Greg Harrington, MS once said, “Beer is seasonal. Restaurants sell much more in the spring and summer, especially if there is outdoor seating.”
Now, I don’t know about outdoor seating in Manila (seriously, we’ve been hitting Real Feel temperatures just a little under 50°C these days so no thank you), but the one thing good about living in a tropical archipelago with 365 days of summer (fine, several of those involve severe monsoons) is that beer is pretty much welcome all year round.
This is why, when Draft Restaurant and Brewery (formerly Draft Gastropub) opened in the Fort Strip back in 2011, I chose it to be my secret hiding spot (preferably with my kuya for their mouthwatering mussels and a couple of pints). They quickly followed with a branch in Rockwell (where my husband and I hung out during our Makati CBD days), and one in Molito here in Alabang where we would have family dinners. They also have branches in Ortigas and Greenbelt.
Having said that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was excited to try out some of Draft’s new menu items, which involved beer pairing.
Beer pairing, I discovered as I tried to make this article as informative and accurate as possible, is actually a pretty good intellectual exercise. It shares some similarities to wine pairing, with a key difference: Food can potentially change the flavours of wine, while beer can potentially change the flavours of food.
According to the book Short Course in Beer by Lynn Hoffman, there are two major guiding principles in beer and food pairing:
- It’s hard to make a bad match – This is because beer is the beverage that is closest to food, and beer is capable of contrasting and complimenting food (sometimes, one beer is able to do both at the same time).
- Match the weight or flavour-impact instead of the flavours – Match light food to light beer, robust food to robust beer, spicy food with either sweet or bitter beer. Analysing the characteristics of a beer is easier if broken down as follows:
- The bitterness of the aroma of the hops
- The sharpness of the spice
- The soft cereal qualities of malt
- The prickly sensation of the carbonation
This all seems completely technical and utterly boring, but I feel that these principles are best illustrated by the food and beer pairing suggestions on Draft’s “Savour Draft” menu. As this is a drink blog, note that I’ve reversed the pairing, leading with the beer instead of the food:
Beer: Paulaner Naturtrüb
Draft Pairing: Laksa Mussel Pot
A Hefe-Weißbier is normally recommended with seafood, shellfish, chicken, or salad. This makes the new twist to my kuya’s favourite menu item a delicious pair with the Paulaner Naturtrüb.
Beer: Stella Artois
Draft Pairing: Sisig Pizza
My favourite food item of the evening paired well with the Stella Artois, which possessed enough carbonation to cut through the fatty, greasy components of the sisig.
Beer: Little Creatures Bright Ale
Classification: Unsure, but a craft beer
Draft Pairing: Chicken Cracklings
It was difficult to find text on this beer, and I wondered if Bright Ale was an homage to “Bright Beer” (a beer in which the yeast is no longer in suspension, which means the yeast has been cleared). To describe Little Creatures, however, means discussing its floral hops, woody undertones, grassy notes, and flavours of orange and caramel. It definitely held its own against the chicken cracklings.
Draft Pairing: Fish and Chips
The Fish and Chips (one of my other all-time Draft favourites) went well with Beck’s. While a Pilsner is generally a style that allows for a multitude of food pairing combinations, it’s best with cuisine that uses light ingredients, seafood, white meat, salad, and sausages.
Beer: Leffe Brune
Classification: Belgian Dubbel
Draft Pairing: Gangnam Beef Stew and Tiramisu
A Belgian Dubbel possesses enough heft and sweetness without being overpowering, which makes it great with BBQ ribs, spare ribs, steaks, duck, goose, mature cheeses (yes, it is possible to do beer and cheese pairing), and desserts. It goes without saying that the beer paired well with the beef stew and tiramisu.
Beer: Paulaner Hefe Dunkel
Classification: Dunkel Weizen
Draft Pairing: Peri Peri Chicken
A Dunkel Weizen is best with strong foods, and excellent examples include grilled pork or ham hock, desserts and mature cheeses. A chicken dish may seem off the mark, but the preparation of the Peri Peri allowed it to have enough strong flavours to compliment the beer.
Beer: Hoegaarden Weißbier
Draft Pairing: Paella Fiesta
A summery beer, it’s normally paired with weißwurst (white sausage), seafood salad, shellfish, and white meat. The beer went beautifully with the paella’s seafood components.
Beer: Paulaner Munchner Hell
Draft Pairing: Truffle Bacon Mac & Cheese
Here’s where a little translation helps. Hell/Helles is German for bright, light, or pale. In the world of beer, seeing “Hell” on a label means it’s a Pale Lager, or (ta-da!) a Pilsner. As previously mentioned, it is a pretty versatile beer to pair, and the combination of Paulaner Munchner Hell and the mac & cheese did not disappoint.
Beer: Murphy’s Irish Stout
Classification: Irish Dry Stout
Draft Pairing: Dark Chocolate Mud Cake
One of the biggest misconceptions with Irish Stout is that it’s too heavy to be refreshing. On the contrary, it’s absolutely thirst quenching and pairs well with anything barbecued or smoked. It also goes well with rich dishes and dark chocolate (nomnoms).
Again, these are just specific illustrations on how food and beer could be paired. As there are vast amounts of beer styles (and different cuisine), people should find combinations that are out of this world. Meanwhile, I’ll go back to Draft and experiment a bit more… Heaven knows this is an experimentation I’d gladly welcome in this heat (preferably inside the restaurant).
On Beer & Food, The Gourmet’s Guide to Recipes and Pairings (Thomas Horne, Colin Eick, and Elvind Stoud Platon)
Short Course in Beer, An Introduction to Tasting and Talking about the World’s Most Civilized Beverage (Lynn Hoffman)
Very, very special thanks to Mr. Chester Cabrera of Booze Online