Friday, 18 January 2013

Now, we all know that chefs occasionally need to employ a touch of artistic licence - Fuller's Tenants Extra January 2013

Now, we all know that chefs occasionally need to employ a touch of artistic licence. After all, ‘ground and spiced beef, lightly grilled and served with a rarebit topping on a freshly-baked ciabatta base” sounds a lot more interesting than a ‘cheeseburger’.
As we’re celebrating all things cheesy in this issue of Tenant’s Extra,  I thought it was worth sharing the explanation  given to me by a well-known chef as to why beer is a much better match with cheese than wine.

Apparently, it’s all to do with the fact that, on a molecular level, cheese and beer are very similar. Cheese is made from milk produced by cows, as well as other ruminants such as goats and sheep, which feed on grass. The primary ingredient of beer is wheat which is, basically, just domesticated grass - so the two complement each other perfectly
Now, I’ve no idea whether that’s true or not. We’d both had several beers at the time he explained it to me, but he definitely sounded convincing. It’s also hard to disagree that a nutty, mature cheddar or a creamy stilton, accompanied by a pint of best bitter, is one of life’s more uplifting experiences, and certainly beats a cube of cheese served up with a lukewarm chardonnay.

A few years ago, I also became involved in one of the great Cheese Mysteries of the Ages – the origin of the Ploughman’s Lunch. The BBC was looking into the origins of the staple of pub menus, and asked me to do some research.

Although there are some historical references, notably in Sir Walters Scott’s memoirs, and clearly   ploughmen have always eaten lunch, sadly there is no evidence of it having been a cheese-based dish prior to the 1960s. The Ploughman’s as we know it appears to have been invented as a marketing ploy by the amusingly-named British Cheese Board.

I’m delighted to report that the Cheese Board is still in business, and  its website at  has some excellent information on cheese and beer matching  for pubs looking to pep up their pairing skills beer. Beer writer Melissa Cole suggests a series of specific matches on the site, including Fuller’s Golden Pride with extra mature cheddar – “a classic pairing of two great British institutions”.

The Cheese Board site also features some general guidelines on pairing cheese and beer from beer sommelier Nigel Sadler:

  • Pair delicate beers with young, fresh cheeses
  • Pair malty beers with nutty, aged cheeses
  • Pair highly hopped, bitter beers with tart, sharp cheeses, especially Farmhouse cheddars
  • Pair strong, sweet beers with blue cheeses
  • Pair fruit/spiced beers with fruit cheeses.
And  to finish, my favourite cheesy song: I’m a sucker for a bit of operatic rock, so it has to be ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ by Meatloaf. Altogether now: “The sirens are screaming and the fires are howling way down in the valley tonight…” Sheer poetry 

This 'Kitchen Porter' column appears in the January 2013 issue of Fuller's Tenants Extra

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