Beer writer Sophie Atherton suggest the finest drinks to pair with roast lamb, chocolate and even hot cross buns!
Drinks for Your Easter Table
I’m not sure if this is a confession, but I have grown out of gorging myself on Easter eggs. Truth be told, even as a kid, my stash of ovoid chocolate goodies would last me weeks – apart from toffee eggs which were always gone very quickly. But what fired my tastebuds if not chocolate? Hot cross buns of course. The other thing that always evokes Easter for me is lamb. It was my favourite as a child and is something I still adore today. There is some difference of opinion over what constitutes spring lamb, but if you’re opting for the kind that is just a few months old the flavour will be much more delicate than a slightly older lamb. Each requires a different kind of beer for a good pairing…
What to Eat with Lamb
I often find myself wishing there were more brewers willing to experiment with putting herbs in beer. I think it could really add to the possibilities for food matching Sadly Sharp’s no longer add Cornish thyme to their pilsner and I know of few other brewers doing much with herbs. Perhaps it just doesn’t work but a gently hopped beer – not too bitter – with rosemary is what I’d like to pair with spring lamb. In the absence of that try Williams Bros Fraoch (5%) which has minimal hops and instead is flavoured with heather and sweet gale.
If you’re eating ‘standard’ lamb with a deeper flavour and the characteristic sweetness, be adventurous and pair it with Wild Beer Co’s Modus Operandi (ABV 7%) which is an old ale with a tart, sour character from brettanomyces yeast. It isn’t the sort of beer you’d sink a pint of but it’s beautiful with roast lamb. The old ale character means the beer is rich, dark and full-bodied. The ‘brett’ yeast brings about tart berry flavours akin to redcurrants – which slices through the rich, juicy lamb like a dream.
Give chocolate beer a chance
Although I’m not sure they’d work with lamb, given the season we ought to give a nod to chocolate beers. I am actually something of a chocolate beer sceptic because too many taste as though someone stirred cheap milkshake powder through them. Much better to go for a beer with chocolate flavours created by one of its natural ingredients. It will usually be from the malted barley, but there is at least one hop – called Phoenix – that is said to bring chocolatey notes. An exception to the rule is Kew Brewery’s Kew Green (& Black) (3.9%). It’s a silky, delicious chocolate milk stout perfect as an Easter egg substitute.
Many of the beers that work with Easter food are flavours left over from winter, perhaps because the festival can fall on the cusp of the turning season. I’ve suggested some more spring-like drinks below.
The return of the G&T
Spring marks the beginning of gin and tonic season, or at least it does for me. This year I’m keen to experiment with different garnishes after being inspired by the gin menu at the wonderful Wyatt & Jones restaurant in Broadstairs, Kent. What really turned me on to the idea was actually a Spanish gin which includes olives and rosemary among its botanicals. The herby sprig gave off a gorgeous, spirit-lifting (pun intended!) aroma with every sip.
Sipsmith did once make a Hot Cross Bun gin, but it was a limited edition for its Sipping Society. I suppose garnishing with a whole bun might have been overkill but I have a mental picture of a tiny version astride the glass like a lemon slice! A more realistic prospect is Brockman’s Gin – which includes blueberries and blackberries among its botanicals – and Darnley’s View which features elderflowers. The extra challenge with elderflowers is that some have that pungent, earthy aroma which wouldn’t be pleasant in a glass of gin! So if you see me out sniffing blossoms you’ll know why.
Staying with petals, a sophisticated beer for spring is Time & Tide New Rose Saison (4.9%). Rose petals are among its ingredients, as is obvious from its aroma, and it tastes pleasingly like Turkish Delight.