The SAB World of Beer officially launched its monthly beer-pairing events on Thursday 9 July to a curious and, by the end of the evening, delighted audience.
“We’re very excited about this evening," said World of Beer general manager Tony Rubin before the first course was served. "Food and beer pairing has not been extensively explored in South Africa and we are pleased to pilot these events tonight."
The event was attended by invited guests, members of the press and members of the South African Chefs Association.
"South African Breweries (SAB) has been a partner to the chefs for the last 40 years, so we're very proud to be here and to support any initiative that the breweries come up with. And we're looking forward to tasting quality food paired with quality beers," said Stephen Billingham, president of the chefs' association.
The event will be open to the public from the end of August.
SAB trade brewer Anton Erasmus hosted the evening, his knowledge and passion about beer evident in his every utterance and every satiated sip.
"Beer complements food, it doesn’t just supplement it," said Erasmus. "The way we [SAB] process it, we put flavours into our beer that go well with cooked food and there is a complementarity in the grains. Beer goes with food because it is food ... a lot of the preparation is very similar."
Erasmus designed the menu, most of which came to him a few years ago when he started playing with the aromas and flavours of beers and food.
“Where a blind beer tasting might confuse some people, many will clearly be able to differentiate the beers from one another during a pairing," he said.
The evening began with a Castle Lager taster, which Erasmus guided guests through. They slowly appreciated the nose and took a long, considered sip before swallowing. "I bet no one’s ever experienced a Castle like that before," he laughed.
With that the evening's first course was served: a lightly curried butternut soup topped with coriander cream and served with a cheese straw – paired with Peroni Nastro Azzurro. "We simply don't know why these two go so well together," said Erasmus, "but if you taste the soup with the beer almost simultaneously, it just blends."
The second course, hake fillet poached in milk and scented with cumin, covered with a dill yoghurt and micro herbs, was paired with Hansa Pilsener, and was all about "texture [of the food] and about complementing the bone dry texture of the Hansa Pilsener".
The palate cleaner that followed was a cranberry Brutal Fruit granita, paired with Brutal Fruit Cranberry, before the evening's pièce de résistance: peppered springbok fillet carved on to a creamy mashed potato with Cumberland sauce, pearl vegetables and a pancetta crisp, paired with Pilsner Urquell.
"This beer," said Erasmus, speaking of Pilsner Urquell, "epitomises what beers would have been 150 years ago. Beers were full of flavour and were an expected part of the table." In a meal filled with rich and varied flavours, this is a beer capable of outdoing and outlasting every item, he added.
The delectable dessert comprised a rich chocolate brownie with espresso anglaise and vanilla ice cream – paired with Castle Milk Stout, which Erasmus described, quite simply, as a “flavour bomb".
“Stout is the gourmet part of what SAB does but it’s not marketed as such. We’re showing what’s possible.”
In closing, Erasmus said, "Beers are versatile with food. It’s our imaginations that cut possibilities short."
When asked what he thought of the evening at the end of his five-course meal, guest David April from the David April Arts Consultancy said, “It was a symphony of tastes. I didn’t even think that it was possible to do this. So it was an unusually beautiful experience ... This, I would do again – definitely."
Tickets for the World of Beer's beer-pairing events are available on Webtickets.