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Down in five: Melissa Cole

Categories: Expert guidance

Drinks writer Melissa Cole on British cask beer, a special vintage, and why beer’s a social lubricant

What’s your favourite beer for everyday drinking?
The simple answer is cask beer: it is what the UK does best, and it’s virtually unique to our shores. It gets a bit more complicated when you ask me for brands because the great joy of cask beer, and pubs that know how to stock it, is that it can move with the seasons. Right now, when it’s blowing a hooley, I want to hide by a pub fire with a pint that’s deep russet or dark brown, but in summer I want to be soaking up the rays with a chilled, pale primrose brew.

What’s your latest discovery?
Crikey, that’s a really tough one because I’m discovering great breweries every day of the week! Actually, I’d have to say that it was a really lovely beer and food match. I made a dish consisting of rough little balls of fried Cannon & Cannon nduja, lightly steamed kale, gently warmed spelt, seasoned goat’s milk yoghurt, sundried tomatoes, toasted sunflower seeds and a cider-vinegar dressing made with the pan oil from the nduja. I served this warm, as opposed to hot, and thought it was delicious even before I paired it with a Pressure Drop Stokey Brown, but the beer just drew everything even closer in harmony, rising to a final crescendo on the palate with every alternating bite and sip.

What beer would you save for a special occasion?
Fuller’s Vintage. The venerable Chiswick brewery has been quietly opining on the benefits of ageing beer for quite some time. It’s a complicated subject on which there is very little scientific research, but I usually find that the beers are good fresh, great after a year, start taking a nose-dive during their third year and then need to go through varying stages of the oxidation process for about five years, after which they start resurfacing as richer, figgier, more madeira-like liquids, and this only increases with age.

Who would you share it with?
Beer’s role is to be a social lubricant, so as long as the company is good, the food bountiful and the beer plentiful then I’m happy!

Favourite match with food
There are too many to mention, but if I had a sandwich of fresh farmhouse bread, fermented salted butter, thinly sliced rare roast beef, freshly-made creamed horseradish, iceberg lettuce and a cracking pint of proper British cask bitter, like Bathams’, I would be a very happy bunny indeed.