Here’s a favourite of mine. A quick, bite-sized combination that might get you thinking next time you’re in the kitchen. I love a burger, from the hastily grabbed Big Mac that’s eaten on the train home, to the pseudo-sophisticated diner experience at places like Draft House and Byron; I love ‘em. They strip away pretence and deliver meat, veg and sauce all in an edible packaging that you can hold in your hands. What more could you ask for?
Now, many will say that when you’re eating a burger you need to be drinking an American IPA. And, there’s no doubting that that is indeed a great combination. But for me there’s something else that works equally well. You need to sear that burger hard and fast, you need to get it onto a smoking hot griddle and you need to force some black onto the outside. By all means turn the heat down and cook it through afterwards, but that flame-grilling or heavy-searing is what makes all the difference. It’s that colour that can build a bridge to the beer in your glass; the smoky, burnt, near-acrid flavour you impart on the meat can be mirrored by the flavour that heavily kilned special malts bring to beer styles like porter and stout. I’m talking chocolate malt, roast barley, black and brown malt. And once that bridge has been built and crossed, you’re in a land where natives include caramel and toffee, to compliment the natural sweetness of good meat, and spiky bitterness that will freshen and liven your palate.
Go with loads of fresh mayonnaise and try something slightly wild and sour like Harveys Porter, the acidity serving as a foil for the oiliness in the food. Or flip it around and try a flabby but delicious oatmeal stout like Sam Smiths alongside a burger piled high with slices of zingy gherkin*. And if you really can’t get past that IPA, then why not try a hoppy stout like Sierra Nevada or Kernel 1890 with curry-powder-spiked tomato ketchup; the beer beckoning that spice over, one finger raised and a shout of “wot you lookin at!”.
Food and beer pairings will always divide opinion, what’s fun is to take a basic, bite-sized concept and play around with it until you strike gold.
* Ok, so that one's a little more out there.