Saturday, May 29, 2010


Well, that's the sunny weather pretty much done for, it seems. Still, it gave me the opportunity to crack open some of those summer beers that we all know and love - pale, zingy, crisp and refreshing, and perfect for al fresco drinking.

One surprise entry amongst last weekend's usual suspects - Thornbridge's Jaipur, Wensleydale's Coverdale Poacher, Copper Dragon's Golden Pippin and Ilkey's Mary Jane to name but a few - was Marks & Spencer's Essex Summer Ale, bought purely on a whim whilst buying food because (in a childish voice) it had a pwetty label.

Closer inspection reveals this little treat to be brewed by Crouch Vale, brewers of such fine beers as Brewer's Gold and Amarillo. Essex Summer Ale follows much in the same path, although more complex than Brewer's Gold - straw in colour, but with a real tropical/Juicy fruit aroma, and a real C-Hop hit on the tongue. A slightly grainy body is lifted with an ever-so-slight hint of minty grassiness at the end of the sip. I enjoyed it immensely, and would happily drink it again. So there you go. Moonlighting occasionally works.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Enjoy It

...It's really too nice outside to be sat inside blogging. Enjoy this picture of the excellent beer range for Spring/Summer at The Palace, Leeds, instead. I'm off to go enjoy some al fresco beers (and a certain likelihood of Grilled Meats). I hope you're doing the same - enjoy your weekend.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stuffed Squid with Amber Lager

I know that squid divides people, but I can honestly say I'm firmly in rooted the 'obsessed with it' camp. Whether it's enjoying it tenderly stewed for hours on a Greek Island, or flinging some on the barbecue for an altogether more exciting option to burgers and sausages, Squid is a massively evocative food; sunshine, opulence and something new. Here's something that we did a few weeks ago - by no means original, but if its flavour you're after - look no further. Simplicity itself.

Firstly, you need to make a quick, basic Paella or Pilaf - if you have none to use as leftover (like we had). Risotto will work too. Anyway - This quick recipe will fill four moderately-sized squid. In a large pan, gently fry one onion and four (yep, four) cloves of Garlic until golden in a generous slug of Olive oil. Remove the garlic, and add one chopped red or green pepper. Again, sweat down until soft. To this, add chopped Chorizo and a little chopped chicken or prawns. I've not mentioned quantities because it's up to you - but do get at least two meats in there. When that lovely red-hued fat has leached from the Chorizo, add about 3 cups or rice - risotto (Aborio) rice will do if you like but its not essential - and coat with all the ingredients. Then slowly add chicken stock and stir until the rice has absorbed it all and is cooked. Season with a little black pepper, and some fresh Oregano, and leave to cool .

At this point, you should clean your Squid. It's easy - just pull off the head, and most of the insides will follow. Get your fingers in there and remove the plastic-looking sheath known as the Quill, and then run under cold water and scrape all the remaining innards out. Rinse again, and you have your squid tube ready to go.

Preheat a griddle pan to hot, and then simply stuff the Squid with your rice. Seal the ends with a cocktail stick , brush sparsely with Olive oil, and then lay on the griddle pan to cook. Turn once - they'll need about three minutes on each side - and you're ready to go. Serve with a crisp, fresh salad.

I enjoyed these ones with a couple of bottles of chilled Dos Equis. Although your instinct may be to go for a lager, summer ale or even a crisp Wheat beer, I find that something with a large dollop of Crystal Malt really brings out the sweetness in Squid. In the past, I've enjoyed Brooklyn Lager, Sam Adams Boston Lager, and good ol' Anchor Steam with grilled squid.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Week In Beer

The increased amount of football action in the telly this week has meant one thing: an increased amount of times in pubs, drinking good beers with good mates and doing quite a lot of chuntering. The League Playoffs and Europa League final have been excellent this year, and Mr Capello's final unveiling of England's provisional World Cup Squad have provided a splendid backdrop to a torrent of beer-tinged analysis. Nerdy, I know, but that's how I roll, as they say. But this is a beer blog, so here's the beers that have really stood out for me this week.

Firstly, kudos to The Victoria for getting some Breconshire Red Dragon (4.7% abv) in. When you find Welsh beer in Leeds it tends to be the various permutations of Brains - so let's have some more. Red Dragon impressed me in the bottle and on draught it's slightly more restrained. However, those malty, slightly fruit-cakey flavours are there in spades and it remains a filling, moreish beer. Five Town's Callum's Best (4.6%abv) - another dark mild, but on the fruitier side, body-wise - is light and seriously quaffable. No nonsense, quality beer indeed.

More complex was Goff's Tradition (4.0%abv). My drinking buddies declared it '...Quite like TT Landlord' and I nodded in agreement - copper in colour, but with a sticky-toffee body and a distinctly floral nose that I think the Landlord comparison was borne of. This was my first Goff's beer, and If you like TTL (and who doesn't?) then , yeah, give this a whirl.

Another solid pale (and another brewery I hadn't tried before) was Bowland's Hen Harrier (4.0% abv). Paler still, with a dry, lemony finish, this brought a cheeky smile to my face. It was balanced pretty well and for a robust, straightahead Pale Ale was very flavourful indeed, yet remained drinkable to the end.

