Food And Beer = F.A.B
There’s no dressing this up — a new relationship is always tricky. When do you meet his friends? Where do you keep your toothbrush? Well, street food and craft beer are finding it tricky to negotiate their new relationship too. Both industries share a culture — a culture that involves an artisanal way of thinking, a scrupulous way of doing, and a passionate way of sharing. BUT perhaps brewers and traders aren’t capitalising on their similarities as much as they should.
We’re not completely barking. Melissa Cole, a legendary beer sommelier who’s certainly no stranger to the place where food and drink meet, agrees with us. ‘Having to go down the road to Marks & Spencer to get a beer because not a single street food stall sold any is something that blew the brains of some of my US guests. And they weren’t alone. I was stunned by the lack of anything available to drink.’
What’s going on then? Why is the potential chemistry being overlooked? ‘A lot of these enterprises are very small businesses running themselves ragged to make ends meet,’ says Melissa. She has a point. But there’s more to it. Ever had that feeling before knocking on the door of a new neighbour? This is like that. ‘It think it all seems a bit daunting,’ she says. ‘But it’s not really; it could just be about choosing one good quality beer that isn’t going to interfere with your offering’s flavour.’
Those traders that get past the sense of apprehension are the ones that are, as they say, ‘smashing it’. A couple of years ago, Pieminister and BrewDog joined forces with the idea, in their own words, of creating ‘a pie full of rich, delicious ingredients, cooked to perfection in some of the best beer available to man.’ The MooDog has since become one of Pieminister’s most popular offerings.
Melissa points out we’ve got plenty more in the way of exceptions. ‘There are some great collaborations going on with street food and beer. You only have to look at Mason & Co. or Camden Town Brewery’s taproom or 40ft’s place in Dalston. But there’s not as much going on as there could be, in my opinion.’ And of course there’s the new British Street Food Pub Takeover, that will soon be putting some of our best traders in our finest drinking establishments.
Having developed Tonkotsu’s matcha beer, Melissa reckons there are a lot more opportunities than people in food and think available. ‘You need to think about subtle flavours that will weave in and out as simple refreshment. Or if you do just one or two things with a common flavour theme, you can probably be a bit more specific with your beer choice – if you’re doing something spicy like the Rib Man, you want something malt-led and soothing for the palate. If you’re doing something meaty, rich, and without much spice – like a burger – you want a US-style pale ale or a session IPA with lots of big citrus hops.’