ROUND CORNER BREWING: Twas a sunny but blustery day in Melton Mowbray. The Boy, Bam Bam and I walked, fresh from the local playground to the brewery taphouse on the Cattle Market yesterday. We had been issued a very special invitation. One that was impossible to ignore. Come along and experiment with pairing Round Corner Brewing’s ‘Uncommonly Good Beer’ with some local cheese and tasty pies.
For those of you who don’t get out much, Melton Mowbray calls itself the Rural Capital of Food. Its claim is strong, as the home of two of the UK’s precious PGI products (protected geographical indication) – the Melton Mowbray pork pie and Stilton cheese. So of course, they were the building blocks of our tasting. Squeezed into the brewery, guests sat on long tables amongst the shining towers of fermenting vessels and conditioning tanks. It was a very convivial atmosphere as a guitarist performed for us and we enjoyed a little Frisby lager while everyone sat down.
Our food was served in pizza boxes – three different pies from Samworth Brothers, the owner of the renowned Dickinson & Morris pork pie producer. I’ve awarded their pies a medal or two at the British Pie Awards in the past. Next up there were three kinds of cheese from Long Clawson Dairy – a Leicestershire institution and one of our best-regarded Stilton producers. These jewels were accompanied by a selection of crackers, pickles and grapes.
Each specialist; the brewer, the cheesemaker and the piemaker talked us through each product and then we were left to taste away and find our perfect pairing. Each guest had a bit of information about the foods and a table to write their notes – although space to write notes about each beer was a notable omission! This is my favourite style of food pairing though – offer up a platter and leave everyone to it. All of our palates and tastes are different so what works for one will not work for another.
I enjoyed the spicy coriander character of the Zomba lavender wheat beer, which was very punchy – almost gingerlike in intensity. I love a wheat beer, with soft citrus tones and a rich mouth feel. The lavender note was quite subtle, and because of that I honestly preferred it on its own as it was easily masked by robust cheese. The nutty Red Leicester also brought out significant bubblegum ester flavours, which are not my favourite.
Similarly, the Reverend Hooker 5.5% Irish stout was much better on its own too. The steak and ale pie was probably the best match, but to be honest they both dampened the complexity of the other. With the cheese, Stilton was the best bet, bringing out the coffee flavours of the beer. The Baltic Porter, Underwater Song, made a much better match for my money. At a hefty 8.2%, it had much more weight and slid down the tongue like a chocolate bombe. It’s nice bitter finish that was made for complementing rich fatty foods like cheese and pie. I thought that the pork pie really brought out the umami savouriness, and really emphasized the creaminess of the Stilton. I probably could have just eaten that pairing all afternoon.
The most successful pairing though was unsurprisingly the Steeplechase pale ale. This was the most bitterness-led of the beers and therefore made the best match with the food we had available. The citrus flavours and resinous hoppy kick were made rounded and rich with the cheese and onion pie. Similarly, with the chilli cheese the creaminess was accentuated and the chilli was given a little extra oomph.
Thanks to Round Corner Brewing for inviting us along to the event. My opinions are my own, not begged, borrowed or stolen.