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Maku x Teeling - Pairing whisky and beer

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

Usually when I start to create a new blog post, I have a Glencairn filled with whisky in front of me. This time is no exception, but addition to the whisky, I also have a pint of beer with me. There are two reasons for this exception. First one is today's blog text, where we dive into the art of pairing whisky and beer. I attended to an event with few other whisky and beer bloggers to find good pairings for five Teeling whiskeys. There was a wide variety of Maku Brewing beers to choose from. These pairs would then be available in a tasting at Barley & Bait restaurant on St. Patrick's Day. Oh, and the second reason for the beer is of course, that I really like beer ;-)

But now, let's get to the point. I got contacted through social media by Maku Brewing's Daniel Ronan Hynes (@danielronan_fi), that would I be interested to take part on this event, where we would create pairings for the upcoming tasting. And when there's a chance to do good, I'm of course ready to help. :) (I still don't know who to thank so that I have landed on Daniel's radar, but whoever you are, THANK YOU <3!!!) From this moment on, started the long and excruciating wait, that I was lucky enough to be able to share with Laura (@viskipullopostia_whiskeypost), who also was invited to the event.

Searching new flavours

I arrived (againts my usual habits) to Barley & Bait (@barleybait) “only” 15 minutes before the agreed starting time and went to greet the organizers. In addition to Daniel, there were also Juho Virtanen from Maku Brewing, Juho Lokka (@juholokka) from Interbrands, beer blogists Anders (@digitalfermentation) and Peter (@tammenlehdonmatkassa), me, Laura and Jani Liukkonen a board member of whisky association called the Fellowship of Whisky.

We had short introductions and then we got the actual reason why we were invited there in the first place. Before we started the tasting, we went through our goal for the evening (First we would try three already created pairings and then find a fitting beer for the last two whiskeys) and discussed on how the beer and whisky tasting differs from tasting them individually. We got a speed training on the tasting techniques and how to differ a good and bad pairing. Pairings can be divided in to three categories

  1. Bad pair. Doesn't bring anything new to the table and doesn't make either substance any better. Also there's a high change of oak in the after taste and from the whisky there might come up some alcoholic notes.

  2. Good pair: Works nicely together, might make the flavours super drinkable (not bad, but not what we want to create), but doesn't really bring anything new to the table.

  3. Great pair: Changes the whisky and/or beer for better. There's a completely new flavours coming up and they work. The WOW effect.

Put your nose into it. (Photo by Juho Virtanen / Maku Brewing)

About the tasting techniques

  1. First of all, test both drinks individually so that you know what to expect and what kind of pairs you might expect. (we had the five Teeling whiskeys and a wide range of Maku beers to find the pairs, I would assume that trying to turn the tables to find good whisky for a certain beer would be much more complicated, but on the other hand, it's about the point of view. For me, whisky comes first).

  2. After the step 1, take each of the glasses to your nose (one on both nostrils (yes, really, it works)) and try to get first sense on how they are together.

  3. Take a sip from the beer at first and let it sit a while in your mouth. Immediately after the beer take a sip of the whisky and then let your taste buds take a trip, either a good or a bad one.

I didn't take notes during the tasting as I concentrated more on learning new stuff and finding the best way to for me to pair whiskeys and beers and of course the enjoy the situation. Before we started we discussed that finding these pairs aren't so straight forward. There's no certain types that always go together as is the usual misconception. For example, it doesn't always pay off to match the peated whisky with stout or porter.

We started of by testing the first three pairings that were already selected.

Teeling Amber Ale / O'Maku Red Ale

Teeling Single Grain / Maku Auervaara IPA

Teeling Black Pitts / Maku Alppilaakson Helles

The first two pairs worked nicely together, but on the third one weren't that pleased. It was more of a good pairing than a great pairing and we decided to find a better beer for the Blackpitts. We browsed through several beers and nothing was quite to the point. They weren't bad, but not great either. Then Andreas suggested, that maybe we try to combine the smoky Blackpitts with the salty Satama Gose. The rest of us were a bit suspicious about it, but sure, why not. To everyone's surprise, they work together perfectly. This just proves, that it's always wort to try even the craziest ideas. This ended up being the best pairing of the night.

Then it was time to start the task at hand, which was to find fitting beers for Teeling Small Batch Rum Cask and Teeling Small Batch Aquavit Cask whiskeys.

With the Rum Cask Teeling we decided to start from the lighter beers and work our way until we find a good pairing. We went through several beers rejecting one after another. We were almost getting frustrated, when somebody suggested the "obvious", that we match the Teeling Rum cask finish whisky, with the Rum cask aged stout. And there it was, they bonded nicely together. The sweetness of the rum in the whiskey balanced the beer nicely. For me Stouts are my least favorite beer type and it was nice to notice, that even those can be better with a fitting whisky.

The last whiskey for the evening was Teeling Small Batch Aquavit Cask. Once again we started with the lighter beers. For me this whisky was a positive surprise, I wouldn't have thought, that it works on it's own, but it does. In addition to that, it works with well with different types of beers, but it was a challenge to find an excellent pair for this. This was the only beer, that the group didn't end up with an unanimous decision. After a good spirited discussion, we had a short vote and Alppilaakson Helles was the winner.

Working hard (Photo by Juho Virtanen / Maku Brewing)

When the "job" was finished, we all stayed for a while an exchanged experiences about blogging, photographing and tasting whiskey/beers. It was a pleasure to get to know several new peoples, learn so much about beers and how to match them with whiskey. Thank you all for a great evening.

The final pairs

Teeling Amber Ale / O'Maku Red Ale

Teeling Single Grain / Maku Auervaara IPA

Teeling Black Pitts / Maku Satama Gose

Teeling Small Batch Rum Cask/ Maku Imperial Stout Aussie Rum Aged

Teeling Small Batch Aquavit Cask / Maku Alppilaakson Helles

Today I started to produce this text by returning to the original reason I got the invitation, matching a beer and whiskey. The pair worked together decently. It brought out the sweetness of the whiskey, but on the other hand the after taste didn't work for me. Rest of the text was inspired by Jameson Black Barrel. There's a great budget option if you want to get familiar with Irish whiskeys.

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