Sunday, October 31, 2010

Autmunal Pickings; Tumblers and Blasts

Yep. It's here. Officially. We are in Autumn (in fact, Winter's around the corner) and incidentally, my favourite season for beer. This might sound strange coming from a self-confessed Pale freak, but Autumn - and Autumnal Beers - are so varied, from Strong Pales to Porters and Stouts, that I really look forward to October. Plus, as a cooling, slightly chilled Pale is to Summer, a full-bodied, warming Strong Mild or Stout is to Autumn. However, you don't have to default to the more obvious darker beers - so here's a pick of what I've been enjoying at home for the past month or so.

First up is Brooklyn's Winter Ale (6.0abv). I guess it's Brooklyn's take on a Scottish Ale, and I like it. True, it's not quite as full-bodied as we are used to in the UK, but there's plenty to recommend; a biscuity, satisfying blend of malts in the body, and a restrained hoppiness that makes a nice change for Brooklyn; a touch of spice at the end rather than a full-on hop assault. One I'd like to try on draught; preferably on a chilly Autumnal, New York afternoon. I'd had this in the cellar since Spring, and it held up perfectly well.

Sierra Nevada's Tumbler (5.5%abv) is a relatively new addition to their stable. The label and legend on the neck is Sierra Nevada at their idyllic best; talk of long afternoons and falling leaves. The beer itself is an odd one; the nose is all cola, black pepper and cloves, but this doesn't really translate into the taste of the beer. There's a savoury, almost vegetal note which fades to a sweet, maple-led finish - along with more restrained hopping. I'm not saying I didn't like it; far from it - it's an interesting beer, although I'd like to drink some more before I can fully get my head around it's taste.

My final American beer is Dogfish Head's Raison D'etre (8.0% abv). I love Raisin in beer - it's a flavour we don't do enough over here but I can always rely on DFH to produce something flavourful and rich. Crystal-clear Mahogany in colour, the nose is herbal at first before that rich, sweet vine fruit note pops up. On the sip, however, things are a little less sweet than you'd expect - there's Demerara/Burnt sugar there, and little drying coffee on the edges. It's much less cereal-led than Cain's Raisin, for example - much more in the ballpark as, say, Chimay Red. My bottle was a little short in the way of head, although carbonated fine - again, another beer I'd like to sample on Cask (if such a thing exists!).

Ok, onto beers from our fine shores. Rodham's beers are micro in the truest sense - produced by Michael Rodham in his house, and sold through a very limited selection of outlets, mostly in Yorkshire. I picked this up in the Temple Newsam farm shop, where I understand Rodham works in the grounds. Old Albion Porter (5.5%abv) is probably his best beer in my opinion; a porter which ticks all the boxes - slightly smoky, sweet, satisfying and rich with a firm, biscuity malt spine. You might not be able to find this one easily, but if you're going to seek one out, seek out Old Albion. It occasionally finds it's way into beer festivals - one assumes when Rodham finds time to brew it!

Autumn doesn't have to mean dark - Orkney's Orkney Blast is a perfect example of a warming, satisfying beer. An Award-winner (and rightly so), it's one of the most complex golden ales you're likely to find in the UK. Juicy malt, with a herbal (Thyme or Rosemary?) note running right through the taste, your tastebuds try to process that lot when a massive tart hop profile hits you right on the end of the sip. One of my friends actually thinks it's more along the lines of an IPA than a 'Strong Golden Ale', and I can see where he's coming from. It's an aggressive beer, but one that begs to be enjoyed slowly, as the nights draw in and that heating gets turned up.

It's not all bottled fun - BrewDog Edge remains my stand-out beer of the season so far, and Wetherspoon's Autumn Beer Festival (on now) will see the beer popping up at a 'Spoons near you. Saltaire's Harvest Moon is one of the best beers they've produced for a while in my opinion, and York's excellent Centurion's Ghost should be doing the rounds a little more often now. Rooster's Mocha Stout is also filtering through to handpumps near you right about now - speaking of Rooster's, their peppery, gingery Pumpkin Ale pretty much sold out in a couple of days in Leeds from what I understand. I liked it; but obviously it divided opinion. Personally I thought it was one of the better Ginger and spice -led pales I've tried. Good work, lads.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Twissups, Treason and Tapping The Pumpkin

Christ, it's been a busy week. Enjoyable, but busy nontheless. So I find myself with a spare ten minutes, on a Friday night of all nights, tapping away when the majority of Leeds beer-folk are hunting Pumpkin Ale. But more on that later.

