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Earth Ale Brewery Dinner

Delicious Ales and cocktails
It's not everyday you get a Michelin trained chef turn their hand to manufacturing craft beer and cocktails, one who literally forages food from the paddock to the plate. Alex Lewis has taken it upon himself to harvesting his pickings whether it be from Douglas Fur to make pine oil, or pulling up field mushrooms for his 'Snack, Land or Sea' menu. It seems Alex who started Earth Ale Brewery is passionate about all things nature and this theme runs throughout an evening where I'm given the chance of discovery through his 8-course dinner menu at The Bedford pub in Balham.

Rice Cracker with lettuce, Tom Yum(?) and smoked paprika
The menu is to be paired with a selection of beers and cocktails, created by Earth Ale themselves. I'm excited for both the food and drink and am definitely intrigued about how it will pan out. I will disclose that this meal was complimentary - but as you are about to find out I am always honest with my assessment.
We arrived at the venue for the evenings dinner service, now in retrospect it wasn't what I would call an 8 course 'dinner' at all, but I'll get into that later, just before the 7.30pm start time.

Pigs Cheek with radish and corn kernels

There were no other guests and they weren't quite ready for us so we to popped into the pub next door for a drink at their suggesting. After that we returned to find everyone had arrived and in fact been seated. We were placed at a table with two other patrons and after some time we managed to get some drinks from the somewhat disarranged service but the friendly waiter who happened to be the brother of the beer maker and the chef, did his best to attend everyone. However, it was evident that they were slightly chaotic and I did observe staff trying to remove unfinished drinks from patrons throughout the evening - unfortunately my own partially full glass and half filled bottle had been removed whilst I was away from the table. The eight course dinner I had been invited to, I wrongly thought was to be paired with beer/cocktail on each course inclusive but in fact there were four beers and three cocktails you ordered at your leisure - they'd be added to your credit card at the end of the night. I also had not been made aware that when you purchase a ticket, it is now obvious for the meal only but they were also storing your credit card details to charge later for the paired drinks. This shouldn't really be a problem just as long as their systems are secure but we have no way in knowing.

Crumble mania - Raspberry and Walnut powder
Like I mentioned earlier, I wouldn't call it a 'dinner' pairing menu per se, rather an array of small tasting plates and for me, it was the ales and the delicious cocktails that were the true stars of the evening. I found the dishes lively and vibrant. However, having a shot of green liquid, rice cracker with lettuce and a plate of crumbs as three of the eight courses for a dinner tasting menu, its taking the mickey. It is also a shame no actual cooking seemed to have taken place, they were assembling the plates at the front of our dining room, and one or two of the plates reheated on the night. The only meat dish of the night was an one pig's cheek (mine was small) with corn kernels, the cheeks were glutinous and soft and I liked the texture of the corn to balance it but there needs to be at least one or two good portioned dishes, these were just too small. All in all the plates did exhibit style and great presentation, nice flavour combinations and technique. The table settings were rustic and the forage theme evident. It's a night out for folk who love pop-up styled evenings, have less concern for food (or are in the dark), are maybe partial to pretentiousness but do like to have fun because it was in fact a great lively atmosphere. For me the stand out were the drinks - the Biscuit and amber ales were absolutely cracker and the cocktails exhibit new flavours with a perfect mix of sour to sweet - excellent. It cost 44 quid for the food and the pairing booze is extra. 

Shot of forest-ness? - The 'Energy Cleanse Shot'


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