Recently I went cycling for the first time since I were a kid and I’m pretty sure the only reason I made it home was because we stopped for burgers before heading back. Thus reinforcing my idea that burgers are life. And if burgers are life, then beer is burger’s natural life partner.
So when Byron were like, come check out our new craft beer menu and tell us how you’d pair the burgers, I was all over this. Anyone that followed my Melbourne food adventures will know that I have a soft spot for bacon cheeseburgers, and BBQ sauce is my favourite of the sauces (although garlic mayo comes a close second). So naturally I was going to go for their Smoky burger: mature cheddar, streaky bacon, crispy onions, lettuce, pickles and smoked chilli BBQ sauce. Now, that’s a lot going on in that burger, so I wanted a beer that wasn’t going to weigh me down, partly because I was going to the cinema after, but also because the rain outside was biblical and if Birmingham was going to end up undersea I wanted to stand a fighting chance of floating.
I’ve been in to Byron before and even then it was pretty obvious then that they understood the bond of beer and burgers, as they’ve been collaborating with Camden Town Brewery since 2010 to produce their Byron Lager and Byron Pale Ale. But Byron’s craft beer menu surprised me; the new craft beer menu is, in my mind, unashamedly pitched at beers that will compliment burgers, rather than being an extensive beer menu covering all styles. And that’s a wise move; I got surprised with a super sour beer and burger accidental pairing in Oz and it just made me sad because it didn’t work at all.
The beers are typically lagers, pale ales and IPAs and aiming for something middling will keep most people happy, particularly given the range of brewers. I was pleased to see a couple of Beavertown’s beers on the list, as well as the, now fairly standard, Brewdog offerings and the Bristolian Moor Revival. Whilst most of these are fairly commonplace names amongst the craft beer lot, there is also Peroni for people who want a name they know. Birmingham’s branch has five taps, two are reserved for Camden Hells and Byron Pale, and the others are given over to guest beers – Magic Rock’s Hire Wire, which I have a total soft spot for, was on when I was there. They’re all good burger beers, which is essentially what I want from a burger joint.
So, to go with the Smoky burger, I went for Beaverton’s Neck Oil. I really like Neck Oil, it’s a beer I’ll often pick if I see it on the menu because it’s juicy, crisp and not too heavy. The guys at Beaverton call it a Session IPA, meaning that if you’re ‘On it’ this is a good one to go for because it’s not heavy and filling, and has a relatively low ABV…so you know, you can drink responsibly folks. I like it for all those reasons, but because it’s light and not too heavy or gassy, it works really well with something filling like a burger, and the juiciness of it makes it really refreshing against the Smoky’s smoked chilli BBQ sauce, which has a really nice kick to it. The flavours of the beer and burger don’t wrestle, but compliment each other. Individually the Smoky burger and Neck Oil beer are good, together they’re a great pair. And in the interests of science, my friend Rob (who writes wonderfully, but mainly about SCFC) had the Smoky with the Byron Lager and this worked well too. That’s the benefit to Byron’s new craft beer menu, it’s a sort of mix and match approach with their burgers which means you shouldn’t get a bad result.
Disclaimer: This post was in collaboration with Byron, but seriously how difficult do you think it was for me to write about beer and burgers? And we all know how serious I am about burgers, all my own overthought views, as per.