From the archives

Matching beer and food at The River Cottage

We’re sitting round a long table setting the world to rights. The conversation ranges from Benjamin Britten to the Booker Prize to . . . er . . . Terry Waite. A typical middle-class dinner party? Well yes, in all but one respect. We’re drinking beer rather than wine.

It’s odd when we’re so into British food and locally sourcedl ingredients that our national drink struggles to make it to the table. But at River Cottage HQ - where we’re dining with the team from Dorset brewer Badger Ales it seems entirely natural.

We kick off with a series of brilliant canapes made by the River Cottage chefs - a spicy carrot pure on home-made pitta bread, miniature ham rarebits (to die for), locally caught seabass spiked with a little coriander and chilli and best of all, thin slivers of home-smoked goosebreast - all of which we wash down with Stinger, a beer Badger developed with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and which is flavoured with nettles grown on the farm.

Then there’s salted pollock with poached egg, potato cake and microgreens (a meal in itself: they eat heartily in these parts) served with Badger Champion a beer aromatized with elderflower which works pretty well too - much like a Sauvignon Blanc.

The main course of richly flavoured venison served with a gravy made with a reduction of stock and Poacher’s Choice which is flavoured with damsons and liquorice is even bolder. It comes with roasted squash which adds a note of sweetness that in no way defeats the beer. ‘Liquid plum chutney’ says my neighbour. We also try it with Pickled Partridge, a seasonal beer which oddly smells (to me) of pickled walnuts. It provides a refreshing contrast to the venison but the beer loses something in the pairing.

Finally, a stellar sticky toffee pudding with what tastes like a fudgy icing on the top. The last drink you’d think of matching with it is a beer, let alone the ginger-flavoured Blandford Fly but it’s perfect. The beer lightens the richness and sweetness of the pudding and the dessert accentuates the ginger of the beer.

The whole event reminded me a) how great beer can be with food b) how much less exhausting it is to drink several different beers rather than several different wines over a meal and c) how much cheaper it is to do so. We’re mad not to put beer on our table more often.

I attended the dinner as a guest of Badger Ales

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