Monday, November 29, 2010

SummerWine P6 #6 & Crown's Brooklyn Heights

Decent Pale Ales. Like buses, you wait ages for one and two show up at the same time. Foley's had both these gems on over the weekend, and I managed to taste both today. First up, Crown's Brooklyn Heights; a 5.8% US-inspired pale that I've been wanting to taste for a while (forefront of picture). It didn't disappoint - copper-hued, with a firm, cereal-led body and a green-pine and grapefruit hop profile that was both soft and dry at the same time. A serious pale, at a serious abv, that ends up wholly drinkable, super-refreshing and well-balanced. Simple, yes, but strangely enough can be hard to find in pale-world. Let's get more Crown into Leeds; North and now Foley's have stepped up to the plate - who's going to be next?

Summer Wine's final Project 6 IPA doesn't fail to disappoint either - as I kind of knew it wouldn't as I held it to my nose and caught a whiff of all that lemony aroma. With a little darker malt in the body, there's enough sweetness at first to balance the bitterness that you know is coming; and it does arrive in style. Softly juicy at first, then getting dryer and bitterer (is that a word?) as the sip continues, P6 Brew 6 certainly lets you know it's an IPA. Check out both breweries' blogs too; both are enlightening as well as entertaining.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Hop & Ilkley Beer Festivals - A Reminder

The Hop, Ossett's Brewery's Leeds bar, is hosting a beer festival next weekend, if you fancy some warming up during this cold snap. The beer list should be available from tomorrow, and entry is free, with live music on very night. Also worth pointing out is that Ilkley Beer Festival's tickets go on sale next weekend too - so get yourself into the usual MTT branches around Yorkshire to pick up tickets - and have a pint at the same time, of course. The festival itself takes place in February, but it is a popular event and I would strongly recommend picking up tickets sooner rather than later. You can hop over to their site on the above link for the beer list and further details.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bateman's Rosey Nosey - Holidays Are Comin'

Well, that's it. Christmas is on the way. I've seen the new Coke advert, I've started thinking about my forthcoming 'Beers of the Year' post, the diary is full of yawn-tastic 'work' Christmas parties (half of which I zero intention of attending), and my corner shop is selling Rosey Nosey.

That's right. Corner Shop. I only ever buy milk and papers from there - but this time of year, without fail, Bateman's Rosey Nosey (4.9%) hits the shelf alongside the obligatory Spitfires, Old Speckled Hen and Golden Sheep. It brings a smile to my face and a warm glow to...well, my nose, I guess. I love the stuff. I probably fund the family's summer holidays each year with my Rosey Nosey spends.

Non-esoteric it may be. Uncool, even, it may be. For godsakes - is it even a 'novelty beer?' - many Christmas beers seem to be, so half-hearted they are. But RN is different - a just great beer, full-stop. Sultanas, Plum and Raisin dominate the palate along with an underlying nuttiness, warming alcohol and a dry, bitter finish. The first time I tasted it, many moons ago, I remarked that I thought it tasted like Bonfire Toffee - and I still stand by that today. The fact that it does all this and remains not-to-sweet is testament to the balance of the beer. It's a cockle-warming, deep - red Christmassy hug of a beer and I will be drinking about 50 more of them by the new year. The label pithily recommends pairing it with Turkey, but I'd put it alongside any roast meat, sharp cheeses and - of course - Christmas Pudding. Anyone else out there rate it?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Smoked Croque Monsieur & Marble's Tawny #3

Ok, this is what I'm about to tuck into for an early lunch. The smell of Bratwurst that awaits me as I've been leaving work this week courtesy of the German Market has left me a distinctly Germanic frame of mind - So I've gone for a quick, smoky version of the artery-killing french classic.

First up - heat your grill. Cut door-stop sized wedges of bread, and butter one side - the outside. On the the other side, smear a hearty portion of mustard, and lay on slices of smoked ham,. Top with crumbled smoked cheese.

