Sunday, December 28, 2008

Two from Williams Bros

Time for a quick review before new year, methinks. I've been a fan of Williams Bros beers for a while - Red is gorgeous, and I'm partial to a bottle of peppery Fraoch with some Venison or good steak. So, Christmas landed a couple more of their brews on my doorstep - Midnight Sun Porter and the ludicrously named 7 Giraffes Ale.

First up, Midnight Sun (5.6%abv)is a luscious yet dry porter. I'm a fan of the style and have high standards but this manages to hit them. Not too dense, initial red-fruit flavours subside to a slight - and I do mean slight - gingeryness. If that's a word. Warming and very seasonal, I enjoyed this - but its eventual dryness means I wouldn't drink a lot of it.

On the complete opposite of the spectrum sits 7 Giraffes Ale (answers on a postcard as to where the name comes from, please). My heart sank when I saw the label - God, not another novelty beer...god, it even says 'Elderflower' on the label...Well, It certainly doesn't taste 5.1% abv. And lo, It is good. Really good. A rather flat mellow copper colour belied a real hop-lovers paradise within - floral, fragrant and very, very sweet. Lovers of SNPA stop here. I was really surprised by this and to be honest, I'll buy it again.

Good work, Williams.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 Round-Up

Well it’s time for the 2008 review. Let’s get cracking. I’ve only put four or five stand-outs in this list; otherwise it’d be as long as your arm – I’m very good at being a beer bore. And I promise not to mention Neil frigging Morrisey either.

Local Pubs of the year
– has to go to the Abbey Inn, Newlay, Leeds – proud to call it my local. Martin and staff have not only got a lovely, no-nonsense little pub with a real family atmosphere going, but a real love of ale means always a good selection on tap; not to mention the charity work they do. Every week seems to have a beer festival on, and they are always worth a visit. City-wise , Foley’s flies the flag for enthusiasm and choice; knowledgeable and friendly staff make it the automatic choice for a mid-week, post-work pint or three (when Champion’s League is on). Let’s hope the recent sale of York Brewery doesn’t mean Foley’s disappears. Mitchell’s would be fools if they did - and god knows there are enough of them in the beer trade. Finally, an honourable mention goes to The Owl in Rodley. It’s really been turned around this year, and best of luck to them in 2009 – keep up the good work.

Beers – bottled
Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA
– this fresh, hoppy brew usurped Summer Lightning as my summer ‘go-to’ beer in 2008. Good stuff indeed; on the right side of hoppy and a great example of the style. Like an American new-wave IPA, but better balanced.
Rodhams – IPA and Wheat. From not even knowing they existed to top of the charts in 2008 – a fantastic micro, making fantastic beers. Gimme more.
Alhambra Reserva 1925 – one of the best, well-balanced bottled beers I have come across. Resiny, green, and fresh, a perfect accompaniment to food. Awesome stuff.
Cain’s Raisin Beer – fruity, but still light, this beer is not independent but man, is it tasty. I drank a lot of this in 2008. Complexity of flavours is the key to this one. In a similar vein, Sharp's Doom Bar remained awesome wherever it travelled.
Beers – Draught
Saltaire Brewery – and the ‘most improved’ award goes to Saltaire. Despite being previous underwhelmed by their stock, their Olympia Honey Ale was about the best-balanced honey beer I have come across, and their Hazelnut Coffee Porter was heaven itself. Well done, and keep up the good work.
Kelham Island Brooklyn Smoked Porter - if there’s one style I stay away from its smoked beers. Not this one. Awesomely balanced and poetry in a glass.
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA – ok, the bandwagon carries on here, but have you tasted this stuff? Jesus Christ, it’s good.
Wylam Northern Kite – a ruby red, malty treat, this is real northern ale. Wylam doing what they do best – making no-nonsense examples of the style, and hitting the nail on the head every time.

Blanche de Bruxelles - Refreshing in a way I didn't know beers could be.

Rooster’s Wrangler – it wouldn’t be a TGS list without something from Sean Franklin! Creamy, sessionable, golden...always quality, no mater where served. Get me to Blind Jacks!!

Villain of the year
– Who other than our esteemed Al Darling? If he’s looking to make a name for himself he’s certainly done that in 2008 – by becoming the man who nails the English pub trade to the wall. Missing the point spectacularly, he tightens the screws on publicans whilst supermarkets continue to sell spirits for home consumption at ridiculously low prices. Change is needed, fast. Never before has dealing with the scourge of ‘Binge-Drinking (TM)’ been so elegantly mishandled.

Hero of the year – well, I guess every publican who struggles on in this kind of market. Everyone who organises beer festivals. Everyone who tries something new at the bar. Everyone who stocks good beer in their shops or online. Everyone who forsakes a pint of pop for a pint of something good. Everyone who supports real ale, its consumption and production.

I think that’s you. Here’s to 2009 – mine’s a pint.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fox & Newt Brewery Up & Running...

Just a quick edit from a previous post - The Fox and Newt have been in touch and advised me that the brewery is up and running, and hopefully the first beers wll be on the beer on the 19th/2oth December.
Pop down and have a look but please check first if making a special journey - the pub's details are below, on the previous post. We all know that the beer will only be ready when it's ready.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rose Veal with Apples and Mustard Mash

Man, I love this time of year. This week Yorkshire seems to have been transformed into Antarctica, and that just gives me another reason to eat massively calorific food, stop going to the gym and drink loads of beer. I'm storing fat, you see. And this is fun.
Anyway, after looking to my German cookbooks for inspiration, this is what we came up with - easy, and tastes good. But it's not kind on the waistline - be warned.

Rose Veal with Apples and Mustard Mash (Serves two)

You will need:

2 Rose Veal escalopes
2 English Apples - sliced and cored (any kind will do, really)
1 Large onion - sliced (Or 4 smaller ones)
20g Smoked Cheese
1tsp of wholegrain mustard
2 large potatoes, mashed
lots of butter
salt, pepper ( I actually used some smoked salt, if you have it)

1. First, get your potatoes on to boil in preparation for the mashing. In the meantime, melt a knob of butter in a heavy pan and once sizzling, add your onions and apples. Leave for a couple of minutes for the apples to caramelize on one side, then toss to ensure the other side gets done. you can then turn the heat down a little and leave the apples and onions to caramelise whilst you..
2. ...Mash your potatoes in the usual way - with a little milk and butter. Add your smoked cheese, chopped, and the mustard. Stir and cover - the cheese needs to melt.
3. Finally, in another hot pan, sear you veal but take care not to overdo it - it can dry out easily.

