Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sweet Potato-Topped Fish Pie with BD Atlantic IPA

It's been a while since I've posted a recipe/beermatch, so here's something moreish before (hopefully) the Sun decides to make more of a permanent presence....

You will need:

1 small Onion, thickly sliced -1 pint Milk -300ml double cream
Fish – 1 piece of Coley, 1 Salmon Fillet, 150g Raw King Prawns
100g Butter -45g Plain Flour - Chopped Parsley, Salt, White Pepper -3 Large Sweet Potatoes - A little torn Spinach -1 egg yolk

Firstly, put the onion slices in a large pan with half a pint of the of the milk, the cream, and the fish. Bring just to the boil and simmer gently for 10 about ten minutes. When that’s done, remove the fish and onions onto a plate and pour the milk into another pan or jug. When the fish has cooled a little, break it up and flake into your baking dish/Pie dish.

Melt a couple of knobs of your butter in a pan, add the flour and when slightly cooked, take the pan off the heat and gradually stir in the reserved milk. Return it to the heat and bring slowly to the boil, stirring all the time, making a thick, white sauce. Leave it to simmer gently for five minutes, stirring gently. When thick enough for you, stir in the parsley and season with a little salt, black pepper and a sprinkle of white pepper. Pour the sauce over the fish and leave to cool. Cover and chill in the fridge for 45 minutes or so.

In the meantime, peel and chop your sweet potato, and then boil until soft. Season lightly with black pepper, and mash with a little drop of olive oil. When the fish filling is cooled, spread the Spinach leaves on top, and mash ontop of that. Fork to make ridges, and brush a little some melted butter over the top. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200c for 40 minutes or until the top has turned nice and golden.

All done. Fish Pie's one of those dishes that everyone has their own version of. This is mine - I do occasionally like smoked fish in there too, but didn't want to overpower the sweetness of the topping on this occasion. And for goddsakes - use a fishmonger if you can. If in Leeds, there's no excuse not to get down to Kirkgate Market and see what's on offer.

I enjoyed this with an ever-so-slightly chilled bottle of BrewDog’s Atlantic IPA. It’s slightly oaky body gave a good, robust counterpart for the firm fish and sweet potato, and the bitterness that it carries cut through the cream nicely.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Skipton Beer Festival 2010

Yesterday - a lovely, sunny day in Skipton. Maybe not the best day do be sitting in a town hall, but there you go - when it comes to beer fests, only a few have precious outdoor seating. Plus, you often get pleasant surprise. Keighley & Craven CAMRA did well - the beers on offer were generally excellent, and, as hoped, did indeed contain a pleasant surprise.

Rodham's excellent IPA started things off. I wish I could get my hands on Rodham's beers more often, because I've yet to be let down by them. The IPA is pale, with a lovely malt backbone and tonnes of citrus hops dominating both the aroma and the taste. The hoppiness stays with you long after the sip, and along with my second choice of Marble's gloriously refreshing Pint, had me pining for a beer garden again.

Still, onwards and upwards. Triple FFF's ludicrously-named (It's a song by Cream) Pressed Rat & Warthog flew the flag for ruby-accented milds; a nice undercurrent of biscuit and a decent hop aroma amongst the fruit made this a moreish pint, and Dark Horse's Best (chosen because I'm such a fan of their Hetton Pale) didn't disappoint either - an eminently drinkable best with a slightly raisin-led flavour.

The real star of the show, however, was Nethergate's Umbel Magna. Basically their stalwart Old Growler with added coriander, I really didn't know what to expect. Given that my only experience of Coriander in beers are firmly in the Wit stable, this half of dark, creamy beer didn't fill me with excitement. But after one sniff - wow. What an aroma. Malt sweetness tempered with a massively rich burst of black pepper. I expected the beer to be astringent and harsh - in reality it was smooth, with a slightly creamy hint, and only the tiniest of heat from the coriander coming in late in the sip. The aroma, however, stuck with me. What a pleasure to try this genuinely unique and well-balanced beer. That's what beer festivals are for.

Later, we finished the day off with a few pints of Rudgate's Ruby Mild in the always - pleasant environs of The Narrowboat. Overall, a decent day, with plenty of beer. And to cap it off, Leeds won. The sun was shining, indeed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Acorn's Old Moor Porter

I'd never tried Old Moor Porter (4.4%abv) in a bottle before, but cracked one open last night as the fancy for something moreish caught me - maybe I was suffering from some kind of withdrawal for the dark - as I've been supping Pales pretty much exclusively recently.

As to be expected from Acorn, it's an effortlessly classy pint, smooth as hell and with a hint of smoke on the nose. The body has a little more depth, where the usual hints of chocolate and coffee come through, and then finishes dry, with that familiar bite at the end. But it's all very balanced, and very understated. There's nothing loud about this porter at all, but that's not a bad thing. It's a great pint, and I should have really tried this award-winner at home before now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kirkstall Brewery Remembered

Although many Loiners are still mourning the loss of Tetley’s to the city, it’s easy to overlook the fact that we actually had another major brewery operating in Leeds up until 1983. There’s not much info out there about Kirkstall Brewery, and I in fact had to glean what little info I could about it the old-fashioned way: going to the library and reading.

The brewery started life in 1793 when two enterprising young men, Henry Cooper and Joseph Musgrave bought some land by the canal to start independent malting operations. In 1833, Musgrave’s business was bought by Hunslet-born Thomas Walker, who stopped malting and turned the two buildings into one brewery. He didn’t do a very good job of it, and died bankrupt. On his death, the brewery fell into the hands of Simeon Musgrave (Joseph’s eldest son), who promptly sold it to a chap called Benjamin Dawson. Dawson & Co obviously saw potential, and bought Cooper’s malting as well. A period of expansion followed; the land became the site for the brewery as it stands today.

