WA’s first Food and Drink Symposium, aka FADS, is happening at the Claremont Showgrounds on Sunday May 28 and will “bring farmers, producers, chefs, educators and consumers together for a unique, community creating and sustainable food and drink event, with a day long program of talks, panel discussions and workshops.”
The concept is based on similar events such as Noma‘s MAD conferences and is being organised by Katrina Lane and Ai-Ling Truong, two well-known and active members in the local food scene. Katrina is a passionate local food advocator and Ai-Ling is the food curator and founder of Food Truck Rumble.
If you are interested in where you food comes from, if you use your own cloth shopping bags instead of plastic ones and if you prefer the markets over the nearby Coles, this event should be in your calendar!
Sometimes beer gets forgotten at food and drink events but this isn’t the case at the Food and Drink Symposium. There will be a couple of opportunities to chat beer with a few great beer industry personalities involved in the day. At the Q&A – Exploring the history of WA’s alcohol industry – Jack Purser from Indian Ocean Brewing and Sean Symons from White Lakes Brewing and former chief judge at the Perth Royal Beer Show Awards, will be looking at the craft beer world and how it has evolved.
After the lunch break, as part of the FADS Conversations sessions, Gerrard “Mitch” Mitchell and Paul Wyman will be hosting two sessions about beer and food. Each session will be focused on a beer style and pairing it with food but the guys don’t want people standing on ceremony, they’re there for a chat with you too! These casual and interactive sessions are free to attend.
As a beer drinker in WA chances are you have enjoyed many of Paul’s beers. The Chief, a beautiful American Pale Ale that impressed both punters and beer judges, was from Paul’s time as head brewer at The Monk in Fremantle. From there Paul went on to head up the Colonial Brewing Margaret River brewhouse and now he is at the helm of Nowhereman Brewing, a new brewpub in West Leederville due to open mid-year.
Mitch is the executive chef for the Mary Street Bakery venues with extensive experience both locally and abroad, previously heading up the kitchens at Feral Brewing, The Monk and Five Bar. Mitch has established himself not only as a wonderful chef but as the beer and food chef in WA.
Within these sessions, Paul will examine one beer style, diving into its history and the style guidelines and Mitch will discuss the food he would pair with it and why. A small amount of beer and food will be provided since all that chatting will most certainly make you thirsty and hungry. But this isn’t a presentation, this is a discussion so the guys welcome feedback and comment, after all, beer and food is about conversation as much as it’s about flavour.
It’s having these sorts of conversations that Mitch and Paul both firmly believe is how food and beer culture will be promoted and shared.
“You need people who are passionate and constantly telling the same story,”
Small producers and brewers are often mistakenly labelled as each other’s competition but I rarely find any of them think like this, the reality is they are all fighting the same fight and one of the ways they do this is by singing the same tune. It’s about the importance of supporting local, about the stories behind each producer and why they do things a way that results in a better product in favour of something that purely serves to slash production costs.
When I ask the guys about how the industry will get these messages across, their answer is the same – education.
“Talk until someone starts rolling their eyes at you,”
“Because all the big guys are constantly in peoples’ faces, you turn on the TV, open a paper, drive down the road, there’s something right there.” Competing with that kind of saturation is certainly challenging but constantly education and conversation is how that battle can be fought.
The conversation is never over because the industry is always changing. Free range eggs, Mitch says, are a great example, where the definition of what a free range egg has changed. “Now they [consumers] have to look for pasture raised,” Mitch remarks, “but we have only just taught people to look for ‘free range eggs’” and so the conversation continues.
Paul says it’s the same with beer, namely the definition of ‘craft beer’ that seems to be an increasingly blurring and overlapping category with global corporations releasing beers with packaging and marketing that echoes the style of a small, independent brewers. Often reading the small print on the back of a label or doing a Google search is the only way to determine if the beer in your hand is made locally by an independent brewery.
For Paul and Mitch, presenting beer and food together makes a lot of sense and it’s more than just having something to wash down a messy burger. The increasing interest in food culture and the rise of craft beer are very much linked.
“It is amazing to see it start to come back – the rise of farmers markets, the rise of craft beer, all crafts are getting bigger. People want to know where stuff comes from,” Mitch says.
But the conversation about food culture is more than just knowing the name of the farm your cut of beef came from, it’s the importance of understanding exactly how every bit of food on your plate got there so that kids don’t grow up thinking that bananas come from supermarket.
Three easy ways to be more sustainable – Tips from Mitch
Stop buying the “new” free range eggs and look for pasture raised eggs – if everyone did this tomorrow, “the big boys would have to go back to the farmers and make the system better.”
Eat seasonally – with such easy access to almost anything we want, it is easy to forget that fresh product doesn’t grow in our backyard all year round but eating what is in season won’t just rack up points for sustainability, it will make for more flavourful produce in your cooking too!
Eat 100% grass fed beef – Sure, it’ costs a little more but isn’t it worth it? “A few dollars per kilo in the scheme of things isn’t that much,” says Mitch and “instead of having 300gm of steak just have 200gm”
Like food culture, at the heart of craft beer is a sense of community, a connection with it’s local environment and an appreciation for quality ingredients.
Food and beer, individually and together, have a rich and long history – just look at the monks of old Belgian monasteries making beer and cheese – and bringing the two together is a great way to introduce people to good beer.
“Just getting people to drink craft beer is hard enough but I think if you can break that barrier down with food included, I think that really does impress on a lot of people,” says Paul. Beer is amazing on its own and then, when paired with the right dish, it can be incredible and take the beer to the next level.
The best food and the best beers I’ve ever had have always had two things in common – well put together flavours and an authentic story.
Paul and Mitch will be hosting two sessions as part of FADS CONVERSATIONS and each will feature a different style so if you’re thinking heading to one session, it’s most certainly worth returning for the second – just like any good beer is.
The Food and Drink Symposium is a crowd funded project, you can donate or donate AND get a perk with your hard earned cash here.