Here’s the setting: fancy enough restaurant in the city centre that shall remain anonymous. Delicious food with a locally-sourced ethos. Wine list the length of a Dickens novel. I ask the waiter if I could see the beer list. Slightly snarky response: “We have Heineken and Budweiser”. At six quid a bottle.
This, in my mind, is absolutely insulting. If you’re attempting to run a restaurant with a heavy focus on fresh, local produce and are targeting people who actually have tastebuds wired to their brain and are willing to pay a premium for the best fare available, then why oh why would you offer to complement said produce with some of the worst macro beer on the market? You don’t see Buckfast heading many wine lists, do you? Lambrini by the glass or bottle? No you fecking don’t.
It baffles me why some restauranteurs – who proclaim to have the keenest of gastronomic tastes – can’t seem to fathom the potential that beer has in a restaurant setting. Have they never tried a dark Belgian Trappist ale with blue cheese? Do they not know that a generously hopped IPA is the perfect accompaniment to spicy cuisine? Never paired smokey Black Forest ham with a German Rauchbier? Never exclaimed ‘shit me, that’s delicious’ while sipping an imperial stout alongside chocolate-based desserts? Hell, maybe they haven’t. But they should – innovative and forward-thinking chefs and restauranteurs should be getting to know the ins and outs of the growing artisan beer movement in the country, educating themselves on what’s available and what a positive impact it can have on their menus. Plus, haven’t they noticed the burgeoning local beer scene that has come alive in Ireland over the past few years? Jesus, we’ve got an abundance of high-quality fresh local beers available on our doorstep and some places persist in serving the liquid equivalent of the McChicken Sandwich.
Beer is not the new wine. Anyone saying anything like that is an idiot. Both grape and grain can and should co-exist on menus, and should be given equal respect. The Irish beer scene is moving on leaps and bounds, and if restauranteurs can’t see the value of adding a small but high-quality and diverse selection of local and international brews to their existing offering, then more fool them.
[N.B. Kudos to places around the city such as Whitefriar Grill, L. Mulligan Grocer, F.X Buckley, et al. who have already realised how wonderfully beer can complement high quality food.]