Kirkstall Brewery Co bought the brewery when Dawson died. I’m not sure where they came from, or who was involved, but according to Dyson & Grady’s excellent Blue Plaques of Leeds, they churned out around 26,000 barrels of beer per year. It would seem that ales of all types – from Milds to Stouts to Pales – were brewed and exported in a healthy fashion; using the waterways. In my picture you can see the arched doorways by the waterline; this would be where the hogsheads would be rolled onto barges, and then transported up the Leeds-Liverpool Canal onto Goole. Here – and this is my favourite part of the story – they were loaded onto the SS Kirkstall and SS Charante and sailed around the world. Not much information exists about either boat, but according to Dyson and Grady they sailed as far as Australia and New Zealand - quite a feat!

In 1936 Dutton’s of Blackburn took over, but sold up to Whitbread’s of London in 1954. Whitbread’s overhauled the plant, increasing capacity to 62,000 – but I believe their main line was Mackeson’s Stout by this time. Another overhaul increased capacity again to 250,000 barrels per year, but the brewery closed for good in 1983. The brewery is now a Halls of Residence for Leeds Met University – although the trained eye, it’s clear what the building once was. At least the conversion has preserved the building - I wonder how many students get the irony of being housed within a brewery? If you want to see it, the brewery sits on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, straddling the border of Kirkstall and Bramley.

The excellent Leodis website has a number of pictures of wagons, and suggests the the nearby Bridge Inn was at one time a Kirsktall Brewery Pub. Please do head over there for some wonderful archive pictures to support this post.

I’d love to know more about Kirkstall Brewery. Sure, it has a blue plaque, but it’s hidden from view, about ten feet up in the air and off the main road outside it. Who were the Kirkstall Brewing Co? What did they brew - what beer, brewed here, ended up in Australia? If anyone can add to this story, please contact me.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Congrats, Roosters

It's not often I post in a reaction to another post, but Zak's congratulatory piece on Rooster's recent retention of Gold at the World Beer Cup for English Summer Ale with their magnificent Leghorn and YPA Beers really made me smile - and damn it, Zak - you're right. Congratulations are in order.

You see, Rooster's (and experimental arm Outlaw) are a brewery close to my heart, and I think, close to the hearts of many drinkers, especially in Yorkshire. YPA, Leghorn and Yankee are all beers that recall my formative months in drinking beer. Sean Franklin's uniformly pale, creamy-headed beers were simply the most unique beers I had smelt on the market back then, and they were truly special, no doubt. Notice I say smelt - I'm not exaggerating when I say that Yankee and Leghorn really did open open up a new world for me in terms of hops and aroma - an ingredient of beer that I did not know a great deal about back then.

...And it's been a pleasure to learn. When I decided that writing about beer seemed like a lark, I contacted Sean to provide an interview, expecting the usual radio silence in return. But he responded promptly and courteously, and it really made my day. Despite my naive questioning, it's still one of my favourite posts.

Ok, so this may seem like sheer fandom; and in a way it is. But what really makes me happy is this: Local guy done good. Simple as that. Look through that list at the WBC - there's some wonderful, innovative breweries on there; and I have no problem putting Rooster's up there too.

They deserve it - Sean and his team been making wonderful, aromatic beers - with a single-varietal hop mindset - since the early 90's; ploughing a singular furrow in his own quiet way, and has always sat slightly outside the mainstream. He's no stranger to awards, but I know he treats every one with pride. Thornbridge, BrewDog & Porterhouse were amongst the other well-known winners, but Rooster's are local. Well, to me, anyway.

So well done, guys. Deserved, as always.

If you really haven't tasted any Rooster's Beers, they are available at The Palace, North, The Cross Keys, Nation of Shopkeepers, The Maltings (York) and The Tap & Spile (Harrogate), to name a few. Thanks for flagging this award, Zak.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Marble W43

...Despite this only being the third beer from Marble that I've tried (the others being the legendary Pint and Tawny), the enigmatically-named W43 firmly catapults them into my 'Breweries Who Just Don't Seem To Brew Bad Beer' Club. Light copper in colour, with a ever-so-tan head, W43's aroma was simply divine - Strawberries, Lychees and Peaches all made for a fruit cocktail for the nose. This fruitiness comes through on the taste, but is quickly mopped up with a creamy malt backbone, and a dry, pleasantly bitter finish. Wonderful stuff; reminiscent of those first tastes of Rooster's Yankee all those years ago. Good Stuff, indeed; and kudos to North for getting Marble's beers in consistently now.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Treats: Lamb, Twice...

Nothing complicated here, just loads of lush, springtime flavours. One leg of lamb, simply rubbed with smoked salt, fresh Thyme, garlic, Rosemary and black pepper. Drizzle with Olive oil. Slow roast for a couple of hours. Slice into generous hunks and with roasted sweet potato. Chimay Red perfectly matches the fresh herbs with it's full, smooth sweetness and dry finish.

And the leftover lamb? We baked a loaf this morning (always a pleasure) and decided on a Greek-styled open sandwich. Slice your cold lamb thinly, coat with a little paprika and saute in a little olive oil...

.....Chuck onto your home-made bread whilst still warm and top with Feta cheese, and mixed whole olives and eat whilst the sun makes an appearance. Mikkeller's Stateside IPA kicks all that salt from the olives and feta into touch with piney, grapefruity juiciness. Big flavours from the sandwich, big flavours from the beer.
Have a great Easter.