South Tonbridge WI Beer and Food Pairing

Formed in April 2015 the South Tonbridge Women’s Institute have proved an instant success with a membership in excess of 100 and a waiting list of another 50 keen would be members.

I agreed to give a talk at the November meeting on the joys of Beer and Food Pairing.  The numbers where slightly daunting as my tasting events tend to average 25 to 30 people but with potentially three times this number of people to talk to its lucky I enjoy a challenge!

Now after setting a date next quandary, where on earth could we get our hands on a range of beers for so many people??

Tonbridge is in Kent – the garden of England which as well as being hop growing county has a healthy number of cracking breweries.  Large concerns such as Shepherd Neame and a host of micro breweries so I was determined to find a local brewer to help.  Up step Tonbridge Brewery who were happy to supply us with a range of three beers including their 2015 Green hop Capel Pale.

After lots of emails between branch President Becky, Dave from Tonbridge brewery and me we had arranged delivery and tapping of the beer at the hall.  I should confess initially Dave had thought me capable of tapping the beer but I had to swallow my pride and ask for his help.   Not handy with a mallet I had visions of it all going horribly wrong and me wearing rather than drinking the beer…

So the 10th November arrived and I set off to Tonbridge carrying jugs for dispensing the beer to our huge audience and a few empty plastic milk bottles just in case we had any left overs to give to members to take home.

I arrived to find Dave surrounded by curious WI members as he set up the beer for tapping.   Between us we got the beer ready.  Dave had brought enough Tonbridge Brewery glasses to go around along with bar towels and beers mats.   These he said could be taken home by members – what a great memento!

Dave had also brought along a mini keg of a new beer Tonbridge Brewery had brewed called Winter Solace.   This he explained had never been brewed before and they were keen to get feedback – an exclusive – how exciting!


Tonbridge Brewery’s Dave as he set up the Beer

During a brief introduction to the audience fearing I had my work cut out I asked how many of the audience regularly choose beer if having a drink and how many never choose it.    I discovered to my delight that a lot of the women present did drink beer with very few saying they had never tried it.   Maybe this would be a breeze after all!

We poured the first beer, Blond Ambition 4.2%.  A great thirst quenching blond ale; this was a very popular choice with the WI members many of whom commented that it was refreshing and a great summer beer. I like that they didn’t allow the small fact that it is November to interfere with their enjoyment of Blond Ambition.

We served the Blond Ambition with mini popodoms explaining to the audience that pale ales are great with spicy food as they calm and refresh the palate.

Next we paired the Green Hop Capel Pale with cheddar.

Cheese as you may know can be hard to digest so pairing it with beer makes digestion easier  – like a good chutney but more fun.  But more than this the right beer with cheese is just a natural combination the gods have bestowed upon us.   In bucolic times farmhouse products such as bread, cheese and beer were often made if not by the same person in close proximity and complement each other beautifully.   Despite our sophisticated 21st lifestyle this natural order of things has not changed as far as I’m concerned.


Green Hop Capel Pale

Being a green hop beer Capel Pale had a fabulous fresh hop taste.  Tonbridge Brewery use Pilgrim hops, an early hop which they source from Capel Farm.   Weighing it at 4.5% I really liked Capel Pale.  A nose of grassy, cedar notes with a resinous grassy taste.

The audience were divided with some preferring the Blond Ambition and some favouring the Capel Pale and appreciating the unique quality of green hop beers.

Our third beer of the night was Tonbridge’s Ebony Moon Porter 4.2% which we paired with fudge brownies – heaven!

Ebony moon is a lovely smooth Porter with fruit notes from Bramling Cross hops.  This was received really well with members of the audience commenting that it had never occurred to them to pair cake with beer but yes they loved it!


Tonbridge Brewery’s Ebony Moon Porter; a lovely smooth porter.

Sadly time beat us in the end but after the meeting I invited the WI members to try the new Winter Solace, an offer that was keenly taken up by many.

Winter Solace is inviting red – brown Winter Ale.   Containing Vienna and Chocolate malts with a smidging of Crystal Rye and a blend of spices provided by a mixture of cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg and Orange zest.   These spices and the hops – Pilgrim and Bramling Cross, give an interesting blend of spice and fruit notes.  The finish is one of warming spices and chocolate.  A good winter beer which isn’t at all heavy.

I managed to take some of this home and found the longer it stayed in the glass the richer and smoother it becomes. This would be a fantastic supped from a brandy glass paired with a strong cheddar or stilton.

Huge thanks to the Tonbridge Brewery for all their help and for the souvenirs and thanks to the South Tonbridge WI for inviting me and being such a wonderful enthusiastic audience.



The South Tonbridge WI members keenly taking up the offer to try Tonbridge Brewery’s Winter Solace


Ferrari, Pasta, Chianti, Fabio Cannavaro….When you think of Italy, beer isn’t normally what springs to mind.

A beer revolution has been under way in Italy. Micro breweries have been springing up for around twenty years and the good news is not only is Italian beer great but it’s becoming more accessible here in the UK.

