Hop Harvest 2014 - Hop-inspired degustation dinner @ Circa The Prince

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of Hop Harvest 2014 and Circa The Prince.
Gastrology attended an exclusive hop inspired degustation dinner at Circa recently where we enjoyed a bespoke menu designed by leading chef Ashly Hicks. The menu showcased natural flavours and complemented a range of beers selected by Lion master brewer, Peter David.
Led by the Beer Pilgrim, guests escaped on a journey through Tasmania’s luscious hop fields, expressed by a selection of surprising and delicious taste combinations – the fruits of this year’s bountiful hop harvest. 
Leading chef Ashly Hicks, Executive Chef at Melbourne’s Circa restaurant took the art of food and beer matching a step further, through an innovative approach by incorporating hops as an ingredient in the menu presented to us.
As Australian hops are receiving world-wide acclaim by brewers and beer lovers alike, and with the annual hop harvest taking place this month, there was no better time to wet our whistle by celebrating hoppy beers from near and far.

Ashly's menu brought our appreciation of beer to new heights while showcasing his technical genius in food pairing and preparation.
Heritage beetroots roasted in hops with barley curd & malted onions
Beer match: Pilsner Urquell, Beck's

The sweet beetroots complimented the smokey and savoury flavours of the roasted hops. The hops added a beautiful textural element to the dish. We thought the Pilsner Urquell matched this first course the best, with its biscuit and whole-grain cracker characteristics.
Blue cod with summer leeks, truffle and roasted hop broth
Beer match: James Squire The Constable Copper Ale, Spitfire Kentish Ale

The blue cod was an outstanding course. Superbly cooked, the piece of white fish was succulent and sweet. Its delicate ‘melt in your mouth’texture was sensational. The flavours were subtle and earthy. We loved matching this course with the Spitfire Kentish Ale which was a beautifully balanced beer with aromatic allure.
Robbins Island Wagyu with mustard, marrow & onion juice
Beer match: Little Creatures Pale Ale, Knappstein Reserve

The wagyu was cooked to perfection and matched both the Little Creatures Pale Ale and Knappstein Reserve well. The Knappstein was particularly interesting. Possessing wine-like balance, it had intense fruity characters of citrus and melon. The honeyed malt and hop finish made it the perfect accompaniment to the equally sweet onion juice and flavoursome wagyu.
Chocolate mousse with cherries, cocoa & shortbread
Beer match: Seven Sheds St Ella IPA, Feral Hop Hog

The hop-inspired degustation ended on a high with a decadent and absolutely stunning chocolate mousse. We found the Feral Hop Hog the perfect match for this dessert as it cut through the richness of the mousse with its aggressive bitterness and dry finish while complementing the sweet cherries with its citrus aroma. It was a commendable end to the dinner.
Left to right: Tim (the Beer Pilgrim), Peter David (Lion Master Brewer)

Over the course of the dinner we learned quite a number of interesting facts about Australian hops and how their unique flavour profile make them highly sought after in both local and overseas markets. This year’s hop harvest has been a hotbed of international interest, with approximately 60 per cent of the local crop earmarked for export.

Lion Master Brewer, Peter David, said while Australian hop varieties are gaining popularity in international markets, they are also warranting attention here at home because of their distinctive hop flavour and aroma.

According to Peter, the distinctive Australian lifestyle means that beer is arguably the perfect beverage to complement a meal. Hops have the ability to enhance the flavour and aroma of food, so matching food with beer can transform something ordinary into a memorable dining experience. We could not agree more.

Food and beer pairing unearths a natural approach to fine dining and beer appreciation which we love and hope will become more commonplace.

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Images courtesy of Rob Daniel Photography.