Twissup kicked off the madness in style last Saturday; a hop to Manchester and then onto Huddersfield. There was also a hop to Stalybridge, but I got on the wrong train and missed that (honestly). A lot's been said over the past week about this event, so I don't want to dwell too much on it; but I would like to put my 'official' thanks to Mark and Andy for organising it. Apart from the great locations and beers on offer, It was a great opportunity for me to finally meet some of the people I've been conversing with more or less every day for the last god-knows-how-long and actually share a beer and a chat. I made a comment a few weeks ago that Blogging is like being in a virtual tap room when at it's best and most dynamic; well, this weekend, it became real, and it was an absolute pleasure - you were all top lads and lasses. Highlights? All of it. From the cask Ola Dubh we shared in The Angel (whisky-tinged, smoky, chocolate milkshake) to the wonderful surroundings of The Marble Arch, to finding the creamy Moravka (one of my faves) available at The Grove, the day was great. I'll be doing it again. Read here, here, and here for much better rundowns of the day.

Wednesday saw me hook up with James and Andy from Summerwine again; this time in Foley's for a Meet the Brewer event. Having met them previously we basically carried on chatting where we left off last time over a few of their own brews; tax on beer, the government, the joys of homebrewing, and future plans. Future plans is what these lads do well; this Christmas will see a Chocolate Orange Stout appearing in our glasses, as well as the last of the (surely now-famed) Project 6 IPA range. Next year sees another project; the Nerotype Black IPA's, the dark sister of Project 6. I for one can't wait. Myself, Chris, Dean and Fletch happily sampled the range whilst the lads gave a good account of themselves to a decent-sized crowd. Apart from spending every waking hour brewing, they do find time for these sorts of thing, and if they come to your town - go see them. Have a pint and a chat. I can recommend the Treason Treacle Stout in particular. Here's what BeerProle thought of the evening.

This afternoon my work schedule prevented me from getting too much time away from the desk; which as typical given that Rooster's were hopping around Leeds dropping off their Pumpkin Ale like evil little beer-elves. However, I did manage to catch the delivery of Foley's beer-filled treat, and hung around for the tapping and a subsequent cheeky sip. What's it like? Well, I did only have a couple of mouthfuls and a good ol' swirl, but there's masses of black pepper and spice on the nose, but a much smoother, sweeter and unmistakeably vegetal body to the (amazingly clear) beer. I liked it - and hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on more of it this weekend. Twitter was rocking to the tune of a lot of bloggers going out to North and Foley's tonight, so I imagine there will be a lot of good chatter about this beer over the weekend.

Right, I'm off to crack open a SWB P6 Brew 2 and put my feet up.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Summer Wine Brewery Visit

One of the disavantages of working full-time is that sometimes I simply can't spare the time to do beery, bloggy things that seem like a lot more fun than work. One such occasion arose a couple of weeks back when Dean Pugh, of (Mr Foley's Cask Ale House fame) texted me to tell me that he was going to see Summer Wine Brewery, and would I like to join him? Well, Dean, yes. Yes I would. But I can't. Work beckons. After shaking my fists in the air for a good five minutes along with a stream of cuss-words that would make Kenny Powers blush, I asked him if he'd be as kind as to provide a report of the day to share, and he duly obliged, along with some pictures. So I will hand over to Dean....

...Having been informed that my choice of day to visit happened to be brew day for Brew #6, the final instalment of the highly successful Project 6 IPA series, I hurried over to Honley, the home of Summer Wine Brewery. After rushing through my morning errands and paying a visit to the Head of Steam on Huddersfield train station where I enjoyed a pint of Brass Monkey Bitter, I awaited my connecting train. The brewery was a bit tricky to find; it’s a small site which they are fast outgrowing and is tucked away at the back of an industrial estate. Unfortunately Google Maps let me down slightly and a quick phone call was needed. I arrived just in time to witness the late hopping of Brew #6, which was described to me as a West-Coast style American IPA, higher in IBU’s than the previous 5 in the series using a blend of hops, such as Chinook and Centennial to name but a few. There’s also a little Crystal malt to give the beer a little more body and sweetness to balance the hops, as was done successfully in Brew #5 (my favourite so far). I was offered the chance to do the late hopping myself but thought it best to leave it to the professionals and just grab a snap or two instead...!

