Beer and Food Pairing with Red Onion Restaurant

I am a firm believer that beer pairs with food just as well, if not better, than wine. There are so many different beer styles, with a vast range of flavours that can compliment all kinds of dishes from sweet to savoury. Thankfully I’m not alone in this thinking and John Quigley from Red Onion Restaurant also agrees. John has had an incredible life in food, starting off as a chef in a London restaurant to becoming a private chef to the stars including Tina Turner and Bryan Adams and the incredible Guns n Roses, where he learnt to cater to all sorts of weird and wonderful dietary requirements. He now owns Red Onion restaurant in Glasgow, just up from the city centre on West Campbell Street. He specialises in catering for all dietary requirements – he has a full menu for vegan and gluten-free guests as well as the regular menu, featuring classics like steak and bang bang chicken. Last weekend, he was doing a Facebook live cook-a-long for Glasgow Pantry, sharing the recipes for on those very two dishes and invited me along via Zoom to share my thoughts on what beers would work best to accompany them both.

Bang Bang Chicken

This is a firm favourite in the restaurant – a light, spicy and zingy salad with a peanut dressing and fresh lime and mint. On hearing what goes into making Bang Bang chicken, I immediately thought of lager, in particular, a Pilsner. I chose Merchant City Brewing‘s Pilsner because not only are they a Glasgow-based brewery and I wanted to keep it local, but their Pilsner is a fantastic example of the style. It’s very light, with quite a lot of lemon coming through in the aroma which would help to amplify the citrus in the salad. The bitterness cuts through the creamy peanut dressing to sharpen the flavours and it’s extremely refreshing to help cool your mouth from the chilli heat.

My second option was for those who maybe aren’t quite beer converts yet, or are craving a cocktail but can’t be bothered with the faff of making them at home. Mojito Sour is from another Glasgow brewery, Ride Brewing. This is brewed with lime zest in the boil and mint and lime is added at the end. The result is pretty much exactly like drinking a mojito! I was a little worried it was just going to taste like just another fruity sour, but was delighted when the focus really was getting that mojito taste, with only a slightly sour note. Mint, lime….I needn’t really say more on why this worked so well with the Bang Bang.

Steak with Creamed Spinach and Sauté Potatoes

Steak and red wine are a match made in heaven. But you can pair beer with red wine too! The rich flavours you associate with red wine – dark fruits, a tannin bitterness and a little sweetness, can all be found in beer, albeit from different raw ingredients. I’ve looked at two beer styles depending on what kind of wine you like.

Those who like a deep, rich and smooth red like a Cab Suav, could try a stout or porter. You’d be best getting one with no adjuncts that will alter the tatse. Porters tend to be slightly sweeter and less bitter than stouts so depending on your preference, you could pick either. I chose Elemental by Tempest which is a lovely, decadent porter with loads of dry, rich and dark fruits with a slight bitter chocolate aftertaste. The bold flavours really stand up to the steak and the dryness provides a nice contrast to the creamed spinach and potatoes.

Alternatively, if you prefer a spicier red with lighter fruits (like a Merlot maybe?! My wine knowledge is very limited…), then a rye beer is for you. I LOVE this Red Rye by Barney’s in Edinburgh. Rye gives a lovely, spicy, peppercorn note and it has a rich, almost umami, meaty depth of flavour. This combined with lighter fruits and a slight sweetness results in a whirlwind of flavour captured in this unassuming beer.

You can watch the full cook-a-long here

Fallen Brewing – Big Raspberry Dog Chew

Fallen Brewing

Big Raspberry Dog Chew

10%

I’m gonna throw it out there that Chew Chew by Fallen was one of my favourite Scottish beers…until now. The mouthfeel on this is viscous yet there’s a slight carbonation which lifts the heaviness. It’s dark, rich, sweet and delicious, like a dark chocolate and raspberry ganache. I may have mentioned I love imperial stouts, and this is no exception. I feel very proud to be Scottish when we’re producing beers like this!

Wylam/Flying Couch/Simply Hops – What the Water Wanted

Wylam/Flying Couch/Simply Hops

What the Water Wanted

6%

This is a beautiful balance of citrus and tropical fruits with bitterness and a resiny pine note just at the end. Oats and wheat are used in addition to barley and lactose has been added too to give a lovely, viscous, almost creamy texture. This is a perfect grown up orange juice. Helps that it’s so hazy that it could pass just on looks too.

To Øl – Tropical Rumble

To Øl

Tropical Rumble

4.3%

A beautiful beer on a beautiful day! Tropical Rumble by To Øl is a session IPA with passionfruit, peach and mango. This isn’t as juicy as some of the tropical style beers I’ve had lately but I like it nonetheless. It’s still got a considerable amount of bitterness so remains firmly in the beer rather than fruit cocktail category. It’s got a nice little sour tartness to it which lifts the bitterness. A lovely thirst quencher on a sunny day.

