Sunday 19 June 2011

FABPOW! The Search for the Best Beer for Sausage, Chips and Beans

Two weeks ago I asked an important question on the back of many failed attempts to find the answer for myself: what is the perfect beer for sausage, chips and beans? This weekend I made it my mission to get the definitive answer by using those responses.

The beers were gathered and I soon realised that I had to call in some assistance, so I invited Mark and Matt over to my sausage party. We started off with seven bottles but this jumped to nine by grabbing two other possible choices from the fridge. I could see from their enthusiasm for all things sausage, chips, beans and beer that they were well up for this, even if it was possibly the most ridiculously geeky thing we’ve ever done: three of us squashed around a small table with three plates of food, nine bottles and nine glasses and an hour talking about sausages.

We had a mix of beers from pale to dark, bitter to fruity to smoky to sour. The sausages were Waitrose gourmet pork (cooked to slightly beyond caramelised...), homemade chips cooked in the oven and seasoned with salt, pepper, a little paprika, a clove of garlic tossed in and a pinch of thyme. The beans were beans.

Anchor Bock was my first sip with a sausage. Smooth, chocolatey and surprisingly light bodied, it works ok and just handles the beans but veers off in different directions at the end and almost crashes.

Monsieur Rock was suggested by Andrew from the Bottle Shop, where I picked up a few of the bottles. He thought it was be a refresher able to lift the heavy flavours off the tongue and I could see where he was coming from. Sadly the beer got lost in everything and didn’t work but it's such a good beer that we finished it off alone after eating.

Bath Barnstormer, with its dark, fruity malt flavours, was nice but the badass beans blew it away and left it a little lifeless.  

I picked the Strong Dark Mild from Kernel and Redemption because I wanted a dark mild and I love Kernel and Redemption. It was probably a little too bitter to work and left the flavours blurry rather than clear.

My fridge is a constant source of Avery Brown Dredge so we grabbed one of them and I’ve never tasted a beer that works so perfect with a meaty, herby sausage. It was amazing. The almost-savoury bitterness means it’s made for meat, herbs and garlic. However, it is not made for baked beans...

Rodenbach was an interesting choice but it totally makes sense if you think of it like a ketchup or HP sauce with a beer-as-condiment match (because I think Rodenbach tastes like tomatoes and vinegar). The first taste got me excited: the beans softened the sourness and the flavour profile works really well, sending it off in an exciting new direction, but between forkfuls of food it doesn’t work so well and, as Matt said, it doesn’t sit with the tone of the meal, which calls for something simpler.

Purity Pure Gold was a late entry, plucked from the fridge in a desire for a pale British beer with British hops, and we’re glad we did grab it as it was excellent. It doesn’t add anything in terms of flavour but it does a great job of clearing the palate and compliments the mouthful. Together the food and beer taste better, and that’s always a good thing.

Rochefort 6 was my choice for a Belgian brune and was also my choice as the best match of the night. It doesn’t do anything special but it’s able to balance everything out perfectly. The simple, dried fruit body, more carbonation than found in the other beers, plus a dry bite of hops in the finish were spot on. Uncomplicated and excellent. Somehow it also made the chips taste more potatoey.

Finally there was Schlenkerla Marzen, which Mark and Matt chose as their top match. Like a sprinkle of MSG it makes the whole thing taste bigger and meatier, complementing the sausage and the beans excellently while adding its own flavour to the overall pairing. It did work superbly well.

All three of us listed Schlenkerla and Purity Pure Gold in our top 3. Matt and I had Rochfort 6 in there and Mark had Rodenbach (for sausage alone Avery Brown Dredge was a winner – if we have somehow created the perfect beer for sausages then I’ll be inordinately proud of that). If we hadn’t been geeky enough already we then spent half an hour discussing the relative merits in depth while we sipped the rest of the beers.

What is interesting in this example is the type of match you want for the dish. Rauchbier was spectacular with sausage, chips and beans but do you want something spectacular with such a simple meal? I don’t. It’s a meal we eat without thinking; a regular meal that doesn’t want beautifying with beer, but one which can benefit from a nice choice, so I want a beer which is equally simple and complimentary to go with it. The extension of this is that the beer should be something you drink before, during and after the dinner – where Rodenbach and Schlenkerla work really well as flavour explosions, I don’t want to drink them (mainly because I don’t really like them) away from the plate.

That’s what pushed Purity Pure Gold forward: it’s a simple beer but a good one. You can open it while sizzling the sausages, sip between mouthfuls and then finish it after you’re done eating. The same with the Rochefort which works before, during and after.

So there we have the definitive selection of the best beers to eat with sausage, chips and beans. My FABPOW would be Rochefort 6. The malt sweetness, the carbonation and the dry hops work amazingly well to compliment and then to cut through the fat and creamy, beany sweetness. If you want something completely different, but completely awesome, then go for Schlenkerla Marzen which is a faceful of meat.


  1. u really need to get a fryer for those chips ;op

  2. Will get some of that Rochefort 6 for my next beer dinner. Sausage, chips and beans is more suited to my level of cooking skills

  3. Makes me re-think the drink for a father's day menu of barbecued ribs and chili. May just have to break into the handful of hoarded Rocheforts.

