Friday, July 30, 2010

Porkslappin' @ North

North started their annual U.S Beer Fest today, and with it being Friday and all, I moseyed on down for an extended lunch and a little look-see at what was on offer. A tip-off via Twitter (presumably from the ever-helpful Matt) had alerted me to the presence of Butternut Brewing's Porkslap Ale - a beer that I'd been curious about since declaring it 'Quite possibly the best name for a beer ever' a few months back. A Tad frivolous maybe, but I was genuinely interested.

So, this lunchtime, here it was, sitting in front of me in all it's porcine glory. The can was snapped open, the beer was poured, and I'm happy to report....It's all right. Not ground-breaking or anything; but I don't think Butternuts claim it to be. Taste-wise, it's along the lines of Brooklyn Lager, only much less complex; toffee-led malt and that familiar boiled sweet/candi sugar rule the body, and there's not much hop complexity save for a quick, dry bitterness at the end. I could drink a couple more, anyway. Or is that just because it's canned; some kind of subliminal message to chug? Anyhoo - mission accomplished. Porkslap....slapped.

North's US beer fest range gets better every year; we seem to have moved on from the household names of Sierra Nevada and Anchor, and those importers and suppliers are coming up with the goods. Brewers like Odell, Flying Dog & Dogfish Head are becoming more and more ubiquitous (and deservedly so, I might add, in Odell's case) and my notes of the bottles in the fridge make for an impressive list; Great Divide, Big Sky, Buckbean, Moylans, Tommyknocker, Green Flash, Uncommon and Victory all sit, waiting to be sampled. Add to that the likes of SN Bigfoot, Stone IPA, Left Hand Stout and Brooklyn Lager on draught (Brooklyn's a regular at North now), and you've got a new set of choices for your weekend.

In fact, your hardest choice will be deciding simply what to try. The Grove in Huddersfield have also extended thier bar range to include a number of U.S gems. Here's A Swift One's thoughts on the matter....

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hopdaemon's Skrimshander IPA

I'd had this beer kicking around for some time, and when I cracked it open I cursed myself for not doing so sooner - although it was a long time ago now! I didn't blog it at the the time, but have since got another bottle in in order to evaluate it more seriously - and it was worth it. Hopdaemon are not a brewery that I'm overly familiar with, but that will change from now on. I loved this; copper in colour, with a hint of bready yeast and a touch of hop-pepperiness on the nose. Body-wise it's light but quite sweet, and that gives a little more balance to the moderately sharp, citrussy bitterness that comes along at the end. I had chilled the bottle slightly and it certainly quenched the thirst - but this is one beer I'll drink again and would love to try on draught, if anyone can tell me where this may be possible?
Here's to many more, Hopdaemon.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Turkey Yakitori with Rogue Dead Guy Ale

I love making Yakitori - little sticky bites of Soy Sauce-rich poultry goodness - but have recently dumped the traditional Chicken for Turkey. I find Turkey sweeter, tastier (because let's face it, Chicken is pretty bland) and it seems to marinate better. Turkey thigh's even better - with a deep, rich flavour. Because this dish is oven- grilled it's not massively authentic - but in terms of beer snacks it's a belter.

It couldn't be easier to make but does require a little forward planning - essentially it's a two stage process. Firstly, 24 hours before you cook it, marinate about 300g of diced Turkey in about 100g of Dark Soy Sauce, and 3 tbspns of Honey. To this marinade add four chopped cloves of Garlic, and a splash of Shao Hsing Rice Wine. This isn't hard to find in Chinese markets, and you can probably pick it up in supermarkets now. It's a little like sherry, and adds a unique bite and subtle smokiness to the marinade. Stir up, cover well, and leave to marinate in a fridge for the aforementioned 24 hours.

When ready to cook, make a basting sauce up from more Dark Soy sauce and Honey. You can make it as thick as you like; in fact, the thicker and stickier the better. Set your grill on high, lay out your turkey pieces on a grilling tray, and baste with the sauce. Grill for about 5 minutes, then re-baste. Repeat this every five-ten minutes, turning the meat and basting as you go. You want to build up a good coating on the meat, which should take about 20 minutes to cook. To finish, sprinkle with chunks of sea salt, and serve on a bed of rice.

