Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More Festival News..

....And the fests keep coming. TGS stalwart Mr Foley's Cask Ale House, Leeds, have announced thier first of the year - with the theme of 'New Northern Brewers'. Sounds interesting. 7th - 12 May, it'll be a good lark in pleasant surroundings. North's Belgian Festival kicks off this week (report on by the weekend, I hope), too.
Also, it's National Pub Day on Saturday (as if we need a reason), so if you're thinking about popping open a bottle after lunch at the weekend, get yourself to a pub instead. That's all you need to do.
Onward and Upward.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Saturday Afternoon In Horsforth

...And we begin at an entirely pleasant little beer festival, set up to raise funds for the local church, which is having works done to secure the most eco-friendly future it can have. Given that I live about ten minutes away from Horsforth, it would have been rude not to drop in. Of the few beers sunk, a couple stood out. Firstly, Springhead's Puritan Porter was great - quite smooth, all roast coffee flavours and at 4% abv, dangerously drinkable. The Storyteller's Brewery, out of Terrington (near York), provided a copper-coloured, toffee-flavoured beer called Genesis which was very well-balanced; and 3 Rivers Pligrim's Progress offered a light, floral pale that yearned for slightly warmer weather. Good show, and I hope the beer festival becomes a regular occurance.

It would have been rude not to drop into the Town Street Tavern - the only place worth drinking in in Horsforth these days. Being a Market Town Tavern, you know what to expect, but it really is a little oasis amongst the overpriced and oversubscribed bars - quiet, brewriana plastered everywhere and a good range of beers - Leeds' Pale hit the spot with a somewhat more grapefruity hop bite than usual (change of recipe, lads?) and Taylor's Best on also - not something you see outside of Keighley often these days, with Landlord being so popular.

Overall, a good afternoon's drinking. And Leeds United won too - what about that, eh?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Week for Stout

...Well, it has been, hasn't it? With St Patricks' day and all, I wonder how much Guinness has been sold in the UK alone?

So, in a strange sort of tribute, I decided to track down some alternative black stuff this week, and came across two gems.

Firstly, TGS stalwart and 'measure of quality' Outlaw had their simply named 'Irish Stout' on tap at Foleys. A great, thick creamy head gave way to an intitally coffee-laced mouthful, but a long, dark-chocolate dominated swallow really surprised. Maybe because it was an Outlaw beer I expected something a little more ...out there, but what I got was a fantastically balanced, dry, stout. Not too sweet, I really could drink a lot of this.

When I got home, I popped open a bottle of Left Hand Milk Stout that Zak had recommended to me on a rare midweek visit to BeerRitz just before Christmas. "Try it", he urged, "it's really quite good." and, being Zak, he was right. I am partial to Milk Stout, but a little cynical about American offerings. But this really was good - creamy, light, and sweet. A little too sweet to drink a lot of of, but surprisingly even-handed. If the Outlaw stout was a lovely shot of espresso, the Left Hand was a latte; to be sipped rather than sessioned.
My mum allegedly craved Mackeson's Milk Stout when she was pregnant with me; I've always attributed by affection for beer as a result of this. Really.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday Night

After sitting in The Scarbrough Taps a few weeks back and noticing a steady stream of people coming out of newly-opened Ephesus Mangal, I resolved to visit - and I'm glad I did, because I suspect that many people simply don't know its there.

Ephesus Mangal is basic; don't get me wrong. But many of the best places to eat are, (Jino's Thai cafe in Headingley is a good example) and you should be visiting for the food anyway - not the location or the decor. The food is basic too - but delicious. Essentially a Turkish grillhouse, the smell of smoke and sizzling meat gets your stomach rumbling as soon as you sit; if you've holidayed in the Med recently you know the scent straight away.

So, onto the food. A mixed salad of olives, bread and a deceptively hot tomato, pepper and parsley salsa sets us off, and the hummus that arrives shortly thereafter is perfect; lemony and garlicy in equal porportion. Filo pastries, rolled and stuffed with feta cheese before being deep-fried, were light despite being fried and incredibly moreish. The main courses arrived presented simply with salad and rice: kofte meatballs and chicken wings, charcoal grilled to perfection. How can you not be pleased with grilled meats?

There's no license, so bring your own (Birra Moretti for me, thanks), and I would advise booking - we were eating relatively early but saw quite a few people get turned away. The meal for two cost £25 in total, which I was more than happy with; the service was a little rushed but seeing as though the waiter was working alone I think he did more than well enough! Ephesus Mangal - recommended.

Then it was on to North for a cheeky Outlaw Wrangler (on form as usual, very long, bitter and with a tropical fruit hit beyond belief) and then we joined a birthday celebration at The Reform, where draught Anchor Steam flowed copiously and rounded off a very pleasant night out.

Ephesus Mangal
88 Bishopgate Street, Leeds
Tel; 0113 2438567

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Session: Love Lager

When the Beer Nut suggested writing about Lager (or at least pale beer) for this month’s session, my heart sank. Surely I could find nothing to say; given the miniscule proportion of ‘Lager’ I actually drink.
Then I had a think about it. I do drink lager! On holiday!

