Thursday 30 July 2009

FAB POW! Orval and Paella

The call of the flowery superhero returns and FAB POW! is here as the antidote to non-believing beer drinkers who think that a pint of Kingfisher and a chicken balti is the furthest stretch of the imagination when it comes to having a beer with dinner. To them I say, eat this!

It took me a while to ‘get’ Orval. The first few bottles, spread over a few fledgling beer drinker years, did nothing for me, perhaps being too esoteric, perhaps just being out of my ‘5% dark ale’ comfort zone. Then, on a hot day, I poured myself one and sat in the garden with a book and all of a sudden it was entirely clear to me. It’s elegant and light but it’s mysterious and intriguing. It’s the swathe of opaque orange, the simplicity of the malt, the mouth-filling body; then it’s the big peppery hops, that bitterness and then that burst of brett with its almost-impossible-to-describe, ever-evolving lift.

And it’s an almost perfect food beer. It’s got the spritzy tart finish, it’s got boozy strength to stand up to big flavours, it’s got a savoury peppery quality and it’s got palate-sweeping fizz. Fish, check. Cheese, check. Salads, check. Battered cod and chips, check. Curry, check. Hell, I reckon it’d probably even be awesome with the king of dinners: sausage, chips and beans.

This Food and Beer Pairing of the Week! is Orval and paella. For me paella is a ray of sunshine. It’s a memory of the summer, of a sea-breeze, of sitting outside in Barcelona by the water side, the smell of cooking, of the sea, of the warm air, the feeling of warm skin, of a beer or two already drunk, of being chilled out. I cook paella when I want to recreate that feeling; it’s a burst of summer warmth. And why Orval? Why not just some Spanish cerveza? San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Estrella Damm? Well, paella is salty and rich and fishy and it comes with lemons to cut some acidity through it, but why use lemons when you can use a beer to do that job? The just-sharp finish of Orval picks up everything, glides through it and rounds it all off, while that hop bite matches the chorizo and loves the fish and rice. Add to this the primal, summer breeze-like aroma of the beer and it’s a totally awesome match. And what could be more summery than that? Forgo the lager on this one, pour the beer into a fancy glass and enjoy.


  1. Orval is great with risotto's, had it with peas and broad beans straight from the garden a couple of weeks ago. Paella and Orval I would imagine to be excellent, one for this weekend... if the sun comes out!

  2. I love a good paella, but I think I'm still at the getting-to-know-you stage with the Orval. Might slip a couple of bottles into the basket next time I'm in Tesco, see what transpires.