With the wort then cooling, James (head brewer) and Andy (managing director) took a well deserved break to chat with me all things beer; how they have found their first 2 years as brewers and the future of Summer Wine Brewery. I knew brewing was hard work, but stories of racking through the night and Andy having not left the brewery for 4 days to complete orders I quickly realised how dedicated these guys were to their passion. They tell me that those days are in the past now, but with plans to move to a bigger site and an increase in brewing capacity there is no chance of them sitting back and taking it easy any time soon.

Discussion turned to their beers (a Teleporter was quickly put in front of me, followed by Project 6 Brew #2) and plans for future brews, including the next experiment following Project 6 and some extremely exciting plans for 2011. I’m not about to steal their thunder though, I will let James and Andy break the news to you at our ‘Meet the Brewer’ night with them on October 27th. However I can say that Mr Foley’s will be featuring as much of these as possible.
Our chat was briefly interrupted when it was time to run off the Brew #6 wort to the conditioning tank and yet more hops were added for dry hopping. I also witnessed a fermenting brew of Treacle Stout, as you can see the addition of Dark Treacle to the brew sends the yeast on a bit of a sugar rush!

As we compared tasting notes on beers from many US and UK brewers, both James and Andy’s passion and love of quality beers was obvious as I stood like a sponge trying to take in as much knowledge as possible. As if my magic a bottle of 5am Saint appeared as I listed the Brewdog beers I had yet to try, and plans were made for us to meet up again to continue our chat - but this time in the comfort of a pub, and when Andy doesn’t have to cycle home!A thoroughly enjoyable day was rounded of with an evening at Huddersfield CAMRA Oktoberfest beer festival where Fernandes Rum For Cover (6.5% specialty ale) was the pick of the 6 I sampled.

....Thanks mate. Andy and James will be at Foley's this Wednesday evening (27th) from 18.00 onwards, where you'll be able to have a chat with them and sample some of their excellent beers - including the last hurrah of the P6 IPA series, and thier Portcullis ESB. Get yourself down there - I met them both on Saturday, shared a beer or 6, and can confirm they are both 'top lads', as we say in Yorkshire.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fish n' Chips n' Beer

I read the other day that 2010 is the 150th Anniversary of Fish & Chips, and this got me thinking - not only about my love for them - but their connection to Beer. Now, excuse me for a minute whilst we get a little bit dewy-eyed...

Ask anyone about Fish & Chips and chances are you'll get a response strongly linked to tradition and reverie. People will tell you about 'Fish & Chip night' (usually Thursday or Friday in Leeds, if you ask me....), or mums and dads ordering huge portions, wrapped in the same bag, to be doled out onto warmed plates and shared amongst the family. Despite being the healthiest of 'take-aways'; I don't really count Fish & Chips as a 'take-away'; it's Fish & Chips, not a Curry, Chinese, or Pizza. The art of the fish fryer elevates the meal beyond mere 'take-away'.

There's also regional variance - whether you have peas, mushy peas, curry sauce (eek!) or scraps as accompaniment. A Bap? Or a Cake? Or a Stottie (whatever that is). The only constant up and down the UK is Salt and Vinegar. Lots of it, naturally.

Fish & Chips has been a natural bedfellow for Beer for a long time. Granted, some people at home may prefer a hot drink, but the dish is often the first one on the Gastropub's blackboard, usually gussied up with 'minted peas' or something like that, but along with the ubiquitous 'Steak & Ale Pie', it's pretty much a pub standard. And don't forget 'Beer Batter' - whoever realised that cold, spritzy beer makes better liquor for batter than water is a genius.

