to complement and cut through the oily richness of a smoked salmon tartare, dressed with horseradish cream, shallots, capers and a blackberry.
So how would an event like Paired go down in the UK? Tomos Parry, award-winning head chef at the highly acclaimed Kitty Fisher’s restaurant in Mayfair, says: ‘We have a different relationship to beer versus Americans because we’ve had beer in pubs for hundreds of years and there will always be that pint drinking mentality. Americans are not so rooted in tradition so it’s easier for them to innovate. I think British people are coming round to the idea of beer with food more and more, especially in cities with amazing beer scenes. Beer is more accessible than wine and the variety is incredible.’
Nicholas Balfe, head chef of Salon in Brixton, London adds: ‘In America the craft beer market is more mature than in the UK and the wide diversity and huge range of beer styles make food pairing easier. As UK craft brewers push the boundaries of beer flavours, chefs will take beer more seriously as an option for pairing. It may be some time before we see an event like Paired in the UK but it would work well alongside a food festival such as Meatopia or Taste of London.’
For more information visit www.craftbeer.com.