All you have to do now is serve and enjoy. If the apples and onions get dry, you simply need to keep adding butter to ensure a gooey, even caramelization.

To drink with a meal of this kind, I wanted something light but sweet - so I opted for the Tongerlo 6 Dubbel Bruin. Very much a typical Dubbel, it has a slight carbonation that strips a little of the sweetness of the apples away, but its own nutmeggy caramel touches compliment the smoky, rich flavours of the food nicely. If you wanted to deglaze the pans and make a little sauce, I would imagine this would do the job very well.

I'm not going to reply to any comments regarding the use of veal in this dish. This is a food and beer blog, not a political one - there are plenty of those around if you want to air your views. Unfortunately there are many things wrong with food culture these days, and you can simply make a choice not to eat something if you don't agree with it. I used Rose Veal, which is farmed according to RSPCA standards, and I bought it from a Farm Shop in Weeton, Otley - therefore I am happy that I have made the correct choice in terms of provenance. If you make this dish, please try and make the same choices.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Copper Dragon Brewery

Copper Dragon Brewery will be opening their doors tomorrow for the first time in their brand-spanking new premises. I was lucky enough to have a sneak preview this morning of both the brewhouse and the visitors centre - and a fine morning it was too.
Despite the inclement Yorkshire weather, MD Steve Taylor was in a fine mood - which we quickly caught on was his usual demeanour - especially when showing us round the brewhouse. Despite being caught up in paperwork and the day-to-day running of Copper Dragon, the brewery - including the brewing process and ingredients - is clearly still something he cherishes and is reluctant to compromise on. And the brewhouse is spectacular - the custom-made fermenting vessels and Mash Tun rise high into the ceiling space like gleaming monoliths, and everywhere hisses and bubbles with steam and industry.

We learn that only Yorkshire malt is used in all the beers, and the quality control is as strict as it ever was, despite CD's clear growth in the last few years. Gordon Wilkinson, head brewer, also echoes that. You can feel the pride as he explains the faith he has in his young but talented team of brewers - not to mention the recipes for the beer themselves. He feels CD is part of Skipton - and keeping things local is part of that.
Although the visitors centre and bistro was not quite finished, the overall feel of the place is that of a new, forward-thinking brewery; one that recognises that pleasing the tourists and the tourism trade as well as the beer fans are important as each other these days. One only has to look at the likes of Black Sheep and Guinness to see where Steve is coming from; gone are the days when only CAMRA would arrange brewery tours - and now Copper Dragon are proud to be one more place for the interested to visit.
The Bistro will, of course, feature all the breweries beers as complement to the food and as part of their make-up. We tried the classic beer-cooking dish of Fish and Chips with Golden Pippin batter - and wonderful it was too - clean, firm haddock in a super-crispy golden batter. Served, of course, with mushy peas.
I'll be visiting again in a few months time to see how things go; but something tells me I won't be the only one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Tan Hill: For Sale

Just a snippet of interesting news - The Tan Hill pub in Swaledale - Britain's highest - is up for sale. A truly individual pub, let's hope someone with a genuine love the the history of the place buys it, eh?
Read more here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Fox & Newt - Redux

Late last year I wrote about a visit to The Fox & Newt - and it proved to be a popular post; it would seem the brewpub had a lot of admirers from the 70's up until recent times.
I feared, however, that the article was somewhat of a kiss of death - not long after I visited, it closed. Again. This was becoming a little like deja vu.

I'm pleased to report that The Fox is up and running - and hopefully for good this time. I enjoyed a relaxed lunch there this week, and spent a little time chatting to Emma, the manager, about what happened before and her plans for the pub.

It all sounds great; firstly- and most importantly - the brewery will be back in early 2009 - although not under the Fox and Newt moniker due to the usual legal wrangles. Recipes have been formulated, gear has been tested and tweaked and a talented bunch of brewers seems to have been assembled. Watch this space for more - I can't stress how much of an event this should be. After all, you can count on the fingers of one hand genuine brewpubs in the vast space of Yorkshire - and there are none in Leeds. A true cause for celebration.
As for the pub itself - well, it's been updated, sure - the walls are now painted and the floors scrubbed but the pub-feel has been retained, as had (thank christ) the tiled fireplace in the side room. Emma's keen to point out that this is a pub - and one focused on beer and lots of it. There are no alcopops in the fridge. There are only two lagers on sale. The beer -chalkboard was updated twice in the hour is was there, and there's even tasting notes for the beer available at the bar.

The beer selection is good - Leeds Pale is always on, and in fine form, I might add - as was the Adnams Broadside that shored me up for the rapidly declining temperatures outside. Others on offer were Leeds' Hellfire, Black Sheep, Elland's Eden and Brain's Top Notch. Emma proudly counted off the beers from York, Elland, Abbeydale and many other local breweries sitting in the cellar, waiting to be supped.

The food looked good - homemade and good value - and I'll be certainly visiting again. The Fox is (as it always has been) a good pub - one slightly out of town, but one that is worth the five minute walk up towards Park Lane. It's run by an energetic and proud bunch of people, who truly want you to enjoy good beer. And hopefully, it'll be beer that they have brewed themselves in the not-too distant future.

The Fox & Newt
Open from 12 midday every day.

9 Burley Street,Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS3 1LD

Friday, November 14, 2008


A few weeks ago I was in Beer-Ritz browsing for a wheat beer to wash down some Calamari I was frying up that night. It was only by chance that I happened upon a very indistinct bottle called Rodham's wheat. Well, the opportunities to pick up a Yorkshire-brewed Wheat don't come along often, so it was duly added to the already groaning basket and off we went.

