Earlier this month, we teamed up with Alex Greig, owner of Fuggles Beer Café in Tunbridge Wells, for an extra-special event. As part of Tunbridge Wells Beer Weekend, the beer and food matching fused lagers, ales and stouts with our menu’s standout dishes.

“I find beer a bit more interesting,” says Alex about beer and food matching. “It’s certainly a much broader flavour spectrum than with wine, with a lot more opportunities to do something different. Wine is a bit subtler in that regard, and I like the fact that, with beer, you can really surprise people.”

Beer and food matching on the rise

While wine pairings are more common, beer and food matching is catching up. Much like a crisp white marries perfectly with fish, and a deep red is better-suited to richer meats, there are seemingly endless variations on offer in the brewing world.

“Classic matches are things like bitter, hoppy IPAs with spicy food, as the bitterness and dominant citrus notes balance the spice,” Alex continues. “Stouts with blue cheese are great as well; you need something big and powerful to balance out the cheese.”

Surprising customers with beer and food matching

Alex knows his stuff when it comes to food and beer. Indeed, Fuggles prides itself not only on an eclectic array of British and European brews, but also its love affair with cheese, meat and charcuterie. Naturally, crafty culinary experiences are at the heart of his Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge ‘beer cafés’.

Fuggles specialises in British and European craft beers and charcuterie

“People are generally quite surprised by the variety and depth in the beer world,” he explains. “One of my favourite things is having people in who ‘don’t like beer’, and changing that opinion by showing them exactly how diverse the beer world is!”

A sense of beer and food matching adventure

There are no definitive rules to partnering drinks and dishes, however. For Alex, it’s all about the journey that his customers embark on when unearthing new and exciting tastes.

“You either complement or contradict when matching,” he reveals. “We’re trying to find something that melts into it all, like cherry and chocolate, or we want something that will clean the palate and leave you wanting a bit more. There are no real rules, though – just a rough guide!”

The future of beer and food matching

It’s this spirit of experimentation that lends itself so well to The Small Holding. Alex and his team continue to share our ethos of theatre and entertainment in dining, while always ensuring that quality and provenance remain at the fore.

“I’d love to see more restaurants thinking about their beer selection, rather than leaving it as an afterthought,” he concludes. “As more people really understand and get into beer, coupled with the range and variety available, beer and food will grow, and become much more prominent in established restaurants. Anything that heightens the experience has to be a no-brainer!”

© WILL AND MATT DEVLIN