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.