From a beer-matching point of view, I always struggle with Fish & Chips because of the sheer versatility of Battered Fish. My case in point are my two personal favourites; Fuller's London Pride, for instance. Good ol' London Pride; it's mildly fruity, fudgy-biscuity maltiness is a wonderful foil for the sweet, steamed fish. A massively satisfying pint, with a massively satisfying meal.
On the other side of the spectrum, I do love drinking Adnam's East Green with Fish & Chips. Chills well, grassy, punchy, and enough lemony/limey notes to pair with the salt and vinegar you've liberally doused your chips in.
There's not many dishes that fit so many styles of beer to enjoy with. Wheat beer? No problem, Fish with Wheats or Wits is a no-brainer. IPA? See above notes on salt and vinegar. Pale Ales? Whack half the bottle in the batter if you're making it, and enjoy the results. God Bless ya, Fish & Chips.
By the way - has anyone ever made or eaten Stout batter? I've never seen it, but for some reason, in my head, it sounds good...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pork & Black Pepper Ragu with Crown Wheat Stout

A few weeks ago I posted about my new-found love for pasta, and this is the first time I have actually formulated a recipe to match a beer. I normally do things the opposite way round; a beer will interest me and then I’ll think about what food will compliment it.

Crown’s Wheat Stout (6.6abv) is wonderful stuff; black, smooth as hell and striking a great balance between sweetness, bitterness and smokiness. The aroma is pure coffee and that tan collar lasts and lasts. It’s got a deeply satisfying, tongue-coating mouthfeel that’s hard to pull off without being cloying – but here Crown pull it off with some aplomb. Anyway, food-wise, here’s what I came up with. Home-made pasta is easy to do, but if you want to use dried, go for a thick ribbon or larger pasta shapes.

Pork and Black Pepper Ragu (Serves 3)
First, make your base: In a large pan, finely chop one large stick of Celery, one large Onion, and a large Carrot, and sweat down in a good slug of Olive Oil. When the veg is soft and translucent, add about 250g of Minced Pork. When this has browned, season with salt and a massive grind of Black Pepper. Next, add two generous spoonfuls of tomato puree, and one small spoonful of pesto. Coat all the meat and veg with it, and just let it simmer for a minute or so to bring out those pesto and tomato puree flavours.

Then, add one tin of chopped tomatoes, and throw in a handful of diced cherry tomatoes too. Stir well and add a little more olive oil. Season again with another good grind of Black Pepper, and chop and add one small chilli pepper and three chopped cloves of Garlic. Stir again, and simmer on a really low heat until the sauce is done. You want the sauce to be thick, and not swimming in Tomato juice.

Meanwhile, make your pasta. Take 200g of plain (preferably Tipo 00) flour, and sift into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Add two beaten eggs and knead softly until it forms a dough. When it’s pliable, take onto a floured surface and knead it for a while. Then cover and let it rest for ten minutes. If it’s too hard then add a touch of lukewarm water – not too much though. When really, roll it out and pass through a pasta machine. If you have an attachment that makes Tagliatelle, use that. If not, cut it into ribbons as thick as you like. Drop into boiling, salted water and it will be done in about a minute or so.

When drained, dump the pasta in your pot and stir into the sauce. Serve with big, fresh slices of Parmagiano Reggiano. It really does have to be this cheese; don't go for cheap 'Parmesan' - it's not the same.The smooth, roasty stout perfectly compliments the dry heat in the Black Pepper and the saltiness of the cheese; whilst that faint hit of chilli just rounds things off with more heat. It’s a seasonal, autumnal mouthful and one that I really recommend you try. Making pasta is easy and the results are so much better than dried, so if you’ve never done it, give that a go, too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

In Praise of Hidden Gems; Suddaby's

For those of you who don't follow Twitter, I've just acquired a feisty little Border Terrier puppy. Right now, his favourite hobby seems to be methodically destroying the house, but he's adorable nonetheless. We bought him from a farmer who lives just outside Malton, and one of the plus points of that hour-or-so long drives up there that we've been doing of late is that we've been able to stop off at Malton and have a beer.

Malton's a decent little market town, and there's a hidden gem on the high street: The Crown Hotel and Malt'on Hops.

There is a little sign outside the beer shop - Malt'on Hops - but unless you're looking for it you'll walk past it. Do stop though - there's a small but decent range of beers to buy, including what's ready from Suddaby's that week, amongst other favourites from the likes of Leeds, Burton Bridge, Sam Smiths (booo) and Flying Dog. However, in the best spirit of 'When in Rome' ; I been picking up a selection from Suddaby's. More on that later.

