Wild Beer Co meet Mary-Ellen McTague at Manchester Art Gallery

Earlier this month, the award winning Somerset brewery brought four of their favourite brews along for a collaboration with the celebrated former Aumbry chef so we went down to taste our way through four courses of beer and food.

By Tim Alderson | Last updated 3 December 2018

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Wine and cocktail-paired menus seem to be all over the place right now. However, despite craft beers being more popular than ever, ales, stouts and lagers don’t seem to get a look in. Aiming to change all that, Manchester Art Gallery hosted the first in a series of meals with matched drinks and invited Wild Beer Co along to showcase some of their favourite creations.

Since taking the reins at the Gallery Cafe back in the summer, Mary-Ellen McTague has gone back to basics with the menu, offering quality cakes, proper pasties and cheese toasties- all forged with locally sourced ingredients. There’s more than just a bit of baking going on in the kitchen though, and an impressive three course lunch for just £15 makes the Gallery Cafe worth a visit whether you’re an art-lover or otherwise. On the showing of the plates we picked through here, I’ll be making a swift return myself.

We began with the citrus flavours of Sleeping lemons. Inspired by the preserved lemons used in a Moroccan tagine, this zesty and aromatic sour wheat beer had almost cider like-qualities to it. To match we were served scallop cerviche dotted with toasted corn and soaked in a light but rich bisque. The acidity from the beer worked nicely against the raw fish and savoury sauce, all balanced by sweetness from the corn.

Moist autumnal aromas and the season’s crunch and squelch can surely be summed up no better than with the humble mushroom. Our second dish combined wild foraged fungi with buttery little snails and a crisp finger of malt loaf. Snow-like birch tree infused powder further brought to mind the colours and earthy flavours of a forest floor. To match we drank the slightly-sweet bourbon cask infused Rooting around autumn, a brown ale with dried fruit in its nose.

Next came a little venison pie, sparked with the sharp bursts of bitter barberries and a waft of truffle. The beer to stand up to that rich game flavour was Beyond modus, a dark beer aged in Burgundy barrels and born to take on rare red meat and glistening, flaky pastry.

Our final trip in to the crazy imaginations of the Wild Beer Co crew came in the form of Ninkasi, an apple juice infused saison beer with Champagne fermentation, whose sweetness, fizz and floral notes cried out for a bit of cheese. Cheddar and apple, the combination is surely a celebration of Somerset that couldn’t be missed. And luckily our last plate was an indulgent bite or two of broiche crust perched in cheddar cheese custard with a slice of quince jelly. Lovely stuff really, there’s no need to decide between dessert and cheese when you can have both now is there?

I’m more than happy to sink a few ales, and always keen to try something a bit different when it comes to booze, but most of the beers similar to those we tried on the night have always turned me off a little being honest. For me they don’t really work to drink as a pint. However, in this context, with beautifully matched food, it all kind of finally made sense.  Some of the flavours that Wild Beer Co are bringing to their brews are really exciting, and at least a match for the complexity of any wine you could find. It’s great to see them being tested to the fullest by food of the highest quality from Mary-Ellen McTague too.

This was the first in series of matched meals with alternating drinks producers, which will be recommencing in the new year, and Wild Beer Co are set to make a return too. Keep your eye out for the next events, they’re not to be missed!

Manchester Art Gallery Cafe
Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL
0161 235 8888