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Brewers Association of America at Kitty Fisher's

Brewers Association of America at Kitty Fisher's

by Ella Timney Friday, August 14, 2015

Ella visited a special beer and food pairing lunch at Kitty Fisher's in Mayfair, hosted by the Brewers Association of America.

Ella is a Food Editor at Great British Chefs. She frequently puts her analytical skills to good use observing (and partaking in) drinking cultures in her favourite London ale pubs.

An invite to the Brewers’ Association of America lunch comes with a great flurry of excitement. Where this year? For last year it was at the magnificent Club Gascon, with foie gras and oysters and some potent, decadent beer pairings from the US. This year, though, was with hot young chef Tomos Parry at Kitty Fisher’s, the tiny Mayfair restaurant that uses a wood-powered grill with daintiness and elegance.

The States’ wealth of incredible craft beer should be well known in the UK by now. So many of the new wave of craft beer was inspired by the big, bestial IPAs coming from the US, the boldly-hopped brews that made it to this country and set off a catalyst for beer that was quite unlike that tasted before with our lovely but delicate native hops. So what’s not to like about one of the most talked about new restaurants, and a lazy afternoon of pondering on food, beer and everything in between?

We packed into the tiny bar at Kitty Fisher’s to be met by two delightful, fresh and summery beers, first the Hell or High Watermelon Wheat by 21st Amendment Brewery – with the lightest hint of watermelon the perfect antidote to a muggy tube journey to Green Park. The glorious O’Dell Brewery’s seasonal Blackberry gose was another light and tingly greeting.

And so downstairs to dusty pink, velvet-clad seats. I was heartened to a see a menu that didn’t stick strictly to the beer and food pairing rule of light to dark. Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche was the first to be poured, paired with a sumptuous little smoked scallop roe canapé, which I didn’t get a photo of because I was too busy munching it to remember. The beer was phenomenal, only the slightest, lightest hint of peach, but with no pulpy over-sweetness. It beautifully tempered the creamy, smoky scallop. Brewer’s Association Head Chef Adam Dulye explained that ‘this is what it’s all about’ – Dogfish Head brewed this beer because a neighbouring farm had an excess of peaches, so they took some off their hands and bob’s your uncle – a new beer is born. This, explained Adam, is the spirit of the American craft beer movement, and he should know. With a long career in food and beer pairing, including leading the way at beer and food pairing San Francisco hotspots Monk’s Kettle and Abbot’s Cellar, he was set to share his wisdom on all things food and beer.

Victory Brewing Company's Prima Pils
Victory Brewing Company's Prima Pils
Burrata, beetroot, gooseberries
Burrata, beetroot, gooseberries

As the next course of Burrata, beetroot, gooseberries was brought out, decorated with beautiful violas with the shiny white burrata rubbing up of vivid greens and shocking magenta of beetroot, two beers were poured – Prima Pils by Victory Brewing and Nooner by Sierra Nevada, both pilsners that had been beautifully hopped - the Victory with dry pellet hops and the Sierra Nevada with fresh. Adam implored us that this was all about pickly flavours in the dish, and to try a mouthful with each beer to explore the wildly different impact each glug had on the food. And lo and behold, the Nooner, paired with the sour, sweet and creamy forkful enhanced all of the sweetness gloriously, while the Prima brought out all of the grassy elements, coaxing out the wonderfully fresh pea shoots and sweet-yet sharp gooseberries and the lightly charred beans.

On to the Cornish crab, barbecued cucumber, dill and seaweed, paired with two session IPAs; Daytime by Lagunitas and Pinner by Oskar Blues Brewery. This was perhaps the most interesting of pairings as we all paused between forkfuls of umami salty seaweed and sweet, minerally crab. The barbecue cucumber was frankly incredible in this mix, with the session IPAs a perfect match – all of the astringent hoppy goodness to match up to these potent flavours, but without any of the sticky alcohol-laden flavour you’d normally find in an IPA. The char that ran through the dish was delightful, like a barbecue on the beach with a few refreshing cucumbers thrown in for good measure.

 
 
Cornish crab, barbecued cucumber, dill and seaweed
Cornish crab, barbecued cucumber, dill and seaweed
Daytime by Lagunitas and Pinner by Oskar Blues Brewery
Daytime by Lagunitas and Pinner by Oskar Blues Brewery

As the wonderful staff cleared the sample glasses, they lined up fresh ones in immaculate order. The first to be tasted was Maui Big Swell – one of the first craft beers I ever tried in a can – a big, ‘typical’ (if there is a ‘typical’ anymore) American IPA. The second was a glorious brown ale, No-Li Brown Ale by No-Li Brewhouse, which possessed an alluring flavour I still can’t put my finger on (wintergreen? But in a nice way?). Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried 14 year old Galician milk cow beef before, because I certainly hadn’t, but my God, what amazing beef it was. Paired with musky little girolles, calming spinach, a beautifully sweet and charred onion and pickled walnut, this was a dish to breathe in. That beef, which Tomos later explained we can’t get in the UK as beef is slaughtered much younger, was a flavour of such intense beefy richness, with a decent chew. I examined it, the threads of pearly fat running through it adding a ‘best part of the roast beef’ kind of feeling that made me feel flat-out emotional.

I can see why Adam was so prescriptive about the order of the drinking here: this was a rich dish indeed. The Big Swell was a bold and punchy thing to matchup to this gloriously fatty rib eye, and when it all got too much, the brown ale was a wonderfully comforting buffer. As Adam explained earlier, it’s all about protecting the palate – cushioning it with something sticky to protect against harsher flavours, or making sure you don’t get overwhelmed with fattiness by drinking something to cut through. These pairings were genius.

 
 
No-Li Brown Ale by No-Li Brewhouse
No-Li Brown Ale by No-Li Brewhouse
14 year old Galician Blonde rib eye, Scottish girroles and stout
14 year old Galician Blonde rib eye, Scottish girroles and stout

After a small break and some fresh air, I returned to a much more familiar pairing – a chocolate and cherry dessert paired with Founders porter. The dessert was a light delight. With food and drink pairing meals, you can end up almost dreading dessert, thinking ‘can I get through this one final course? Can I face this richness which is about to consume me?’ Luckily, Adam has asked us, ‘is your palate fatigued?’ and the unanimous response was, ‘no!’ – we’d drunk a whole load of heavily-hopped beers but were still ready for more. Furthermore, the dessert was gloriously light, despite being a chocolate feast, with the light and creamy cremoso dancing about with the juicy, sweet cherries, the light acidity of crème fraiche and some glorious texture thrown in thanks to some caramelised hazelnuts and hidden nuggets of crunchy honeycomb. This with the milky, delicate porter was a fantastic end to the meal, which against all odds left me feeling like I could do another round.

And so the introduction was made to a slightly different way of thinking about food pairing that I’d heard before, in a most liberating way. Looking for minerality, sweetness, bitterness and so on – these are all things to consider, not just the style of the beer. Later in the meal, Adam revealed that in putting together the menu, he supplied the chefs with a list of flavour profiles in the beer, but not with the style. This approach means that we can remove our preconceptions of what a beer tastes like – that all IPAs must be boozy and terribly hoppy, that all stouts must taste like bitter chocolate or coffee. The variety of styles in the world, combined with the amount of variation within styles, means that going on flavour instead lends itself to a better experience all-round, and made me hopeful for the future of beer and food pairing in this country.

 
 

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