Now generally this is something I don't really care for, as lingering over a meal whilst sipping a drink seems more like wine drinkers territory to me. What's wrong with scoffing your food so you can move on to the more important business of guzzling your beer? I made an exception in this case as it was about ale and pie pairing, which seemed too good to miss, and they'd decided to spice it up by making it a competition.
Aside from the first one they're only in approximate order as some of the details escape me now. Each pie was scored in a number of categories, from overall appearance to the more complex issues such as ale and meat aroma and texture, pastry crispiness, and quality of the gravy. As we didn't have a pie flavour wheel to hand we were slightly relieved that the overall score was simply made on marks out of ten.
- From Shepherd Neame there was a 'Hop pickers' beef pie. I can't remember what beer came with this, I think I was too excited that the free beer had started arriving. The pie was moist and well seasoned but the meat had the look of lips and arse holes about it, so a fairly average pie.
- Campden BRI brought a Chicken and bacon pie with Badgers beer. The pie was good, as the dedicated researchers at the BRI had discovered the universal truth that adding bacon to most things improves them. The beer had an amazing floral aroma, with hints of tropical fruit and then I realised it was Badgers and my interest waned.
- Elgoods supplied the excellently named 'Cow and Dog pie', this being a beef pie made with Black dog mild. That was also the beer we were supplied with. The pie had big flavours and the lovely Lisa and I thought this was the best pie of the night and I even enjoyed the mild.
- Fullers came with a beef and mushroom pie served with ESB. The filling was good but the pastry was very hard so we had to mark them down for that but the copious quantities of the malty ESB counted in their favour.
- Windsor and Eton had a home made Venison and Sloe berry pie with Black IPA. An interesting combination but my portion was a bit dry. The beer was also interesting but not something I'd rush back for more of: it tasted like a hoppy, citrus flavoured American IPA, but burnt.
- Wells and Young's brought a steak and kidney paired with Young's Special. The pie and the suet crust were flavoured with thyme which worked really well, and despite the presence of kidneys in the pie this was voted the winner. Young's Special is not my favourite beer but it was clean and crisp and went down well enough.
- There were also Beef pies which looked suspiciously pukka but turned out to be from the Real Pie Company. These came with Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. I didn't think much of the pie, but I'm quite partial to Guinness FES. I could wax lyrical about the earthy flavour from the long maturation but I don't think they bother with that anymore and just bung in some lactic acid.
We were then treated to some chocolate cake, which was a great relief to the hungry vegetarian on the table. I thought it could have done with some dried fruit* though.
Rather bizarrely a buffet arrived at this point which for obvious reasons there wasn't much appetite for. It did mean we got to take home a food parcel though.
It was a great night for picking up gossip too. Some things Fuller's have been up to caused me great excitement (or should that be great eXXcitement?) and as there was another IBD meeting going on downstairs (the examiners were meeting) so I was able to catch up with one of my old lecturers from Heriot-Watt. I think I was still talking coherently at that point but fortunately the lovely Lisa had kept her eye on the clock as time really was getting on. So after some brief difficulty figuring out how the whole opening a door malarkey worked we were on our way.
Here's some of our booty from the night
* BINGO! With apologies to Mark Dredge.