Wednesday, July 29, 2009

GBBF List Now Available...

CAMRA have begun emailing out the beer lists for the GBBF – although I’m not attending due to other, non-beer-related commitments, there are a few beers on here that I would have made a bee-line for, and will be worth checking out.
Fuller’s 2009 Vintage Ale will be available on cask – so that’s stop number one right there. Bartram’s Cherry Stout, Hawkshead’s Organic Oatmeal Stout and Dark Star’s Espresso all satisfy my penchant for the dark. From further afield – and this is what the GBBF is about, for me - 32 Vei Dei Birrai’s Oppale, Grado Plato’s Amber Lager Strad San Felice head up the impressive Italian Beer section, with Allagash’s Odyssey, Tuckerman’s Alt & Widmer Brother’s Drifter Pale Ale all being on my list for some time now. Ditto Galway Hooker.
From these shores, Bristol Beer Factories’ Milk Stout should be on, and beers from Triple fff, Loddon, White Shield, Salopian, Highland, White Water all coming recommended. But that’s just me - there’s loads to choose from, as you’d expect.
A shame I won’t get to try, but I’ll live. I’ll enjoy reading the myriad of posts from my fellow bloggers afterwards. Let me know how you get on.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grattis, Brewdog.

Although recently it's seemed that its in every beer blogger's job description to include at least one article about BrewDog, it was with genuine pleasure that I read that BrewDog have had a very successful first half of the year - and have just wrapped up a deal to become Britain's #1 imported beer brand in Sweden.
So what - it's Sweden! you may snort into your freshly poured 77 - but, despite proving that the Swedes clearly have decent taste - for me, this news sets the bar a little for what Independent Brewers can achieve.
Not only have BD managed to get the financials spot on and become a very sound business (a side often overlooked in Brewing), they've done it by not being safe. This, let's not forget, is why we (generally) love them in the first place. Remember your first sip of Trashy Blonde and Punk IPA? That search to land a bottle of Tokyo and the simple genius of the Paradox series? The whole Zeitgeist-art-gallery-orgy -then-buying-crates-of-the-stuff-for-knockdown-prices thing? It was as if the US 'Spirit of Adventure TM' had drifted off course and ended up in Fraserburgh. And don't even mention the Portman Group debacle (and the priceless marketing that achieved). Hunter S Thompson would be proud.
Yep, what lifts my glass is that BD have managed great growth but stayed true to what they do best. Imagine if thier next beer was 'BrewDog Bitter', a lank, trad, been done a thousand times beer. Unthinkable. Yet it happens all the time; other breweries roll out a thousand variations on one theme. Not BD - whack on top of this the fact that you've got green credentials in plans for a new eco-friendly brewhouse, and BD fast become a real success story with a good heart, too. Awww.
So, here's to it, lads. Congrats, or rather, Grattis. Just don't change, eh?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Home-Made Fishcakes

Although you need a little bit of forward planning, home-made fishcakes are super-easy to make, and are actually a great little beer snack. Surprisingly, tinned fish makes better fishcakes than fresh, I find. To be honest, you can use any fish you like, I reckon - but here's my version. Be sure to use fresh herbs though - it really does make a difference in the end.

Fishcakes (makes 6-8)
You Will Need:
One tin of Red Salmon
One small tin of Mackerel
150g of potatoes - Rooster's or King Edwards will do fine
2 tbspns Mayonanaise
2 Hardboiled eggs, cooled and chopped
2 pickled gherkins
A small amount of chopped anchovies - about four
Salt & Pepper to season
A pinch of Cayenne pepper
Chopped, fresh parsley and dill - a good fistful of each
A squeeze of Lemon
A dash of tomato puree

1. Boil your potatoes, and mash. Then, in a large bowl, add the mayonnaise a mash some more. Use a fork to then 'whip' it up so it's creamy.
2. From here, all you need to do is add your fish, gherkins, egg, and various seasonings to the potato and fork again - enough to mix but don't obliterate it.
3. Cover, and chill for three hours. This is really important - if your mix is not chilled, it will dissolve in the pan.

Get a couple of plates out and in a bowl crack two eggs and whisk. Place some plain flour on one plate, and some ready-made breadcrumbs on the last one.
In a chip-pan, heat up enough oil to shallow fry the cakes.

When the oil is hot, shape the mix into cakes, then dip into the egg, drain, then into the flour and then roll in the crumbs. Then place the cakes carefully in the hot oil. They'll only take a couple of minutes each side. When cooked, drain on some kitchen paper and serve with a big dollop of tomato or tartare sauce.

