The Thinking Drinkers suggest the most sensible snacks to shovel down you’re chops while you chug on craft beer. As featured on Telegraph Men.
During London Beer Week, a seven day celebration of the capital’s craft brewing scene, there will inevitably be a lot of serious talk about beer’s classy kinship with food. Porter with oysters, foie gras with kriek, saisons with herb encrusted sausages, Belgian Tripels with lobster…that kind of thing.
But while these pairings can be wonderful, let’s not kid ourselves. The best epicurean pairing for one’s pint tends to come in packets – the crisp, the peanut, the pork scratching and other snacks of similar salt content.
When beer and snacks get together, good things happen. It’s a simple symbiotic relationship that works brilliantly. One feeds the other. The crisp or nut creates a thirst, the beer quenches it. Then they do it again. And again. It’s a quintessentially British combination too.
Unlike German and Belgian beers, British ales have historically been of sufficiently low ABV to safely chase crisps and nuts in the same knockabout way that Benny Hill chased ladies in very little underwear. Or did they chase him? Not sure.
Either way, we consume copious amounts of crisps and stuff our faces with a staggering amount of savoury snacks in this country. We eat 6bn packets of crisps every year, approximately 140 packs per person, and every three minutes, the UK treats itself to a tonne of crisps, even when it’s sleeping. This is more than any other nation in Europe.
According to health quacks, though, this isn’t a good thing. Apparently, eating a packet of crisps every day is one of the worst things you can do to yourself – akin to drinking five litres of cooking oil every year.
Snacks, crisps and nuts really are doing some dreadful things, playing fast and loose with our health. Clogging up our collective arteries, turning all our children into Augustus Gloop, spreading type two diabetes like wildfire and adding to a national obesity crisis in a most irresponsible manner.
Yet, the real heartbreaker is trying to give them up. If they didn’t taste so great, it would be easy. Except they do, and it’s not. Some people substitute snacks for fruit when they get a craving but these people are never the kind of people that you’d want to be friends with.
So keep eating snacks. They’re the backbone of Britain. Sort of. According to SNACMA, (the Snack, Nut and Crisp Association of the UK), this munchies market is worth £3.229billion a year and directly employs 9,800 people, many of whom are farmers. Everybody likes farmers.
It’s worth remembering this if, sometimes, you think about all the crisps you eat and you feel ashamed. As you peer into the crumbs at the bottom of the packet and think about all those rosey-cheeked farmers in their fields and think of all of their hopes and their dreams.
Think to yourself, if I didn’t eat these crisps, these nuts and these maize-based snacks, those friendly farmers, those wonderful people who plough all those potatoes, and tend to the corn and the maize, might lose their jobs and their dreams would be in tatters. Would it be better that you open another packet and let them fulfil their dreams? Or be selfish and worry about your own dodgy ticker?*
*Shamelessly plagiarised from Inspired by Jack Handey’s famous musings on beer
Inspired by the classic pub snack in a jar, this children’s favourite – adorned with an ominous looking orange ogre on the packet – is a major multi-tasker, working both as a crisp and a classy crouton in soups (we recommend Heinz Tomato but that’s just us, you can do what you want).
The key when choosing a beer here is tackling the texture of the Monster Munch. The little blighters tend to congeal on the roof of the mouth and make themselves comfy in your back molars and the only way to budge them is with something clean boasting plenty of carbonation.
Look no further than a Kolsch-style beer from Thornbridge Brewing, a properly great brewery in the Peak District. Brewed like an ale yet conditioned like a lager, Kolsch can only come from Cologne but this looks like a Kolsch, smells like a Kolsch, tastes like a Kolsch but – thanks to zee pedantic Germans – it can’t legally be called a Kolsch. Deftly brewed with a bready base, it’s bright, zesty and finished with a citrus twist.