Put the other slice on top,butter the outside of it, and whack the whole thing under the grill under the bread toasts and the cheese melts. Sprinkle the top with a little rock salt, and away you go. Smoky, salty and hot - all at once. Wonderful.

...And it's even better if you've got a bottle of Marble's Tawny #3 (5.7% abv) to hand. Much more than an average 'bitter', there's a well-rounded, burnt-sugar, fudgy sweetness underneath that tan collar, which warms up as the alcohol comes through at the end of the sip into a herbal, dry finish. I actually think it's closer to a Belgian Brown, such is the complexity of the beer. Perfect for big, bold flavours like this.
Apologies for the quality of the piccy. It's a little murky here today, and the iphone camera doesnt seem up to the job.

Monday, November 15, 2010

JDW's Autumn Beerfest Round-Up

Ok, now that the latest seasonal beer festival has finished, it's time for me to look through my notes and reflect on Wetherspoon's latest efforts. All in all - and I know from chatter that a lot of beer bloggers did the rounds - the usual sounds were being made. Range decent, Quality variable. Still, Wetherspoon's festivals do provide decent diversion, especially in the form of their festival specials.

Take for instance Birra Del Borgo's Castagnale (4.4%). Given my new love for Italian craft beer, this was the first on the list and, for the first time ever, was the first beer I got my hands on. Taste? Well, I was a little let down if truth be told - not because Castagnale was a bad beer (despite being served incredibly cold) - I just think that the bar has been set so high with the bottled likes of My Antonia and ReAle that Castangnale just ended up being a solid, nutty, sweet beer that I could happily drink about ten of.

Lion Stout (5.0abv) ended up being much more satisfying; creamy in a way that the bottled version just lacks - there was a perceptible milky smoothness underscoring all the coffee and chocolate on top. A good beer, and an unusual one to boot. Titanic's Wheat Porter (4.2abv) was an odd one though - ruby in colour, with a woody, resinous nose that held some promise - however there was a strange floral, parma violet note in it's drying finish that I just didn't get.
Young's Ram Rod (6%) hit the mark for these colder nights - full, rounded fruitiness in the body with a pleasant cereal base, finishing off with a fruity sweetness. As for Brewdog's Edge - well, I think I've said all I can about it here - it never disappoints and I'm seeing more and more of it in Leeds recently which is a great thing.

Wadworth's Pixley Blackcurrant Stout was a revelation; sweet, full-bodied and loaded with fruit-cake and plummy flavours, this beer finished my session one night and it's fair to say tipped me that one toke over the line. Dangerously drinkable and stealthy at 6.0abv, I hope I get to drink a while lot more of this before long. Ditto the other surprise of the festival -

Woodforde's Once Bittern (4.1abv) - in small packages come big flavour. This pint was spot-on; clean, fresh and balanced, with a wonderful juicy-fruit aroma that lasted all the way down to the bottom of the glass. Sure, maybe I got a really fresh pint, but of all breweries, Woodforde's really surprised me with this one. Will be seeking this out again, for sure.

So, these are the beers I chose to comment on. Rest assured, there were a number of beers inbetween these that were just 'ok'. But that's the nature of a festival isn't it. I'm a little gutted I didn't catch the Sam Adams Blonde Ambition, the Nelson-hopped Palm, and Adnam's Ghost Ship, and I heard excellent things about TSA's Double Espresso. Oh well, Maybe next time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kirkgate Market and Free Beer...

I don't do this often, but I wanted to quickly draw your attention to a decent article by Rod McPhee on Leeds City Markets in yesterday's Evening Post. The Post usually does a good job in promoting the market - not only in the variety of goods you can get there, but also in the way that the Market is bound to the people of Leeds.

I feel that there's a little surge of support for the Market gathering pace right now. Friends of Kirkgate Market are doing a great job in raising it's profile - something Leeds City Council should be doing but clearly have other things on their minds like making sure our journey home on the buses is as hellish as possible or setting up Leeds Arena so that we can all go see Kylie in a few years (not that I'm down on the Arena or anything. As long as Pearl Jam play there at some point then I'm happy). They organise events, guided tours and generally do a sterling job. See their permanent link on the right if you want to get involved.

