Beer and food matching at Canterbury Brewery

Canterbury Brewery One night a few weeks ago the Boyfriend and I accompanied our Scottish physiotherapist housemates to a celebration of International Physiotherapist Day. Now, going to celebrations of other people’s careers is not something that we would normally do but, as this was taking place at Christchurch’s Canterbury Brewery, we decided to make an exception – just this once, you understand.

Canterbury Brewery, now owned by the Australian based company Lion Nathan, is pretty old. First named Ward’s Brewery, it was founded in 1854 – not long after the first settlers arrived in Christchurch. The heritage museum in the brewery reflects this, telling the history of beer making in general, as well as concentrating on the brewing in New Zealand.

The physiotherapists of Christchurch, plus ourselves, were conducted to the heritage museum first. After wandering through that our guide – a very enthusiastic brewer who occasionally does these tours at night – explained the whole process of brewing and took us around the parts of the brewery which are open at night.

As soon as we walked out onto the brewery floor we could smell that rich barley/hop scent that will always remind me of Dublin’s Guinness brewery. Unsurprisingly, this is the company that also brews New Zealand’s Guinness. The most interesting part of this tour – there’s not actually too much going on at night time – was when our guide led us into the large room, complete with massive gleaming copper vats which contain the malted barley, where they were actually making the beer. The brewing is a 24-hour operation, with brewers working in shifts, but the bottlers seem to get nights off.

We returned to the Heritage Centre bar for what was to be the high point of the evening – a beer and food matching session. It must be admitted that we were pretty hungry at this stage, not to mention thirsty!

With the group seated around a long table, a pair of glasses in front of each person, we were delighted when our guide started to pull out bottles of Canterbury Draft and six of Mac’s Gold. As at a wine tasting, he spoke (for too long in a hungry/thirsty person’s opinion!) on the various merits of each brew and how to get the best taste from your beer. Glasses, not bottles, seemed to be the key thing but at that stage it was getting distracted by finally having some beer in front of me. The guide told us that these particular beers go best with pizza and, to our delight, proceeded to hand out three large pizzas so that we could test for ourselves. They didn’t last too long.

The next set of beers were Steinlager and Stella Artois, accompanied by a platter of salami, olives, cheese and pickles. At our end of the table the pickles and olives disappeared so quickly that you might have thought that the four of us were still students!

The guide finished off the evening by explaining the merits of Speights Old Dark and a boutique brew, Speights Porter, which he said are good companions to blue cheese and chocolate mud cake, large examples of which were then produced.

I’m not sure that I’ll be changing my usual glass of wine with dinner to one of beer, just yet, but the Canterbury Brewery tour did make the point that, as with wine, there are definitely beers that go better with some foods than others. My personal favourite was the blue cheese and Speights Porter combination, something which I definitely intend on trying again sometime soon.

Hurray for International Physiotherapist Day!



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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