Ensemble Tap’s bier pairing dinner for April was with Phillips Brewing, with 4 new dishes design b y the Ensemble Tap chefs specifically to pair with 4 Phillips biers.
The first bier served was Phillips Slipstream Cream Ale.
The accompanying dish was a Potato Consommé with white cheddar potato dumplings & leeks.
The bier is clear brown with a small pale head. The aroma is caramel, maple, brown sugar. It has a slightly creamy mouthfeel, somewhat thin palate, well carbonated, malty with a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste. The flavours are burnt sugar and malt. This bier doesn’t have a lot of character.
The potato consommé was tasty, and had some good savoury & umami elements.
Pairing wise, what flavour the beer does have is mostly lost to the lingering flavour of the food. The food mellowed out the bitterness in the bier’s aftertaste but the bier doesn’t really show up any new character, pretty much seeming like a mellow and vaguely malty brew.
The second bier of the evening was Phillips Hoperation Triple Cross IPA, which is described as a Belgian IPA.
The accompanying dish was Crispy Sweet Breads with roasted cauliflower, parsley and sauce gribiche.
The bier is golden with a small pale head. The aroma is apricot, caramel, citrus and a hint of fresh cut grass. The taste is orange marmalade, peach, pine. It is reasonably thin on the palate with a crisp bitter hoppy finish. I feel the hops dominate a little too much – there isn’t much of a Belgian character to back it up. I can detect some subtle aspects of a Belgian Tripel but they are too low-key.
The crispy sweet breads dish had a good range of flavours and it was an enjoyable dish. The gribiche was the highlight, providing a tasty tang.
Pairing wise, the food mellows the bitterness a little and brings the other aspects of the hops, forward, with a little background fruitiness.
The third bier of the evening was Phillips Amnesiac Double IPA, whose description reads “Mind blowing amounts of hops give this beer tons of flavour and aroma”.
This was paired with Braised Pork Cheeks with roasted apples, celeriac noodles, apple cider gastric.
The bier is a clear amber with a decent pale head that leaves behind some nice lacing. The aroma is heavy on the hops – pine, spruce. It has a slightly creamy mouthfeel and lots of hops on the palate. The taste is pine, spruce, pineapple, grass.
The food had a mouth-watering aroma. The pork was extremely tender – fell apart on the fork – sweet and tasty with good caramelization. The roasted apples and celeriac noodles accompanied the pork nicely.
The pairing was quite good – the sweet and tart elements of the food mellowed out the bitterness of the hops.
The forth bier of the evening was Phillips Ginger Beer.
The Ginger Beer was paired with a dessert of Panna Cotta with apricot purée, candied ginger, ginger beer marinated apricots.
The Ginger Beer is a clear pale amber with a small pale head. The aroma is all ginger. It is light on the palate with some ginger bite, especially at the back of the throat. The taste is ginger with a slight mineral/vegetal aftertaste. A little harsh but that’s kind of normal for ginger beer.
The Panna Cotta looked a little like boiled eggs (in fact out waitress joked that she was serving us “deconstructed devilled eggs”). It turned out to be very tasty though. There was a good apricot zing with a slight ginger tang and a good amount of sweetness.
This was probably the best pairing of the evening, with a good zing from both the beer and the food.
After the dinner, Phillips provided a bonus bier - Phillips Double-barrel Scotch Ale. This is a scotch ale that has been aged in Bourbon barrels and the Cabernet Sauvignon barrels.
This pours a clear rusty brown with a small pale head. The aroma is caramel, wood, toffee. It is a little thin on the palate with a short, slightly dry finish. Taste is toffee, wood.
The Phillips guy mentioned that this years is a little different to last years – in my opinion this is a change for the worse. This year’s has a lot less character, missing any of the nice maltiness or complexity that was present previously.
To summarize, for me this pairing dinner was more about the food than the bier. With perhaps the exception of the Ginger Beer, the biers seemed more aimed towards casual session drinking than being the kind of biers that you’d choose to have with a good meal. The chefs did a good job of trying to match the foods to the biers, but I feel that the biers didn’t really bring much to the table.