I was seriously impressed by this beer - crystal -clear, it turned out to be superbly made and surprisingly well balanced white beer. All the classic coriander, orange peel and citrus flavours abounded and it turned out to be a perfect bedfellow for my golden Calamari.

Last week I picked up their IPA, and again my other half found me rabbiting on at her like a loon after only one sip - a wonderfully sweet, grassy IPA; not too hoppy despite having that puckering crispness you expect of a new-world IPA -and really, really well balanced.

Rodham's are based in Otley, and to the best of my knowledge don't have a website as such. However small they may be, Rodham's are brewing some wonderful beers right now and if you do see any of their wares - be sure to taste. They are presenting a number of beer's at this weekend's Otley Beer Festival, and that would be a great place to start.

Rodham's Brewery, Otley, Yorkshire, LS21 1BZ
Tel: 01943 464530

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Session: My Favourite Beer

This month's Session concerns my favourite beer.

My favourite Beer is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It may be uncool to say that, as a Brit – moreover, as a northern brit, surrounded by such good ale, but it’s true. I am a certified Americophile (if that’s a word). In my teens as a wannabe writer, my heroes were Charles Bukwoski, Hunter Thompson and Norman Mailer. Musically, I mostly listen to Americana, with Iron & Wine, Ryan Adams, Calexico and Richmond Fontaine usually on standard rotation on my Ipod. I love dusty pictures of roadside motels and diners (something you just don’t get over here), and in almost all artistic aspects of my life aside from sport, America plays more of a role than the UK. I don’t know why – I’ve even never visited the place.

In much the same way, the USA informs my love of beer. Like I said above, despite being surrounded by such great beer, I always find myself leaning toward the craft scene of America for kicks. Brewers like Dogfish Head, New Belgium and Rogue seem so experimental, so different that when I visit my beer supplier I can’t help myself but load up on what’s new from the Land of Hope and Glory (TM).

Even in homebrewing, something I am becoming increasingly more immersed in, my first beer wasn’t an ESB, or a London Porter; It was a California Common – using Anchor Steam Beer as a template. I think this all stems from my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale obsession.
I remember the first time I tried it. It was chosen simply on the colour of the label and design of the logo – and that I was pig-sick of lagers, or rather, what we call lagers in the UK. Upon pouring it, I smelled the sweet, bitter tang and knew that I was on the verge of something new. But nothing could prepare me for the taste.

On the sip, a decent, malt-biscuit body subsides to reveal flavours of – at first – boiled sweets and candy to me. Sweetness subsides to that famous Hop profile – lots of citrus, lots of pine. Then comes the bitterness, just enough to leave a long, dry finish that results in a massively moreish beer. Serve it colder and it’s sparklingly thirst-quenching; serve it warmer and it’s even more complex. Perfectly balanced, you wouldn’t believe it’s actually 5.6% abv.
I still stock up on it, and it’s my ‘go-to’ beer if it’s on tap somewhere. Just to try it. Just to see how they keep it. I’m like a crack whore with SNPA – I could be faced with a thousand taps and I would choose one beer that I have not tried and one SNPA.

It’s not just me – I can honestly say I have converted more people to beer via SNPA than any other beer. Many of my convertees now lap up real ale from good, honest UK micros all having their tastebuds exploded open by the ray of Californian Sunshine that is SNPA. Sierra Nevada are no longer small, or even ‘cutting edge’ now that the rest of the US has caught them up. It may not be esoteric, ‘extreme’ or even cool in this country - But SNPA is my favourite, desert island beer. Without a doubt. For me, and I suspect many others around the world, that first sip of SNPA was the start of something special.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Goose Island's Matilda

Well, I'm a sucker for American Craft Beer and Cool labels. So what. I'm into design, and Goose Island's Matilda really caught my eye - and I'm glad it did. My favourite Belgian beer, without a doubt, is Orval, and what we have seems to be a bit of a Chicagoan Homage to that sweet, sweet beer ( A truncated version of the Orval 'Mathilda's Wedding Ring' myth is elegantly transcribed on the label). So far, So good.

It pours dark amber, with that familiar phenolic/banana nose that Orval displays albeit a little softer. So far so good. Matilda, however, proves to be a much simpler girl that Orval; much sweeter, with the hops coming through with bitterness long after the sip. Toffees and hard - candy flavours percolate, rather than the deeper clove and citrus you'd expect from a 'typical' Belgian - and I guess that's where the American influence comes in.

Don't take that as a negative review - I loved it, and would happily drink more. It's almost too simple to say that Matilda is a straightahead American twist on a Belgian classic - but it is.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Keighley & WV Railways Beer & Music Festival 2008

Right - another weekend, another Beer Festival. Love them or hate them, you at least get a chance to try as many beers as possible in a short space of time. Why a short space of time? Because once there, you kind of want to leave....

Anyway - it's not about the people there, it's about the beer. And that's why I love beer festivals - because I am like a child in a sweet shop. Still. At my age.

This one, an annual event, but one that includes a pleasant ride on a steam train on the beautiful Keighley & Worth Valley railway, is one of the better ones. I did plan to have a pint of Taylor's on the ride but to be honest, the tiny beer carriages were rammed. No bother - ten minutes later and we're in Beervana.

The Oxenhope tramshed the festival is held in makes a nice change - the hulking steam trains make an interesting backdrop to boozing. The blues and jazz bands playing make a pleasant sound - although not particularly conducive to conversation - and the beer selection is excellent. In fact, my quest to finally taste Thornbridge's Jaipur IPA ended here. And boy, am I glad it did. An excellent beer; sweet as hell to start and then drying out to pucker the lips and deliver that grassy, hoppy bitterness true of a true IPA. I know it's jaded now, almost a year after notoriety, but I loved this. Gimme more.

Dark Star's Hophead impressed, as did Mallinson's Conkered - a rich, malty mild that certainly hit the spot. Oakham's JHB followed much the same style - very nice indeed. Second only to the Jaipur, Salopian's excellent Oracle deserves a mention. Flowery hops and a crisp, pale profile really stripped the palate back and refreshed after a couple of milds. Good work - one brewery I'll be keeping an eye out for.

