For as long as I can remember wine has been the choice of many when eating out and pairing an alcoholic drink with a meal. But the new kid on the block at all the cool restaurants is one you probably would never expect: beer.
I was invited down to Taste Of Dublin over the weekend to a surprise event that was housed within a 'Crate'.
It turned out that it was a food demo by the wonderful chef Andrew Rudd with a beer sommelier matching the food with various bottles. Part of the even included blind tasting to help identify flavours and stimulate all the senses.
I must say I was dubious about beer working with food but all doubts were banished as soon as I started eating.
We had three courses starting with black pudding paired with scallops and peas. Next up was a fiery pork rissole and we finished with a salty caramel brownie.
While the food was amazing it was the combination with the beers that made this sing – the Blue Moon paired with the brownie in particular.
I don't know about you but I absolutely hate dessert wines, as it's just too sweet. The beer, on the other hand, was refreshing, fruity and it helped unlock a whole new range of flavours in an entirely new way for my palate.
The scallop was paired with Estrella Damm, Staropramen was matched with the pork and for desert they paired the brownie with the Blue Moon. Each beer complimented the food perfectly.
What I loved most about the beer was the crispness of the Estrella on the pallet after the food hit the mouth. Swirling around you could easily see that what you first thought was a simple "beer" was something far more profound and exciting.
There is something so much more exciting about an Estrella than the tins of beer we usually all drink here in Ireland. It made me feel elegant, exotic and different as I mixed it with the black pudding and scallops. In Ireland we've always thought of beer as something to have in the pub with a cheese toastie but here it was working better than wine in a fine dining setting.
The highlight for me was the special beer Ferran Adrià (chef from the world-famous El Bulli) has created for Estrella Damm. It comes in an unusual 750ml bottle, and that size also helps you think about beer in a new way. It was light, crisp and fruity and at €7 the perfect thing to pop on the table for a couple of you sharing.
You'll see lots more beer coming into the dinging rooms across Ireland in the coming years. It will never fully replace wine but it is great to have an alternative and – when matched well – it actually adds so much to the food.