It’s no secret that people choose their wines to complement their food, but it’s still pretty rare to find someone who can confidently match food with beer.
So when I was invited to the Royal Oak in Twickenham last week to learn the basics, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
I’ve spent a good few Saturday afternoons in Twickenham following a rugby match at the world-class stadium. Usually I’m a few ciders deep and I make terrible choices when it comes to the post-game venue.
There are so many pubs in the area serving identikit cans of Fosters, Kronenburg and Carling, and the occasional bottle of craft beer, if you’re lucky. Essentially there’s nothing to excite the adventurous beer-drinker.
The Royal Oak is a diamond in the rough. Newly kitted out in July 2017, it’s fresh but traditional, with a quite frankly massive beer selection, and its very own ceramic tank containing the freshest beer known to man: Truman’s RAW Lager (a crisp and smooth kölsch style lager).
Tank beer is not a distant cry from the old Truman days where historically the brewer’s biggest customers would install ceramic tanks in their cellars to ensure they would never run out of fresh flavoursome beer.
Truman’s RAW lager is delivered from the conditioning tanks at the brewery in Hackney Wick direct to the specially engineered tank in the pub. RAW Lager is unpasteurised and unfiltered which means the beer is still ‘alive’ and continues to mature and develop further flavour in the pub’s tanks. Too delicious.
We started our three-course feast with this very beer, paired with Hendrick’s gin cured salmon (above, with the slice of lemon). The salmon was actually the best I’ve ever tasted – so fresh and with hints of dill and mustard, and the Trumans RAW cut through it perfectly.
We were also treated to sharing plates of chicken livers, smoked lardons and sourdough toast, served with Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, a pale ale with a citrusy finish to take the richness out of the meat.
Our final pairing in the starter selection was watercress risotto, pea shoots and plenty of parmesan with Truman’s Swift, a gently hoppy golden ale that bounced off the tongue. I shamelessly finished the last mouthfuls of risotto and salmon whilst hoping no one would notice. They did.
Next up was the main course, sadly only one choice each this time (although served with two beers – result!). I chose the roast sea bream, chorizo hash and asparagus, served with The Kernel Table Beer and Truman’s Pale Ale.
The Kernel was really very good, and Trumans Pale Ale hoppy and zesty. Both were super refreshing with the fish, and they worked with the slight spiciness of the chorizo. Absolute heaven!
Alex opted for the chargrilled lamb Gigot with salsa verde and sauté potatoes, which was served with Beavertown Black Betty Black IPA and another helping of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.
Black Betty was probably my second favourite beer of the night. A black IPA with a almost sweet-like (think Black Jacks and Fruit Salads) finish, it brought out the rich flavour of the lamb perfectly. I am for sure tracking this one down for my red meats in future. Just be careful if you choose this one, as at 7.4%, it’s a little punchy!
My fellow diners were treated to dressed Dorset crab, saffron aioli and fries served with Vedett White and Beavertown Gamma Ray APA, or 10oz bone in sirloin, peppercorn sauce and watercress fries served with Beavertown Black Betty IPA and The Kernel Export India Porter.
All of this grub looked stunning, but sadly I didn’t get to try them. Can’t really steal food off strangers’ plates!
Desserts were almost too good to relive: Warm chocolate and hazelnut brownie, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce served with my favourite beer of the night: Truman’s London Keeper.
I never would have paired stout with chocolate but now I know it’s a thing, I will never order coffee again. I think I’ll be lucky to find another bottle of Truman’s London Keeper 1880 Double Export Stout again though. Only 2,000 were produced and each 750ml bottle has been hand signed and finished in ivory wax.
It was the most eye-opening beer experience of my life. Seriously, if you find this beer you should try it immediately. And then send me a thank-you note.
Our final dish was an Amalfi lemon & raspberry posset and shortbread served with The Kernel Export India Porter. Creamy, citrusy and light pudding with a chocolatey and smooth beer to finish. I am drooling just remembering it.
All of the pairings were created by the supremely talented Stan Perry, the Head Chef for Hippo Inns, and the brilliant beer sommelier Annabelle Smith, who has left me feeling thoroughly inspired to start pairing my own beers with food.
How to do this yourself:
- Head to The Royal Oak in Twickenham or any Hippo Inns pub in London
- Follow my suggestions above or ask the skilled staff to suggest a pairing
Thank you to Hippo Inns and Trumans Brewery for hosting an outstanding event and for stirring in me a love of beer that I never knew I had.