There is a Czech proverb that goes “A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure”. There was opportunity for plenty of both fine beers and thoroughness at a special beer appreciation dinner held at the MuMu Grill, owned and operated by Head Chef Craig MacIndoe.
Craig had invited a number of bloggers, as well as some twitter followers and some regulars to this dining experience. Various courses of food were served with matching beers in the same way that one may serve food with a matching wine. However, there was a little more to this dinner than just food & beer.
Dan Hampton is something of a beer snob. A self professed one at that. He, along with his business partner Graham, heads a company, and in some ways a movement, that encourages others to become beer snobs as well. Strangely enough, this company is called Beer Snobs.
The mission of Beer Snobs is not as bad as it may seem. The term “beer snob” in this case is something of a misnomer in my mind. It is true that there is the air of appreciation for a higher standard of beer. However, this appreciation is done without an elitist, condescending or negative view on cheap, mainstream commercial beers. It instead focuses on awareness and promotion of the breadth and depth of a range of good quality beers that may otherwise go unnoticed by the mainstream public.
The dinner is conducted very much like a wine tasting dinner. The selection of glasses, traditionally used for the service of wines, evokes the notion that a good quality beer could be appreciated in very much the same way one would with a bottle or glass of fine wine.
The evening began with a Moo Brew Hefeweizen, served in a glass one might expect to be used for a sparkling wine. This was paired with a smooth tartare of Grass fed Angus Pure Beef served on cruets. No images of the tartare. However, if you can imagine what a mound of minced beef on a thin slice of crusty bread would look like, you’re most of the way there.
The next course featured a Murray’s Pilsner. A little too bitter for my tastes but still a nice beer. This was paired with a platter of 18 month Jamon Serrano, some divine ox heart tomatoes fresh out of the garden of one of Craig’s providers, and some freshly baked focaccia-like bread. This made for one killer ham & tomato sandwich!
18 month Jamon Serrano. What more needs to be said? :)
Dan gauges the level of beer “snobbery” around the room by posing a hypothetical situation in a pub whereby a person within a group of friends offers to buy a round of beers.
- Would you reject low quality commercial beers in favour of good quality ones? (Beer Snob, Level 1)
- Would you go against the status quo order of cheap, commercial beer when someone buys a round, by requesting a good quality beer instead? (Beer Snob, Level 2)
- If your request was ignored and you’re given the commercial beer, would you refuse to drink it and instead head over to the bar to order the beer you were actually after? (Beer Snob, Level 3)
The above is not word-for-word, but it should give you some means to gauge your own level of beer snobbery at home :)
Moving onto the next course, the Marston’s Oyster Stout was served with, oddly enough, oysters. Classic poor man’s fare back in ye old England, well so I’ve been told.
Two types of oysters are served au naturel – the briny Pacific Oysters on the left and the creamy Sydney Rock Oysters on the right. For those that dislike having their oysters in this fashion (or dislike oysters altogether), a small bowl Craig’s BBQ sauce is provided to mask any unwanted oyster flavours. Perhaps any oyster flavours at all, depending on the quantity used.
A concept that we’re introduced to at the beginning of the dinner is that of the Three C’s – colour, clarity & carbonation. This is essentially a classification system, a means by which to identify & distinguish the visual characteristics of beers from each other.
For this course, Pigs Fly Pale Ale is served with slow roasted Bangalow Sweet pork cooked in beer, along with cannellini beans & crispy fried sage leaves coated in a tempura batter.
All the elements work well in this dish. The pork, as its brand name implies, is sweet, as well as being very juicy, tender & full of flavour. The cannelli beans pair well with the pork, whilst the sage leaves are a thing of beauty. Though they work well with the other elements of this dish, the sage leaves are so good on their own that I could easily see myself snacking over a bowl full of these with a glass of beer in hand.
There is a certain ritual to appreciating a beer in the Beer Snob way beyond the Three C’s. You swirl the beer around in the glass as you would with a red wine. Then three sniffs are taken to discern the aromatic characteristics of the beer. Afterwards, a sip of the beer is taken, which must be swallowed in order to appreciate all aspects of the beer’s flavour & bitter notes.
This ritual gives a sense that beers should be appreciated to the same degree as fine wines. That it too has discernable characteristics, and a depth of flavours and aroma beyond bitter & yeasty.
Having completed the wonderful roasted pork dish, with its equally nice matching beer, I’d felt that this was the height of the evenings meal. That this was as good as it was going to get.
How oh-so-wrong I was…
Garlic & rosemary Angus pure T-Bone steak served tagliata style with a side of roasted potatoes cooked with duck fat, paired with a Knapstein Reserve Ale, was by far and away one of the most noteworthy and memorable preparations of steak and potatoes I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Not just that evening. I mean ever. As great as the previous pork dish was, by comparison it seemed little more than something to keep the mouth occupied and the hunger sated until this dish was served.
The steak was cooked to a wonderful medium; flavourful, juicy & perfectly seasoned. The duck fat roasted potatoes were prepared just right. A little crispy on the outside. Soft and fluffy on the inside. The duck fat adding a sublime richness to the potatoes without being greasy. This is a dish I will certainly look to have when I am next at the MuMu Grill. Note, not if. When. It’s that good.
As we proceed through our beer education (or re-education, depending on your point of view), there are a few key lessons to be learned. For instance, that by drinking the beer straight out of the bottle, you are only able to taste about 10% of what the beer has to offer. The beer needs to be poured into a glass in order to be truly appreciated for its flavour. It doesn’t specifically have to be a wine glass, though beers such as the Hefeweiser benefit from being served in a sparkling wine glass due to their high degree of carbonation.
If dishes had feelings, I’d feel sorry for the beer braised cuttlefish, & chorizo salad, paired with a Red Emperor Amber Ale. This South East Asian/Spanish fusion salad did not fare well as the dish that followed immediately after the seriously impressive tagliata. Partly because of how good the previous dish was. Partly due to the fact that it was a lighter dish that would have likely had been better appreciated if it was served a few places sooner.
Having said that, the cuttlefish was braised long enough to be tender to the bite. The chorizo brought with it a wonderful spicy/smokey note, whilst the predominately cabbage-based salad served not only as a textural contrast but also as a medium to cut through the richness of the chorizo.
We end this fabulous dining experience with a dessert of a sour cherry chocolate tart served with a hazelnut gelato. This is paired with a Moo Brew Dark Ale, something that I’m hesitant to refer to as a dessert beer. It’s not a dessert beer in the same sense that a wine may be classified as a dessert wine due to its sweetness. It’s more due to its aromatic characteristics and flavours, which are predominately of chocolate and cherry. Complementary flavours to the dessert itself.
It may seem counter intuitive to have beer with dessert but in this case it works.
The tart itself is nice, & the hazelnut gelato works well with the hazelnuts scattered within the tart. There’s no “oh my god this is so good!” moment. Then again, there was nothing that I disliked about it either.
All in all, this was a fabulous dining experience. It wasn’t just about enjoying a great meal. It was also the education about, and the appreciation for, a series of fine beers. That there is more to beer than bitterness, yeasty notes and a buzz. That it could have such depth, and could be appreciated to a similar degree as fine wines. That being a beer snob isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
From time to time, the MuMu Grill, in conjunction with Beer Snobs, will be holding these beer appreciation dinners. Check out the Events section of the MuMu Grill website to see when the next session will be held.
70-76 Alexander St
Crows Nest NSW 2065
(02) 9460 6877
0410 071 454
0410 071 018
the heart of food dined courtesty of Craig MacIndoe and the MuMu Grill.
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