In the past I have enjoyed Italian beer at Ham Holy Burger located on the third floor of John Lewis in Oxford Street. If like me you enjoy burgers, you will love the food at Ham and there is an interesting selection of beers from two breweries, Baladin in the North West of Italy and Birra del Borgo based in Borgorose – a small village between Lazio and the Abruzzo region.

With my burger I had Birra del Borgo’s Keto Reporter which is a great porter made all the more interesting by the addition of tobacco.

It is worth mentioning that owner of Baladin and Italian craft beer pioneer Teo Musso is responsible along with another top Italian beer expert Lerenzo Dabov, nicknamed Kuaska for creating the TeKu glass. The TeKu is shaped to allow the aroma of the beer to hit your nose and the taste to be at it’s optimum.

Opperbacco's 4 Punto 7 served in a TeKu glass

Opperbacco’s 4 Punto 7 served in a TeKu glass

I have also enjoyed Italian beer at the GBBF – see my blog on this year’s GBBF, and I have bought bottles of Italian beer from Beer Boutique in Putney which is a handy fifteen minute stroll from my office.

Now I happen to know that the Italian beers I bought from Beer Boutique are supplied by Beers of Italy, a London based supplier of Italian craft beer set up by Andrea Mancuso.

Eager to promote Italian beer Andrea and his team got together with Italian Beer Sommelier Jacopo Mazzeo and Tozi Restaurant and Bar, in London’s Victoria to hold an Italian beer lunch last week. Having attended this wonderful event I feel obliged to share my findings with you all so that you too can discover the joy of Italian beer.

Italian Beer Sommelier Jacopo Mazzeo introducing Italian beers at Tozi

Italian Beer Sommelier Jacopo Mazzeo introducing Italian beers at Tozi

The featured brewery of the lunch was Opperbacco, a micro brewery in the Abruzzo region of Italy, founded by Luigi Recchiuti, a graduate of Agricultural Science who started off as an enthusiastic home brewer.

Often using locally sourced ingredients such as honey, the Opperbacco range is comprehensive with interesting hybrids and collabs.

We started with a lovely salad of roast fennel, carrots, beans and spelt, along with Calamari paired with Opperbacco’s 4 punto 7. With Simcoe, Columbus, Amarillo, Perle and Saphir
hops this beer although inspired by a German larger Jacopo told us resembles British ale.

With grass notes in the nose and a light malty, grassy taste this was a great beer to start with.

We moved on to Tripping Flowers. Named after a rock band also from the Abruzzo region, Tripping Flowers contains local flowers and honey. Orange in colour, the flowers and honey
are detectable in the nose. This is a fresh tasting beer that manages to combine sweetness with malt. Paired with Crab Ravioli in a creamy tomato and basil sauce Tripping flowers uses it’s petals to slice through the sauce beautifully!

Tripping Flowers paired with Crab Ravioli in a creamy Tomato and basil sauce

Tripping Flowers paired with Crab Ravioli in a creamy Tomato and basil sauce

Next up the Eipiei paired with Aubergine Parmigiana, a satisfying dose of Italian comfort food which the beer complemented. Served as all the beers were in a TeKu glass, Eipiei is bronze with a foamy head, hops hit the nose and the tongue gripped by dry hoppiness.

We then moved on to the Buffalo Ricotta Ravioli with Black Truffle, a wonderful earthy dish served with L’una rossa, an amber beer with coconut and cherry notes. The earthiness of the truffle gave the L’una rossa a slightly sour note and I have to say I preferred the L’una rossa paired with the pork cheeks served with Cavolo Nero and mash that we were treated to next. The fruit notes in the beer complemented the pork beautifully.

L'una rossa, an amber beer with coconut and cherry notes

L’una rossa, an amber beer with coconut and cherry notes

Next came the cheese and oh what a cheese it was! Cow cheese with Barolo grapes. This cheese is dense like cheddar and not at all crumbly. A layer of grapes gives the cheese
amazing subtly fruit notes.

Paired with this amazing cheese was Triplipa. A gold beer with a creamy lacy head and a nose of pear drops and yeast. This pairing worked really well as Triplipa is a slightly sour, dry beer. The carbonation cut through the cheese and left my palate ready for more!

Triplipa and Cow's cheese with Barolo grapes

Triplipa and Cow’s cheese with Barolo grapes

Finally we were treated to a hit of chocolate with a Coffee and Amaretto Bonet. A gorgeous chocolate dessert with a mousse-like consistency. This little piece of chocoholics heaven was paired with my favourite beer of the lunch Dieci e Lode. A dark beer with a mild coffee nose – I knew this was a good sign. Dieci e Lode is a rich warming beer but maintains a lightness. A wonderful beer to sup slowly.

Rich warming Dieci e Lode with a little piece of chocoholics heaven

Rich warming Dieci e Lode with a little piece of chocoholics heaven

The food at Tozi was amazing. Head chef Maurilio Molteni has in the past worked with Antonio Carluccio so I knew it would be good but and every dish we had was wonderful.

All the beers were perfectly at home with the food

All the beers were perfectly at home with the food

All the beers were perfectly at home with the food demonstrating the wonderful flexibility of beer as a companion to food.

Cin cin!