Ales made for eating

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 October, 1996, 12:00am

A new generation of beer lovers has spoken, and not just because of the Oktoberfest celebrations. 'It doesn't have to be pub food to eat it with beer,' says BB's executive chef David Laris.

'Lager and fish go well as a general rule,' adds master brewer Ted Miller, surrounded by several dishes that Laris created to go with various stouts, ales and lagers. And there's not a pork knuckle or a German sausage among them.

'You don't want a dominant beer with delicate food,' explains Miller. Much like you wouldn't drink a rare vintage wine with sauerkraut and sausages.

And neither do you have to stick to Western food. Laris says: 'You can use Asian ingredients and play around.' As interest in brews grows in Hong Kong, so does a broader culture to go with it. Now brewers and importers are trying to develop greater awareness about which beers go best with different foods.

On Laris' menu is an astonishingly tasty beer (Dragon's Back) and gorgonzola soup, which he describes as an Italian-style twist on the famous Escoffier dish. Another plate has seared beef with a pinenut crust, served on sweet potatoes with a palm sugar and beer sauce, designed to go with Signal 8 stout.

A third is lager tempura of scallops and prawns on a saffron and red wine butter sauce. This is best accompanied by No Name lager.

'Each dish has a beer either in the sauce, in the marinade or in the batter,' Laris explains. Traditionally, diners drink the same beer that has been used in the dish.

Beer and the food that goes best with it will be highlighted at a brewmasters dinner at BB's on October 24. Fairly common in beer circles elsewhere in the world, the dinners combine the talents of a chef and a brewer, each of whom talks about beer and food during the evening. Six courses will be served, with accompanying beers.

If the group sound like beer lovers with pretensions, they insist this is not the case.

As with wine, they say, beer can complement or destroy a dish.

A light and refreshing Mexican beer like Corona, The Peninsula's food and beverage department advises, goes well with a spicy dish such as the kalua-style duck pouches with dragon eye and lomi-tomato relish. The dish, served at Felix, has just the right combination of sweet, spice and acidity.

Even Gaddi's won't call in the drinks police if a patron orders the fruity Krieck beer with their roast snipe, served with celery and chestnut jus. The slight cherry flavour of the Belgian beer goes well with game, the team says.

In fact the whole class of Belgian ales, Miller notes, is excellent with food. The fruity lambics, on the other hand, are 'almost like champagne beer' and commonly used to make glazes for desserts such as peach meringue with a peach glaze.

For less delicate tastes and palates, the brews that go best with desserts are the so-called 'winter warmers', which are brewed with cloves and cinnamon. Irish stouts are perfectly matched with chocolate, which is why they taste wonderful with brownies and ice-cream. But you need a really rich brownie and a bitter Russian Imperial stout.

'You can't just say a stout goes well with a brownie. It has to be a particular kind of stout and a particular kind of brownie,' Laris warns.

'The stout is like a syrup. Lovely stuff. You pour it over right before you eat it.' Other tips and recommendations abound, all born of experience. Laris finds stout the easiest beer to cook with, being more balanced than other brews. No Name lager, he advises, makes the best tempura batter, while Signal 8 stout is better for a more English-style fish and chips.

The edge can be taken off microbrews in the cooking process with butter, palm sugar, honey or mustard. The beers that go best with dishes are the ones used in their sauces, he adds.

There are guidelines, but there are no hard-and-fast rules. As Miller says: 'The most important thing is what tastes good to you.' BB's manager Michael Breen agrees. Nothing would entice him to taste beer sorbet ever again. 'It's disgusting,' he declares.