The hidden gem; on the opposite side of the alley from Malt'on Hops is the bar - a small but incredibly welcoming little bar where there's a good selection of handpumps to choose from; I tried Suddaby's own Double Chance (I think it's called Golden Chance when bottled) , which was an incredibly satisfying interpretation of a Yorkshire Bitter - pale and with a biscuit-led body, topped off with a surprisingly rich floral note on the nose. Goose Eye's famous Over & Stout followed - a sweet stout that's surprisingly light; coffee at first, then drying to a sugary, marzipanny finish. Both beers were in excellent condition, good value, and the bar has a really nice vibe - like a tap room, but homely and reverent - although you wouldn't know it's there unless someone told you; hence the mention. However, I was enjoying the beer and border-terrier related conversation so much I forgot to take a picture. Sorry.

Once at home I cracked open those Suddaby's beers. First up - Brother Anthony's Reivaulx Ale (pictured above - 4.0abv). An interesting one; a touch of Borage honey certainly rounds out and smooths the slightly wild note that comes through on the nose, along with a nice aroma of Orange and Lemon. A Yorkshire Abbey beer, it's a surprsing hybrid, and one that i think will find fans of 'wild' beers and Honey beers alike. My only gripe would be a touch less carbonation was nice - my bottle was quite lively and definitely tasted better once it had settled down.

After Dark Coffee Porter (5%abv) was a winner - Bitter chocolate notes fade into a smooth, creamy coffee taste that's as long as it's rich. There's a hint of smoke at the end, and then a touch of residual sweetness to balance things out. Coffee Porter is one of those styles that seems so well-matched, yet I've had my fair share of acrid, or over-powering versions; Suddaby's manages to keep things like and eminently drinkable. I'd love to try this on Cask; Dean - if you're reading, get some in, please!

Finally, Auld Bob (6%abv) proves to be very seasonal - a mahogany-hued, plum-pudding and earthily-hopped ale that hides it's relative strength behind that by-now-trademark Suddaby's smoothness. Another beer that manages to pack rich fruitcake flavours into a drinkable and light package; may I be as bold as to ask for those fans of Old Peculier or Black Sheep Riggwelter at Christmas to give this a go? You won't be let down.

In short, I found my impromptu Suddaby's tasting day massively enjoyable. I'm all for extremes of taste; but to find a range of beers so drinkable, well-made and highly flavoured was a joy. Do stop by if you find yourself in Malton.
The dog's name is Wilson, if you want to know. Expect more posts about dog-friendly pubs come the spring - in fact, if anyone's got any advice or walking routes around the Yorkshire dales or Yorkshire in general that include a dog-friendly, beer-serving pub, drop me a mail. My address is above. Cheers!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Help Needed: What Are The Modern Classics?

A month or so ago, I was standing at the bar of The Vic and my drinking buddy ordered a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. Taking that eagerly-awaited first sip at the bar, he threw away the following comment: ‘Lovely.Landlord; a modern classic’

...A sentiment to which I retorted that although it’s undoubtedly a classic, the perennial Yorkshire favourite is hardly modern. Which got us to thinking: What are the modern classics? It’s a loaded question really. In my mind, unless you go for something concrete like awards won or sales, you’re always going to be looking at a matter of taste. Being a blogger (not a beer writer!) I thought I’d try to put together a list of what I thought the ‘Modern Classics’ were. It seemed like a good challenge.

So, I cracked open a beer, cracked my knuckles, and sat down to type. However, the more I rolled the idea round in my mind, the more complex this question got. Why? It’s just too broad a concept – it’s too personal.

Take for instance, Criteria: Firstly, it’s Modern. In my mind, Beers brewed in the last, say, 20 years. Awards do count, although obviously many great (again, in my opinion) beers don’t win awards. And the ‘classic’ part – well, that’s harder to pin down. My interpretation means two things: a soft spot for the beer, be it emotional or taste-wise, and the fact that I order it again and again. This last point may seem a bit frivolous, but I’m the sort of beer drinker who doesn’t order the same thing twice a lot, given the opportunity; but my logic is still personal to me. Variety and Beer-Hunting is the key to my beer-life, and that’s why the ‘Modern Classics’ are important – to underpin that variety, to give a bedrock to exploring beer. I started a list but quickly admitted defeat: it just wasn’t authoritative enough. Whilst doing this I realised how personal a list this would be, and also that there would be an unending amount of variety out there depending on who you are – even where you live.

