MATCH POINTS

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & DRINK - PETER LALOR

Drink­ing a Marzen in sum­mer is a slightly dis­com­bob­u­lat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but the vi­cis­si­tudes of sea­son are ir­rel­e­vant to beer drinkers down un­der.

The new range of beers by South Aus­tralia’s Pranc­ing Pony in­cludes the Rusty Panzer, a tra­di­tional Ger­man Marzen or March beer. Th­ese stronger, slightly spicy am­ber ales evolved in the days be­fore re­frig­er­a­tion. In Bavaria, March was the last month of the sea­son where it was still cool enough to brew. High tem­per­a­tures play havoc with fer­men­ta­tion — some­thing that held back the con­victs in their early at­tempts here.

You can’t be de­nied beer when you need it most, so the brew­ers would knock up the stronger beer, add some ex­tra hops for their preser­va­tive ef­fect and store them in cool cel­lars or ice caves and con­sume them across the north­ern sum­mer. Over the years a tra­di­tion evolved of un­cork­ing the best Marzens in Septem­ber to mark Ok­to­ber­fest.

The Rusty Panzer is one of the best beers I have had for a long time and just hap­pened to find it­self ac­com­pa­nied by a good Wood­ford Re­serve bourbon that had been bid­ing its time in the drinks cab­i­net (it was one of those days). Which leads us to the lat­est hip­ster trend. Back in the old days, it wasn’t un­usual to get a whisky chaser with your beer. You banged it back and then sipped your beer or you dropped it in and it be­came a “depth charge”. To­day kids with ironic tat­toos and a taste for mid-cen­tury Amer­i­cana are eat­ing fried chicken and drink­ing what they call “boil­er­mak­ers” — beer with whiskies.

Beer and whisky have al­ways had a tight re­la­tion­ship. Af­ter all, they are ba­si­cally the same thing: malted bar­ley or grains, wa­ter and yeast. Beer is not so keen in fer­ment­ing out all the sug­ars and adds hops for bal­ance.

The other day I ran through a few of the match­ings on of­fer at the Archie Rose Dis­till­ing Co bar in in­ner Syd­ney. The bar staff at Archie Rose have matched a se­ries of whiskies and craft beers so you don’t have to, but there’s noth­ing stop­ping you from com­ing up with your own com­bi­na­tions.

Archie’s pair­ing of a Moon Dog Dou­ble Tap Lager with a Hibiki Ja­panese Har­mony caught the eye with its prom­ise “en­chant­ing cherry and earthy char­ac­ter­is­tics”. But Ja­panese whisky is ap­par­ently in short sup­ply and this cart had no horse. They were also out of the Red Duck Kolsch, which was meant to be paired with a 14-year-old Adel­phi Fas­cadale, so I tried that with the Dou­ble Tap. Didn’t work. Sorry, but the lager is not solid enough to pair with the strong heather honey flavours of the whisky.

A bet­ter time was had when a Killer Sprocket Rye IPA came to the ta­ble with a Michter’s US #1 Straight Rye. Here we had a pair­ing worth swoon­ing over. One brought the lin­ger­ing bit­ter­ness, the other the bite and both met with a malty middle note. Yep.

A Mur­ray’s pilsener and an Old Pul­teney from Scot­land’s most north­ern dis­tiller was in­ter­est­ing but let down by the beer, which is usu­ally in bet­ter shape than the one served here.

A word be­fore you try match­ing. Back in the day, hav­ing a beer chaser gen­er­ally meant knock­ing back the spirit in one go. The beer never came be­fore the whisky, and that’s fair enough; the whisky’s warmth and flavours linger as you drink the beer. You do not, how­ever, belt back a good whisky like it’s a spoon­ful of cough syrup. You sip it. But you knew that. And you put your beer in a glass so you can get the full taste ex­pe­ri­ence. But you knew that, too.

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