Looking around, I noticed the breadth of beers showing at this weekend jaunt. Goose Eye's Bronte gained a thumbs-up from our drinking party, as did O'Hanlan's Port Stout - which admittedly looked delicious. I had my eye on a few beers which I didn't get to try; Triple FFF had their (surely prohibitively?) named Pressed Rat & Warthog going great guns, Milestone were pouring a raspberry wheat beer, and Durham had a massive selection, including one of my faves, their Amarillo. Greenfield also deserve a mention for seemingly (in my head, at least) naming a beer after my current fave Leeds Utd player - Delph Donkey (What next? Beckford's Best? Becchio Bitter? Ankegren Ale?) - add to this a decent bottle bar and - most importantly - Roast Pork Sandwiches - and you've got one pleasant Saturday's drinking.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hawkshead Red

...I'm carrying on in this mild/autumn beer feel that I've been into recently by enjoying a few pints of Hawkshead Red. Hawkshead are a brewery of whose beers I've been a fan of for some time - much like other 'go to's' like Naylors, Wylam and Taylors, Hawkshead are consistent; consistently good - and the Red is no exception. Juicy malt, a red-fruit body and a high hoppiness at the end of the sip make this an excellent session beer, and it's ruby colour invites pint after pint...lovely. I thought it tasted a little like Fuller's ESB, but that's just me.
I enjoyed this beer most recently in The Narrow Boat in Skipton, a Market Town Tavern that always is a pleasure to drink in. In fact, just as I was draining my first pint, the pub was besieged by about 100 morris dancers, who all bought their pints in a very polite fashion and decamped to the back room, where the guitars were pulled out, the drums beaten and the singing began. And that's what a lazy lunchtime in darkest Yorkshire drinking Hawkshead Red amounts to!! More of the same, barman.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chocolate Brownies and Leeds' Midnight Bell

Everyone loves brownies, and they are deceptively easy to make – everyone has their own version. Just make sure the butter is at room temperature – otherwise you won’t be able to mix it. As for the Cherries and Nuts, use as much as you like. And they are amazing with a good, tasty mild or porter.

Chocolate, Cherry and Brazil Nut Brownies
You will need:
250g Butter
250g Dark Chocolate – at least 70% cocoa solids
300g Golden Caster Sugar
60g Plain Flour
65g Good Cocoa Powder
Half a teaspoon of baking powder
Eggs – 3, plus an extra yolk, beaten together.
About 20 glace cherries, chopped
10 Large Brazils, chopped.

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180c, and grease and line the bottom of a baking tin with baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together well, set aside.
3. Smash your chocolate into chunks and put ¾ or it into a bowl over some simmering water. Gradually this will melt. As soon as it is melted, remove from the heat.
4. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add to this your beaten eggs gradually, and when you have a good paste, you can add the melted chocolate and chocolate pieces.
5. Add the nuts and cherries, and then combine the mixture with your sugar and butter.
6. Dollop the mixture into the tin, and bake for 30-40 minutes. The edges will slightly come away, but the middle will be softer. It’s ready when a skewer put through the middle comes away cleanly.
7. Leave to cool – at least a couple of hours - before slicing.

When enjoyed with the beer, the brownie accentuates the chocolate and roast-nuttiness of the brownies – why not add a little coffee and try that with a smoked porter? Chocolate and Beer – two of life’s pleasures in one hit.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Midweek: Cairngorm's Autumn Nuts

The midweek's a little late posting this week, apologies! I've kept an eye out for Cairngorm's stuff recently; so when a seasonal brew appeared at The Palace midweek I couldn't resist. I really love this time of year; I've a real soft spot for milds and the like, and now they are starting to pop up as often as the leaves on the trees turn brown and drop.

Autumn Nuts (3.8%) tastes exactly how you'd imagine with that name - malty, a slight toasted malt body and a smooth, smooth mouthfeel with a slight hint of red fruit lingering in there. Ruby in colour, it's a lovely pint - although a little more warming alcohol wouldn't have gone amiss. Good work, Cairngorm.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Oktoberfest @ North

TGS' favourite Beer Bar flies the Oktoberfest (yes - I know it's actually in October) flag. Check it out - You know it makes sense.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paganum Online Farmer's Market

Farmer's Markets. Stupidly popular now, they've not only turned a lot of foodies onto 'real' meats, cheeses, breads and Beers, but also provided a much-needed lifeline to our precious farming community. A good thing, then - if you can get to them.
On the back of this, Chris Wildman saw an opportunity to increase the presence of online food-buying, and set up Paganum Produce - bringing that awesome food from the Dales directly to you at home. There's also a great blog, which I have linked (pop over there if you wanna see copious amounts of Hogroast and Scottish Breakfasts!)

Chris spared a little time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for TGS.

TGS: Tell us a little about yourself - and how you became involved in Paganum.
Chris - I am from a family of Butchers and Farmers so have always been involved in the industry - but my commercial work experience has been in branding and labelling in the Label industry and IT project management, so a combination of skills built up over the years. I have always wanted to setup an online business and with the growing importance of local food, provenance and farmers markets this seemed a great idea. Also many farmers struggle to market thier fantastic products direct to both to the trade, and direct to the consumer - and with our skills we think we can improve this and maybe make a living as well.

How's business at the moment? It’s early days as we are still a very new business - so we are not quite planning our retirement yet but we are really trying to promote the business and our products, and hoping that with increased awareness, business will flourish.

Where do people's tastes lie? What's popular right now? Lamb is probably one of our most popular items and our sausages and burgers have been selling well. I think people are really talking care of where there food is coming from now and like to know the provenance of the meat they eat

How do the farming fraternity (the likes of Bolton Abbey and your other partners) treat Paganum? Was there any resistance to going 'on-line' rather than maintaining a 'Farmers Market/Direct approach? Or are Farmers these days aware to what can be achieved via the internet? No resistance at all they see it as a different route to market that compliments the other traditional sales methods.

What's your personal fave from the Paganum range? I love my steaks and I am a bit of a self confessed sausage snob they have to be good for me to like them!

