The 1-litre plastic bottle of Kocour Višňový Ležák had been in the fridge since I returned from Prague over a month ago. I picked it up from the bottle shop attached to Zly Casy, one of the coolest beer bars in town, because I couldn’t resist it: a litre plastic bottle, bold branding and sour cherries. It hadn’t been drunk yet because I couldn’t decide when to open it, or if I wanted to share it, or what to eat with it. After a long week at work I needed a big glass of beer, opening the fridge I saw the giant bottle and the yellow label shone like a beam of sunlight on a grey October Friday.
I opened the bottle before I started to cook dinner. In order to get to the point of cooking I’d walked around Waitrose for half an hour with an empty basket intermittently picking things up and putting them back again, eventually settling on venison burgers, burger rolls and mustard, plus some bacon because there was going to be leftover rolls and it was more sensible to spend £3 on bacon than throw away 40p worth of rolls, naturally.
The beer is 4.7% and has sour cherry essence added. It pours a deep amber, edging towards conker red. The aroma is immediately cherries, like candy but not so sweet, a little floral like blossom. It’s smooth and crisp, the dark malts give toast and a little chocolate, which develops throughout; the cherry is fruity but not sharp, fragrant and floral but never over the top; cocoa comes through and mixes with the cherry in a great way, like a pre-mixed version of sweet kriek and dark chocolate, only in a way that’s subtle enough to make you work for it and jump for olfactory joy when you get it.
The burgers were simple: meat, slightly-toasted rolls, onions caramelised with chilli, ketchup (to one I also added gherkins, tomato and burger mustard but it was too much – the simple one worked best). With the beer it was perfection. Venison is often paired with cherries or chocolate so having a beer which gave both was fantastic, adding a touch of sweetness to the meat, while also being robust enough with the darker malts to handle the charred edges of the burger, with the sweet and spicy onions pulling it together like a group hug and the fragrant hops acting like a refresh button after each mouthful.
This was an impromptu food and beer match discovered through indecision and a little serendipity. Beer and burgers are universally great, no matter what the burger or the beer, but sometimes they can power beyond great and they can become FABPOWs.