It's natural to want to serve something like this with a pilsner or decent lager as you would do in a noodle-house, but I find that sweeter, more malt-led beers actually match the sweetness of the Yakitori in a much more interesting way. I enjoyed Rogue's Dead Guy Ale with mine; loads of caramel and crystal malts in the body, a smooth taste, with the hops only coming on late in the sip as a refreshing bitter bite. A sweet beer for a sweet meal.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thornbridge Halcyon 2009 IPA; A Toast

In praise of Thornbridge; I can't say enough. For me, they remain at the very forefront of brewing in the UK, consistently brewing top-quality beers that not only challenge, but satisfy at the same time. They must be close to being the most-blogged about brewery out there too, so I know I'm not alone in my blind love for Kelly, Stef and the team.

In fact, Stef was recently named UK Brewer of the Year, which is just the icing on the cake and a massive acheivement not just for Stef but the entire Thornbridge team. For a personal toast, I popped up to Beer-Ritz (where else?) and stocked up on Halcyon (7.7% abv). It's my current favourite Thornbridge Beer (although that changes with nigh-on each new one I taste) and perfect for a toast.

Russet-amber in colour, and topped with a head that lasts and last, the beer is a lesson in balance: a sweet, honeyed body that supports a fruit-burst of hop aroma (Grapefruit, Gooseberries, even some Strawberry in there) and a long, smooth sip that hits you right at the end with a juicy, bitter hit. It's green-hopped, and you can tell when it's a fresh batch; Green is an apt word to describe the overall hop profile. I could drink this all day and never be bored with it (until they brew something new, anyway).

So well done, Stefano - and keep up the good work. You're making this guy very happy indeed.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Visiting WharfeBank Brewery

Yesterday morning we attended the official opening of WharfeBank Brewery. Despite only being a recent addition to Yorkshire’s brewing fraternity they’re causing a ripple already with their full-bodied ruby beer CamFell Flame winning Beer of the Festival at the Leeds Beer Festival this year.

We timed our arrival perfectly to coincide with that morning’s mashing in, which unleashed great malt-scented clouds of steam up into the rafters; no matter how many times you smell it, it always takes me by surprise at how wonderfully comforting it all is. Tony Jenkins, working tirelessly throughout the day, took us through the process, the equipment itself, and the genesis of their core beers.

WharfeBank currently brew three core ales: Tether Blond (4.1%abv), Slingers Gold (3.9%abv) and the aforementioned CamFell Flame (4.4%abv). Seeing the hops piled high in the cold storeroom, I remark that there seems to be a lean towards high-alpha hops (which I’m happy to see), and Tony concedes that the recipes have been formulated to simply give new twists on traditional tastes. This seems like simplicity itself, but as an ethos it’s a good one.

Taste-wise, the beers are certainly very good. CamFell remains my personal favourite of the stable, full of gently roasted flavours and an ever-so-subtle coffee aftertaste. It’s a surprisingly light beer for one with such a deep, rounded flavour, and is dangerously sessionable. Sessionable seems to be a pre-requisite, as Tether Blond is refreshing; super-pale and loaded with fragrant citrus notes. Slingers Gold continues that citrusy freshness on the nose but is smoother and fuller in the body.

WharfeBank is the baby of Martin Kellaway, an ex-cricketer who dived into the world of brewing whilst working with Caledonian and Fuller’s. He also owned the Fox & Newt Brewpub for a while as a tenant landlord and began crafting beers on their on-site kit. After gaining some investment through local grants and supporters, WharfeBank was born.

He should be proud; the brewery itself is all excitingly shiny and new, and the staff were only too-happy-to-help. The opening itself was a success; plenty of people there, some wonderful locally-sourced barbecue to go with the beer, and I’m sure that when Lib Dem MP and all-round-good guy Greg Mulholland formally declared WharfeBank open, the team breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Leeds-wise ,Wharfebank’s beers are currently available at The Grove, and will be available in Wetherspoon’s shortly. If you are a pub who wants to get WharfBank’s wares on the bar, then jump over to their website (linky above) for details. Special thanks to Tony Jenkins and Dhiraj Pujari.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

SummerWine Project 6 IPA Brew 2

...Regular readers will be familiar with SummerWine's Summer IPA project, and I'm pleased to see that Brew #2 landed this week. Brew#2 proved to be a paler pint than #1, and, as expected, loaded with hops. Whereas #1 had a more herbal, green note, #2 has a much more citrus-led profile. I don't know what hops are in it, but I'd hazard a suggestion of Centennial and Amarillo being present. Still smooth, and very drinkable for its abv as before, #2 is a much fruitier beast than its predecessor.

