Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fish n' Chips n' Beer


I read the other day that 2010 is the 150th Anniversary of Fish & Chips, and this got me thinking - not only about my love for them - but their connection to Beer. Now, excuse me for a minute whilst we get a little bit dewy-eyed...

Ask anyone about Fish & Chips and chances are you'll get a response strongly linked to tradition and reverie. People will tell you about 'Fish & Chip night' (usually Thursday or Friday in Leeds, if you ask me....), or mums and dads ordering huge portions, wrapped in the same bag, to be doled out onto warmed plates and shared amongst the family. Despite being the healthiest of 'take-aways'; I don't really count Fish & Chips as a 'take-away'; it's Fish & Chips, not a Curry, Chinese, or Pizza. The art of the fish fryer elevates the meal beyond mere 'take-away'.

There's also regional variance - whether you have peas, mushy peas, curry sauce (eek!) or scraps as accompaniment. A Bap? Or a Cake? Or a Stottie (whatever that is). The only constant up and down the UK is Salt and Vinegar. Lots of it, naturally.

Fish & Chips has been a natural bedfellow for Beer for a long time. Granted, some people at home may prefer a hot drink, but the dish is often the first one on the Gastropub's blackboard, usually gussied up with 'minted peas' or something like that, but along with the ubiquitous 'Steak & Ale Pie', it's pretty much a pub standard. And don't forget 'Beer Batter' - whoever realised that cold, spritzy beer makes better liquor for batter than water is a genius.

From a beer-matching point of view, I always struggle with Fish & Chips because of the sheer versatility of Battered Fish. My case in point are my two personal favourites; Fuller's London Pride, for instance. Good ol' London Pride; it's mildly fruity, fudgy-biscuity maltiness is a wonderful foil for the sweet, steamed fish. A massively satisfying pint, with a massively satisfying meal.
On the other side of the spectrum, I do love drinking Adnam's East Green with Fish & Chips. Chills well, grassy, punchy, and enough lemony/limey notes to pair with the salt and vinegar you've liberally doused your chips in.
There's not many dishes that fit so many styles of beer to enjoy with. Wheat beer? No problem, Fish with Wheats or Wits is a no-brainer. IPA? See above notes on salt and vinegar. Pale Ales? Whack half the bottle in the batter if you're making it, and enjoy the results. God Bless ya, Fish & Chips.
By the way - has anyone ever made or eaten Stout batter? I've never seen it, but for some reason, in my head, it sounds good...

16 comments:

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

re stout batter, haven’t heard of that but a few years ago I was a judge at a beer and fish and chips competition at the White Horse, Parsons Green (it meant eating fish and chips and drinking beer all afternoon…), and the chap from the Chip Council or whatever it’s called said you could have lemonade batter if you liked, it was all about the carbonation. Having spent four summers from 14-18 working in a seaside chipper I must still admit to having a weakness for the stuff, and like a Schneider Weiss as my prefered choice, though a cup of tea is also rather good.

TIW said...

You can have a Black Sheep with your fish and chips at the (excellent) Fisherman in Settle, which also used to be the case at Murgatroyds - though I think they've gone over to smoothflow.

Harry Ramsden HQ at Guiseley used to do bottles of Landlord. That was before Ramsdens went all rubbish, mind.

Leigh said...

ATJ - ah, an ex-chipper! Great Stuff. And yes, from what I know it's the carbonation that's the main thing, although I do sometimes detect a bready yeastiness but I'm not sure wether that's just a placebo effect of the use of beer. I personally use TT Landlord, chilled overnight, in my beer batter. And Tea? yeah, you're right, Tea's great (hence the mention) - with Fish & Chips.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

living where i do i love fish n chips, we're not far from whitby either which arguably has some of the best chippies in the country.

in the summer i quite often walk along the beach to saltburn for fish n chips, accompanied by a bun...most times i will take some beer with me, one of my faves of last year was flying dog doggie style but like ATJ say's a cuppa works really well too.

as for making the batter, ive tried leffe brune, leffe blonde, various bitters and sparkling water all work really well, I've found its all about getting the bubbles in and making sure the fryer is up to temperature

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

A chippy in Skeg once told me that you must never, never on any occasion mix beer with fish and chips before a session. Apparently, according to him, the batter and the beer would create some type of H bomb implosion within your stomach and you'd never make it past the early evening.

Velky Al said...

Ah fish and chips, is there any single finer meal on the planet? It is one of those dishes that when I go somewhere new, I simply have to try. Had a good one in Williamsburg last weekend, washed down with Left Hand Milk Stout. Maybe it is a northern thing (as in north of Hadrian's Wall! ;) ) but for me you can't beat a pint of stout with your fish and chips, oh and the fish should be haddock if possible.

ZakAvery said...

Heston B suggests using vodka instead of water in the batter. I tried it, and unsurprisingly, he's right - it boils off much more quickly when it hits the hot oil, and leaves a crisper, flakier batter.

Stout batter should be used for deep fried Mars bars, surely?

Leigh said...

TIW - agree re Ramsden's! We've got a Murgatroyd's up the road in Guiseley; the fodder is excellent, too. I'll check that out and see what they got. Zak - Wow! Never heard that at all, definately one to try. Stouty Mars Bars; now that really does sound good. Velky - the Stout thing works then yeah? Beer Andy - You're right - temperature is the key, as with all deep-frying. Never been to Saltburn though - will check it out. Mark - Really? If it came from the horse's mouth then there must be some truth in it. Only one way to find out!!

Mark said...

YUM! For me fish and chips is the reserve of a cold day sitting outside by the sea and eating from the bag. Take fish and chips inside and they make me feel a little dirty, for some reason (dirty in the best of ways, of course).

When I ordered fish and chips from The Bull in Horton Kirby the landlord asked me what beer I'd like in the batter. I asked what the choice was and he said anything on the bar before pouring a little Dark Star APA into a half pint and taking it to the kitchen!

The best pairing... it's whatever you want it to be with fish and chips and it almost universally works.

As for stout batter... I haven't tried one but I did make a cherry beer batter and deep fried some peanut butter and jam sandwiches (don't ask!). I also tried that batter with salmon which worked nicely.

Leigh said...

Mark - it's true, it really is a universal beer match. Have never made a battered salmon but once saw it on the menu in a newquay chippy, strangely. Will have to try and make one. That service asking what beer you would like is excellent, if only more places did that!

Northern Snippet said...

Agree all beers go with fish and chips,but equally a pot of tea and some bread and butter.
Regarding the batter sorry but lagers seem to make the best batter as they're fizzier,it's all about the bubbles,hence fizzy water works well too.
Better just to drink the beer as an accompaniment.

Leigh said...

Thanks NS - Yep, bubbles and temp. It's gotta be cold, from what I can say. Tea - of course - but it's not a tea blog, is it?!?!

Leigh said...

Thanks NS - Yep, bubbles and temp. It's gotta be cold, from what I can say. Tea - of course - but it's not a tea blog, is it?!?!

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

That's what I thought, but on reflection, most of the people we met in Skeg I wouldn't trust with theirs let alone mine...

Bailey said...

Great post, Leigh. My vote for the best chippy in London: the Laughing Halibut in Westminster, a convenient 10 minute walk from Cask. No beer to drink in, though, sadly.

Mark -- a choice of beer in the batter!? That's a touch of class.

Leigh said...

Bailey - thanks for the tip, I'll bear that in mind the next time i'm in the capital.