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South Africans are experiencing a beer revolution, with an explosion of different styles and tastes available on the market. For gourmands, this presents an exciting new opportunity to experiment and elevate food and beer pairings to new heights.

On 01 June 2018, SAB World of Beer, the five-star tourism attraction in Newtown, Johannesburg, hosted a fine-dining evening complete with a five-course menu paired with a range of beers – to promote our passion for beer and put beer back on the table where it belongs.

“We wanted to showcase the versatility of our establishment and setup a ‘long table’ – with all the bells and whistles - in the brewhouse among the mashtuns, which is part of the beer tour,” said Felicia Mokoena, general manager of SAB World of Beer.

Anton Erasmus, South African Breweries (SAB) Trade Brewer, was on hand to guide the guests through the pairing - drawing attention to the mouthfeel, flavour and aroma of each different beer, and how these elements enhance the flavours and textures of food (and visa versa).

“With hundreds of malted barley varieties, yeast strains and hops, beer has many different flavour characteristics thanks to its varied ingredients and production processes. This enables beer to pair beautifully with a wide variety of food – from sweet desserts to hot spicy dishes, depending on the beer style,” said Erasmus.

“Beer and food are the perfect marriage – because beer IS food.”

To kickstart the evening, Erasmus showcased the country’s best-selling beer – Carling Black Label – taking guests through the characteristics of the beer – being a full-bodied lager, full of flavour, low bitterness and a fruity aroma.

“Our global company, AB InBev, was astonished by the quality of our South African (and African) beers, so much so that they have no desire to change a single one of them,” said Erasmus. “Carling Black Label has won 24 global championships, so we already knew our beers surpass global standards – something we are very proud of at SAB.”     

Thereafter the menu began with a juniper and beetroot infused Machadodorp Salmon Trout and a light, creamy Bacalhau Mousse, delicately dome-smoked with votive bitter orange and topped with a lemon thyme and citrus zest gremolata – paired with Corona Extra.

Juniper and beetroot infused Machadodorp Salmon Trout, which was paired with Corona Extra

Juniper and beetroot infused Machadodorp Salmon Trout, which was paired with Corona Extra

“Brewed in Mexico – the country’s second biggest liquid export to oil – Corona Extra is a fresh pilsner style lager that is low in bitterness, and its easy drinking is associated with sunsets on the beach. The premium beer is only ever served straight from the bottle with a lime because it is a ‘must-do’ ritual to put in an extra ‘zestiness’ flavour. Corona Extra pairs exceptionally well with seafood thanks to the affiliated fresh lemon/lime tang, which is why it complemented the lemon thyme and citrus zest gremolata in the Salmon Trout dish.”

Next up, a bowl of the finest gossamer Ramen Noodles with shredded poultry sautéed Morogo and poached quail egg accompanied with a hot broth, served with as selection of flavour-enhancing condiments – roasted coconut slivers, fresh coriander minced garlic, hint of ginger, chilli, roasted onion flakes, fresh lemon grass and crispy Nori ribbons. Paired with Newlands Spring Brewery Co. Passionate Blonde.  

Ramen Noodles with shredded poultry paired with Newlands Spring Brewery Co. Passionate Blonde

Ramen Noodles with shredded poultry paired with Newlands Spring Brewery Co. Passionate Blonde

“Brewed with fresh Newlands Spring water and SAB’s unique home-grown Southern Passion hops, Newlands Spring Brewery Co. Passionate Blonde, is a Belgian style pilsner with a soft malt biscuit sweetness and dry, fruity finish. Due to the fruitiness of the hops, the beer pairs well with the sambals of a curry while the maltiness helps it stand up to the complexity of the dish.”

A palate-cleansing Brutal Fruit Litchee Granita was a simple yet delicious pause before the Dégustation menu continued.

Brutal Fruit Litchee Granita

Brutal Fruit Litchee Granita

“Made with real fruit juice, Brutal Fruit Litchee is the perfect interlude between the first two courses and the last two, because the taste and texture are not like any of the other dishes. It cleanses the palate because the lychee flavour is new to the taste-buds coupled with the crushed ice that has a cold and course mouthfeel.” 

The fourth course, a trio of blue cheeses: profiteroles filled with a blue cheese mousse laid on a rich Cumberland sauce; date and Walnut rolled blue cheese spheres; salad verrine of Belgian endive, blue cheese, shallots, and wild rocket; and blue cheese spring roll with a sweet chilli and pear dipping sauce – paired with Stella Artois.

Trio of blue cheeses which was paired with Stella Artois

Trio of blue cheeses which was paired with Stella Artois

“Another international brand, Stella Artois was originally brewed as a speciality Christmas beer in 1926 and is served in its recognisable chalice glass with a gold trim. It is malt accentuated with a super soft and super creamy mouthfeel – which pairs perfectly with creamy food dishes as well as seafood. It is also able to stand up to bold and robust food like the blue cheese in this dish.”

No fine-dining experience would be complete without a chocolate course and to end the evening off, a verrine of rich Bavarian chocolate and cherry layered Gateau was served. Enclosed with a chocolate covered corn shard topped with a macaroon, complimented with Lindt 80% chocolate ganache sauce, spiced with a hint of Aztec chilli – paired with a duo of stouts: Castle Milk Stout and Castle Milk Stout Chocolate Infused.

Chocolate course paired with Castle Milk Stout and Castle Milk Stout Chocolate Infused

Chocolate course paired with Castle Milk Stout and Castle Milk Stout Chocolate Infused

“Brewed with choice barley grain that is slowly roasted to produce the rich and dark Castle Milk Stout, it is full-flavoured, smooth and rich, designed to ‘savour the moment’ and sip slowly. Not only does the beer pair well with rich meat (like oxtail and lamb shank), but it also pairs beautifully with chocolate, toffee and caramel puddings – because it accentuates these flavours found in both the beer and the dish.”

“Because chocolate pairs well with chocolate, some prefer to accompany their dessert with a Castle Milk Stout Chocolate Infused beer, which is reminiscent of coffee laced with chocolate liqueur and has bittersweet hints around the edges.”

“The coffee, toffee and mocha flavours found in both these beers are tailor-made for chocolate desserts. The richness of the Lindt and Aztech Chilli sauce calls for nothing less than a substantial dessert beer.”

The gourmet menu was well received and stimulated much discussion about what makes the beer great and how the food paired, can help elevate the experience,” said Tshepo Tloubatla, Beer Culture Manager for SAB and AB InBev Africa.

It was clear to see how adaptable and versatile beer is when it comes to matching with food, and many of the insights and information that the guests picked up on the night can be applied at home around the dinner table.

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