So – here we go; in no particular order. I’ll put the tin hat on.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I’ve waxed lyrical about SNPA on too many occasions to count. My gateway beer. The bucolic country scene on the label and that vivid lime-green colour scheme are as iconic to me as the Brooklyn ‘B’ or Bass’s Red Triangle. The problem? It’s nearly 30 years old. Damn. So is it too old to be classed as ‘modern’?

Roosters Yankee. Again, my love for the Franklins knows no bounds. Yankee was the first beer that got me (and I suspect, a lot of brewers) seriously considering the possibilities of aroma. At the time it was a real oddity – a cuckoo’s egg; quietly subverting the scene around it. First brewed in 1993.

Mordue Workie Ticket. One of my favourite session beers; a wonderfully rich and fruity pint that I really could drink all night. But is it loved enough to be a ‘Modern Classic’? Probably not.

Thornbridge Jaipur IPA. Not only the first TB beer I tried, but for a while it became a bit of a poster-boy for how good UK Brewing can be. I actually prefer Halcyon, taste-wise, but Jaipur means a little more. To me, anyway. The only beer I’ve specifically attended a beer festival on the first day to try.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – Garrett Oliver’s first gift to the brewery. What a gift it was - still popular and and sits on its own in terms of style.

...And that was it. I’d hit a wall. The task was just too big, too mind-boggling, and - ultimately – fruitless. It’s just too personal. My mind is screaming out ‘There are more, hundreds more!’ – But I can’t access them. I've only even really hit upon two countries, for christ's sake!

So, I decided to open this up – I want to know yours. I need help. I want to know your take on this subject; I’m only an enthusiast; a hobbyist and homebrewer with an urge to share my passion with those who need a nudge in the right direction. Bona Fide ‘Beer Writers’ out there have contacts, experience, and have tasted about a million more beers than I have – what’s your take? Hell, do we even need to be discussing this? BrewDog describe some of their beers as ‘Post-Modern’ – so where does that leave the ‘modern’? Retailers – if you were to put together a ‘Modern Classics’ mixed case for Christmas, what’s going in?

The only essence of the ‘Modern Classic’ that I was happy with was this; An enduring quality. If you look at classic literature or music (the only other two things I’m take an interest in), what makes , say, F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, or Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ so great is that they have a quality that endures through trends, fads or time. You can listen to them or read them now and be moved, years after their inception. Truly great beer will always cut through these factors.

So that’s the question I throw out to you all in this virtual taproom that blogging is. Let me know your thoughts – I’m genuinely interested.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Ultimate Pub Jukebox

...An impromptu post, but when I read Dredge's post, I had to get involved. It's a daft game, but music's important, so here's my top ten. Be kind with your comments...

1. Just Now by John Martyn (pictured). Gorgeous. Just Gorgeous.

2. Living in Another World - Talk Talk. Despite my folk/rock/grunge affiliation, I'm a huge fan of great pop. and Talk Talk are one of the most underrated band ever. Ever.

3. How Soon Is Now - The Smiths. Choosing a favourite Smiths track is like choosing a favourite child, but this is what it is right now. Next week it'll be something else.

4. Cloudbusting - Kate Bush. She's one of the most inventive, genius musical talents the UK has ever produced; for every twat that pulls out Wuthering Heights as a reason to hate her, pull out the Hounds of Love album. It's quite possibly one of the greatest things I've ever heard.

5. Apology for An Accident - American Music Club (pictured). If you don't know the music of Mark Eitzel, go out an buy all of AMC's albums. Now.

6. Post to Wire - Richmond Fontaine. Not only are RF one of the greatest bar bands of all time, Willy Vlautin's a great bloke and writer to boot.