One of my loves is The Mediterranean. Some of my fondest memories stem from long, long nights in Greece, Spain, and Turkey (when I was younger), and indeed the cuisine informs most things that I cook from April to October. And despite the Med being full of awesome, cheap and mostly bespoke wine, flowing like nectar from numerous visited wineries, there’s something to be said for a lager, chilled the hell out of, and sipped at a beach bar with the sand between your toes.

Glistening bottles of Mythos and Marathon in Greece, getting greasy from the rapidly expanding pile of prawn shells piling up at the side of my plate. Efes Pilsner, Amstel and Heineken in Turkey, washing down the beauty that is the proper Turkish kebab. And huge steins of Kamenitza and Zagorka in Bulgaria, their flinty sharpness cutting through all that heavy, Eastern European food. Hell, the Greek island of Samos had reasonably kept Warsteiner in most bars (seemingly a concession to the amount of Germans that swarm the place in the summer), and that beer in particular underwrote most of my memories of that holiday. And don’t get me started on Spain and Cruzcampo. I could die in a vat of that stuff.

Of course, at night I generally flit back over to wine, but for me, the scorching heat of a typical summer’s lunchtime on holiday does, as much as I wouldn’t want to admit it, bring me memories of a cold, frosty one. So, despite my Beer Nerdism, Lager has its place in my palate after all. Imagine if I finally got around to visiting Czechoslovakia, or Germany!

I recently tasted Taddington Moravka on draught and it was possibly one of the best ‘lagers’ I’ve ever tasted. It certainly got me thinking - am I missing anything else in this area of beer I know the least about? Looks like I’ll be a little more interested in the world of (the palest) pale from now on. It doesn't have to be cheap fizz, and if it does - well, as long as you're in the right place, it can be very pleasant indeed.

The photo at the top is of sunset at an awesome fish joint in Sozopol, Bulgaria. The terrace was on the side of a sheer clifface, the crystal clear Black Sea below. We drank steins of Zagorka lager, and accompanied this with plate upon plate of fried whitebait and mussels and mozzarella topped tomato salad. The plan was to start there and then move on for the evening, but we didn't. We just carried on there. Sometimes there's no reason to move.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Midweek - Saltaire and Fuller's

...Two great, great pints enjoyed this week at The Palace.

First up, Saltaire's Texas Brown which, ludicrous name aside, is a formidable beer and one that I hope they brew a lot more of - they get through a lot of brews, those Saltaire fellas. A huge, malty, complex bitter, with a toffee and caramel nose and a massive hops hit at the end of the gulp. Verrry nice, verrry moreish - but at 4.7%, very warming too.

Next up, Fuller's Chiswick. Call me slow on the uptake, but this, I liked. I sometimes can be guilty of passing up 'big' brewers in favor of smaller ones just for the ethics of it but I am really glad I chose this. A classic, creamy pale body with a great floral/peppery hop aroma and light enough that it disappeared at record speed. I'll be trying this again, no worries.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Hop Back Brewery

Ah, Summer Lightning. Brings back memories of those days when 'Beer' was something alien to me, but Summer Lightning represented something different, something all together more palatable to my lager-numbed tastes.
Now, years later, I realise the importance of Summer Lightning's advent on the beer scene. Practically cornering the 'Golden Ale' market (Possibly inventing it? Help me out here?), the pantheon of awards it has garnered its brewer, Hop Back, is truly justified.

But what of their other ales?

I realised last week that, aside from a anti-climatic encounter with Crop Circle, I hadn't really got to know some of Hop Back's other wares. As any true beer fan would do, I put that right last weekend.

We all know of Hop Back's mastery of the golden, but what about the dark? Entire Stout (4.5abv) comes with another set of awards backing up its pedigree, and I was pleasantly surprised. Apart from the relatively thin body, the beer is surprisingly well balanced - lots of dry, bitter chocolate, and a slight natural carbonation from the bottle-conditioning. Roasted notes come through at the end, along with a rounded smooth finish. Despite not expecting much, this stout managed to be both a nice example of the style for a bottled beer, and a singular brew at the same time. Will be looking out for it on draught, for sure.

I have an aversion to beers 'with stuff in them' - and Spring Zing (4.2abv) certainly counts as that. "Lemongrass Beer" the label screams; '...Jesus Christ...' my heart groans. However, a broad smile was plastered on my face on the first sip. This is a really, really interesting beer that is super-drinkable. The nose is practically the same as Summer Lightning - all grassy hops and sweet malt. Yes, there is a lemony/citrus kick to the taste- a massive one actually - but it works really well. Again, SZ is a thin-bodied beer that chills down well, that manages to pack in a peppery, ginger note right at the end of a long sip. Its sweet, but has enough hoppiness to cut through and not be cloying. I'd happily drink this again, and I think that IPA lovers in particular should seek this out as a lip-puckering alternative if a change is fancied.