Still, I'd like to do a side-by-side comparison, as well - What about bottling this set of big IPA's, SummerWine lads?

As usual, tasted in Foley's.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ridgeside Brewery Launch *This Weekend*

New Leeds brewery Ridgeside will be unveiling their first brew on Sunday in Wakefield. The launch will take place at O'Donoghues (owned by Great Heck Brewery) and the beer will start flowing at 12.00 noon, supported by a presentation and a buffet (what's a beer launch without a buffet, eh?).

Head honcho Simon Bolderson told me that Ridgeside Beast (4.7%abv) will be ready to taste, and describes it as a 'Deep red, old English Ale'. Sounds lovely. Simon's story is a now-sounding-familiar one: experienced homebrewer taking the plunge after his job circumstances changed. Simon is committed, and clearly enthusiastic about beer, and that in itself deserves a pat on the back.

Unfortunately, I can't make it - but I think you all should, and tell me how it went. Looks like I'll have to wait a little longer to get my grubby paws on a pint from Leeds' newest brewer.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wold Top's Against The Grain

I'll be honest; Gluten Free beers usually leave me cold. Thin, insipid affairs that just don't satisfy me - despite trying most that I find. To me, it's an oddity - it's a style of beer I regard with curiosity. My notion was that one day I'd find one that I like, and that in itself would be a discovery worth hailing.

Well, it finally happened. I picked up a bottle of Wold Top's Against The Grain (4.5%abv) and chilled it down to cope with the mini-heatwave we are enjoying. And cope it did: super-pale, with an all-important cereal bite in the body that most Gluten-free beers lack (in my opinion). On top of that, a wonderful nose of lemon and lime, and a good amount of carbonation making it a real thirst-quencher. I'd happily drink this again, and that's the highest praise I can give a Gluten Free beer.

If anyone else wants to recommend a gluten free beer you think I may like, don't hesitate to let me know.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Five Towns Brewery - Homebrewer to Brewer

Five Towns is a brewery that deserves your attention. Why? Because Malcolm Bastow, who essentially is Five Towns, works full time. As in, in another job. Not in any old dull job either – as a Nurse. Any man who works for our health service whilst knocking out quality beers deserves a medal as far as I’m concerned, and it was whilst enjoying a pint of his at this year’s Leeds Beer Festival that I mused on how he fit it all in. So I asked him, dropping him an email, as you do. Many months later, he responded, but given his schedule, I’m honoured that he took the time at all. It’s been a pleasure to speak with Malcolm, and here’s what he had to say.

Leigh: Can you tell me a little about how Five Towns started?

Malcolm: Probably like many other brewers, I started making home-brewed beer in the mid eighties - 'John Bull' kits from Boots. In the early Nineties I discovered M&D Homebrew in Wakefield, and they introduced me to partial or full mash brews. I bought the necessary equipment and started full mash brewing and never looked back. I continued to brew 9 gallons of real ale about twice per month. I started thinking seriously about commercial brewing around 2001, finally making the decision to contact Dave Porter Brewing Consultants in 2006. From that point, it took a couple of years to sort out the planning permission sort out a loan etc before ‘going live’ in September 2008.
What - or who - is you inspiration to brew? What, would be Timothy Taylors' Landlord and almost every Rosters/Outlaw beer I drank! Who, would be Dave James - ex Fernandes Brewery, now East Coast Brewery. Dave set up Fernandes brewery below the Home Brew shop in Wakefield and opened the Brewery Tap; which was at the time the best outlet for real ale in Wakefield. I was still home-brewing whilst watching Dave take the plunge.

Tell me about your core brews.
Outwood Bound
is a chestnut coloured beer with a toffee nose and strong dry bitter finish. It’s brewed with American yeast and lots of Cascade Hops. Callum's Best is a dark coloured beer brewed with Maris Otter and Chocolate malt giving a full flavour and bitter finish. This was my first full mash beer while still home brewing.
Niamh's Nemesis is a full bodied IPA with hints of grapefruit before a dry finish. It’s inspired by Punk IPA and Empress of India. Outside Edge an easy drinking, light coloured, lightly flavoured beer finished with Cascade Hops. This is based on the type of beers I brewed before going commercial.
Which is your favourite? As you will see from my favourite beers from other breweries, i'm into strong and hoppy beers at the moment. So I will have to say that Niamh's Nemesis (5.7%) and Peculiar Blue (6%) are my current favourites. Strong but remaining bitter, with loads of Cascade and Nelson Sauvin hops.
....And your favourite brews from other breweries?

