Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Copper Dragon Conqueror


I'd been hearing incredibly positive whispers about Copper Dragon's new beer for a few weeks now, so when it popped up on the bar at Veritas, I had to get my hands on some.

Conqueror (3.6%), on the surface, looks like your bog-standard pale ale; tight white head and soft amber colour, vaguely medieval pump clip*. But when you lift it to your lips, you realise it's a whole lot more. Mango, Lychee and even a hint of Strawberry float up your nose, and on the taste, Conqueror reveals itself to be a wonderfully balanced, supremely quaffable Pale Ale, with a seriously clean finish. There's so much flavour for such a low abv, and the it's simply a top-notch beer.
We all know that Oliver Fozard will soon be (if not already) ensconced in his new role at Rooster's; his parting gift to Copper Dragon turns out to be their finest yet. I'm one person hoping Conqueror hangs around untouched and untCheck Spellingweaked; and I'm sure after you drink it, you will too. It's on at Veritas now.

*And yes, I know it's William the Conqueror. But you get my point.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sausage and Bean Stew & Pelforth Brune

Christ, where did that sun go? Yorkshire's been battered by winds, rain and the air has turned almost Autumnal; fresh, crisp and decidedly chilly. Pavlovian, almost, thoughts turn to heartier fare than I should really be eating at this time of the year.

To whip up a quick Sausage & Bean Stew, begin by sweating down a large onion in some Olive oil and a knob of butter to avoid burning. Add to that some lardons or chopped, smoked Bacon. When the bacon has cooked a little, add a touch more oil and some Sausagemeat. I recommend popping two types out of their skins; a rough-textured, herby one - such as Lincolnshire, and then a spicy one; any Tuscan, Merguez or Chilli sausages will do. Split out into little balls, and cook them until they brown. Finally, add some chopped Mushrooms.

When the Sausage is cooked, add a couple of tins of Chopped Tomatoes, 2 tins of Butter Beans (or indeed any beans you like) and stir well. Add 5 large cloves of minced or pressed Garlic, a squeeze of tomato puree, salt, black pepper, and some chopped Sage. Simmer until the sauce has thickened to your liking and serve with some suitably Rustic bread.

To drink, we put away a couple of bottles of Pelforth Brune (6.5%abv). Pelforth were founded in 1914 in France, but now resides comfortably in Heineken's stable, alongside the likes of Affligem and Zagorka. Get past the impossibly-cute 25cl bottle and the even-more-impossibly cute Pelican label, and you've got a sweet Belgian Brown ale, with Vanilla, Oak and Roast coffee on the nose. It's a smooth, very sweet beer, with the same hints of oak in the taste but with a slightly drying, black-cherry note at the end of the sip. It's not massively refined by any means, but a pleasant enough beer and more than a match for the robust flavours of the stew. There's a Blonde in the range too, but I found that incredibly thin and bland; not The Good Stuff at all!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kirkstall Land Award


....Just a quick note to let you all know that Kirkstall Brewery's Black Band Porter was crowned 'Beer of The Festival' at the Skipton Beer Festival last weekend. Rightly so; it's a fantastic beer, well balanced and massively tasty. Well done.

I'm sure this will be a regular occurrence for Dave Sanders and his crew, and a sign of things to come for such a new brewery to win an accolade so soon after their inception. You can get Kirkstall's beers at Mr Foley's and North if in Leeds. Let me know if I've missed any other outlets out.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thwaites Indus IPA

Thwaites continue on their journey with new beers and styles with Indus IPA (4.6%abv). Named after a ship that very well may have journeyed eastwards whilst Daniel Thwaites was alive, Indus may not satisfy fans of US-Style Hop-Bomb IPA's, but there's plenty to recommend.
Brassy Amber in colour, it's a vibrant, well-conditioned bottle. The nose, as you'd expect, is Citrus-led but with Orange or Tangerine being the dominant note. That softness continues into the sip; a well-rounded toffee sweetness that is stopped from being slightly too sweet by another bitter Orange/Lemon sharpness hit at the end; a full, sweet finish rather than drying.

Thwaites' beers are usually well-made and solid; Indus IPA is another beer that hits that mark, and is definitely worth a look.

Apologies for the stock picture. Strangely - and it's something I have never done before - I deleted the original picture before use. Must be getting old.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dinner With Thornbridge

...So last night we dined with with Thornbridge at The Cross Keys. Given how awesome the Flying Dog event was a few years back, I've been waiting for one of these nights to come up again, and after missing the last few, I was pleased that Thornbridge had been lined up. The staff at The Cross Keys do these events very well; pleasant, knowledgeable staff, and fantastic food. As the courses came out, we were guided along by Caolan Vaughn, one of Thornbridge's brewers.

