Beer and food pairing at The Old Brewery Greenwich, The Pepys Building, London SE10 9LW

The impressive dining area…

If you like your beer, and we don’t mean the usual weak lagers or soapy bitters, then you must pop along to the Old Brewery in Greenwich. These are serious beers, we’re talking up to 10% ABV serious!

Situated in the Old Royal Naval College just a cannon ball’s shot away from the Thames and the newly renovated Cutty Sark, it’s split into three distinct areas. 1) An outside courtyard perfect for summer drinking (when summer decides to show up). 2) A cosy, dimly lit bar with a ‘wall of beer’ and a good selection of wines and bar food too. 3) The restaurant, during the day it’s a relaxed cafe and at night it’s converted into a slightly more formal dining room…

They don’t only serve beer!

And what a room, as we arrived for the beer pairing evening we were greeted by a rack of hundreds of bottles hanging from the high ceiling and the shiny brass tanks of the Meantime micro brewery.  The seats were already arched around a table on which sat 10 different bottles of beer. Saff looked at me in horror at the thought of drinking that much beer. I, however, was up for the challenge.

Taking centre stage for an hour (or as it turned out about 40 minutes) was American born brewmaster Eric Toft. Eric, currently at the Schoenram Brewery, has worked for some of the world’s most well-respected craft beer producing companies in the USA, Belgium and Germany. What he doesn’t know about yeast and hops isn’t worth knowing, but what he knows about fashion could be written on a bottle top. A plaid shirt tucked into lederhosen isn’t a good look for a grown man! This dress sense could be explained away by the fact he has lived in Bavaria for over a decade and spends every waking second thinking about or drinking beer.

Even though most of what Eric said went over our heads (we’re not beer experts by any stretch of the imagination), it’s hard not to admire his passion and enthusiasm. Brewing is such a dry and specialist subject matter but somehow Eric made it amusing. During the talk we tasted Schoenram Gold (the most mild beer of the night), Hop Devil (a rich tasting amber beer) and Saphir Bock Victory (with a sweeter flavour). After a short rundown of the menu by Rod Jones, their in-house brewer and beer sommelier, we’re shown to our tables.

Now this was the section that we were really interested in. We’d obviously been to wine pairing evenings but never a dedicated beer matching event. The five course menu sounded really good, but noticed the lack of carbs, we later found out that this is a deliberate move as beers are more filling than wine. So that explains why it’s not called a ‘wine belly’.

A load of scallops…

First up was the Seared scallop with pickled cauliflower puree & carrot oil. The clean yet strong Schoenram Pils cut though the earthiness of the purée and somehow highlighted the sweetness of the carrot oil. The scallops needed the crunch from chunks of pickled cauliflower.

Confit duck leg & foie gras terrine

The Confit duck leg & foie gras terrine served with chutney & baby gherkins was paired with a glass of Conatus (a 17 month old Belgian style beer). The terrine was extremely rich and far too fatty/buttery for Saff. Although I loved it on the toast with onion marmalade style chutney. The slight fizz from the beer did a brilliant job of cleaning the fat from your palate in preparation for the third course.

Belgian ‘sea-side’ food, not quite fish & chips

Next came the Brown shrimp-stuffed tomato with hollandaise sauce & keta caviar washed down with Old Brewery Belgian Pale Ale. This is a popular dish served in Belgian coastal towns, the sweetness of the tomato and the fairly subtle sauce didn’t overpower the shrimp and was a much more interesting dish than I expected. The wheat beer had spiced tones to it, I picked out cinnamon. I was starting to get the hang of this beer tasting malarky. This fish dish would have really only gone with the driest of wines without getting a ‘metallic’ taste that can sometimes happen – no such problem with beer!

Belly and Bramley

On to the main event, Pork belly with spiced red cabbage & Bramley apple served with Saphir Bock. This is a typical Bavarian meal, served with a typical Bavarian beer. The actual pork belly was moist and full of its meaty juices, as for the crackling, well, it was perfectly crispy without that layer of chewy fat you often get. Beer sommelier Rod Jones, who was walking amongst the diners, asked me what flavours I could pick up from the beer. By now we were both starting to get a little tipsy and I blurted out dark chocolate without really thinking. Rod smiled and congratulated me, these chocolate and caramel notes came from the type of malts used – told you I was getting good!

Warning… These last beers are like a ‘kick in the balls’

To finish I had the bonus of a double cheese board (regular readers will know exactly how Saff thinks about cheese). This was served with 3 of the highest ABV beers I think I’ve had, luckily they were served in shot glasses. The Schoenram Imperial Stout (10%), Schoenram IPA (8.2%) and Victory Storm King Imperial Stout (9.1%) were face twistingly strong that after taking a sip of the Imperial Stout our waitress looked at my expression and said ‘kick in the balls?’ You get the idea!

We both had a fantastic evening with plenty of good food, even more great beer and a talk from Eric the brewmaster, all for £50 each. The Old Brewery hosts regular Beer and Food matching evening’s each having its own different theme. Click here for full details but here’s a list of what’s coming up…

• Meantime Beers – Monday 20th August 2012. With Alastair Hook Founder of Meantime Brewing Company
October Beer & Food – Monday 1st October 2012. TBC
Extremely Rare & Rarely Extreme USA Craft Beers – Monday 5th November 2012. With Glenn Payne, beer judge and expert
A brief history of India Pale Ale – Monday 3rd December 2012. With Pete Brown, author

Ribs Nights
have come to The Old Brewery every Thursday (6pm – 11pm). A whole rack of slow cooked baby back ribs glazed in Meantime Wheat beer marinade, hand cut chips, homemade coleslaw and homemade BBQ sauce, £9.95. And if that’s not enough they also hold Lobster Nights every Tuesday (6pm-11pm). A whole Lobster, poached or grilled, served with chips and either a lemon butter sauce or an anchovy & tarragon butter, £15.00. Call 0203 327 1280 to make a reservation.

We’re here for the beer!

The Old Brewery, The Pepys Building,
The Old Royal Naval College, London SE10 9LW
Telephone: 0203 327 1280

Opening times:
The Café
10am to 5pm, Monday to Sunday
The Restaurant
6pm to 11pm Monday to Saturday &
6pm to 10.30pm on Sunday
The Bar
11am to 11pm Monday to Saturday &
12pm to 10.30pm Sunday

Follow them on Twitter
Like them on Facebook