Food & Wine Pros
What the wine business can learn from the beer world
Take a look at this picture. No, not too closely - it was shot in low light so it’s a bit blurry but I think you’d agree it’s a really stylish starter?
It was a dish of lemongrass-marinated salmon which was served at the extremely posh Jumeirah Carlton in Knightsbridge at ... the International Wine Challange dinner? The Circle of Wine Writers annual get-together? Some upmarket travel convention? Nope - its the annual awards dinner of the British Guild of Beer Writers an event that almost totally managed to avoid all the tedious clichés and stereotypes associated with the industry.
There were the statutory beards and generous bellies to be sure but in general the participants were young, sharply dressed and in the case of several of the significant number of women present squeezed into glamourous figure hugging dresses worthy of a film première.
The rest of the meal lived up to the early promise. True, the main of pheasant and venison sausage roll (matched with the Wild Beer Co's Modus Operandi) was more like the robust sort of pub fare associated with beer drinking but it was stylishly presented and the dessert, a cascade of chocolate and salted caramel-flavoured rubble, was bang on trend. And even though the event was sponsored by some of the country’s biggest breweries there was no attempt to push their products - all the matching beers came from small craft breweries.
The awards which you can read about here were sensibly limited in number (take note other awards dinners) and wittily presented by beer writer Pete Brown who actually made you want to read the entries not yawn, look at your watch and anxiously wonder if you’re going to catch the last train home. The winners, especially beer writer of the year Will Hawkes, were popular and warmly applauded. The beer crowd are a friendly lot.
But maybe the most interesting aspect of the evening was the extent to which the big breweries have jumped on the craft beer bandwagon themselves creating innovative beers you wouldn’t have seen even a couple of years ago. (I was particularly impressed with the beers Brains and Thwaites were pouring pub-style before the event - a full hour and a half before the dinner started to give guests a proper chance to circulate and socialise.)
There’s a buzz about beer at the moment that the wine industry should ignore at its peril.
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