· Punk IPA - Brewdog
· Jaipur - Thornbridge
· Empress of India - East Coast
· Absolution - Abbeydale
· Old Peculiar - Theakstons (from the wood) (Oh, great choice – Leigh)

So, how do you find both working full-time and brewing? Hard work at times! It's like wearing two hats - both jobs are completely different. The nursing role I have is quite stressful at times and when I first went commercial I found that stressful as well. Suddenly having a Loan to pay which relies on you selling beer gave me some sleepless nights. It was only after the first five or six brews - when I felt comfortable with the equipment and started to get the positive feedback - did the stress lessen. Although most of my spare time is spent brewing, selling and delivering real ale, I enjoy that side of my life so much that it makes it all worth while.

Where can we find your beers? I try and sell to pubs that I know are going to look after the beer, so mainly pubs in the 'Good Beer guide. Mr Foley's (Leeds), The Star Inn (Huddersfield), North Riding Hotel (Scarborough), Bonhommes (Filey), West Riding Refreshment rooms (Dewsbury), The Navigation (Mirfield), Red Shed and O'Donohues (Wakefield), Brewers Pride (Ossett), Fat Cat (Sheffield), Market House (Elsecar) take most of my beers plus the Brown Cow Brewery and Boggart distribute further afield.

...And what are you plans for 2010? It's taken me so long to respond half the years gone! I have trialled bottling Callum’s Best and Niamh's Nemesis and plan to start producing regular bottle conditioned beers by the end of the year.
Any advice for budding brewers out there? If you can produce good quality full-mash brews as a home brewer, don't be put off by the hurdles of planning permission etc. The reward of being able to drink beer you have produced in a local pub makes it all worthwhile.

What makes Malcolm’s story resonate with me is that I am an all-grain homebrewer too – and one that harbours hopes of one day making the leap into producing beer that you all can enjoy. Malcolm makes that leap look altogether less scary on the outside - although he would probably disagree! There are plenty of us out there – Boak & Bailey dabble as well, for example - and Hardknott Dave has been logging his experiences on his blog. Homebrewing is the start of many great breweries that we know today. Five Town's Beers are solid, tasty and well balanced - I can recommend both Callum’s Best and Davy Jones’s locker, and I hope you give them a try. Give homebrewing a try too – I can honestly say that I’ve learnt more about Beer by brewing it than I ever would by simply drinking it. If you fancy dipping your toe in (so to speak), then I would start at the Jim’s Beer Kit forum – as well as ICB. They are both packed with excellent advice from enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable brewers.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Roosters Whiskey-Cask Matured Stout

I've been drooling since I heard the news a few weeks back that perennial TGS demi-god Sean Franklin and his crack team at Roosters were brewing up some one-offs this year. Whiskey-Cask Matured Stout (5.7abv) is first on the list, and it doesn't disappoint.

From a brewery that is revered for its use of the aroma hop through pale ales, it's a welcome diversion from type. Firstly, the beer has a powerful aroma - peat, smoke and woody notes hit the nose in an alchohol-heavy haze that really punches the message home. This is a mature beer, and like it says on the pump-clip, the whiskey notes are right up front, not hiding in the background.

On the sip, that powerful aroma fades away, leaving a surprisingly smooth, roasted body with a bitter note at the end that's more espresso than bitter chocolate, with no real trace on the tongue of its not-to-be-messed-with abv. That smokiness lingers throughout. A longer-lasting head would have been nice, but that's just a petty remark at the end of an entirely enjoyable beer. You couldn't drink a lot of it, but that's beside the point - this is a wonderful beer, and an intruiging one at that - only a few hours later, I'm craving another hit.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

LB Buy The Garden Gate

*We've known it was on the cards for a while, but after months of talk, Leeds Brewery have finally bought The Garden Gate in Hunslet - a match made in heaven. Let's hope they can get some customers back in the place. More to follow. Huzzah!