Beer vs. Wine at The Pig and Pallet, Topsham

It is an almost impossible question to answer.

What is better with food? Beer or Wine?

Competitors ready?

Throughout my culinary adventures I have often ignored wine.  I have had a few bad experiences at the hands of a box of wine, and although the occasional glass is acceptable, I made my mind up long ago that Beer was the only way forward.  One thing I learnt from a terrible Roland Emmerich film (apocalyptic ‘2012’) however, is that in order to achieve enlightenment, one must first empty your cup.  This evening I left my prejudices at the door, I was open to suggestions.

The Pig and Pallet in Topsham set out to try and answer this great philosophical question at the Beer vs. Wine Evening on the 3rd December. Two masters in their fields went head to head to prove that ultimately their alcoholic beverage is better with food.

The competitors:

Ben Richards – Accredited Beer Sommelier and general beer nerd, Ben hosts events and workshops.  He can be found writing about beer, researching it and (strangely enough) drinking the stuff too.  Ben was  very approachable and ridiculously knowledgeable about his subject.

Jim Kingston – Jim runs Topsham Wines, and with this a vast amount of knowledge and experience of buying and tasting some of the finest wines available. Here was another walking encyclopedia. Before each wine Jim gave us a really good talk through (as did Ben) what we were about to be drinking, its heritage and why he believed it matched the food we were about to eat.

It had been a good seven or maybe eight months since we last visted The Pig And Pallet when it first opened. When we first visted, Pete Woodham-Kay took me through the interior which he had mostly hand-built himself from reclaimed wood and pallets. Now have a kitchen serving a well put together menu, which we will return to visit and sample at a later date.

I really love this place, Good Game and everything it stands for, so I was dead excited have been given the opportunity to witness such an important battle between two sides of a particularly divisive subject.

Steve Williams (one of the other halves of Good Game) introduced the courses, what made them special and who supplied them if they hadn’t been made in store.  I made notes as I went, but as you might expect the writing did get a bit squiffy towards the end so forgive me if some of the details are wrong.

After each course, the table voted either Beer or Wine.  My note taking became squiffier and slightly sporadic with the more I drank…

First Course:

We started things off with a Venison and Liver Pate served with crisp bread and Cornish Butter.  

Jim’s first left hook was some Dr Loosen Estate Riesling, a sweet yet dry white with some citrus notes which I really liked. Ben came in for the defence with a dark bottlle of Westmalle Trappist Dubbel, which split us down the middle.  I went for the Westmalle and Tori decided she preferred the Riesling.

Second Course:

We moved swiftly on Pig & Pallet Christmas Sliders with made from Smoked Turkey Thighs and Sausage Meat between Shaldon Bakery made Brioche Buns with ‘Christmas Slaw’ and an Alabama BBQ Sauce.  Jim’s next left hook was a Black Shiraz from Bob Berton Vineyards, this was dry and not overly sugary.  I really liked this wine, but I was impressed with Ben’s upper cut in the shape of a Thornbridge Dark Raven IPA.  A hoppy dark malted beer, it was beautiful.

Third Course:

Our sweet dish was an Exploding Bakery gluten free Belgian Almond Chocolate Brownie.  This brownie is the sort that just melts, even if you just look at it.  It gave us to see how well a wine or beer could be matched with a very sweet dish. Ben introduced us to a lambit beer called Framboise by Lindemans which was a deliciously fruity and sweet concoction.  It wasn’t like drinking a beer, moreso a fermented fruity drink.  It was a little too sweet and too apart from the traditional beer, Jim definitely went on the offensive with a Cantina di Negrar Valpolicella Ricotta.  This was a divisive round as it was 18 votes to 18.

Fourth and final course:

This was our cheese course, a taster of genuine Devon Blue cheese.  The Blue Boy stilton was a mild and savory cheese that was simply beautiful.  Jim’s offering was another sweet wine, a De Bortoli Botrytis Semillon which was a delictable wine.  It went down very well at our table, especially with Tori.  Ben’s offering for this course would have to be a good one, and it was quite impressive, being a Samuel Smith brewery Imperial Stout.

The overall winner of the evening was wine.

It was strange how quickly it seemed to finish, not because it was a quick event (we left at 10:45pm which equated to at least two and a half hours) but because it was so much fun.  We met Teresa and Ben, who we shared a table with who were excellent tasting companions.  As in, we didn’t eat them as well, but we couldn’t have asked for two better tablemates.

Will there be a rematch? I asked Steve after the event.  I very much hope so.  It was a unique and memorable evening that I hope other diners get to take part in.  I am hoping to persuade Ben to write a guest post for Eating Exeter at some point in the future.

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