In addition to adoring lots of types of beer, I’m a complete foodie as well. I’m willing to try anything once, perhaps to retaliate against being brought up in a very traditional Yorkshire household. I knew what I was having for my tea every night of the week without fail (note, tea translates as dinner, or supper for more affluent households). Anything that was considered ‘foreign’ was treated with suspicion and never featured on our repertoire of meals. This included most foods which we now take for granted as part of our staple diet. Curry? I didn’t taste it until I was 18. Pasta? Like uncooked pastry, according to my Mum. Garlic? Are you kidding me?
But it was the norm for me. It was only when I left home and escaped the shackles of familiarity that I went on a bit of a culinary journey. Like a kid who has always been denied chocolate or Coca Cola, I went on a food bender. I relished any dish put in front of me. Offal, oysters and octopus. Veal and venison, tripe and tongue. I learned how to pluck a pheasant and skin a rabbit, gut a sea bass and smoke a side of salmon.
It was subjective. I hated some foods which were considered exquisite delicacies, like caviar (felt like eyeballs popping on your tongue), and loved others which were classed working man’s fodder, such as crunchy slices of belly pork.
There is one dish I always return to, one I can cook reasonably competently, and I have my mum to thank for this, despite her reticence to broaden her comestible range: a Sunday dinner of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings. To avoid any confusion here, ‘dinner’ meant it was served at lunch time.
There are lots and lots of beers which go well with roast beef. When a beef joint roasts, the fat caramelises and becomes sweet. It’s called the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavour. Seared steaks, pan-fried dumplings, biscuits, breads, toasted marshmallows, and many other foods, undergo this reaction. Close your eyes and imagine smelling a rib of beef roasting in the oven, and (unless you’re a vegetarian, of course) observe how your taste buds react: you salivate, you anticipate, and you crave that first mouthful.
I want you to keep that thought in your head as I quote a chap called Garrett Oliver, an American brewer and writer. On his first taste of British ale he wrote: “It exploded in layers of flavour – hay, earth, newly mowed grass, orange marmalade, and baking bread. Did I like it? I wasn’t sure. But it was so interesting that I couldn’t stop drinking it. Then my glass was empty”.
Mr Oliver went on to become one of the world’s most respected beer and food writers, as well as a brilliant brewer. (I met him once at Thornbridge brewery, and despite him being middle aged, I acted like a teenager meeting Harry Styles). He went on a beer epiphany, at almost exactly the same time I discovered food.
So this week I want to tell you which beer to try with your Sunday Roast beef because this is far, far better than a goblet of Shiraz or a costly bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Ask for a glass of Purity Pure UBU. It’s a 4.5% amber ale, brewed in the heart of the English countryside with Maris Otter barley, which complements the sweetness of that caramelised beef, and flavoured with Cascade and Hallertau hops. It has a wonderful toffee and orange marmalade flavour, just begging for a juicy roast with some spicy horseradish on the side.