Monday, 15 August 2016

Beer Pairing at Byron Burger Harrogate

Back in the day it was all about wine and food pairing, however with craft beer being well and truly established in the UK with many claiming to be the ultimate beer connoisseur/advocate/geek (whatever your adnoun preference) I have seen a surge of beer pairing events. Don't get me wrong wine still has its place it was only a few weeks ago where I attended such a wine and food pairing event at Crafthouse.

If you Google 'beer and food pairing' the internet throws up a whole host of charts and pictorgrams to help you pair the perfect beer with the perfect food. Gone are the days when beer was simply paired with a curry or a burger.... however saying that Beer doesn't go handsomely with a big juicy burger.

Byron Burger is known for doing simple well. They've perfected the burger and rather than adding all fancy dancy things like doughnut buns, pretzel buns or stuffed with crisps, chips, mac and cheese balls etc. they just make regular burgers with few variations. They’ve found the perfect recipe and refined it, fresh cuts of meat, cooked medium and soft buns.

D the beer model

They've extended this philosophy to their beer. Not only do they brew their own but they’re now working in collaboration with some great British brewers who also have a passion for the finer detail and pair up perfectly with their burgers (obviously!).

I'm no beer connoisseur; I've heard you need a beard to taste the true flavours of the beer properly... I jest. I've not always loved a pint of beer, as a student you might find me necking a pint of fosters because it was a quid but that is hardly beer. My first true induction to beer started when I moved (literally) next door to a brewery, Salts Brewery. I've always loved the smell of a brewery, that yeasty hoppy smell that permeates the local surroundings; plus when there's a beer club running once a month next door how can you not partake? 

To warm us up for the evening we were given Byron’s own Lager. Although very different to other lagers out there, a class above shall we say, I couldn’t hammer this all night as the fizz is just too much for my overly sensitive bloaty stomach.

To kick off the food for the evening we had a starter of Buffalo chicken wings to share, these are doused with Byron’s very own hot sauce dressing and accompanied by a blue cheese dip. D and I mused whether the wings beat our all-time favourites, Meat Liquor, and it was hard to call although portion size and blue cheese dip swayed it back to Meat Liquor for me. The Byron Lager was a good accompaniment for the wings as it cooled and refreshed my mouth after the spiciness and prepared me for the next course.

We were to try two burgers that night, both of them new to me, the first being the Byron Burger, (clearly) their signature burger. A simple burger with all the right toppings including dry cure bacon, mature cheddar (because who eats mild?), shredded iceberg lettuce (does any other lettuce ever get a look in?), tomato, red onion and Byron sauce. It’s a good entry level burger for Byron and will suit most burger tastes paired with Vocation Breweries Heat & Soul it was a pretty darn perfect. The simple textures of the burgers were complimented by the golden, tropical smooth tones of the beer.

The next beer to grace our table was Brewdog’s 5am Saint, love them or them Brewdog are everywhere these days (I even saw a bar opening in Brussels!). I’ve tried a lot of Brewdog beers over the years with notable favourites being ‘Dead Pony Club’, Brewdog Punk IPA and Vagabond Pale Ale. I had never before tried the 5am Saint, simply because it’s never been recommended and it never sounded like ‘my kind of beer’, I was pleasantly surprised. The 5am saint is a malty berry brew with caramel tones, a strong beer ready to tackle on its partner the Chilli Burger.

The Chilli Burger packs a punch as the patty is layered with green chilli, American cheese and chipotle mayonnaise. My mouth was pleasantly tingling with each bite although I would presume perhaps not the best choice for those with an aversion to spice with a personal spice rating of medium to hot.

The next beer was an added bonus, a sneak preview of a new release of Vocation Breweries’ Smash & Grab. This was my favourite of the beers with further testing at home. Vocation Brewery are located in Hebden Bridge, a good local Yorkshire beer it’s nice to see them being championed by a national chain. They don’t yet do brewery tours but when they do I’d love to go along (and also use it as a perfect excuse to visit Hebden Bridge again).

Moor Nor’Hop was the next pairing beer which was served alongside courgette fries. A look of disappointment always crosses D’s face when he sees Courgette on the menu, a fleeting reminder of soggy roast veg is on his mind; however these were far from soggy and bland. The courgette fries were crispy and light perfect for the ultra-pale, florally and citruses notes from the Moor Nor’Hop.

Next up were some particularly dirty fries, topped with bacon and cheese. I love topped fries, if I could eat fries every day without being 30 stone I would, especially if they’re topped fries. Throw all manner of things on them and I’m all yours, throw bacon and cheese on them and I’m at your feet begging for more. The Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA was its partner in crime. I am a fan of Sierra Nevada and it’s appearance in most supermarkets is but a joy, I had never had the pleasure of the IPA version and I will definitely be bee-lining it in the future when it’s on offer. By this point I was pleasantly tipsy and so the notes of fresh tangerine and pineapple bypassed me, I was far too consumed with eating as many bacon and cheese topped fries before D could and washing it all down with any of the beer on the table. I paint a beautiful picture of myself.

The Harrogate branch of Byron burger is a clean airy version, with friendly staff and a great location near the centre of Harrogate. There is talk in the press/social media etc that there are far too many ‘chain restaurants’ in Harrogate especially since the closure of Van Zeller, with Byron’s in both Leeds and York you could question whether another in Harrogate will be able to compete or is necessary. I personally enjoy dining in Byron Burger although if I was frequenting Harrogate or York I would be more tempted to search for an independent rather than visit a chain restaurant I can find in my own city, I guess you could therefore say that this branch is for the locals… but then again it would be na├»ve to presume that all are like myself and I do find it disappointing that others will migrate to what is familiar in an unfamiliar town.

It’s hard to write this post without passing comment on the recent news activities of Byron Burger, but to air my opinion crosses too far over in to my day job… and thus I would need to start including disclaimers in my blog such as ‘my opinions are my own and not of my employer’ so I shall leave it there and let you cast your own judgements. Whether you regard their employment practices good or bad they do still make great bloody (unless you specify well-done) burgers.

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