A County Durham brewery won a beer tasting expert and a beer and food matching evening at The Old Mill at Coxhoe this week.

Chris Graham at the Blackhill Brewery at Stanley entered a prize draw with Brewers Select to win a tutored tasting for his range of beers with an invited audience of beer fans and friends and was delighted to discover that he had won in November last year. 

His prize came in the form of Annabel Smith one of the first women in the UK to qualify as a Beer Sommelier.  Working together, Chris and Annabel selected a range of Blackhill Brewery beers for the tasting and Annabel then matched different foods to each one.

With beer samples being poured into wine glasses and labelled tasting mats for notes, Annabel began with a bit of background on the history of beer and how it is brewed. She then talked about different styles of beer and how they worked well in complementing the food she had selected.

The tasting included Thai Crab Cakes matched with Tilley Pale Ale 3.9% abv; Chicken Satay matched with 70 Fathom Blonde Ale 4.0% abv; a vintage Cheddar matched with Victoria Amber Ale 4.2% abv and even a Chocolate Brownie matched with Hartley Stone Winter Ale 4.1% abv.

Annabel explained: “A beer sommelier has a slightly different role to that of a wine sommelier. We are trained to advise what beer would suit a drinker’s palate, and which food would go best with that beer; but more importantly a beer sommelier’s role is to get consumers to rethink beer as a drink of choice; to get them to understand that that there is an unprecedented variety of styles and flavours in the beer category and that you can find a beer to suit everyone.

Our job is to make someone fall in love with beer and rid them of some of their misconceptions; ones such as “beer is fattening”.  It’s actually the least calorific drink ml-for-ml you can order at a bar or that beer is for men (16% of all beer purchases in the UK are made by women over the age of 25). We also aim to overcome the perception that beer is merely a poor relation to wine.”

Ken Steer-Jones, a Sales Manager for Brewers Select was surprised that there was so much to learn about beer and food and recommended that anyone who was interested in beer should try the different taste combinations.

Chris Graham meanwhile was thrilled with his evening saying: “When I won the prize with Brewers Select I really didn’t know what to expect of the evening but it has been a real eye-opener and thoroughly enjoyed by all of our guests. Even as a brewer I learned a lot about beer that I didn’t know and it was lovely to sit and properly taste our beers like a customer for a change!”

The photograph shows, from left to right: Ken Steer-Jones from Brewers Select, Chris Graham from Blackhill Brewery, Annabel Smith, Beer Sommelier and David Hughes from Brewers Select.

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