One oddity stuck out though - Caledonian's Flying Dutchman (4.3%abv). Advertised as a Wit, it's actually nothing of the sort if you're expecting a traditional Wit. Amber in colour, with a thick, juicy, biscuity/wheaty mouthfeel, it's a tough one to nail down. There's tonnes of biscuit in the body, but a distinctly gingery nose and dry, bitter finish. I couldn't decide whether I liked it or not, but I guess the fact that I'm writing about it means it stuck in my to try again, I think.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Thwaite's Very Nutty Black

Whilst in preparation for the madness at Elland Road yesterday, Friday night was very much one 'on the sofa' for me. Whilst taking stock of the cellar to find a suitable, low key accompaniment, I plumped for a bottle of Thwaite's Very Nutty Black.

Now, this is an idea I like. I'm a fan of Nutty Black - The Palace in Leeds stocks it all the time, and it's a popular beer for a dark mild. Whilst it does everything it promises, I do, however, personally find it a little thin in the body to be truly satisfying.

Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to find that Thwaites were seemingly thinking the same thing, and had created a bottle-conditioned, 'Export Strength' version, Very Nutty Black (3.9% abv), which is also their first foray into bottle conditioning. The result? A smooth dark mild, with a much fuller, more rounded mouthfeel. Plenty of liquorice on the nose, and not much hop aroma. The pleasingly tan-shaded head lasts until the end, and there's a moreish, lactic creaminess underpinning everything.

In short, everything I'd been asking Nutty Black to be. I liked this a lot - hence the post - but the only problem I'm faced with now is this: Can I go back and drink regular Nutty Black? Time will tell - I understand it will only be available during May and June.

Oh, and if you're thinking that 3.9% abv doesn't sound like an export strength beer, you'd be right. An amusing little note is put on the label to explain - "...This stronger beer will now be leaving Lancashire and is destined for the Far East (Leeds), and even remote areas of the Southern Hemisphere (such as Watford). Made me chuckle, anyway.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Yep, Another Post About Milds

Sorry, Pete. Luckily I don't really consider myself a 'beer writer' (on account I've not published any books on the subject), so I thought I'd add to the hundreds of 'repetitive' posts about CAMRA's Mild Month out there.

Actually, the reason for this post isn't simply to wind up Pete. I was at work yesterday talking about beer (as often happens), and a quick poll revealed that more of my buddies knew what Wheat beer was, and could identify one at a bar (Erdinger being the ubiquitous one) than Mild. That's a shame - and it probably applies to other styles, too. As we've all said before, maybe it's a little silly to promote one beer during one month, but I think the campaign works, and anything that serves to promote and advertise the good work our breweries do is ok by me. That is, after all, the point of TGS.

Pubs in Leeds are doing their bit, without a doubt. But for the sake of all those casually curious people out there (I know you're there, hiding behind those emptying pint glasses, wondering whether to take the plunge or order another Tuborg), here's a quick rundown of some Milds being produced this month and throughout the year by (mostly northern) breweries:

If it's the stronger, darker end of the market that's your taste, then look no further than Leeds's Midnight Bell or York's Centurions Ghost. Both are loaded with dark chocolate and sweet smoke, and despite their moreishness (which is a trait of all good dark milds), both pack a hefty alcohol wallop. Rudgate's excellent Ruby Mild combines an even smokier taste with a hint of red fruits, as does Nottingham's wonderful Rock Mild. Abbeydale's Daily Bread is slightly paler, with a much more pronounced peppery hop nose and is one of those beers you could drink all day - as is Timothy Taylor's smooth, satisfying Dark Mild. Elland are also brewing Born To Be Mild this month.

Alongside regular Emley Moor Mild, Mallinson's are producing Denby Light Mild this month, and although I've not tried it yet, Mallinson's simply don't seem to make bad beer. Neither do Acorn, whose is Darkness is as suppable as their classic Yorkshire-style bitter. Cropton's Balmy Mild is another lighter-hued, slightly hoppier affair, and if it's a pub-brewed beer you're after, Fox Brewing's Clarendon Dark Mild is a really tasty affair, and available at The Fox & Newt Brewpub on Burley Road, Leeds.

All these locally-brewed gems are in addition to the more established beers popping up as well, such as Fuller's Hock and Festival Mild, Elgood's Black Dog, Thwaites Nutty Black, Harvey's Knots Of May, Hydes Light and Traditional Milds, Okell's Mild, Moorhouse's Black Cat and Cain's Dark Mild.

So - simply get out there, and try some. If you like a pint of mild, try something else from that brewery. Before you know it - you're a beer drinker. Huzzah!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Ossett Excelsior

...It seems that Ossett Brewery are having a surge of popularity in Leeds right now. Everyone's meeting in, talking about, and drinking at The Hop, which just goes to show how fast quality drinking dens in Leeds get support, and now their bottled output is popping up (and selling out) in various outlets across the region.

Excelsior seems to be the only one widely available (although the lush-sounding Treacle Stout is also being bottled), and I'm not complaining at all. Excelsior (5.2%abv) is their strong pale ale, and it's lovely. Stealthy in terms of alcohol, it's easy drinking with a full, rounded and undeniably smooth in the body. There's a cereal/malt undertone early on, which soon gets overpowered by a massively grapefruit/citrus hit courtesy of lashings of Cascade hops. This means a dry, bitter finish, but one that remains balanced. I've even drunk this chilled and can report that it serves as a (albeit strong) wonderful thirst quencher on the hotter days. All in all a great transition from a cask favourite to a bottled standard.
Ossett Brewery - if you're reading: can we have Big Red bottled next, please?