... and Favourite recipe? Well, a quality breakfast is probably one of my favourites and eggs Benedict probably my all time greatest. A nice family roast of beef or lamb with all the trimmings including Yorkshire Puds also hits the mark.

Favourite Pint/Local Brewer? My favourite really has to be Timothy Taylors Landlord (I'm nodding in agreement) but I can’t believe how expensive it has got considering it’s a local beer, only travels 18 miles to me so quite often I will be happy with Golden Best!!! We are spoilt for choice in this area now with Copper Dragon in Skipton and Folly Ale in Hetton.

What does 2008/2009 hold for Paganum? 2008 has really been all about setting up our infrastructure, logistics and a good range of quality suppliers we know and can trust, next year we are hoping to expand both our trade and direct customer base.

When my parcel of Paganum meat arrived, the first thing I did was grab two of those thick, heavy burgers, slap them onto a smoking griddle pan and melt some smoked cheddar on them. Some leftover Parma Ham went on top of that, and the whole thing was plonked onto a bun with tomato, pickled peppers and gherkin. Wonderful - the humble burger, much like sausages or pies, can be a thing of wonder when done correctly, with the best produce. The quality of meat is excellent, and I can personally vouch for Bolton Abbey Beef; it's among the best I have tasted.
Paganum are worth checking out if you care about where meat comes from and that the people who make the produce are getting the rewards.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Plum Crumble Slice

Now the evenings are getting darker, my mind is slipping into 'comfort food mode'. Which means taking advantage of all those great fruits out there and cooking them until they turn to mush, then slapping a topping on them. I love it.

Plum Crumble Slice
You will need:
About 10 plums
1 Apple (Doesn't really matter what kind but i've got a thing for Pink Ladies at the moment - oo-er!)
A handful of sultanas
Lemon Juice, Cinnamon & Nutmeg
1oz Sugar
For the Pastry -
200g Plain Flour
145g Butter, cubed
2oz Caster Sugar
A Beaten egg
For the Crumble topping -85g Softened Butter, 85g Plain Flour, 85g Soft Brown Sugar,1og Ground Almonds

1. The pastry is made by rubbing the flour and butter together until breadcrumbs are formed, then adding the beaten egg to it (in stages) to bring it together. You won't need all of the egg, and the dough should be just sticky, but not wet. Cover the ball in cling film and chill for 45 minutes.

2. Prepare your fruit. Peel and core the apple and put in a bowl with the plums which should also be cored and chopped however you want them. Sprinkle with the Sugar, lemon juice, and spices, mix, and cover.

3. Heat the oven to 200c. Make the topping by making the breadcrumbs again, but this time with all that sugar in. You want the breadcrumbs lumpier this time, though.

4. Roll the chilled pastry flat, not too thin, and line the baking dish with it, making edges and a tart-style base. Arrange your fruit in the base, and then top with the crumble. Don't waste any juices the fruit may have made.

5. Cook for 20 mins on 200c to brown the top, then drop to 180c for another 30 mins to cook through.

Serve hot, with Vanilla Ice-Cream, of course. I had no beer with this, but if I would, I'd have gone for a Schneider Aventinus, or a Chimay Red. The cinnamon flavours would go really well with those beers, I think...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bretts Fish Restaurant, Leeds

Bretts Fish Restaurant in Headingley is one of those institutions that, when you visit, you realise exactly why their have that status-simplicity. Bretts does fish and chips; nothing more, nothing less. But it does them right.

When the owner, Peter Scott, agreed to have a chat with TGS, I was suitably eager and after months of trying to arrange something, finally got my act together enough for a good old-fashioned Fish supper. Peter himself is a man who came into food in a roundabout way, and he strikes me as someone who simply talks straight. Get the basics right, and everything else will follow. In food, that’s a golden rule.

During the course of the evening, we discussed trade in Headingley, the clientele he receives, and of course, the food. He explained how the light, crispy batter remains so, thus removing the heaviness that can prevail in batter occasionally, and where his fish comes from – although decency won’t allow me to divulge those secrets here.

We began with a heap of fried Whitebait, silver-skinned and bristling with the lightest of flour-dust; doused in salt and lemon, they didn’t disappoint in that great lip-stinging way. Of course, Haddock and Chips came next -what is there to say? Creamy, clean fish encased in crisp, tasty batter. Home-made tartare sauce, thick with capers and gherkins, and a large dollop of mushy peas (hand-made, of course, the proper way). All very simple, all very wonderful. A taste of home.
One thing that stuck out for me was Peter’s admission that there are no “chefs” at Bretts. Fryers make your meal, and friendly, smiling staff bring it to you. And that’s the point - Fryers (and there’s not many who would call themselves that) are in every way masters of that devilishly hot machine, from the preparation of the fish to the filtering and selection of the oil or fat that makes the humble fish what it is. All food is cooked to order, regardless of how busy the restaurant gets. This applies to the takeaway too, which is an extension of the restaurant, rather than a neon-lit hole for post-drink fodder. Judging by the distance people travel simply to order fish and chips I’d like to think this isn’t lost on the people of Leeds.

Bretts doesn’t advertise – it isn’t needed. Peter pulls out a guest book loaded with gushing comments from visitors from Canada, India, The States and South Africa, no doubt regaling their countrymen with tales of the mysterious ‘Fish and Chips’ we Brits love so much. So I’m taking this opportunity to highlight simply what many people already know. The local and national cricket and rugby teams know how good it is, the press in general love to come here, and now you know.
I'd like to think it testament to my amatuerishness, or maybe the fact that I don't do sit-down interviews that much that prompted me do forget to take any pictures of the actual food. But in reality the food was simply too good from the start and as soon as we started eating it was game over - Food time. Apologies - it won't happen again. You'll have to go have a meal to see the goods.
Bretts Fish Restaurant
12-14 North Lane,
Headingley, LEEDS LS6 3HE
Tel 0113 232 3344

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Summer Beer Fete @ North, Leeds

...And so the summer season of beer festivals rolls on. It's too distracting, I tell ya...anyway, perennial TGS fave North laid on a beer festival specifically aimed at lighter 'summer' beers and mighty fine it was, too.

