I forced myself to drink beer when I started university because it was the cheapest option. But it wasn’t until I moved to Belgium to study for six months that I learnt to actually appreciate beer. I learnt that the Belgians drank their beers at a warmer temperature than Australians in order to appreciate the beers’ flavour more and that they poured their beers with more of a head as it was about quality not quantity. With all that Belgian beer drinking behind me it didn’t take much arm twisting for me to accept an invitation to celebrate this year’s hop harvest with a beer and food matching dinner at Circa.
Beer and food matching isn’t as common as wine and food matching and it’s a little different, as “brewers don’t spit” according to brewer Peter David. He talked us through the beer served with each dish starting off with the subtle and lightly caramel Pilsner Urquell. The beer was teamed with beetroots roasted in hops and served with curd and slow cooked onions. The hops gave an earthy, smoky flavour which contrasted with the sweetness of the beetroot.
Chef Ashly Hicks managed to include hops in each dish of the night, carefully combining the bitter flavours of the hops with contrasting sweet and strong flavours like a meaty blue cod. The cod was served with leeks, truffles and a roasted hop broth poured over the top. Unfortunately the truffle flavour was lost as there was so much else going on in the dish but generally Hicks’ combinations were inspired.
A better match for the hops was the smoky Wagyu beef which was melt in the mouth tender and combined with a slick of mustard and marrow. It was perfectly paired with my favourite beer of the evening, the Knappstein Reserve which had strong citrus flavour and a beautiful aroma.
We even had beer with dessert. An airy chocolate mousse provided a foil to a glass of Feral Hop Hog, a bitter drink which balanced the sweetness of the dessert. Who said beer can’t be classy? Even a beer called Feral Hop Hog!
Gourmet Chick was a guest of Lion.
Details: Circa, 2 Acland St, St Kilda (Ph 03 9536 1122)
Damage: Budget breaking. On this occasion I didn’t pay.