Beer boosters must stand up and be counted

10 August 2007
Beer boosters must stand up and be counted

Beer writer and marketing consultant Pete Brown urges chefs to do more to promote the national drink as an accompaniment to fine food

Last month Michel Roux Jnr won the prestigious Beer Drinker of the Year award at the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Club's annual dinner. Apart from the fact that, as runner-up, this writer was beaten in a beer drinking competition by a "Frenchman", this is great news.

Roux won the award for introducing beer lists into restaurants such as Le Gavroche and Aubergine. Last year, wine writer Jancis Robinson tried the tasting menu at Le Gavroche and preferred the beer match to the wine recommendation for four out of the six dishes.

Within the drinks industry, it feels like people have been banging on about beer and food matching for years. As one of those who does the banging on, it can often feel like you're talking to a brick wall.

We've been conditioned for generations to think of wine as what you're "supposed" to drink with food. We know that different wines match different foods, even if we're just labouring under the misapprehension that it's red with meat and white with fish. And we think of beer as too inflexible to be able to do this - because when we think "beer", we think "pint of lager".

I've found that the only way to convince people that beer is at least equal, if not better, as a match with food, offering far more variety than wine can, is not to tell them but to show them - in the few restaurants that serve decent beer lists, or even in my home. And I have never failed to get people to reconsider beer - not even people who start the evening saying they "don't like" beer.

More and more drinking occasions involve food, and this is why wine is eating away at beer's share. Yet when people get a really great beer match, they are simply delighted and amazed by what they've discovered - and how good is it to be able to do that for someone? To transform a meal into a truly special and memorable experience.

So it's fantastic that Michel Roux was recognised. What we need now are mainstream celebrity chefs, some of whom enjoy speciality beers at home, to nail their colours to the mast and help popularise our (and their) national drink.

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