I started the session with Anglo-Dutch's Yorkshire Wit. I'm usually impressed by AD's brews, and this was no exception - massively citrussy (Grapefruit mainly) and supremely thirst-quenching, sold as chilled as it was. A little spice on the palate, I really could have drunk a lot more of this - but then my head was turned by Outlaw's Amarillo. I'm really keen on single-hop beers, particularly ones from the Outlaw/Roosters stable. The Amarillo was, as you'd expect, clean and grassy, with subtle, sweet malts coming through on the palate.

I'm sure I had read Jon waxing lyrical about Harviestoun's Schiehallion before, so that came my next. And a pleasant surprise it was, too - A yeasty aroma, with some great orange/lemon notes, and a biscuity, full-bodied taste. Lagered ales are a strange beast, but this really did hit the spot and it's the one beer of the festival I will actively seek out again.

Beers from Mordue, Salamander and Kelham Island were available, along with the usual range of North regulars - Sierra Nevada, Roosters, Outlaw and Mort Subite to name a few.

See you at the Winter Beer Festival!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bacon & Cheese Croquetas with Naylor's Pinnacle Blonde

I love tapas, I really do. Although little morsels of goodness can range from easy to time-consuming to make, you very rarely get any result other than delicious. This week, we gave Croquetas a go.
I used bacon and smoked cheese to fill mine, but you can use fish, shellfish (crab is really good) or chicken. In fact, you can pretty much use any filling you like. I knocked up another couple of side-dishes using what was in the fridge at the time, and I'll share those with you too. All the measures for the ingredients are rough - I just use handfuls here and there, to be honest. Go with what you think. Sorry!
Ps - you can use mashed potato to fill these with - I just prefer the denser bechamel filling.

Bacon and Cheese Croquetas

You will need:
About 100g smoked cheese - I used Swaledales' Smoked
4 rashers of smoked bacon, streaky.
A panful of Bechamel sauce (probably about 400g)
Some fresh breadcrumbs (white bread)
Parsley, crushed black pepper to season.
1 beaten egg.
Oil to fry in.

Ok - easy recipe - but you need to do it in stages.
1. Make the bechamel as you would normally do - add plain flour to melted butter to make a roux, then add milk. You want to keep it thick; not runny. Add the cheese, combine, then season the mix with the herbs and pepper. Leave to cool - at least an hour.
2. Slice the bacon into small chunks and fry off in a little oil. Add these to your mix.

There you go - the filling is done. But it must be left to cool because you can't handle it hot. The bechamel will thicken, and turn into a kind of dough. That's why it needs to be thick!
In the meantime, you can beat the egg in a bowl and blitz your stale bread into breadcrumbs.

3. When cool, use your hands to grap a chunk of the mixture, shape into balls or a sausage shape. Dip in the egg, then roll in the crumbs. Set on a plate and repeat until finished. I had about 12.
4. Place the croquetas in the fridge and leave to set - the longer the better. I left them for an hour.
5. When ready to eat, heat your oil and deep fry until golden. Leave to drain and serve!

Now, I used up some fridge-food to make some little sides for this. We made a salad of Avocado, fresh Plum tomatoes and Jalepeno chillies. Also, we sauteed some slices of Chorizo in olive oil and garlic, adding a sliced Onion to bulk it up. Once the onions had softened, a splash of Balsamic vinegar went in.
Secondly, we sauteed some Prawns and Mussels in olive oil, a touch of butter,loads more Garlic and a splash of lemon juice. This made the second side-dish.

And to drink - Naylor's Pinnacle Blonde. In my opinion, their best beer, this bottle-conditioned gem has a underlying sweet caramel and toffee aroma, but surprises on the palate with some firm fruit qualities - think peach, if that makes sense. The little wheat that it has in it really smoothes the body out, making this a perfect match for the bold flavours of the meal.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Go Team GB!

Ok, I confess. I’m a sports nerd. I love nothing more than to pair a pint with a good sporting event on the screen; preferably footy (my love of Leeds United has been more than adequately logged here).
Recently, I’ve been watching the Olympics as default – getting behind Team GB as they rack up what can only be described as an impressive medal haul. I’m loving it. Really.

But one thing really made me smile today . Enjoying a pint of Castle Rock Mole (and a very nice pint at that...) at lunch in Foley’s I read in...lets just say a popular, red-top tabloid – that “...Despite winning Yngling Gold, sailor Pippa Wilson has found time to make bread for the British Team down in Quingdao so they can enjoy Jam Sandwiches”.

I guffawed and raised my pint. Bread's an effort on it's own without knowing you've got to go out and win an Olympic gold, for Christ's sake! Well done, Team GB, and keep up the British End, so to speak.
Jam Sarnies. Priceless.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mr Foley's Beer Festival

I dropped into Mr Foley's over the weekend to see how the Beer Festival was going. With a second bar rigged up in the back room, this gave us interested drinkers a chance to enjoy some different ales to the norm in decent surroundings (I really didn't miss the sports-hall vibe)!!

Despite missing the 'Meet the Brewer' event, Andy Whalley (York Brewery), was more than happy to spend an hour or with myself discussing many topics from the USA craft beer scene to how the beer industry are coping with the (temporary, we hope) hop shortage. And a very nice bloke he was too, showing the enthusiasm one would expect from one of the main men at York.

Dean, the manager of Foley's, explained that the festival was going very well, and hopefully we should see more of the same in the upcoming year. Ale sales are going strong too, as evidenced by the addition (at the expense of Lager taps) of yet more pumps dedicated to beer. And the beer itself? Well, of the many sampled over the weekend, Dean recommended Vale Breweries Black Swan - an excellent mild; full of big roasted-malt flavour and a dry hoppiness. Despite being perfectly happy to have stayed on this all evening, I jumped over to the Red Squirrell London Porter; another excellent example of the style - big red fruit and chocolate character with a sharp dryness coming through. Dark Side of the Moose was as excellent as ever, and Kelham's pale and fruity Golden Eagle made the 'Friday after-work pint' slot all its own.

