Susan Nowak serves up ideas on how to match
a delicious variety of beers to complementary bread styles
It's no wonder that beer and bread have such an affinity - in fact, I often refer to beer as 'liquid bread' - because they have so much in common, both in their ingredients and in their making.
Both contain yeast, grain and water. And both involve fermentation of the yeast; in the case of beer, creating little bubbles of gas in the liquor, in bread, the bubbles make the dough rise and the loaf light (or "levened").
It is an association reaching far back into history. The ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for a meal translates as "beer and bread". For centuries, brewer's yeast was used to make bread until a more refined baker's yeast evolved, giving better results.
Real ale and real bread have something
else in common, too. Both are hands-on, artisan products requiring time and expertise - the opposite of keg beer and factory-baked white sliced.
So is it any wonder that bread on the plate makes such a grand companion to beer in the glass? And that a ploughman's and a pint are natural partners?
But today's vast choice of different bread types mirroring all the different beer styles is an opportunity for exciting snack and beer combinations. So use your loaf to revolutionise the bap and the butty...
Baking with beer
l If it works in a supermarket it will work in your pub - the smell of baking bread. Some pub chefs now make their own speciality breads, but even if you use a bread-making machine or just finish off part-baked loaves, the aroma is irresistible.
l Make beer bread. Just replace all or half the water with beer - golden ale or wheat beer
for a white loaf, porter or brown ale for
l Match bread to beers for an innovative take on sarnies. Dark malt loaves are delicious with dark Scottish malty ales; light wheat breads with sparkling wheat beers; oat breads with oat stouts.
l Sourdough bread is the closest you can get
to eating beer; imbibe that yeasty smell;
taste the brewhouse. Serve American-style with salt beef accompanied by Anchor Steam Beer.
l Team foreign bread styles with appropriate beers - ciabatta with Peroni or Moretti, dark rye with Russian Baltika, French pain rustique with a bière de garde like Jenlain; serve as
a tasting platter with the beer included in
l Make it a sharing experience - a giant French stick layered to contain lots of different fillings arriving with a jug of draught ale. Ready-made flavoured breads for tearing and sharing are good, too.
l Scoop most of the bread out of a small cottage loaf (use to make coating crumbs), replace top, crisp in the oven and fill with chilli; serve with iced lager.
l Make a boozy bread-and-butter pudding using a sweet malt loaf, the dried fruit steeped in barley wine or spicy winter ale; serve with cherry beer.
l Use walnut bread as the base for Welsh
rarebit, mixing the cheese topping with a few drops of an India Pale Ale such as Worthington White Shield.
And remember, both the wheat and hop
harvests are approaching, so hold your own Harvest Festival of real bread and real ale.
Give a prize for the best beer loaf made by
The Campaign for Real Ale's Annual Champion Beers of Britain were matched with British foods at the Great British Beer Festival.
The winners' food matches were:
Gold: Hobsons Mild, Hobsons brewery, Shropshire. A classic mild. Complex layers of taste come from roasted malts that predominate and give lots of flavour.
Camra senior marketing manager Georgina Rudman says: "Make things easy by treating yourself to a sausage from the Ludlow Sausage Company, which through its sausage trail delivers Hobsons' beers with its free-range meat."
Silver: Maldon Gold, Mighty Oak brewery, Essex. This golden ale has a floral aroma and hints of lemon peel. Earthier hop tones are off-set by vanilla.
"You can't beat a dozen oysters washed down with Maldon Gold, or try using oysters in recipes that use local produce." See www.maldonoyster.com
Bronze: Ripper, Green Jack brewery, Suffolk. This light-coloured beer with sweet notes has a strong hoppy flavour.
"This beer deserves an equally-robust partner, so why not introduce it to the creamy, blue-veined Suffolk Blue." See www.suffolkcheese.co.uk