It’s a good time to be a brewer. Australians are exploring a greater range of beer styles, with flavour at the forefront of our decisions.
“Even though beer only needs four core ingredients, the fact is that there is a huge amount of expertise and craftsmanship that goes into brewing the perfect beer and you can always see the brewer’s passion carried through to the different styles of beer you see in the market – whether its a crisp light lager or a chocolate porter.”
“We’re spoiled for choice nowadays, but there are a vast amount of beer styles, types and flavours that the majority of people haven’t discovered yet” says Chris Sheehan, head brewer at Malt Shovel Brewery based in Camperdown, New South Wales.
As a seasonsed brewer with over a decade of breweing some of Austraila’s favourite beers, Chris now heads up the James Squire and Malt Shovel Brewers ranges, and is just as passionate about beer now as when he first started.
However, Chris still has a few bugbears.
“Beer isn’t viewed with the esteem it deserves in dining, and that personally breaks my heart, especially in the fine dining environment,” he says.
“In top restaurants you usually see a fantastic, comprehensive and carefully curated wine list, but we don’t see that same attention given to beer, which in most cases, tends to be an afterthought.”
Chris says this is despite the fact that beer is often a superior match with food to wine.
“The versatility and affinity of malt, hops and yeast with food and the role of bitterness, carbonation and caramelisation – is something that wine just can’t compete with”.
Chris says Asian food is certainly beer’s domain. Whereas the higher alcohol content in wine tends to accentuate the spiciness of cuisines such as Thai and Indian, beer has the opposite effect.
“The bitterness in beer physically dissolves the heat forming compound, the capsaicin. That’s why when you travel Asia, you rarely see people drinking wine at the table. It’s almost always beer,” he says.
“Next time you have a Thai stir fry that’s heavy on the chilli, try it with an ice cold lager that offers some decent bitterness. Or if you’re eating a subcontinental style curry, they have a bit more body in them, so you could probably step up in bitterness and try an India Pale Ale there.”
“My palate needs a bit of warming up. I always start with something approachable like a pale ale or a lager, before I step into any of the more complex flavoured beers, from which there are so many to choose from, to suit different occasions.”
Among his other favourite food and beer pairings are dark beers with desserts. The roasty, chocolate and coffee characters of the beer match fantastically well with chocolate-based, or even fruit-based desserts.
“People rarely expect to see beer at the meal table. Think James Squire Porter or Tooheys Old with chocolate mud cake, or a rich chocolate mousse. Don’t believe me – try it!”.
“I think that a bottle of beer can sit alongside a bottle of wine on the dinner table,” he says.
“And people shouldn’t be afraid to share their bottle of beer, even if it’s only a small bottle. There’s nothing wrong with having half a glass.”
Chris also wants to see sommeliers making the right types of glassware available for each beer style, just as they would with wine. And better attention to ensuring freshness in the beers they have on their list.
“Having a good choice of beers is great but if they aren’t managing it properly, the stock might get old, and you generally want to drink most beer styles as fresh as possible,” he says.
But dining isn’t the only arena where Sheehan would like to see beer considered differently.
“There’s a bit of a misconception, or a myth that beers are laden with sugar,” he says.
“In actual fact, most of the sugar is fermented into alcohol as part of the brewing process, leaving relatively very low amounts of sugar in the final brew.”
Another myth he’d like to bust is that all beer contains added preservatives, which is not true and also unnecessary because of the role hops play in beer.
“Hops provide bitterness, as well as aroma and flavour, but what they were originally intended to do was maintain the shelf life of beer,” he says.
“Hops are bacteria static and microbes don’t like them at all. So hops have the effect of being a natural preservative – they act to safeguard the integrity of the beer from microbe spoilage, leaving the beers fresher for longer.”
Chris hopes knowing what is in beer will give people fresh insight into appreciating just how great beer can be.
We are passionate about beer and want to share this passion by telling you more about what’s in our beers. Because the truth is a wonderful thing. Head to www.beerthebeautifultruth.com and discover our range of beers and styles as well as how you can start pairing them perfectly with your next meal.