We kicked off the evening savouring Jaipur (or 'Jaips', as I have been led to believe is the correct name for it 'on the street'). Smoked Nidderdale Trout and Chive Mousse, nestled on a small pastry case, provided some light snackage, giving a little more sweetness to Jaipur's (5.8%abv) wonderfully rounded, soft bitterness. I always find smoked fish a bit tricky to match beer with, and it certainly provided a little inspiration.
Tender-as-you-like-it Asparagus with a Mint Hollandaise and a Poached Egg arrived at our table next, and again the accompanying Wild Swan (3.5%) proved a simple yet effective bedfellow; lower in complexity and strength than Jaipur and working well with the subtle mint notes of the Hollandaise. I'm a fan of Wild Swan; a great quaffer when the weather gets a little warmer.

Chilled Cucumber Soup didn't hit the mark for me; it was over-seasoned and nowhere near cold enough. Luckily, Chiron (5%abv) provided an ample distraction. Again, one of those simple-yet-perfectly-balanced Pale Ales that Thornbridge do so well, it was on excellent form; a slight Orange Zest coming in late to provide a bit of a different angle to the bitterness.

The ace in the pack was undoubtedly the Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Crushed Peas. Served with a scattering of perfectly crisp Skin, sitting on a bed of Mashed Potato and slathered in Honey and Mustard Sauce, it cried out for an excellent beer to go with it. The pork was meltingly tender, and the salty crackling and sweet-yet-piquant sauce worked wonders. Colorado Red (5.9%abv) proved to be the perfect partner for it.
This is a great, great beer. Brewed with Doug Odell, it does a Trans-Atlantic feel about it; Rich Red colour, that trademark US sweetness in the body; all toffee, hard candy and brown sugar, but finished with a really peppery, almost noble hop aroma as opposed to the citrus hop attack you almost expect. The body's not as rich in mouthfeel as you think, and it's incredibly easy to drink. I do feel that Odell's beers - although generally excellent - are moderately 'safe' and a little 'straight down the middle' - and CR is a great little twist on their style, something a little different. Colorado Red and the Pork were made for each other, and it truly hit the spot. I almost don't want to say it; but I'd really like to try CR on Keg, too.

After all that sweetness, a little Lemon Tart freshened things up; only to serve as prelude for the main dessert: Bitter Chocolate Mousse served with a Honey Biscuit, and washed down with Bracia (9%abv). I say 'washed down' but that's not entirely accurate; one doesn't 'wash down' Bracia. The chocolate mousse served only to enhance the rich, bitter chocolate notes of the beer, and the Honey Biscuit just put a sweet edge to that slightly smoked, slightly phenolic note that it carries. Glass-coatingly thick, Bracia put a rich, decadent end on the evening. I certainly slept well last night, and that's high praise indeed.

Thanks to all involved for a great evening.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Greek Marinated Chicken; Or How To Have A Virtual Holiday

I'm not going on holiday this year. This saddens me deeply - but the urge to move house means that all the usual holiday funds are being ploughed into that. Whichever way you look at it, stumping up for Solicitor's fees and endless tins of paint is simply not fun.
We normally go to the Med; Greece is a particular favourite, with Samos and Kefalonia being the best recent Grecian breaks. It's the food that gets us; insanely fresh, hearty, tasty, rustic fare, served in the sun in harbour-side tavernas, with a warm breeze blowing away memories of work. Bliss. The simple blue-and-white Taverna, the chilled lager and simple, slightly flinty white wine is my first-class ticket to relaxation.

Last weekend, I made a simple supper to enjoy in the garden; the weather wasn't great but it was warm enough to sit out. Chicken pieces had been marinated in Olive Oil, Oregano, Black Pepper and a little Mint; five or so hours in the fridge. Shoved onto Skewers, these went onto the smoking-hot Griddle-Pan for a couple of minutes each side until they turned slightly golden and sticky. Doused liberally - and I mean liberally - in lip-stinging sea salt and lemon juice, we cracked open a couple of ice-cold Mythos and chowed down.

The first bite; the crunch of salt, the bite of lemon, the succulent, herbed chicken and the smooth, cold lager. I close my eyes. For a second - a fleeting, blissful second - I'm there. I'm on my precious, much -needed, Greek holiday. The power of food and beer to transport should never be underestimated.

It might surprise you to read me enthusing about Mythos but it's one of my favourite beers simply due to the reasons above; the context in which I enjoy it in. I know I'm not alone either, there's been love for Mythos for the same reasons from Mark and the Real Ale Reviews Chaps. So there.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Black Sheep Imperial Russian Stout


I finally managed to get in gear and taste Black Sheep's Imperial Russian Stout, which has been (and probably still is - just) on at Veritas on Great George Street. At 8.5% abv, it's not quite on the massive 'Imperial' side of things, nor is it your average bar-top stout, but I must say I enjoyed it.
On the nose there's hints of cherry and smoke, along with a decent 'oakiness'. That smoke dies somewhat on the taste, but the oak and fruit remains, with with fruit coming more to fore; raisin, almond, and digestive biscuits all battling it out before that drying coffee and black chocolate note comes in at the end to wrap things up.

