Keeping it real … Real Ale
Eat the brewer… I know what you are thinking and no this isn’t a title of an episode of The Walking Dead! This was the name of the first beer and food pairing event at The Other Room in Bermondsey.
The Other Room is a small beer bar which is kind of in the middle of Borough and Bermondsey tube stations. The front of the building reminds me of an old London greasy spoon or a pie & mash shop, big windows with a bright mint green paint job. The inside of the beer bar is far from those of an old pie & mash shop, brick walls covered in loads of framed oil paintings, five four-seater booths, stall seating area at the front of the bar, a bar fully stocked with six great keg taps and a beer fridge with an incredible selection of English Craft Beer. Busy walking up and down the middle of the bar greeting new customers and chatting to those enjoying a beer is Thomas, the superb manager. Table service, focus on food and a warm small environment gives The Other Room a real continental beer bar feel. The beer taps are a rotating showcase of excellent Craft Beer, usually with beers from Fourpure and other Bermondsey breweries, but also one Nitro tap which gave me a chance to try Siren’s Broken Dreams Breakfast Stout on Nitro for the first time, which was amazing.
The agenda for the evening was Eat The Brewer with Anspach & Hobday, an evening showcasing five beers from the local Bermondsey brewery all paired with incredible food being cooked up in The Other Room kitchen. This concept really excited me, I hold my hands up and admit that beer and food pairing is not a strong point for me, my knowledge not being much more than great beer goes brilliantly late at night with greasy food! The set up was far from that, my first glance at the menu just increased my excitement for the dishes. Once everyone arrived we started the evening, Thomas first introducing the food and then the guys from Anspach & Hobday talking us through the beer.
Salad dish: Cucumber with apple and cream cheese with some dill on the top paired with Anspach & Hobday Cream Ale 5.2%
The first sample of food served was a delicate little piece of cucumber which had been carved into a celery stick shape, on top of that was some apple and cream cheese with dill scattered across the top. As soon as I saw this was paired with Anspach & Hobday Cream Ale I knew that it would work. Beers that feature Sorachi Ace hops always seem to split opinions, I love them but I know people who have never liked a single beer that has been brewed using them. There are a few different flavours people use to describe Sorachi Ace but for me I always feel it has a dill and coconut flavour, which is why I knew it would work perfectly with this dish. The cucumber cut right though the beer and it was interesting how well the cucumber paired with it, and made me aware that actually you can find cucumber flavours from Sorachi Ace. Anspach & Hobday explained how they brewed the beer with corn, which gives the beer an easy to drink lager-esque feel to it, in America cream ales are referred to as lawnmower beers due to this easy drinkability. Both the dish and beer would work brilliantly as a palate cleaner, which like cucumber would work well with difference cheeses.
Fish dish: Lemon sole with a chili purée and some cress paired with Anspach & Hobday Session IPA 4.8%
Lovely soft salted sole, really fresh with chilli and cress. It was interesting how the cress, which would usually just be seen as a decoration, took control of the dish and really enhanced the citrus flavours of the Session IPA. The beer danced around the chilli flavours, first taking the edge of the heat then letting the full chilli flavour hit you as you finished the beer. I would love this as a main dish on a nice hot summers day. Two dishes in and I am already blown away by the flavours of the chef’s creations.
Meat dish: Hay home-smoked pork with caramelized cabbage purée and pan-fried kale paired with Anspach & Hobday The Smoked Brown 6%
Dish of the night! You can tell when something tastes great, the room goes silent and all you can hear is the chewing of food against the sound of cutlery working away on the plate. This is what happened when the meat dish was served, pure silence other than the occasional moan of delight! Throughout the day the pork had been smoked using hay, the sauce was a reduction of pork stock, Siren Broken Dreams and red wine. Joining the pork was caramelized cabbage with two leafs of kale on top of it all. It was beautiful, the smokiness of the beer enhanced the smoked pork and added that smoky edge to the sauce. Once we had all finished the guys from Anspach & Hobday explained the brewing process and how it originated from Bamberg Germany, Thomas followed this up by saying when pairing beers to food sometimes it is best to pair the beer with the sauce not the meat and this was really important with this dish. It was easy to see that this dish was the favourite among the room.
Cuter dish: Lemon, lime and herbs granite and the chef’s homemade biscuit paired with Anspach & Hobday The Sour Dry Hop 4.9%
After the richness of the previous dish we needed something to refresh our palates and this dish delivered. The sour beer added all this extra citrus flavours to the already refreshingly citrus granite. Real lemon screw face going on from the citrus sour beer cutting through the citrus food but with a subtle finish from the rosemary. I think the sour beer split the room a bit, as most sour beers do, it seemed everyone enjoyed the lemon and lime granite but not so much the sour beer. However, I did overhear someone say that they felt it was the best food and beer pairing of the evening. I guess sour beers will continue to split the crowds.
Desert dish: chocolate cake topped with a coffee ganache paired with Anspach & Hobday The Stout Porter 8.5%
This dish was pure chocolate delight. I’m not the biggest of dessert people, I would usually opt for a cheese board if available but even I loved the super level of rich gooey chocolateness and gorgeous coffee aftertaste, so much so when I was offered a second I snatched it with happy hands! Rich gooey chocolate on top of soft fluffy cake coin. Interestingly with the previous courses the beer complimented the food but the cake complimented the beer, changing the taste of the beer slightly. The beer had a slight bitter finish and you could feel the ABV but the smooth chocolate eliminated those bitter edges and made it a much rounder mouthful.
I felt the whole evening was a huge success, the beers tasted great and were well thought about when pairing with the food. If I was to be a bit greedy I would say I could have eaten more of some of the dishes, but it was incredible tasting food which would be without doubt fancier than what I might usually eat. My favourite dish was the pork, it was up there with one of the best meals I have ever eaten. However, my favourite food and beer pairing was the chocolate cake and The Stout Porter because of how much the dessert changed the drinking experience of the beer.
I really enjoyed the night, I loved the interaction between the brewers and Thomas, both giving great talks during the meals. I really recommend travelling to The Other Room, even if it is just for a beer or two but if you have time then you must try their food. Thomas explained that they do not have a set menu, they like to keep things fresh and exciting. The quality of the food I had on this evening gives me full confidence that whatever they pick to put on their menu it will be excellent, even if I would love them to feature the pork dish full time! The passion from Thomas shone around the room and there hasn’t been many people who has been a fine a host as he was. I’m looking forward to future events, the next Eat The Brewer is with Mondo Brewing Co on Wednesday 20th April, see this link for more details and follow The Other Room on twitter for any future events. I left feeling inspired and full of enthusiasm thanks to the extremely good food and friendliness of a perfect host, The Other Room is one to seek out.
I would like to thank Thomas for inviting me down for the evening. Although the evening was complimentary I don’t think this effected my views on the evening.