Easy enough, but takes a bit of planning for the mix to chill. As for the fish, use what you like. I washed this down with a cold pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord Pale Ale. I chose this great beer because despite being pale, it's got a really bitter edge and a really juicy maltiness that stands up to the oily fish without overpowering it. Lovely.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

North's US BeerFest

My drinking has had a distinctly American feel to it this week with North Bar bringing over baskets of US Beers for us to taste. And taste we did.
First up, Flying Dog's In Heat Wheat. This must be one of the few Flying Dog Ales I've not yet tried, to so get hold of it on draught was a great opportunity. Pleasantly refreshing without being cloying, it had a smooth, banana taste at first that soon mellowed even further, leaving a little bit of Marzipan behind. Very tasty, and very moreish. Next up, the much-lauded Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA - or 'Johnny Cask', as it's more commonly known (Click here to find out more about the Johnny Cask System). I really enjoyed this - yes, it was a blend of the 65 and 90 Minute IPA's so you kind of know what to expect - but still managed to become something different. Smooth, with only a little alcohol warmth at the end, and a balanced (although very fresh) hoppiness running through it. There's a real malty sweetness to it too, but it remains citrussy and not too cloying.

Victory Prima Pils next - although I have to be honest and say I didn't really think it was too Pils-y. It was decent though - lots of earthiness on the nose, and a high, astringent hop bite at the end of a long sip. Again, quite a fresh taste, although quite sweet. Interesting, and something I think I would try again; although I personally thought it had more in common with a Kolsch on steroids.
Sierra Nevada's Smoked Porter finished my week-long tasting, with a subtle smokiness and chocolate to coat the tongue. With a bottle of Rogue Dead Guy Ale waiting for me at home, I will continue my US-Centric drinking well into next week, I reckon.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Honey Chicken, Honey Beer

...Put your chicken pieces onto a baking tray and put in a preheated oven at about 200c. As they cook, blend three large spoons of honey, two teaspoons of Wholegrain Mustard, one teaspoon of dijon mustard and some parsley, if you have it.

After about ten minutes, give the chicken a coat of this sweet gunk, and put back in. Give it another ten, the repeat. Then another ten, and repeat. Keep coating, and you'll end up with great glazed chicken. It's like continual hopping that Dogfish Head do, but with food.

Serve with corn on the cob, and a cool pint of Cropton's Honey Gold for a quick and tasty midweek TV supper. Now, where's that Charlie Brooker programme I Sky+'d from last night...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Festival Time

It's the season for beer festivals, without a doubt. Here's a quick roundup of the ones that stand out for me. If you're near any of these you should check them out - there's nothing like a good fest to try something rare, hard-to-find or new.

The wonderful beer-hall at Hawkshead hosts their annual beer festival, 23rd & 24th of July. Hawkshead are, in my opinion, a great brewer, and their beer-hall will provide an excellent backdrop to beers from Palmer's & Arkell's to name a couple.

Breweries from the Kent area get centre-stage at the Kent Beer Festival (16-16 July), with Hopdaemon and Ramsgate among the treats. For Yorkshire treats, North's American Beer Fest and the highly-rated Harlequin are good starters for ten. The Harlequin's a great spot in Sheffield, and although I can't find a beer list (help, anyone?), I'm sure it'll be worth a visit. The Ship and Mitre are holding a Belgian Beer Festival on the 29th July, and the Reading Real Ale & Jazz Festival sounds like a decent weekend, too - with beers from Oakham's, Elgoods and Hopback on for your delectation. Beer and Jazz. Love it. And for steam enthusiasts, there's the Poppy Line Beer Festival at Sheringham Station (17th-19th July), featuring beers from the East Anglia area, food and entertainment.
Oh, and there's something called the GBBF going on too.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Week So Far in Beer

With the weather being so damn humid, the pull of the quick beer after work has seemed stronger this week. What better way then to let the rush hour pass sipping a decent pint, so that you can enjoy a much less stressed journey home?

First up, Shepherd Neame's Whitstable Bay Organic Ale. A beer I've tried in the past in bottled form, and been fairly unimpressed. The draught version is a little creamier, but still doesn't have a lot of body. Some would say perfect for this kind of weather! It's got a great colour, though, and a really peppery hop nose.

Next up, St Austell IPA. Again, I expected a little more from this in the way of hops. However, it does have a nice, biscuity body and a refreshing, sweet aftertaste. I could probably drink a lot more of this, and I don't see it often in Leeds.

Sleeman's IPA on the other hand, is a different beast. Since being permanently installed at Foley's Cask Ale House, I've been drinking a lot of it. Sweet, but with a bitter hop bite, it's a wonderful, frosty friend in these climes. My personal nadir of Sleeman's IPA worship was taking three colleagues to Foley's post-meeting, all self-confessed Lagerheads, and convincing them all to try one. They did, and declared it 'Fucking nice, that, man'. And my work here is done, as they say.

Red Squirell's Conservation Bitter is another solid, sweet, easy-drinking beer that further enhances my respect for them, and Cairngorm's ludicrously named Nessie's Monster Mash kept up the standards too, although this ruby-coloured leviathan was a little heavy for the weather.

All in all, a good week so far. Bring on the weekend!

These fine beers were sampled in The Palace, Mr Foley's Cask Ale House, and The Scarbrough Taps.