Food & Beer Pairing With Isca

Feb 27, 2023
On December 1st 2022 we joined the good folk at Isca for a very special tasting evening. You may know Isca for their wine but we took a small departure from their usual offering, delivering a four course menu, each dish paired with one of our Barrel Project releases. Time is a common theme between our Barrel Project and Isca’s ethos. They allow time to have a transformative effect on their food and wine. Similarly, our Barrel Project explores the interaction time has with beer, barrel, fruit and other adjuncts. 

Sommelier Caroline Dubois gave up her somewhat nomadic life to lay down roots in Manchester. Caroline hails from Montreal, a city known for its vibrant food and music scenes and also a haven for minimal-intervention wines. Caroline built friendships with many natural winemakers along her travels and came to Manchester determined to give drinkers a unique wine experience. 

What Caroline did not realise was that in 2015 there wasn’t a trace of natural wine to be found in Manchester and there were no local importers. Realising she had her work cut out for her, she contacted the winemakers she had connected with on her travels and set about sourcing the wines herself. She took on the role of sommelier at award-winning restaurant Where The Light Gets In, working alongside Chef Patron Sam Buckley.

Meanwhile Issy, an English Language and Literature graduate turned chef was one half of a popular supper club called Seasons Eatings where - as the name suggests - there was a strong focus on seasonality and locally sourced ingredients. Issy started the supper club as she was disillusioned with the dining trends at the time, which leaned toward over-complicated, unseasonal dishes. She wanted to create something different that made sense to the ingredients, the producers and to her as a chef. It was at her first supper club that she met Caroline. 

In 2017 the pair spent a brief stint working together at Where The Light Gets In and in 2019 they combined not only their skills but also their names to form Isca in Levenshulme. It’s a casual wine shop, bar and restaurant. They wanted to create a place where you could pop in for a coffee or stay for some wine and a meal. 

We feel a real affinity with Isca’s motivations and the experiences they seek to offer. Like us, their business is founded in a passion for exceptional drinking experiences. Issy and Caroline work together to create food and wine pairings that will surprise and delight their customers, so we were thrilled when the opportunity arose to pair some of our beers with their food. 

We asked Caroline how she had gone about creating the pairings and structuring the evening.

‘When deciding which food and beer to pair together, we usually start with the food and try to think about a drink we can match with it. Occasionally it happens the other way around, but it’s mostly about the food and what will complement it. It’s important to taste, don’t just assume you know what will work. It’s always nice to start with a crispy snack, something salty.’

True to her word, the evening began with Pumpkin Puffs with Lime Pickles Salt paired with Embracing Everything, a Blended Wild Ale. Its smooth acidity and notes of lemon and pepper made a great accompaniment to the aerated, zesty pumpkin puffs.

This was followed by Chicory, Tahini & Parmesan paired with El Dorado, Simcoe IPA, one of our Foudre Ales. This dish was reminiscent of a caesar salad but with the tahini adding an earthy creaminess and toasted sesame profile. The tart funk of the Foudre Ale was a great match, pacifying the salinity of the dish.

Caroline reflects that ‘the Barrel Project beers are really interesting, the use of fruit and different yeast pairs really well with the food that we serve here as we have lots of fermentations on the menu. When pairing food and drink, we like to think about what’s in season and the overall experience, and then move along so things get gradually richer.’


Richer indeed, as diners were presented with Grilled Cabbage with Mushroom & Sussex Slipcote Cheese alongside Centennial, Citra, Ekuanot, another of our Foudre Ales. The dish was bound by the sharp, creamy cheese sauce balancing earthy January King cabbage and mushroom. All of this was steadied by the subtle tropical notes and restrained acidity of this funky red wine-aged beer.

Lastly, the most indulgent plate of all, Chocolate Brownie with Infused Ginger Cream paired with I’ve Been Meaning To Say, a Cognac Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout. Issy blew us away by reducing some of the beer to create an unctuous sauce akin to caramel with a warming ginger heat. The brownie itself was intensely chocolatey, and when paired with this silky Imperial Stout it was nothing short of decadent. Often when pairing food and drink there is a focus on balance, the delicate interplay of contrasting flavours. This coupling was proof that sometimes matching like with like can work tremendously well.

Proper DIPA

Our 8th DIPA in our  Proper DIPA series is out this week, called Proper DIPA NZ edition, a perfect example of the beautiful things that happen when modern meets tradition.We've infused Southern Cross and NZ Cascade to accentuate the JW Lees yeast strain.This DIPA excels in both body and hop intensity, delivering a hearty hop medley characterised by quintessential NZ hop aromas of white grape, all culminating in an exceptionally dank finish.Enjoyed in the video by JW Lees brewer Matthew and available in our webshop now. 

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