It’s 180 years since Mr Young and Mr Bainbridge bought the Ram Brewery in Wandsworth and began the noble process of transforming barley, hops, yeast and water in to beer. Young’s
may have since swapped South West London for the provincial delights of Bedford, but across the capital the brewery’s pubs have been celebrating the company’s birthday with cakes, ale and special events designed to thank the public for staying so very, very thirsty. One such event was the Ladies Ale Night at The Orange Tree
on the 21st September. Hosted by Melissa Cole
, it was a tutored tasting designed to convince ladies that beer is a) nice and b) goes with food. I’m already thoroughly on board with the idea that beer is nice and goes with food, but an invitation to an evening of free booze is not one I’m going to turn down.
Beer 2 with whitebait
We began with a glass of Camden Hells Lager by Camden Town Brewery
, which Melissa explained is called Hells because it’s based on the German helles
style of lager – a light-coloured beer that originated in Munich. Citrussy and spritzy, it’s incredibly easy to swallow and put me in mind of summer picnics. The first beer and food match was Young’s London Gold
with a scotch egg. A sweet bread of a beer, the London Gold was transformed by a bite of the bar snack into something much more savoury and green. The beer also cut through the fat and sharpened up the egg’s richness. Separate they were sweet and lardy, together they cleaned up each other’s flavours and suddenly seemed much more elegant than a beer and scotch egg ever has the right to be.
Beer 3 with mac and cheese
The second combination was Greenwich Meantime Pale Ale
with deep-fried whitebait. Drinking Meantime Pale Ale is like inhaling a sweetshop. Fruity and rich, it trickles pineapple cubes, sticks of rock and perfumed Turkish delight down your throat. After a mouthful of oily, salty fish the sweetness is transformed into a refreshing, straw-like sharpness that sweeps across your tongue, cleansing your palate and removing the fear of fishy breath. It was my favourite combination of the evening. Next was Brooklyn Lager
with mac ‘n’ cheese. I love the heft of Brooklyn Lager, the orange peel, bread crusts and pub carpets smell and the chunky weight of the flavours. But when the mac ‘n’ cheese piled in, all lactic cream and mustard crunch, the lager went on an instant diet. It lost some of its solidity and became lighter and grassier. The perfect example of slamming two strong flavours together to get something more delicate out at the end.
Beer 4 Sliders
The final savoury match of the night was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
with sliders. This beer is, according to Melissa, an homage to the British
brewing industry, which probably explains its whiff of gentlemen’s clubs and marmalade. Until now all the beers had lost some of their sweetness when swallowed after a mouthful of food. But up against the farmyard flavours of the sliders, the Sierra Nevada seemed to become more aromatic and flowery – the candied peel notes ringing out stronger and more clearly against the blood and the beef.
Beer 5 Cherry Roly Poly
Next was the only pink beer of the night, Greenwich Meantime Raspberry Wheat Beer
. You can’t see in the rather dark picture, but it was a very pretty shade of blush. And like all fruit beers, it smelled of sick. The sort of sick that piles up after a gang of eight-year-olds have gorged themselves on jelly, ice cream, Party Rings and musical bumps. It tasted like cherryade. Melissa had paired it with the pub’s cherry roly poly, a jam-filled suet duvet I wouldn’t mind snuggling down into on a regular basis. To the pudding’s credit, it made the beer significantly more palatable. It stripped out the cloying sweetness and gave the drink back some of its dignity. My second favourite combination of the evening, just because it was so transformative.
Beer 6 Chocolate Cake
We finished the night with a slab of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout cake and a glass of Anchor Steam
. Another gorgeous American craft beer, it stood up to the cake and took on some of the dark chocolate flavours. My final note of the night just reads ‘lovely’ and is underlined twice, although this emphatic positivity may be down to drinking seven different types of beer. It’s not often I spend the night in the pub and come away with my brain better stocked than when I went in. But thanks to Melissa’s talk, I’m now well versed in the ways of beer and more convinced than ever that a nice pint is as good an accompaniment to dinner as a glass of wine.