Virginia Plain hosted the first ever Mega Dega with a sellout crowd enjoying a pairing and matching of craft beers with innovative dishes from top Melbourne chefs as part of Good Beer Week. Melbourne is a city of culinary sophistication with a burgeoning craft beer scene. The rise of Good Beer Week is nothing short of a phenomenon - in a few short years the event has become one of the best beer festivals in the world. In fact a top USA identity commented it was his favourite festival in the world due to the quality and variety of the events including boat cruise, live brews, dinners in breweries, and the Mega Dega. The World Loves Melbourne enjoyed the degustation as a guest of Good Beer Week.
Virginia Plain was the perfect venue according to Jame Smith the organiser of Good Beer Week, with its location in Flinders Lane, spaciousness, ambience and large kitchen. The larger than life Matt Beyer from Virginia Plain is also a beer guy and has a penchant from big innovative events so here was a perfect match. To enhance the experience each beer and food pairing was followed by the chef and brewer giving diners an insightful synopsis. Rock star brewers and rock star chefs.
The Mega Dega began in lively style with fun innovative Cavalier Cocktails (margaritas) along with first class Canapes from Virginia Plain. Cavalier is a local brewer who produce an easy drinking craft beer which also raises funds for Motor Neuron Disease.
A wonderful pairing was Kiuchi Brewery Japan teaming up with our own Izakaya Den. The Hitachino Nest White Ale was a superb match for the Kingfish Sashimi. The Belgian style white beer with its coriander, nutmeg and orange nuances went perfectly with the crisp sashimi.
Next was the Hargreaves Hill Brewery Admiral Nelson IPA teamed with Terrine of Pheasant, Cumquat, Port, and Smoked Game Chips by The Courthouse in North Melbourne.
This was a superb terrine from a once hatted restaurant finding their mojo in recent times. Hargreaves is a local brewer of course from the Yarra Valley and they in themselves are one of the best foodie breweries around. Hargreaves is well known for its ales and is a beer beacon in a sea of wineries. The beer was powerful but was matched by the richness and complexity of the terrine.
James Smith has become a man of influence in Melbourne in driving the craft beer culture and amazing in his passion to see Good Beer Week begin from nothing a few years ago to become one of the best beer festivals in the world. According to James, also founder of The Crafty Pint, the craft beer scene took off in WA but now Melbourne is essentially driving a huge trend.
Another magical pairing was between the superb Enkir saison (seasonal) pale ale of Birra Del Borgo from Italy and the Einkorn Tortellini, Cuttlefish, Pancetta Pangratto, Lemon, Mint and Parsley dish from Merchant Osteria Veneta. Italy is known more for its wine than beer but the craft beer scene is on the rise. The tortellini was impressive featuring large pieces and a huge hit of rich fish, while the beer complemented with its fruity tones. Clever was the inclusion of the same grain in the tortellini as in the beer. Birra Del Borgo have one of the most attractive bottles in the market and brewer Leonardo di Vincenzo was in town for a degustation pairing with Guy Grossi.
One of the highlights of the night was this magnificent Wagyu from Virginia Plain with Pearl Barley, wild Mushrooms and Sprouts. Such a clever dish with the pearl barley complementing the sensational Hop Hog beer from Feral Brewing. The Feral beer is one of australia's most popular craft beers. Big in WA it is now undergoing increased production to try and meet insatiable demand interstate. Those in the craft beer scene understand this beer as one of the best in terms of perfect hops, malt balance and those amazing aromas and sweet nuances (apricot and orange). The nose on this was like a Sauvignon Blanc. According to the brewer, this beer is a beer made to consume lively and fresh.
The Wagyu was a perfect match for Australia's best craft beer with perfect Wagyu, extraordinary reduction sauce, the pearl barley to complement the meat and sauce, a delightful beef cheek, and spectacular mushrooms and crunch of sprouts. People at our table were raving saying this was their best Wagyu experience ever.
Dessert was always going to be a surprise. How do you pair beer and wine for dessert? Well, Chris Badenoch from Josie Bones is a creative innovative master. The first surprise came with the sour beer from Wig and Pen called Mothur Funker. This sour beer had been aged in a combination of 4 year, 2 year and 1 year barrels. Bacteria had been added to the process to bring a complexity. From all reports sour beers are difficult to brew. But a crowd favourite not often seen in Australia.
The Mega Dega dessert was one of the most innovative dishes I've had in recent times. Simply described as Cake and Bacon it featured carrot cake with other vegetables that had been sweetened - the cake itself went superbly with the sour beer. The ice cream and meringues brought extra sweetness to go with the beer, as did the caramel sauce. But the coup de great for presentation and taste was the candied bacon perched on top. Amusingly the restaurant played Candy Candy over the system as we consumed this dessert.
This was a night of pushing boundaries with so much innovation and flair. It has large ramifications - the successful pairing of wine and beer is something advanced in the USA but relatively new in Australia. One can only see the trend continuing. Some restaurants around town are now paying as much attention to their beer lists as their wine lists. Also impressive was the strong overseas contingent including Brazilians and New Zealanders. One guy at our table commented on how he wants to bring food and beer pairing in a greater way to New Zealand. Check out the Good Beer Week program and its five streams of foodie, home brewer, beer novice, beer geek and beer lover.