Friday 20 August 2010


The backstage secret is that not all of them work. Yesterday was a good FABPOW! but just last weekend I had a double failure.

Cauliflower cheese is one of my favourite meals (it’s a meal in my house, not just a stodgy, soggy side dish), so it makes sense that I’d want to find a good beer to go with it. Earthy, almost-bitter cauliflower baked in a cheese Jacuzzi of a sauce, a few leeks for sweetness, spiked with mustard and cayenne pepper for oomph and covered with grated cheddar to be browned under a grill leaving charred edges; it’s spoon food, deeply comforting and warming. I often have sausages with it, too, because my mum says that a meal isn’t complete without meat and I was taught to listen to my mum because she always knows best.

But what beer? I wanted to try a couple, one sweet and one bitter. I went with a Westvleteren 8 (oooh, look at me) and a Thornbridge Halcyon (it had been in the fridge for ages, winking at me every time I went in there). The thinking was that the raisin sweetness and earthy, dry finish in the Westvleteren would complement the cheese while finding an affinity with the cauliflower (plus cheese and raisin is a great combo and I love cauliflower and raisins together in a curry). The Halcyon was to see how the fruity bitterness worked given that the cheese (which had an unmissable apricot sweetness to match that of the beer) often works well with highly-hopped beers. The result? The Westvleteren was almost there but not quite and something towards the end seemed to fizzle out and crash rather. The Halcyon’s fruitness was spot-on but the bitterness steam-rolled and flattened everything else.

Failure is good – it helps to see what doesn’t work and why. Try and try again, and all that. After eating it I read a tweet from Adrian suggesting oatmeal stout and suddenly the flashing neon light bulb in my mind’s tastebud flicked on to OBVIOUSLY. Next time I know what I’ll be drinking when eating cauliflower cheese.

The question is: What recent food and beer combos have you had which you thought would work but just didn’t?

Another failed attempt was this Haggis Shit Storm, which was so catastrophically bad that I had to write about it. Image from here.


  1. I had some Meantime Coffee Porter with dark chocolate the other day. You'd think that would be a given, but the beer was just so fizzy, light and limp that the chocolate ran riot over it. Terrible.

  2. Oatmeal stout? I don't think that's obvious at all. I wouldn't have thought of that combination in a million years.

  3. Dude, it's no biggie, really! For every food/beer match I publish, there is one that remained at the dinner table. HoOwever - there's a lot to be said for trial and error!

  4. Finely grate a generous layer of parmesan cheese on top of anything that you want to brown under a grill.

    It works better than cheddar, and parmesan has a very high natural occurrence of umami (simulated as Monosodium Glutamate) thus making it a superb flavour enhancer.