Peyton and Byrne Craft Beer Supper Club review

Peyton and Byrne Craft Beer Supper Club review

by Ella Timney 31 July 2015

Ella visited Peyton and Byrne's latest supper club – an evening dedicated to the joys of pairing craft beer with food.

After serving as head of content for Great British Chefs and Great Italian Chefs, in early 2019 Ella took the plunge and moved to Toulouse in pursuit of a life of cheese, pastis and cassoulet. She is now a freelance food editor, writer, and content specialist.

After serving as head of content for Great British Chefs and Great Italian Chefs, in early 2019 Ella took the plunge and moved to Toulouse in pursuit of a life of cheese, pastis and cassoulet. She is now a freelance food editor, writer, and content specialist.

Tracy Emin’s ‘Keep me safe’ neon sign beckons visitors through the discreet doors of Keeper’s House at the Royal Academy of Arts. Down the stairs into suitably cosy surroundings, we made our way to Peyton and Byrne’s latest supper club, based on their foodie ‘passions’. I was keen to see how they handled the burgeoning trend of beer and food pairing. Without wanting to sound like a red-nosed lush, I am a keen drinker of beer and am a lover of anything pushing the craft beer agenda.

We settled down in the basement room (crypt-like, but in a good way) to a beer cocktail, known snappily as ‘Italian Hop’. With Punt e Mes, Maraschino liqueur and lemon juice topped off with Camden Wit, the smooth, rich beer gently tempered all of the bitter spirits beautifully.

At this point we were introduced to booze queen Alison Taffs who earned her stripes for almost 20 years as a wine advisor and educator, whisky connoisseur and most recently, beer expert (she compiled the frankly dizzying beer lists for Belgo restaurants, among other beery accomplishments). Her opening speech was almost emotional for a beer hound such as myself – ‘Beer is pretty elemental stuff’, Alison said, noting the lack of (geekery alert) bottom-fermenting lagers in favour of these more unpredictable, complex ales.

First came an amuse-bouche, a small cube of chicken and foie gras with dots of silky smooth sweet corn purée. Meanwhile, we were introduced to our pieces of ‘essential kit’ for the evening as the first three beers appeared on the table: a tasting glass and a mystery teaspoon. The spoon, Alison explained, was introduced to her on her Belgian travels, to whip up the beer for a thick head which can then be tasted to judge for the bitterness of hops included.

As a roomful of teaspoons melodically clinked in glasses, out came the first course, a meltingly soft pork belly with a braised pork shoulder raviolo, fennel and crackling. Taking us through each beer – first the strongly American-hopped Pale Ale from Fourpure, then the gentle, oaty softness of Siren’s Undercurrent, and finally the old favourite, Jaipur by Thornbridge - we were encouraged to really taste each one, swirl it around, whip up that frothy head and get to grips with the drinks in front of us. Each beer worked marvellously with the dish, despite their differences – Undercurrent proving a cushion to the more punchy fennel and bitter crackling, the Fourpure pale cutting through the sticky and sweet belly and shoulder with its astringent hops, and the Jaipur tying it all together with its perfect balance of herbaceous hops. I was in food and beer heaven at this point.

While the previous beers boasted hops as their defining feature, the second course promised to show us wheat beers in various incarnations. Wheat beers - they’re not scary, are they? Well, Otley’s 09 Blonde was familiar enough, a Belgian-style wheat with the big banana aroma and added extras of clove, orange peel and coriander – a luscious, aromatic brew that purred on the palate as the second course of Soft shell crab and avocado purée was brought out. So far, so good. The beers of this course were introduced by Will Bucknell of beer merchants Kicking Horse, who quickly noticed some screwed up faces in the corner. ‘I think I know which ones you’ve just tasted’ he said and, using their pursed lips as a segue, brought the rest of our attention onto the two sour beers on the table.

Italian Hop cocktail, made with Camden Wit
Italian Hop cocktail, made with Camden Wit
Chicken and foie gras canapé
Chicken and foie gras canapé

As a disclaimer, I must admit I’m sour beer-bonkers. It’s a journey outside the realm of normality where you almost have to forget that what you’re drinking is beer and just enjoy the tastes, the sensations and the aromas smacking you in the face as you take a sip, before fizzling away to leave not a trace of cloying hop or malt, just a desire to drink more of it (I did warn you I’m a fan).

This style was represented by two beers from Wild Beer Co., a fantastic Somerset-based brewery who have a great time experimenting with wild yeasts and fermentation, foraged herbs, seasonal fruits, and any style you can possibly think of. The first Will introduced was the deeply refreshing gose, Sleeping Lemons, infused with preserved lemons. He explained the gose style well to newcomers: salty, a little savoury and sour – the ideal pairing for food if you ask me. The second was more extreme, and the beer that prompted a few grimaces: Somerset Wild, a lip-pursing sour with a fantastic mouth-watering sharpness.

These three beers made a fabulous pairing to the crab, and the avocado purée had citrusy hits that got stuck in with these elements of the beers. The avocado itself offered that creaminess needed to temper some of the more wildly sharp tendencies of the brews, so all in all it was a match made in heaven.

After all of these zingy delights came a total change of pace. We moved on to the darker world of smoked brown ale from Anspach and Hobday, a young Bermondsey Brewery that should be hastily scribbled down in a ‘ones to watch’ list somewhere. Malts were now well and truly in the mix, and Alison enthused on the toasty, sweet flavours that can come from this versatile grain.

Pork belly course
The first course of Pork belly, shoulder raviolo and fennel
soft shell crab
The second course of Crispy soft shell crab and avocado purée

This ode to the Rauchbier had all of the smoky brilliance but with an extra luscious mouthfeel, a little less dry than its German forefathers. Twiglets, bacon crisps and marmite were all words used to describe this brew, and that smoky umami-laden drink matched up fabulously with the Hereford 24 day aged beef brisket.

After all of this meatiness, we paused for a palate cleanser of Kriek Boon, a Lambic cherry beer. Alison recounted stories of meeting Mr Frank Boon himself (more beer geekery alert!) at the brewery when touring Belgium. Frank took over the brewery in 1975 and was one of the key people involved in reviving the Lambic style – a blended beer at its most elemental, where the fermentation process is kicked off beer mash mixes being left open to the elements and being touched by naturally occurring yeasts – this is arguably the most magical of all beer styles.

And finally, after many beery delights, on to dessert. Some form of stout is often paired with desserts, so why not choose one of the mightiest ones around? Kernel Brewery’s Export Stout London 21890 is based on an old Truman Brewery recipe for stout porter. When I first tried it years ago working in a craft beer pub my boss simply described it as ‘chocolate cake’ – this description rang in my ears as we tucked into chocolate fondant and rum and raisin ice cream, the beer acting as after dinner coffee, bitter chocolate hit and a post-dinner cigarette in one.

Somehow, many still balk at the notion of beer and food pairing despite beer flights becoming increasingly common in fine dining restaurants. The giddying array of beer styles and the different flavours within them, from stouts that taste like chocolate cake, to yeasty lemon-tinged goses, offer endless opportunities for food pairing. So, next time you’re out for dinner don’t just ask for the wine list, see what beery tipples are on offer too, you might be surprised.

For more information on upcoming Peyton and Byrne supper clubs, visit their events page.