Beer has never been my alcoholic drink of choice. I find it bitter. I prefer sweet wine.
But last weekend I gave it a try...after pairing it with food. And I don’t mean nyama choma (barbecued meat). I mean soup, rice, prawns and dessert...
Tanzanians enjoy their beer with nyama choma and French fries or roasted banana. So pairing the perfect lager or ale with soup and dessert was new to me.
I tried it at the Four Points by Sheraton News Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam which, in collaboration with the local nano-brewery Crafty Dee, was hosting Best Brews, an event where patrons experience the city’s unique beers.
We learnt from Crafty Dee how beer, with its complexity of flavours and ability to provide refreshment is a great match for many food flavours and not just nyama choma.
For my entrée course, I went with the Serengeti Lite with crayfish bisque, fennel foam and garlic crostini soup. It is a light-body beer with a slight crisp taste and a strong malty dry finish that goes well with fried foods or salads.
For the second course, our host Chintu Patel explained that pairing the food’s flavours to those of the beer is key. I took the “expert” advice and went with Arancini Riso, avocado, perl onion and sweet corn salad paired with Dee’s Gold beer.
Dee’s Gold is slightly bitter than Serengeti Lite. It has strong hops and a tropical fruit aroma. It goes down well with chicken, salmon and salads.
Because of its bitter taste, tacos and cream sauces are also ideal mates.
I then tried English Summer. Compared with Dee’s Gold, this one is moderately bitter—and gains a steady malt flavour when paired with food. I paired it with feta cheese and smoked chicken tart for a sweet malt-centric taste.
A hybrid of Blonde Ale, Hefeweizen and Amber, it is a great match for foods like sandwiches, burgers, fish and chips, shrimp salad, grilled cheese and even pizza.
The third course was Dee’s Blonde, a light hybrid beer with full tropical fruit bouquet aromas and a moderate bitter taste that fades away real quick.
I paired it with Zanzibar prawns, Swahili styled tomato and Nazi Pilaf with a bit of chachandu (chilly) sauce.
Dee’s Blonde smooth finish and slight hop flavour makes it also an ideal mate for chicken, fish, salads or pastas. I learnt that if creams or sauces are part of your meal, you need heavy, richer beer like blonde ales.
The fourth course took me by surprise. I thought: “Beer and dessert—no way!” But to my surprise, a whole new world of flavours awaited me.
Fruitier beers paired with a wide variety of puddings, ice creams or sorbets provide an ideal balance or contrast.
I went for the English Summer beer, served with butter berry dots with vanilla infused cream and almond biscuit. The caramel richness and well-balanced hops and mate added sweetness to every bite and sip.
“It’s all about trial and error and finding that unique combination of food and beer,” said Mr Patel.
“We are creating more space for people to enjoy a beer. The more interest they develop in beer, the more they will want to try it.”
While beer wouldn't still be my first choice, I can now enjoy a meal with it. The hops in beer stimulate the appetite and the flavours balance or contract the meal it is paired with.