McLaren Vale’s Vale Brewing has been flying the flag for South Australian beer since 2008. Its popularity makes sense: brews such as the Vale Ale – which started it all in 2008 – and Tropic Ale provide an approachable entry to the craft beer world.

Since joining in 2011, head brewer Jeff Wright has only lifted Vale’s appeal among serious hopheads by utilising Vale’s secondary label Fox Hat Brewing to focus on more adventurous styles – think malty red IPAs like the Red Pelt, and the sheer intensity of the 10 per cent Full Mongrel imperial stout.

With more than a decade spent at the centre of a community known as much for its great food as its amazing drinks, Wright was the perfect choice to give Broadsheet some insight into how to best to take McLaren Vale’s thriving community of artisan producers and celebrate them on a plate – with some choice beer pairings along the way, of course.

Kris Lloyd Artisan cheeses
Forget about wine – beer is the smart choice for cheese, and there’s a couple of reasons why.

“With any food you’re eating, the hops that we put into the craft beers, the bitterness and the flavours, actually help cleanse the palate,” Wright says. “And then the carbonation that you have with beer also helps to clear the fats from your mouth.”

Wright reckons Kris Lloyd Artisan cheeses in Woodside is doing some seriously good cheese, including a knock-your-socks-off goat’s chevre. If Wright has one tip for beer and cheese, it’s to match strong beers with strong cheese, and vice versa. So think something hoppy like the Fox Hat Metric IPA to go with a tangy goat’s cheese.

“That cheese goes extremely well with an IPA because it’s got some of the stronger flavours that are coming through,” Wright says.

Ellis Butchers and Grunds Gourmet
Wright recommends Ellis Butchers for cold-cuts and cured meats, and suggests washing them down with a classic Vale Ale (although any beer will do in a pinch, he says – this combination is that foolproof).

“I personally move away from too much of the fattier style of cured meats,” Wright says. “Just a nice serrano or prosciutto style, a lean cut, and a nice bit of age and salty complexity with a good cure.”

Wright also can’t go past the range of sauces and relishes at Adelaide’s Grunds Gourmet, which uses the Fox Hat Phat Mongrel stout in its Triple Stout BBQ Sauce.

The Fish Man in Blackwood
Seafood pairs deceptively well with beer. For something like a simply cooked piece of flathead, Wright reckons the bright and fruity Vale Tropic Ale is a winner.

“Flathead is an amazing, underrated fish,” Wright says. “I do it on the barbeque on the flat pan, on a low heat and using plenty of butter, just keeping it simple and letting its [flavour] really shine through.”

Wright recommends The Fish Man in Blackwood as the place to nab your fresh cuts for a dinner party.

Leabrook Bakehouse & Patisserie
The richness of some malt-driven beers makes them a surprisingly good match for desserts. Wright particularly likes the handmade chocolate treats from Steven ter Horst – who’s deluxe creations are available out of both his Hyde Park and Rundle St locations – such as the dark and comely pistachio and sea salt block. But there’s also the pastries from Leabrook Bakehouse & Patisserie to contend with.

Chief among these are the outlet’s popular almond croissant. “It’s made from hand, buttery in that traditional French style, and then it’s just got a nice little honey glaze with the almond on it,” says Wright. “Just the sweetness of that matches really well with the [Red Pelt] IPA. A lot of people don’t think of dessert and beers together, but there are plenty of combinations out there. The malt sweetness that we have in that beer matches well to balance out and complement the sweetness of the croissant.”

And if you wanted to take it to the next level? A scoop of ice-cream will elevate a pastry, making it an incredible match for a richer stout like the Phat Mongrel – as long as you’ve got some space left to fit it in.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with First Choice Liquor Market. Find more craft beer at First Choice Liquor.