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...