Beer at the table: it is still not the most natural thing in the world, but you increasingly find tastings where various beers are combined with various dishes. The possibilities are endless. For each beer is a dish and vice versa – often more. A great tasting evening was recently held at “In de Wildeman” where an Indonesian rice table was accompanied by six beers. A great tasting event? It was downright super!
Elaine Olsthoorn and Esther Bruijn (they make up catering duo ‘Keet = Kool’ and ‘man’ the bar In de Wildeman) were our hosts. They did it before, bringing the Indonesian cuisine and beer together – this feat was repeated to put the bar’s new beer list to extra luster. Esther cooked the dishes and Elaine chose the beers. She picked two beer styles (Saison and India Pale Ale) to accompany the dishes. A brave choice: combine spicy dishes with hoppy beers and intensity is amplified, which for some people may be too much. The safe choice (spicy dishes with wheat beer, Dortmunder or Amber Ale) warrants the malt component to absorb and partly neutralize the ‘heat’ of peppers. So, this choice was brave and daring but turned out just fine.
The kickoff came with Soto Ayam, a hearty chicken soup paired with Brooklyn ½ Ale. The ½ Ale is a classic Saison with only 3.4% alcohol by volume and has Amarillo and Sorachi Ace hops: both very aromatic and with clear citrus tones. The Soto Ayam was so richly filled that it could use a companion: normally soup with an accompanying drink is like showering with your socks on: you can do it. Yes. You can.
Then came fireworks: lemper with mackerel was served with Meantime Yakima Red Ale. The lemper (roll of sticky rice, usually with meat filling – mackerel is a nice find) was subtly served with sweet and sour sauce, or chili sauce and here lurked the secret. It is precisely the beer’s intense malty flavor component that paired wonderfully with the mackerel and the coconut flavored rice, connected by the sauce. It wasn’t overly spicy but there was ample sambal on the table for those who wanted, but it would have been superfluous here: a high class combination! A perfect pairing: the beer brought flavors from the food forward you did not taste at first, and vice versa. The whole was thus more than the sum of its parts.
The same was with Rendang and Anchor IPA. The fine Anchor IPA is brewed on the West Coast but certainly not a typical ‘in your face’ Westcoast IPA. It leans more toward the classic English IPA, where malt is a more important part of the flavor. That made the combination top notch, and could I have had second servings, I would have.
Two Saisons by Brewery Oersoep – Blanco and En Garde! – accompanied Gado Gado and Babi Roedjak. I frankly think two beers at the same time is too much. In addition I find Blanco to be too fruity and wheaty to combine with these dishes: it makes it all a bit mellow. En Garde! though did achieve a great pair with both the vegetable and pig and released unsuspected taste elements.
The last dish where beer was served was Ayam Rica Rica. Now the chicken is usually roasted, but in this version was stewed with enough chilli sauce – the accompanying Thornbridge Jaipur IPA had no problem to keep things in balance. I personally love the fact that hops and pepper reinforce each other: not that it doubles the heat, but intensity is increased. Eventually, you have the rice, if desired, to serve as ‘extinguisher’.
The dessert had no beer – a pity, it would have been possible – and that was because the ladies shamelessly promoted their mango liqueur. Indonesian cupcakes (cupcakes with mixed spices for spekkoek, yet another great find) with coconut ice cream, homemade mango syrup and liqueur Mango Madness. The latter was announced as Mango Mania but it does not matter, it’s not beer. We came away with a lot of new insights and inspiration….