ELLEZELLES - Put several brewers and chefs around the same table, get them to taste a few beers and soon you will have a heated discussion! Jean-Baptiste and Christophe Thomaes of Le Château du Mylord, a restaurant awarded with two Michelin stars, invited their colleagues to a beer tasting.
Around the table there was an enormous amount of experience and knowledge about beer and food.
There was Eric Martin from Lemonnier in Lavaux Ste-Anne, Laurent Martin from La Frairie in Perwez, Eric Fernez from the two-star-winning Eugénie à Emilie, brasserie Le Faitout and café La Marelle in Baudour.
The brewers were represented by Marc Lemay from Brasserie Dubuisson and Charles and Bruno Delroisse from La Frasnoise.
Catherine and Antoine Malingret of Ca Brasse Pour Moi in Boussu are beer traders who are planning to start up their own brewing operation.
Muriel Lombard and Marjorie Elich voice the opinion of women with La Bière des Femmes.
Edmée Hooghe is a fruit farmer whose client list includes Christophe Thomaes. She has brought ancient fruit varieties back to life in her splendid garden at a stone’s throw of Le Château du Mylord.
So many people and just as many opinions; the guests agree on certain points but are at loggerheads on others.
Chef Jean-Baptiste Thomaes says “The quality of beers has come along in leaps and bounds in recent years."
There are now quite a few beers that deserve their regular place in gastronomy, because beer offers a surprising amount of new aromas and tastes.
Chefs now have far more techniques for working beer into a recipe and using it as an ingredient - gels, for example.”
At the table, most chefs prefer heavier beers with sufficient complexity, preferably served from small glasses. As a general rule, when you assemble a beer menu you should start off with a lighter beer and finish with a more distinctive one that packs more of a punch.
If you start with serving an IPA or a heavy stout at the start of a meal, the dominant bitterness of these beers will linger in the mouth.
Bart Lamon, sommelier at Le Château du Mylord, makes a case for beer accompanying food at every course - he is convinced that beer can make a perfect complement to an entire gastronomic meal.
However, the chefs have their doubts about this, and question whether their average customer is ready for this. Chef Jean-Baptiste Thomaes would prefer the scenario where beer and wine are both offered depending on the dish.
“It’s all about enjoyment at the table,” says brewer Marc Lemay. “This is equally possible with beer and wine.”
His colleague Bruno Delroisse feels that you have to surprise your guests and offer them new aromas and tastes, but to achieve this, they need to be guided by professionals.
Marjorie Elich remarks that there is often a lack of beer knowledge in the hotel, restaurant and café business as education and training have a one-sided focus on wine.
Not all beers are suited to gastronomy, it would appear. For example, lighter ‘session beers’ do not appeal to the chefs. We also find out that some beers can be served with completely different and often surprising dishes.
Have a dry ‘saison’ beer with an oily fish - mackerel perhaps - or with an apple pie to provide a contrast with the sweetness. A zesty blonde Lupulus from Les 3 Fourquets goes well with sweetbreads or with white meat prepared with thyme and rosemary.
Beers of the Flemish red-brown type such as the Reninge Oud Bruin from Seizoensbrouwerij Vandewalle should be paired with blood sausage and foie gras because the sour element cuts through the greasiness of the meat.
There are some degustation beers that just seem heaven sent for gastronomy. The wood-matured Bush De Charmes from Dubuisson goes with raw fish recipes, steamed couscous, goat’s and sheep’s cheeses, or desserts with peach, raspberry or chocolate.
We conclude our tasting with the Extase from Dochter van de Korenaar, a Double IPA with a blend of no fewer than fourteen hop varieties.
The nose is overpowering, especially for your average Belgian beer lover who is not used to extreme beers such as this, yet the chefs see gastronomic potential here.
They suggest that this would be one to enjoy with a very mature cheese, or with a sweet fruit dessert.
“You choose the beer depending on the occasion,” Marc Lemay concludes, “when you’re meeting friends at the bar, you will have a pils."
"At the table you often expect a little more depth and interest, you want to discover more."
"In the end everyone will decide for himself what suits best at that particular moment or what he fancies the most.”
The informative discussion raises many points and opinions but overall, the message is clear: by all means, don’t deny yourself any pleasures. Discover, taste, try … and experiment!
Le Château du Mylord
Rue Saint-Mortier 35