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.