The hairy bar snack is a strange and delicious thing. Skin from a pigs leg fried in its own lard with a bunch of seasoning is enough to make some balk but for the wise and initiated the porky crunch and salty fat is a filling treat, best consumed with moderation over some good beer and convivial pubby cheer.
Beer Genie have taken the scratchings and beer concept pretty far and developed a six course tasting menu. Suffers of high cholesterol need not apply.
(Clockwise from top of plate) Once cooked, twice cooked, curry, p0rk crunch & leaf Bank's Mild, Harvey's Sussex Best, Sol, Carslberg Export, Captain Smith Strong Ale
Pork terrine with scratchings
St. Austell Clouded Yellow
Ram's Horn & Crunch Scratchings with guacamole
Pork chipolates & vanilla ice cream
Mackeson Milk stout
The tasting plate to start included the familiar 'once' and 'twice' cooked scratching, the 'curry' (a hideous angry Monster Munch like mess in the mouth) the 'crunch', a delicious porky Quaver and the 'leaf ' that was described by our host Rupert as 'something ones dog would turn down'. So a mixed bag but it was very interesting to compare them with the five beers alongside. Some worked well and other less so. Bank's Mild was well matched with the salty puffy skin on the twice cooked the Harvey's bitter was mellow and allied with the bulky once cooked horn-like scratch. Oddly the curry found favour with the Mexican Sol. Carlsberg was brilliant with almost all, the strength of the lager held up well against the salt and the full bodied sweetness of the Strong ale was good with the traditional once and twice cooked.
For the rest of this fat fest more cultivated beers were matched. The terrine studded with scratchings made for some exciting textures and the St. Austell Clouded Yellow was light and summery with vanilla mixing going well with yet more pork. Inspired by Thomasina Miers the third course of scratchings and guacamole was the least interesting although the spice was nicely beaten down by the zingy Oakham English ale. As with pork and apple the gooseberry dip was a revelation with the once cooked scratching and the sweet fragrant bananary Belgian wheat beer. With stomach space rapidly diminishing the fish pie with scratching gratin was not all that welcome but room was made for the bacony topping that was lifted by the zesty lightness of the US brewed Goose Island 312 a real champion ale that will gain popularity fast in the UK. In fact this Chicago brewed wheat beer was a recent gift from President Obama to David Cameron as the result of a World Cup bet. Those of us who had made it this far were really challenged by the zany dessert of chocolate dipped scratchings with Mackleson Milk Stout. Wowzers - what a combo! Salty chocolate is good, Reese's and chocolate pretzels for example, but add some pig and this is a properly pimped out snack. Fortunately the sweet vanilla ice cream was on site to cut though the intensity when one needed to take time out. The Milk Stout's chocolaty tones was a good but not entirely essential pairing.
I wouldn't jump at the opportunity to guzzle that many deep fried curly ones again any time soon but to have had the opportunity to do so has opened my mind and much as it closed the arteries. Some pretty fine beers were showcased alongside a unique Midlands treasure. This was one tasting session that was definitely out of the box. Thanks to Beer Genie, R&R Teamwork and The White Horse for hosing.