Last month our area was on a national stage in the beer world. Norwich welcomed the Great British Beer Festival to St Andrews Hall. Along side this ran the Fringe festival in the local pubs and a Beer & Fine Dining Experience at the Maids Head Hotel.
This fine dining experience was an opportunity to match some of our local old and new breweries with an award-winning chef (Magic) from the Maids Head Hotel, locally sourced food and myself to devise a complementary menu.
The night started with an Aperitif from the Ampersand Brewery. Farmhand, this is a light spritzy beer that hides its 7% abv yet refreshes the palette.
Following this the starter of either, Roast Norfolk chicken & duck terrine, apricot & ginger chutney, toast brioche or Stilton & pickled pear salad, roast hazelnuts was paired with Panther, Mild. This was a very good match with the sweet malts bringing out the duck and could stand up to the salty Stilton. The pears, apricot and ginger brought out the soft fruit notes in the beer.
The main course beers were something of a special, with the launch of a new beer from Humpty Dumpty (Norfolk Broads Brewing), ‘Maid In Norfolk’ a wheat beer with ginger and orange that I helped to brew with Lesley George. The start of their project to celebrate local women in beer.
Maid in Norfolk was served alongside Elmtrees’, Snetterton Scary Tree, a well-balanced style of bitter enabling the diners to compare and contrast how 2 very different beers can enhance subtle elements of the dishes they accompanied. These were, Crispy braised pork shoulder, pomme Anna, sauté savoy cabbage, roasted apple, mustard sauce or the vegetarian option of, Roasted sweet potato & feta cake, buttered baby spinach, radish & fennel salad, tomato sauce.
I tend to think that desserts are my forte, maybe because I love stronger beers. Here though Magic had set a challenge with 2 beautiful dishes that had distinct flavour profiles, Stem ginger pudding, clotted cream ice cream, poached pineapple, toffee sauce, compared with, Frozen Chocolate Parfait, Vanilla Ice Cream, Blackberry, Honeycomb, Orange Puree, Crumb.
This course needed 2 very different beers, and the rich chocolate malt notes of Boudicca, Prasto’s Porter brought out different elements from both dishes. Imagine the marriages of vanilla, orange and toffee with soft bittering chocolate. Whereas the sweet honey notes of Beestons, Magnificent Men a Barley wine, lifted the ginger and pineapple yet balanced the dark rich chocolate.
Here you would normally end a meal with either a brandy or port, not on this occasion, Printers Ink from All Day Brewing served the purpose of a digestive. Its rich mouthfeel that coated the palette is then lifted by the remaining bittering hops to make you think of warm cosy fires.
On top of the great food and beers supplied by the Chef and Brewers, the service was without fault, attention being paid to every detail by the staff at the Maids Head Hotel. I will be dining there again very soon. We may even do a repeat performance of the fine dining experience.