All images by Robin Goldsmith
Marston's and 26 Grains collaborate on food and beer pairings
In the previous article on these pages, I wrote about a press trip to Norfolk to learn about the relationship between Marston's and Holkham Estate and how the North Norfolk terroir is ideally suited to the production of malting barley, such as the Flagon winter variety used in some of Marston's beers. Enjoying a range of brews with food specially made for the occasion, it was evident how high-quality ingredients, including malting grains, can impart an array of flavours ideal for matching with many dishes. The beers sampled included some from the Midland brewery's innovative new nano-brewery, DE14, located within their main site and named after their Burton postcode, which allows brewers to experiment with different cereal grains to produce a series of small batch cask ales.
Brewer Adam Fletcher believes that these beers can "develop in complexity with time in bottle, gaining carbonation and mouthfeel" and that the ingredients used deliver carefully considered and balanced flavours "without too many dominant notes". Additionally, the pioneering home brewer club hosted by Marston's has been such a success leading to one beer, Morgan Silk Grapefruit New England IPA, being brewed at DE14 and then sold at the Utoxeter beer festival and in local Burton and East Midland pubs. With limited production, nano-breweries offer realistic opportunities to take risks, reflecting the avant-garde nature of both modern homebrewers and the craft brewing phenomenon. Marston's is at the forefront of this trend and their ever-changing DE14 range is testament to their willingness to try new flavour combinations.
A couple of weeks after the Holkham press trip, Marston's held another event, showcasing the versatility of their DE14 cask ales with a selection of canapés at 26 Grains in London. Born out of an exciting collaboration with Alex Hely-Hutchinson, owner and ingredients supremo at this wonderful Scandinavian-inspired Covent Garden café that specialises in porridge, the following pairings were served:-
DE14 Freekeh and Pomegranate Molasses 'Mediterranean' Pale Ale with Labneh, Dukkah, Hazelnut and Honey
The sweetness in this delicious beer matched the honey in the dish, but the richness of the Labneh cheese would perhaps have benefited from an extra citric tang to cut through the creamy mouthfeel.
DE14 Smoked Wheat and Honey Smoked Ale with Roasted Pumpkin, Barley, Goats Curd, Almond and Chervil
The earthy, nutty and smoky flavours in the dish beautifully complemented the smoky character of this ale, while the soft, honey notes married perfectly with the goats curd and almonds.
DE14 Liquorice Rye Beer with Mackerel and Pickled Beetroot on Dark Rye Bread
The complex toast and spice flavours in this rye beer paired extremely well with the tangy, dark rye bread, while the fruity hop notes balanced the sweet and sour nature of the pickled beetroot with fish. A hint of milky coffee and chocolate on the finish, due to the use of chocolate malt in the brew, added a further softening touch to complement the nutty richness and sweetness of the dish.
DE14 Oats & Fig Leaves Hazed Pale Ale with Almond and Dark Chocolate Florentines
The smooth, creamy character of the oats and the herbal, coconut notes of the fig leaves combined harmoniously, producing a very moreish brew! The beer softened the spice and tangy fruit flavours of the Florentines, although I found the dark chocolate and ginger of these delicious biscuits slightly overpowered the beer's subtle character.
Adam Fletcher, Marston's brewer (left) and Alex Hely-Hutchison of 26 Grains (right)
These combinations and the others discussed in my previous article show how versatile beer can be for food matching, but it's also clear how it's not just hops that deliver characterful flavour to a brew. The choice of grain and particularly the quality of malted barley are essential components in the organoleptic profile of a beer and the sourcing of these ingredients plays a vital role in the brewery's vision.
This is the second of two articles on Marston's ingredient-focused approach to modern brewing.