The alcohol is up front - it does taste 8.5% - but that's only a minor detraction for me. I enjoyed the beer; and as with their Porter , I'm really pleased to see Black Sheep branching out. I hope we see more of this sort of thing from them. Oh, and by the way - the pump clip rocks. Nice artwork, Black Sheep, thumbs up from me!

I wasn't the only one to enjoy the beer - here's Ghostie's take on proceedings. Oh, and by the way - if you choose to eat at Veritas, I can recommend the Duck Liver Pate. It's Awesome.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Skipton Beer Festival and Kirkstall Brewery


The weekend of the 19th of May sees the Skipton Beer Festival, one of my favourites. Why? Well, it's small, but perfectly formed; and when you're done tasting and ticking (if that's your thing), you can grab a pork pie or 4 and head down to The Narrow Boat, my favourite Market Town Tavern. The Beer list is here, and I'll take a moment to point out what I'd be looking for (assuming you're interested, which you must be, otherwise you wouldn't be reading, right?). Durham's Magic IPA is one of my beers of the year, so that's on the list. As is Dark Horse's Hetton Pale; a fantastically balanced-yet-rich pale ale. Five Towns are also always worth a looky.

But the main Brewery I'll point out is Kirkstall Brewery, Dave Sanders' (Elland) new venture. I paid a flying visit to the brewery this week, and Dave has high hopes for Kirkstall. Their Porter is one to try - wonderfully balanced, swirling with milk chocolate and drying coffee, and stupidly drinkable. Kirkstall's beers are filtering through this week, and Foley's and North will be serving them this week at some point.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Turkey & Brie Turnovers with Gadds' No 3

These little beauties are a little twist on the classic Turkey and Brie sandwich, and take no time at all to make if you've got some pre-made or frozen puff pastry. They're also a great way to use up leftovers. First, Heat your oven to 200c. Roll your pastry out onto a floured surface, into whatever shape you like - triangles or circles will work best.
Then,take your leftover Roast Turkey or cooked, sliced Turkey, and lay in the middle of the pastry. On top of that lay some thick slices of Brie, and then finish that with some slices of either cooked, cold, bacon, or smoked cooked ham.Fold over the pastry to make your pasty shape, then crimp the edges and egg-wash. Bake until golden, and serve with such treats as Chilli Jam, Spicy Chutney or Sweet Onion Relish.

As for a cheeky beer to wash this down with, Gadds' No 3 hits the mark. This classic Pale Ale (5%abv) is brilliant-gold in colour, there's that familiar English-hopped green-earthiness going on on the nose and finish which doesn't overpower the smoky/sweet food; the beer is bright enough just to cleanse the palate but has a decent enough malt backbone to remain satisfying. Gadds' beers are generally excellent, and I find No 3 to be a really versatile, simple, beer that goes with a number of dishes. Do check them out if you haven't done so already.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

One To Watch: RedWillow Brewery

OK; full disclosure time. I met Toby McKenzie (Head Honcho at RedWillow) last year, when the brewery was in its infancy, and subsequently ended up helping him out with various tasting notes for his (then large and very much experimental) batch of beers. It's the first time I'd done anything like that and was a fun project to do.

Even more fun, however, was seeing the brewery take shape and grow, see those first beers get refined and then finally brewed up and sent out. Seeing as though RedWillow's beers are now trickling over the Pennines into Yorkshire and beyond, I felt that now was the time to drum up some more support. Ageless Double IPA (7.2abv) is now gracing the bar at Mr Foley's, and I understand The Grove have some, too. I needn't have worried about the end product not being as good as those test brews; it's even better. Thick, lasting head, a lovely burnished-golden colour and a thick mouthfeel that gives way to a blast of Citrus that lies somewhere between Mango and Pineapple; and the finish is long and thirst-quenching. Way more drinkable than the 7.2%abv would suggest, it's a wonderful beer and I strongly suggest you go try it now. Because ultimately, the more people we get to drink it, the better it sells, and the better it sells, the more we will get. Simple.

The blog is called The Good Stuff. No matter in what capacity I've helped out, this is not a case of nepotism and that's why I came clean at the start - Ageless DIPA is a wonderful beer, and knowing the kinds of people who read this blog, I'm sure you'll agree. It would be a crime for me to shy away from ever featuring Toby's work here; especially given the hard work Toby and his family have put in, all in the name of great beer.

If you've not done so already, check out RedWillow's blog. It's one of those rare beasts; updated regularly, honest, and interesting.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Pints & Prose on Culture Vultures

...If, like many of us, you enjoy a beer in a quiet pub with a good read rather than a mobile phone, do head over to Culture Vultures and check out a piece I've just posted there in collaboration with Jess Haigh.
Do let us know what you think by way of a comment in the discussion, and let us know you're out there. By the way, Tavern Tales is the page I edit for CV, and is primarily interested in the social and historical aspects of Pubs in Yorkshire. Do let me know if you'd like to get involved by contributing.