Saturday, 22 October 2011

Beer Degustation at the Durham Arms, Kingston

Beer degustation?  Sounds interesting, I thought when I was invited to lunch to celebrate my little brother’s birthday recently. 
I was surprised to learn that the Durham Arms pub in Kingston was the venue (fondly known as the “Dirty Durham” and a renowned Canberra weekend watering hole).  It turns out the Durham is a bit sophisticated these days, putting on special events once every few months which are worth keeping an eye out for on their web site.
So how do you match beer and food?  What I learned was that what goes for food and wine also goes for food and beer– subtle flavours go best with light-flavoured beer; strong flavours go best with full-bodied beer. 
For this particular event, beers from the Little Creatures Brewery in Western Australia and White Rabbit Brewery in Victoria were showcased with some simple but lovely food – six courses and six beers in total.  The Durham was pretty well packed to capacity, with around 100 people gathered for the event.  A couple of the brewers from the White Rabbit Brewery were there to talk to the group, introducing the beers as we went through the different courses. 
I absolutely love degustation meals because you can try so many dishes.  The six-course menu was carefully planned to bring the best out of six different beers.  Here’s what we had.

Course 1:  Cheese soufflé with rocket and hazelnuts, paired with Little Creatures Pilsner
The gentle flavour of the cheese soufflé, complete with a rich and creamy cheese sauce, was really set off by the very light-flavoured beer.  The toasted hazelnuts were delicious with this dish.
Course 2:  Moroccan lamb cutlet with pumpkin mash, paired with White Rabbit White Ale
The tasty cumin-spiced lamb was complemented by the almost herby ale. The beer’s tasting notes say there are hints of coriander, juniper berry and orange peel flavours from the brewing process.  I loved the sweet and crunchy, ruby red pomegranate seeds that came with this dish.
Course 3:  Chargrilled prawns marinated in lime and herbs, paired with Little Creatures Pale Ale
The delicious prawns went beautifully with this clean flavoured beer with hints of citrus.
Course 4:  Roast beef with roast potatoes, tomatoes and beans, paired with White Rabbit Dark Ale
The stronger flavours started coming out with the beef.  This traditional dish was gorgeous paired with the full-bodied ale.
Course 5:  Mango tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream and toasted coconut, paired with Little Creatures Pipsqueak Cider
The apple cider had just the right balance between sweet and dry – a real palate cleanser.  The crisp, clean flavour of the cider went beautifully with the sweet fruity dessert and rich ice cream.  This one was my favourite.
Course 6:  Cheese platter paired with Little Creatures Rogers Ale
The beer was interesting – I could really taste coffee.  The tasting notes say roasted hazelnuts, toffee and caramel malt.  The very strong flavour went well with the cheese platter, although not my favourite.

Top left: Key ingredients for beer making - four types of barley and some malt pellets (the green ones in the middle, which looked and smelled a bit like rabbit food!)
Top right: Beers (left to right) Little Creatures Pilsner, White Rabbit White Ale, Little Creatures Pale Ale
Bottom right: Beers (left to right): White Rabbit Dark Ale, Little Creatures Pipsqueak Cider, Little Creatures Rogers Ale

I was really impressed with the Durham kitchen.  They were very accommodating to Mr D., who has serious fish and nut allergies, making him his own special versions of the dishes so he could it enjoy the lunch as much as everyone else.  We made sure we gave them plenty of notice about it when we booked and they were great.

We’ll definitely look out for future Durham food events as a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.  Of course, the nice thing about going out for a huge boozy lunch on a Sunday is being able to go home to snooze on the couch for the rest of the afternoon, which is exactly what I did. J

So tell me, what’s your favourite beer and food combination?

The Durham Arms
Green Square, Kingston  ACT
The advertised cost of the degustation lunch event was $59 per person.

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