7. Footsteps - Pearl Jam. PJ are my youth. And my middle age. And I'm sure they will be my old age, too.

8. My Lady's House - Iron & Wine. Words cannot describe seeing Sam Beam live. If you get the chance, don't pass it up.

9. Obstacle #1 - Interpol. Suits. Dark vibes. Awesome drumming, clever, minimal guitarwork - whats not to love?

10. Only Love Will Break Your Heart - Neil Young. When he's good, he's very good - when he's bad, he's very bad.

...and honourable mentions go to Frank Zappa, Rush, Soundgarden, Tool, Bjork, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Ryan Adams, and all that music that would probably clear a bar in seconds but I love in my more obtuse moments. 'Your Perfect Jukebox' is a great subject for discourse because it invokes passions, and will probably vary from time to time, depending on how you are feeling. Still, I'd love to sit with good mates, drinking some good beer, listening to this good stuff.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Veritas Ale & Wine Bar, Leeds

Leeds welcomed another set of beer pumps to choose from this week, with the opening of Veritas, situated on Great George Street, just behind the town hall. Market Town Taverns are known for their tasteful and stripped-back treatments of drinking dens, and Veritas follows that blueprint closely.

The paint only just dry, I popped in for a couple of beers. The good thing about MTT pubs is that you sort of know what to expect - no music, some decent bar food, and walls covered in repro vintage beer posters. On my visit, the staff were friendly, the place buzzing along nicely with a lunchtime crowd of suits, and some decent beers to choose from.

Despite being quite Northern-Centric, the range was good - Black Sheep Bitter, Thwaite's Wainwright, Ilkley's Black and Mary Jane, Tim Taylor's Best, Marston's Oyster Stout and Wharfebank Blond adorned the pumps, and there was the usual bottled range including Kuppers Kolsch, Veltins and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout to name a few. In a pale sort of mood, I opted for two new, but tried-and-tested thirst-quenchers; the citrussy Mary Jane from Ilkley and the maltier, more floral Blond from Wharfebank. Both beers were in good nick , and I settled down for a quiet lunch with my head in the sports pages. Which is all I want, really. I'm a simple man.

Veritas seems like a decent addition to the circuit, and forms a nice little triangle in that part of town now along with comrades Foley's and The Vic, just down the road. On a related note, Ilkley wil be launching thier new oatmeal stout, Stout Mary, in conjuction with Market Town Taverns in the upcoming month. Keep an eye out.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Prawn & Spinach Orecchiette with Saltaire Blonde

One theme that I always seem to come back to on here is certain beers becoming so ubiquitous that you forget how good they are and start to take them for granted. A similar epiphany occurred in Italy last month; although this was about Pasta.

Pasta. The fall-back, go-to meal. Everyone loves it, everyone eats it. Yet it had been a long time since I'd enjoyed any truly outstanding pasta. That is, until I ate pasta in Italy. Firstly, the practise of eating is as a first course (Primi Piatti) makes total sense. The portion is slightly smaller, but I found these (seemingly never-ending succession of) pastas so packed with flavour and so light, that I was blown away. I would look forward to dinner every night, just to see what dainty, flavourful morsel as coming my way. Sauces are minimal, and that's the difference. A little sauce, a lot of flavour.

The only thing that let the experience down was my own high expectations. Sure, the wine was great, but I came away each night missing a truly great beer to accompany the dishes. So I put the old thinking cap on, and have spent the last fortnight or so making pasta purely to enjoy with some beers. The first one is Prawn and Spinach Orecchiette with Saltaire Blonde.

Orecchiette is a great little pasta - and you should be able to pick some up in larger supermarkets or good delis (ie Salt's, if in Leeds). Thier little dimples pick up sauce really well, and they just look great too. I normally make pasta, but in this case, I used some dried - making Orecchiette would just be a bit too fiddly for me, personally. I want to eat.

On we go: Get your pasta on the boil and drain when done. In the meantime, in a large pan, drop a large glug of Olive Oil, and warm it gently. Get about 10 cherry tomatoes, and slice them in half. Put these in the pan, and let them cook out slightly. Season with salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar and a handful of fresh Sage, chopped. At this point, add two cloves of Garlic, chopped. Add your prawns, (about 150g) and let them cook. If they are frozen, they'll release a little water, just let this cook out. Finally, add some washed and torn spinach leaves and let them wilt. When the pasta's done, tip it into the pan and coat it in the sauce. Add a little more Olive oil, and serve. If you don't eat seafood - use Chicken or Turkey instead.

Saltaire's Blonde is an ideal beer for a light Pasta like this, being so light itself. It's got a decent lemony freshness at the end of the sip, and the touch of wheat in the grain bill smooths it out a little. It chills really well, too, so although the sun may be gone for 2010 now, you can still have some use for those Summer thirst-quenchers!!

I'll be putting up some other recipes in the next few weeks.