Burnt Mill – Ties that Bine

Burnt Mill

Ties that Bine

8.2%

A delicious exploration of hops by Burnt Mill Brewery in collab with Simply Hops. El Dorado, Ella, Hallertau, Comet and Bru-1 combining together to give a beautiful fruit smoothie of a beer. Peaches, passionfruits, mangoes and oranges. All my favourite fruits with a sprinkle of bitterness and a tiny bit of sweetness coming through from the malt. Summer in a can.

Lokapolly – Galaxy Mosaic IPA

Loka Polly

Galaxy Mosaic IPA

6.5%

Loka Polly are the new kids on the block and I’ve been dying to try their beers! This is a really interestingly flavoured beer – big, bold hops held together with a very viscous mouthfeel coming from the wheat and oats. It reminds me of papaya; not overly tropical but creamy in texture. This creaminess really balances the bitterness and the whole beer is lifted with a little orange kick at the end. An added bonus is the look and texture of the label – this will definitely be getting used as a vase for some bright tulips!

Beavertown – Heavy Water with Raspberries, Cacao & Vanilla

Beavertown

Heavy Water with Raspberries, cacao and vanilla

10.4%

There’s no denying Beavertown cans look amazing and their beers are pretty solid too but this time, they’ve absolutely blown it out the park. I’m always a bit dubious when a beer sounds too good to be true but this ticks all the boxes. An initial sour and fruity hit from the raspberries developing into sweet vanilla then rounded off with bitter, roasted notes and that kind of ashy flavour I love in an imperial. Brilliant.

Brooklyn Brewery – Black Chocolate Stout

Brooklyn Brewery

Black Chocolate Stout

10% ABV

My dad first introduced me to Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout years ago, and since then I’ve been hooked on imperials. It was my favourite beer for a long time and drinking it tonight is bringing back such fond memories. It’s a truly sensational beer packed with so many different flavours, all balanced beautifully. Bitter chocolate and coffee, dark berries, treacle, vanilla and almost a hint of smoke or spice.

Natural Selection 2017 Launch

Four Heriot-Watt masters students will be launching Natural Selection Brewing’s most recent creation, Common Ancestor, at OX184 on Cowgate, Edinburgh, on Thursday 29 June. The launch night will feature guest speaker Roger Protz. This collaborative project, now in its seventh year, is between selected MSc Brewing and Distilling students at the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling and Stewart Brewing. These students are tasked with the challenge to trial beer recipes, brand their own product, brew 5000 litres of their chosen creation and sell it across the UK. The name, Natural Selection Brewing, stems from the project’s evolutionary developments which take place each academic year, with the new students adding their own creativity and innovative ideas to drive the project in a different direction.

This year’s beer, called Common Ancestor, is a 5.2% ABV California Common. The style originates from California in the 19th Century, where lager strains of yeast were fermented at higher than normal temperatures due to a lack of viable temperature control options.

Common Ancestor

Patrick Smith, Project Marketer, describes the beer as “an effervescent ale/lager hybrid, with caramel, citrus and pine notes, thanks to a liberal dosing of Dr. Rudi and Chinook hops. A slight hint of juniper complements this nicely. Our beer has evolved from the traditional California Common style to be fit for modern day consumption”.

Mark Ritchie, Head Brewer for the project, said “A California Common, being relatively unexplored by the craft beer scene, gave us a lot of scope to play around with and add our own twists. It’s a slightly unusual, but still very drinkable style”.

“We wanted to show that lagers can be exciting” adds Philip Sisson, Project Coordinator, “We’ve used a lot of citrusy hops during the end of the boil and fermentation to maximize flavour and aroma. The small addition of juniper also brings an extra dimension to the beer. It should be readily enjoyable by both craft beer enthusiasts, as well as traditional cask drinkers”.  

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The style works well in both cask and keg format and will be distributed across Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Newcastle and London in both these formats, as well as bottles.

The beer’s launch night at Cowgate’s OX184 is open to the public to allow people the very first taste of Common Ancestor. Two types of ticket are available for purchase at the Stewart Brewing website. A £12.50 ticket includes a talk with guest speaker and beer journalist, Roger Protz, as well as an intimate evolution tasting of how this year’s beer has developed (doors 6.00pm for 6.30pm talk). Alternatively, a £7.50 ticket provides admission at 7.30pm. Both tickets include one pint of Common Ancestor, a commemorative glass and bar snacks. Keg, cask and bottle formats will be available, as well as access to Natural Selection Brewing’s limited edition sherry barrel-aged Belgian Quadrupel, Aged Ancestor. There will be a raffle in aid of Marie Curie on the night, with various beer-related prizes, including an evolution gift box of each of this year’s trial brews.

Keep up to date with the team at:

Website: http://www.naturalselectionbrewing.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NaturalSelectionBrewing

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NatrlSelectBrew/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/naturalselectionbrewing/