If you venture out of the shower to do a wee then, chances are, you’re more of a kettle chip kind of guy than a Walkers man. Stiff enough to dip into hummus or taramasalata yet flavoursome enough to eat unaccompanied, they’re massively middle-class, more-ish and they’re even hand-cooked …in a factory in Norwich.
Nearby in Suffolk, the excellent Adnams brews Ghost Ship, a pale ale that’s perfect for wiping the palate clean and standing up to Kettle Chip’s characteristically strong seasoning. Brewed using a combination of American and British hops laid over a trio of different malts – Cara, Rye Crystal and Pale Ale malt – it’s a crisp and aromatic quencher.
More than 250 years ago, when London was in its brewing pomp, drank porter with oysters – the eighteenth century equivalent of a packet of peanuts and ubiquitous on the bar-tops of London boozers.
Today, however, oysters are not so readily available so try a Porter with twiglets – the slightly smoky, smooth effort from Beavertown brewery in North London pairs particularly well with the nobbly nibbles, especially when chilled.
Both are available at Mark’s Bar, the rather swanky bar below Hix’s restaurant in Soho.
As Al Murray says, any nut that requires shelling is occupying a hand that could otherwise be holding a pint.
Once seen covering up the bosoms on the back bar, the dry roasted is the throaty throwback with no time for the new wave of ‘craft’ ales. It’s burnt, almost arid character, calls for an equally classic English accompaniment, namely “Best Bitter” – preferably served in a dimpled jug or a pewter tankard.
Brewed using Marris Otter, that most British type of barley, and Bramling Cross and Northdown hops, both born and bred on these shores, “Good Old Boy” from the West Berkshire Brewery is a quintessential session bitter straight out of central casting.
All hail the posh pork scratching. These aren’t your standard deep fried strips of Danish rind with hairs sticking out, these use 100% British pork and are cooked not once, not twice…but three times. What’s more, they’re part-owned by Tom Parker-Bowles – so they’re proper posh.
Mr Trotter also makes a cracking chestnut ale to accompany its crackling but we went for Meantime Brewing’s Yakima Red, a fruity, ruby-hued ale brewed with five different hop varieties – delivering both the bitterness to cut through the salt and the seasoning and the carbonation to lift everything of the tongue.
Founded in the 1950s, this is officially the UK’s favourite crisp, standing tall and proud on the podium of pub snacks where it towers above Ready Salted and Salt ’n’ Vinegar.
Tangy-tastic with big flavours, it requires a beer that can handle itself too, one that’s tasty with both the hop on one hand and malt on the other. We’d offer this India Pale Ale – but certainly not outside in the car park. It’s weighty, with a deep red hue and a cracker-like core underpinning some tropical fruit in there too. Yes, that’s right, tropical fruit. Deal with it.
While the David Dickinson-style hue has always been a little concerning, the Wotsit boasts a puffed up and ponky cheesy charm that best reveals itself on the palate – less of a crunch and more a dissolve.
These are delicate cheesy flavours we’re dealing with here so we want a beer that tip-toes rather than tramples over the tongue – something that respectfully pays homage to the full-on fromage.
A bracing Belgian-style witbier should do the trick – especially the one by “Brew by Numbers” of South London which blends orange peel, coriander and chamomile flowers with a fruity Belgian yeast.
A bit like Bombay Mix but without the element of risk, the wasabi pea has usurped a number of old pub classics like the Scampi Fry, the Bacon Fry and the Cheese Moment.
These little green grenades of spice, packing a spicy punch and a firm crunch, come from a Japanese root with a bitterness and herbal aroma that are similar to hops. The temptation here is to try and soothe the spice with something refreshing and clean but this merely fans the flames.
So, instead, we’re fighting fire with fire in the shape of Smokeless, a chipotle-infused stout from a marvellous Macclesfield micro. Unlike Plaxico Burress, the American Football star who accidentally shot himself in the leg with a gun that he’d stuck down his pants, Smokeless packs heat in a far more sensible manner – adding chipotle instead of smoked malt. It’s spicy, smoky and soothing.