    Thank you for the continuing research, Mr. Dredge!

  4. Maybe you're looking in the wrong basket? Try cider!

  5. Fun, fun, fun - great post with a great spirit! prior to this, my money would have been on the Schlenkerla!

  6. I am so hungry after reading that. Need a hit of pork and beer immediately.

    Smoked sausage and Schlenkerla is an interesting pairing – the smoky, meaty flavours in both really blend together and you can't tell where the beer ends and the sausage begins...

  7. I'm with Andy - this exercise was pointless considering the quality of those chips.

  8. Andy - Rubbish! Who the hell needs a deep fat fryer?! I'd challenge these chips against anything you could make in a fryer :)

    Rob - Try and let me know what you think!

    Brett - Sounds like an interesting combo and I think it'd work! If you tried it then let me know how it is.

    Zoe - You know what, I've got a bottle of cider in the cupboard and I didn't think to put it in the fridge!! Damn. Next time!

    Leigh - Life's better when you have some fun :)

    Chris - Love that line "you can't tell where the beer ends and the sausage begins..."!

    Anon - I couldn't disagree more. Have you tried the chips I made? No. I'd challenge you to make better chips in a fryer. These may not look golden and perfectly shaped but they are fluffing inside, crisp outside and perfectly seasoned. What more could you want?!

  9. I reckon that kernel mild is probably too hoppy for what I was suggesting! Did you see my follow up post t'other day?

    I guess if barnstormer didn't work my suggestions may not have either.

    Rauhbier goes with most things so that's not a surprise!

  10. You nailed it with the way you split out Rodenbach/Rauch and the Pure Gold. If you want something a bit different to drink with food only, then Rodenbach and Rauch are the way to go. If you just want to get the job done and drink a beer that works well before, during and after then the Pure Gold kills it.

    Anybody that reads this post and tuts needs to take themself less seriously. If you're unashamedly a beer geek then this is the blue print for the perfect night in with a few like minded people. So. Much. Fun! :)

  11. we should have a chip off...thrice cooked chips are the king of chips!

  12. Those sausages are burnt. The best beer to serve with them would be lots, in order to wash away the horrible burnt taste from yer mouths.

  13. Steve - Barnstormer was close but not quite right. It needed more body or richness.

    Andy - Thrice cooked?! I'll still take the extra flavour from oven cooking with lots of seasoning, herbs and garlic!!

    Billy - 1) A little beyond golden brown. So what? I'd sooner that than pink inside.

    2) Not actually burnt. The picture is unflattering.

    3) With 9 beers between 3 of us there wasn't any danger of not having lots of beer...

    4) It's a bit of fun.

  14. Mark - 1)It certainly is a bit of fun when you describe black as "a little beyond golden".

    2) I'd suggest not cooking them in the fire and perhaps cooking them a little more slowly to avoid them being pink in the middle.

    3)Those chips do look a bit wrong as well.

    4) Why am I communicating with numbers

    5) Oven chips are rubbish

    6) Your baked beans look awesome though

    7) Its just a bit of fun

  15. I'm glad that universally we can agree that the beans are fine :)

  16. Rauchbier and Elk Salami really go well together, it goes well with Smith's Bacon fries as well, might even work with the Traditional British Burnt, AKA slightly beyond Golden, barbecue sausage. It's best I think with Black Forest Ham and would probably work with a Smoked ham like a Suffolk or a Shropshire Black.

  17. "I'm glad that universally we can agree that the beans are fine :)"

    Yer chips probably taste better than they look :)

  18. Elk Salami?! There's a new one on me! I haven't explored rauchbier and food too much but I think there are probably some wonderful and weird combinations to be found.

    As for the chips, I will defend them until death!!

  19. yes thrice cooked...par boil, leave to steam dry, fry for a few mins on 140degrees then drain, fry at 180 until chips ever...fact!

  20. The best way of cooking chips I've ever found is to put them in a cold pan and cover them with cold oil. Fire up, and keep the pan over a medium high flame until the chips are ready. They will be the crispest, fluffiest chips you've ever eaten.

    Don't reply telling me that they'll be soggy. I didn't believe it either, but it works.

  21. Mr. D:

    The Rochefort 6 wasn't so great with the BBQ'd pork ribs, which had a dry rub featuring fennel and coriander. The smoke needed something hoppier, which is where Red Rocket from Bear Republic came in to save the day. The deep malt and large dose of hops met everything in the ribs wonderfully. The hops vs. smoke were particularly delicious.

  22. You've done beer-drinking humanity a great service. Thank you for your sacrifices. ;)

    Now for a trip to the beer store...

  23. You invented this whole concept purely to get the phrase 'sausage party' in a blog post. Go on, admit it.

    I will have to send you my friends recipe for homemade baked beans, you'll never eat Heinz again.

  24. Zak - That sounds really interesting!

    Brett - The R6 was too delicate, I guess, especially with the herbs. Red rocket sounds fantastic! The R6 was great with this because it pulled everything together nicely but I can see how lost it'd get in the ribs.

    Evan - Glad to be of some use!

    Mark - I'm so transparent, aren't I?! And do send me the recipe - I want to make beans with rauchbier next.