It’s a pleasant Wednesday afternoon, the sun’s out and it’s quiet and peaceful down at New Ubin Seafood CHIJMES. Perfect moment for a craft beer with good company. The Australian gentleman sitting across from me is Jum Ryan (JR), brewer at the recently opened brewpub, Little Creatures Singapore. He’s not exactly the most experienced connoisseur when it comes to the local cuisine, (he’s been so busy with the brewpub the last few months, he’s hardly had time to eat!) but he’s about to get a quick five-course lesson on it. Today, he’s bringing his craft beers together with well-known Singapore classics in the hopes of seeing some sparks fly.
Ryan’s paired off the dishes with what little knowledge he has of them – but luckily, he has some help on hand. Matthew Chan (MC), sommelier and bar manager at Nouri, and Christabel Goh (CG) bar manager at Good Luck House, are here to lend their tastebuds, their passionate love for craft beer, and some extra hands to help finish the crab. Let’s dive right in.
oyster omelette w/ Little Creatures’ Pale Ale
CG: Adding the oyster omelette chilli really changes the flavour, for me without the chilli the pale ale isn’t going to be the best choice, on the other hand it works really well with the flavours the oyster omelette chilli bring in.
MC: I felt that when the oyster omelette on its own, especially when you’re having the part without the oysters, the bright ale actually pairs better because it had a cleaner taste structure and could cut through the oiliness well. But with the chilli, the pale has a bit more structure to it. Overall, the pale ale is the more flexible choice.
sambal kang kong w/ Little Creatures’ India Pale Ale
JR: I’d say this one would be one of my favourites. Very big flavours from both ends, the sweetness of the IPA versus the chilli in the sambal; it’s just bang on.
MC: Sweetness creates the impression of softening spice. So that’s why out of all the beers here, the IPA has the best structure and the sweetness to soften the sambal. This pairing’s a done deal.
CG: Big flavour plus big flavour, it’s kind of a no-brainer. Though every other paring we have here is open to interpretation, there’s no question about this one. I would say hands down, the IPA works really well with the spice.
Chilli crab w/ Little Creatures’ Original Pils
MC: I’m kind of on the fence with this one. Spice-wise my brain tells me IPA, but the pilsner would really help with cutting through the thickness and richness of the chilli crab sauce. The crabs flavour lingers more with the IPA than the pilsner, but then again, it’s because the pilsner’s freshness cuts through just about everything. If you just have the chilli crab sauce alone, the pilsner works great. The IPA helps soften the chilli sauce and pairs with the sweetness of the crab.
CG: I think it really depends what you’re going for. Both the pilsner and the IPA are really good pairings. Originally, I would have gone for the IPA just looking at the menu. But after trying the sauce I went straight for the crisp pilsner – the sauce was just too spicy, my mouth was on fire! On an additional note, Chinese food doesn’t usually come course by course, everything’s served at the same time. Considering this, you can’t also have a line of different beers waiting just to pair with each dish, that would be ridiculous. So it’s always good to have a middle ground, a beer that is universal.
Orh nee & coconut cream w/ Little Creatures’ Rogers’ Beer
CG: There’s pairings where it’s good to have a flexible choice, then there’s this. I’m very, very set on this combination.
MC: I think we can come to a consensus that everyone loves this. The toffee and caramel flavours of the beer really go well with the coconut cream: not really about sweet on sweet, but more on the textural and lingering flavours from the beer. Mid-palate is more dessert, but the finish really brings out the beer. This beer has a really long length as well; the yam helps to lengthen it even further by having it on the back of the palate. This is what we would call a perfect pairing.
A Bit Of After-lunch Chatter
MC: Beer goes really, really well with the food we have here in Singapore. Down with that whole conception that beer pairings don’t work: I’m giving it two more years till beer pairings become a thing. A lot of people say it doesn’t work because beer gets you bloated – but it all depends on how you pour it. There’s this common misconception that preserving the head helps. In fact, the more you preserve the bubbles in the glass, the more it gasses up once it gets in your stomach. So the best is to try and get the bubbles out before you drink it.
CG: Case in point, there’s a viral video going around of a cicerone doing just that. There’s a method that gets the carbonation out real well, it makes it so much easier on the stomach.
JR: But then again, if you lose the carbonation you lose the mouth feel, you lose that lifting and cut-through abilities of the beer. The carbonation really brings the flavour out, so you can’t really go overboard when removing it. It’s a give-and-take in my opinion.
MC: Definitely. It shouldn’t be overworked, but you should not pour the beer down the sides and preserve every inch of carbonation in it. Like good champagne, there should be enough carbonation in good beer to allow it to rise even after getting the bubbles out. You won’t see the head, but you can still feel it in the mouth.
JR: I think it’s a very typical habit to have beer before dinner, but as soon as the food hits the table everyone switches to a glass of white or a red wine. Looking at these facts, you don’t need all that – really, you just need a beer.
New Ubin Seafood at CHIJMES
30 Victoria Street #02-01B/C, 187996
+65 9740 6870
Little Creatures Singapore
36 Club St, Singapore 069469
+65 6239 0350