The festival runs all week, so get yourself down there and try something different.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Animals, Dragons and Beer - A News Roundup

Mr Foley's Cask Ale House, York Breweries' first Leeds Pub, will hold The Noah's Ark Beer Festival from Friday 15th August until Thursday the 21st August, with over 40 beers, on 16 pumps, for 7 days.

One interesting event will be the Meet The Brewer (Sunday 17th, 2pm) with Andrew Whalley, director of Brewing for York Brewery and Chairman of SIBA North. There will also be 'The Great Pub Quiz' (Monday 18th, 7pm, Free entry and a Gallon of beer for the winning team), Live Acoustic Blues and Folk (Tuesday 19th, 7pm), Fancy Dress Night (Wednesday 20th, 7pm) where Foley's invite you to dress as your favourite animal - A free pint for every animal, and a gallon of beer prize for the best costume...And finally, A CAMRA Evening (Thursday 21st, 7pm) -£2 a pint for all CAMRA members and a free buffet!
Sure to be some decent beer on offer - although i'll be giving the fancy dress night a miss...
Mr Foley's Cask Ale House: 159 The Headrow,
Leeds LS1 5RG 0113 2429674

Also, Skipton's Copper Dragon Brewery are busy at work building a brand new £4 million brewery & headquarters on Snaygill Industrial Estate. It'll include an 11,000 square foot brewhouse and the refurbishment of their new 22,000 square foot visitor centre, bistro and offices.
Always nice to see an independent enjoying healthy growth.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I'm looking to overhaul the blog in the next couple of weeks and make it a bit more individual than the standard blogger templates - if anyone knows anyone who would like to do this for me, for nothing other than kudos and credit (or a beer if they are in the vicinity!) - drop me an e-mail at the address on the right there.
I know there are loads of 'Free Blog Templates' out there, but what can I say - I want something custom.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Midweek - Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA

This week's midweek tipple came in the form of Belhaven's Twisted Thistle. An IPA in the more traditional sense, it's got a great grassy, sharp nose and those Cascade and Challenger hops are the dominant flavours; dry and fruity. Not anywhere near as extreme as some of the other 'New' IPA's out there, I'd reccommend this for those who want to dip their toe into more hopped beers.

I also thought this would be a great beer to pair with food; although I didn't have anything cooking at the time. Off the top of my head, I think Twisted Thistle would sit really well with a Thai Green Curry, Lemon & Chilli -Spiced Chicken or Calamari.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Yorkshire Day - As Good A Reason As Any...


Yep, we deemed the first of August Yorkshire Day, and pubs across the city took that as an excellent reason to focus on local beers. Not that any of the pubs I visited ever really have an issue with stocking locals, but we Yorkshiremen (and women) are a proud bunch.

So, off the The Adelphi to start, with pints of TT's Landlord and Leeds Best in cracking condition. Then a quick amble down to The Palace, which is one of my favourite drinkers in Leeds. Rooster's perennial favourite Yankee was on offer, and despite the weather turning a little grey outside one sip of this refreshing, golden ale with its tropical fruit aromas made you feel truly summery. Beers from Little Valley, Daleside, Elland and Fernandes were proving popular too.
We followed that with Saltaire's Yorkshire Pale; a truly moreish pint; smooth, hoppy and packed with Citrussy notes. This was the third pint of Saltaire's beer I've had in two weeks - and I have to say I've been impressed with them all.

Yep, supping beer on a lazy afternoon. Gotta love Yorkshire Day.

The Palace, Kirkgate, Leeds LS2 7DJ
Tel; 01132445882

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Landlord's Fish Bites

Beer-battered Fish is a beercooking classic – and rightly so. This isn’t an original recipe by a long shot but is easy and tastes great. Cook in as large quantities as you need for guests at a gathering. Serve –of course – with handcut, beef-fat fried chips.

You will need (to serve four):
Three large fillets of white fish, cut into hearty chunks – (Cod,Haddock or Pollock are good)
250g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
¾ pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord Pale Ale (well chilled)
Pinch of salt
3 tsps of baking powder
A pinch of chilli flakes, a pinch of black pepper and a good sprinkle of paprika
Sunflower oil to fry in – I mix half oil with half dripping or even goose fat!

1. To make the Batter, simply sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the beer and stir well. You want a thick emulsion – but not too thick. You’ll know when it’s ready.
Heat up your oil – it needs to be good and hot – about 160c. To test, simply fry a chunk of bread. If it fries cleanly and floats to the top, you’re done.
2. On another plate, sprinkle some of the flour and season this with pepper, chilli flakes and paprika. Dust the fish in this before dredging through the batter.
3. Drop the fish into the oil (away from you) and fry for about 5-6 minutes, or until golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the pan – only do a couple of pieces at a time. Take care not to overcook – you want the fish to stay moist.
4. When ready simply leave to drain for a minute or so on some kitchen paper. Serve with slices of lemon and a good dose of salt and vinegar!

I've used Timothy Taylor's Landlord here because it's an assertive beer that punches through the batter. However, any beer that you feel fits this bill will do. Experiment! I can also recommend Moorhouses's Pendle Witches Brew for good beer-batter, too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Midweek: Wylam's Northern Kite

I have this compulsion in Beer where I'll get seriously hooked on one brewer, and as soon as I see thier pump clip gleaming up at me from a just-wiped bar, I gotta have it, regardless of style or mood. Last month it was Elland - this month it's Wylam.

I simply have yet to taste a less than excellent beer of thiers. Northern Kite is no exception. Wylam bill this luscious beer are a Ruby Ale, and in some respects I can see where they are coming from. Northern Kite is a mahogany, soft-tasting beer with a massive malt character and not much hops coming through. In that respect, I actually likened it to a mild, but one with a bigger a.b.v at 4.5%. This is one pint I could drink a lot of.

Wylam are a family-run brewery, and have been about since 2000. Long may they continue. Cheers.

I enjoyed this pint, and many others, in great nick at my local, The Abbey, in Leeds. I'll be reporting on this fine establishment in greater detail in the upcoming weeks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Midweek: A Couple from Cairngorm

A relative of mine recently brought me back a couple of gems from a touring trip to Scotland - Cairngorm's Wildcat and Stag beers.

