Disclaimer: I was invited to this invite by one of the organisers as his +1 due to him not being able to get a babysitter for his daughter
I tend to have an “It’s complicated” relationship status with Reds True BBQ since it opened in Manchester in early 2014. It opened during the “Big Eats” and Man vs. Food phenomenon that created other restaurants such as Solita and Almost Famous. I love food (all food) and Reds True BBQ with its sticky BBQ ribs, pulled pork and brisket, burgers, chicken wings and much more of the american smokehouse style grub, is no exception, but; the beer has never wowed me and I’m always fit-to-burst once I’ve finished eating; uncomfortably so. There’s no room for more drinks or a dessert; but just a slow trundle home trying to walk it off.
When I saw the event and subsequent menu for the food and beer pairing I was struck by the dishes first off as they weren’t all straight from the Reds menu and the beers on offer from a brewery I was not so familiar with. I was aware of Matthew Howgate, Head Brewer at Legitimate Industries; from his time at Marble but that was as much as I knew. Now brewing politically-influenced Leeds, most of the beer brewed is already earmarked for restaurants or surprisingly, Italy; hence why I and many others I had asked couldn’t say they’d had any of their beers.
Now, I’m not a food critic; I won’t claim to be; and I’m not going to try to be. What I will say is that I believe a lot of thought and consideration was put into pairing the beer with the food and I will just tell you what I thought. The beers were of a high ABV helping the beer stand up to the rich sauces that were served with the dishes but it was the subtleties of the beer style that complimented the food; not just the style. The first course was a fired haddock loin, delicately grilled and flaky, served with a 10.6% Belgian Quad. The quad was super smooth, fermented at a low temperature so not to create the usual spicy, Belgian characteristics of the style and vanilla from its short time in the barrel added sweetness. The slight smokiness and char worked very well with the smooth, sweet brown booze provided.
I was surprised by the beer chosen for the second course but again, it showed that thought and consideration had gone into the selection and also, what the hell do I know. Connor Murphy, organiser of Manchester Beer Week and my date for the evening, paired Manchester’s Blackjack Brewery’s Deer Hunter Coffee Saison with a dish of brisket and smoked burnt ends. The beer was dry and the coffee was ever so subtle but just enough to give another layer. The flavours of the food and the beer didn’t meld and swirl creating a whole new array of sensations but it broke down the richness of the BBQ sauce allowing the subtle smoke and coffee to compliment each other.
The third course was possibly the most impressive: Smoked duck and a cherry chipotle BBQ sauce. Dark fruit and duck are always a winner in my eyes (or my mouth) and after careful consideration (…and seeing everyone else at it) I picked up the leg in order to get every morsel of rich meat off the bone. The dish was paired with a russian imperial stout aged in Bulleit bourbon barrels of which I am informed this is a first. Again, vanilla from the barrel added sweetness to this rich dark beer and infusing itself with the sweet cherries.
Dessert was fun. Northern Monk’s new Passion Fruit Lassi IPA with a vanilla custard ice cream float. A bitter-sweet concoction as you slurped up the juicy IPA and the smooth ice cream, I started thinking whether this is how I’d drink all my beers from now on. I have since decided against it; but not ruled it out.
Even though I really enjoyed the food and the great beers I still had a gripe All the enjoyment of this one-off event got me thinking why this kind of scenario is not more prevalent; especially with the rise in popularity of craft beer in the mainstream. These types of events are few and far between and the issue with a one-off event is that if you’re busy, you can’t go; if its available for an extended period at least you have an opportunity to attend. There are obviously arguments against it such as staff training, business model and availability of the beer but without someone taking a possible risk we will never know. The beers we enjoyed were served from the keg and so these would retain it’s quality over a bottle of wine opened during last evenings covers. I’m not naive enough to say that beer should be used to replace wine but an alternative would be greatly appreciated.
I posted a poll on Twitter yesterday asking whether the UK beer culture was at this level yet and I believe the results were positive with 69% saying it’s not there yet; but it’s getting there. This positivity, the responses to the tweet and the attendance of these one off events surely prove that their is a market for it; albeit somebody is going to have to take the plunge. As of today; Hispi, Manchester are currently doing a New Beers Resolution menu which is on for the next two weeks with all the beers coming from Manchester’s Alphabet Brew Co. Is this the beginning?
BushCraftBeer discussed this subject during a podcast in March 2016
There a four more of these events taking place in Liverpool, Sheffield, Nottingham and Shoreditch – Tickets available here