I've never tried Cairngorm's stuff before, but based on this bottled sampling, it'll be one brewery i'll keep an eye out for. My favourite, Wildcat (5.1abv) was the tastiest; a clear, bright ruby beer that had a well-rounded, fruity malt taste with a long, bitter finish. The stronger of the two, Wildcat's alcohol kick doesn't come through until the end, resulting in a supremely drinkable and lively pint. Stag (4.1abv) was quieter in profile -darker in colour, with a much softer malt palate than its' colourful cousin. Much more caramel comes through, and this means a longer, quaffable beer.

Both were very welcome at the end of a long day and I can certainly recommend Cairngorm's wares. I understand their Trade Winds to be worth seeking out, also.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Easy Moroccan Chicken with Sweet Potato and Garlic Mash

...Does what it says on the tin. Chicken's one of those meats that lends itself to being marinated the hell out of, and this is one of my favourite 'easy' recipes - perfect when you don't have much time, but want to create something impressive.

Serves two.
You will need:
Free Range Chicken Breasts, skin on, please.
Marinade: A couple of teaspoons of turmeric, ground coriander, a good chunk of chopped fresh ginger, some chilli flakes (as many as you like), a dash of lemon juice, a little olive oil, and a little ground black pepper and some salt.

1. Firstly, make some slashes in the chicken breast, and cover liberally in the marinade above and leave to rest in a large dish or bowl for at least an hour. The longer, the better.

Meanwhile, you can make the mash:
Peel four large redskin sweet potatoes, and chop into roast-sized chunks. Arrange in a roasting dish with a good drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of good salt and a little fresh Rosemary. Add the whole cloves of garlic, and make sure the skins are left on.

Roast the sweet potato and garlic for about 30 minutes; they will turn pulpy when done.
Then, whack the chicken breasts under a hot grill and cook until done. When the meat is ready and resting, you can pull the veg from the oven, place in a bowl and mash. Pop the garlic from thier jackets and work this into the sweet, orange mash.

Arrange as you like and you're done.

Not only does this meal look like a lot of effort but if you're a garlic lover (who isn't?) it's heavenly. The sweet mash compliments the sweet notes in the chicken marinade, and isn't too heavy a meal either. As a beer match I chose William's Red, a fruity- peppery, full-on beer that is robust enough to take on all that garlic and spice and still come through.

This recipe was inspired by A Merrier World's campaign to heighten awareness of the importance of buying free-range chicken. For the record, I buy my chicken at Hunt's Game & Poultry in Leeds Kirkgate Market. We all know the importance of buying free-range meat, not just from a moral standpoint but from a quality one, too. It simply tastes better, and the people that produce free-range meat - and independent food and drink producers in general - need our support wherever possible. Without them, we'd be in a really depressing state.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Postcard from Bulgaria #2 - So, What's to Eat?

So, there’s not much out there about food in Bulgaria worth reading, so I thought I’d cobble together a few words and pictures, should any of you ever visit.

Food in Bulgaria is a strange mix – the heat and the setting feels distinctly Mediterranean – indeed the first glances at menus reveal kebabs, souvlaki, fresh salads, grilled meat and fish – but then you’ll also get a wide range of soups and stews. This reminds you with a jolt that you are in fact in the Balkans.

First up, the salads. Why do tomatoes always taste better in the sun? Shopska Salad, a Bulgarian version of ‘Greek’ salad, with tomatoes, onions, cucumber and mild, creamy sheeps’ cheese, is actually – gulp – nice. Very nice, in fact, I formed a slight addiction whilst over there. And I generally don’t eat salads on their own.

One thing that surprised me greatly was the seafood – the quality of the fish where we were based (the very bottom of the Black Sea coast) was excellent, and much better than our recent forays to Greece and the sadly depleted Med. The Bulgarian classic ‘Fish On A Roof Tile’ (translated) was an outstanding example of Bulgarian cuisine. Whole fish, usually Mackerel, laid in an earthenware, trough-shaped tile, topped with a rich, red-wine and shallot sauce, then slow baked. Like a fish Stifado, if you will. And possibly one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. It’ll pop up here sometime soon as I try to recreate it in my own cack-handed way.

However, the real deal for me was lightly battered and quick-fried clams, mussels and squid – doused in lashings of salt and squeezed lemon. Lip tingingly good. A bowl of this in an open-air seafood place and the sun going down...that’s me. Kill me there and then, I’m done. All that was missing was a good, zingy Weisse to wash it down with. Clams and smoked, sweet bacon were often stirred into fried rice with tonnes of fennel and parley, to result in a kind of Balkan risotto. Wonderful.

As if that wasn’t enough, pork was often eaten chopped, fried in a huge pan with gherkins, mushrooms, peppers, and topped with smoked cheese. Then delivered to your table, spitting all over you but you don’t care because it’s a loaded skillet of pork and smoked cheese. I didn’t make a note of what this dish was called – if anyone knows, help me out!

I’m slightly obsessed with Gyro; but we found that Bulgarian gyro tends to have sour cream instead of tzatziki, and use chicken and pork instead of lamb. For me, although a great snack, the garlic and fennel suckerpunch of Greek tzatziki was missing, big time.

Sozopol is divided into two parts; new and old town. All the best restaurants are in the Old town; Check out Neptune for the best seafood (in fact, the best food) on the Island, although Rusalka runs a close second. The Windmill offers a great dining area and good, hearty soups and stews, and Tavern Chuchura for the sizzling pork/cheese skillet. Finally, El Greco (next to Rusalka) does an amazing creamy seafood pasta, and has wonderful fresh Anchovies.
....And as for Beer...well, forget it. Nothing at all except generic Bulgarian lager that goes down ok when you’re baking alive reading Dave Gorman’s America Unchained on the beach. Instead, opt for Bulgarian wine – it’s damn good and maybe slightly unappreciated. Mavrud is a really good red grape variety unique to Bulgaria (I think –I’m a beer obsessive, not wine!) and the Traminers and Chardonnays from nearby Pomorie were not only reasonably priced but delicious too.