I normally visit early on a Saturday morning to buy fresh Fish; whilst I'm picking what normally-still-moving treat I'm going to eat this weekend, I'm surrounded by young and old, and more than a fair share of chefs from the numerous restaurants, bars and pubs in Leeds. There's still a stigma around the market that needs to be smashed; we, the patrons, could visit more and understand the place, and the council need to use this groundswell of support to really pump in a little money, make life easier for the traders and make it more attractive for new traders, embrace the diversity of Leeds Market and make it a destination. There's absolutely no reason why, with a little vision and attention, Kirkgate Market can't stand side by side with Borough and La Ramblas - seriously. The old market is a wonderful space, just needing some love. Finally, I've always thought that a Utobeer-style Beer stall is exactly what's missing. If there's anyone out there who's feeling a little entrepreneurial, there's your niche right there.

There's also a diverting little tale from Oliver Cross in yesterday's edition; the practise of giving away free beer at closing time in the 60's. This really made me smile - can anyone out there shed any light on this practise? Does it still happen?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Williams Bros Joker IPA - A Seriously Good Beer

...And it is. I've always had a soft spot for Williams Bros's beers - from my first taste of Red to personal favourite 7 Giraffes. Well, personal favourite until Joker came along.

What a beer. Despite IPA's popularity these days, I still count it as a tricky style to get right. Many IPA's simply don't live up to promise, and as a style, there are fans on both sides of the spectrum. Some people want massive hopping for a real puckering bitterness. Some favour aroma over that, and some (and I have to say I'm firmly in this camp) want a little of everything - balance, I guess. It doesn't have to be a hop bomb to be a good IPA.

Joker (5%abv) hits the mark - Gold in colour, a creamy, slightly biscuity body, and that wonderful, pithy juicyness running throughout. There's lemon, lime, grapefruit and pine on the nose, and there's enough carbonation to ensure a lively, prickly sip. Eye-opening, refreshing, bitter and sweet with a wonderful aroma, this is almost my perfect IPA. Wonderful.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

BrewDog Alice Porter & 5a.m Saint

Going to BrewDog to brew a beer for your stag do is a pretty cool thing; for most mere mortals, it's just a pipedream, but Matt Gorecki (of North fame) managed to land such a day for his own celebration. The result? Alice Porter, which I managed to sample on Monday.

The idea could have gone so terribly, terribly wrong; but full credit to Matt, James and Martin for creating an undeniably lovely beer. At 6.2%, Alice Porter is no slouch - but you wouldn't guess the abv from the taste alone. Pitch black with a tan head, the beer is massively smooth, with a cream-vanilla note riding through it.

It's got a really well-rounded fruitiness (courtesy of the Brambling Cross hops - a much underrated hop in my opinion) to finish things off, and the aroma is sweet, with just a touch of smoke and wood. A really, really drinkable porter, and if there's any left at North now, I'll be surprised. Jump here to read Matt's account of the day - and what HopZine Rob thought of the beer here.

North had another treat for me on Monday - 5Am Saint on Keg. Since trying Saint a few months back, it's firmly leapfrogged up the list to (at the moment) my favourite BD beer. It's the nose - the tropical-fruit, lychee-led nose that lasts and lasts and lasts and lasts...whenever I crack one of these open at home I spend as much time with my nose in the glass as I do pouring the stuff down my throat. Once you get past the aroma, there's a well-balanced Amber ale there; a slight hint of smoke again, and plenty of chewy toffee, but not too sweet. Things finish off with a wonderful, rising, sappy bitterness. Awesome beer - one of the best of the year for me.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Anchor Humming Ale

Anchor Brewing. The mere thought of the brewery evokes the feeling a warm bath to me; Steam is one of the my gateway beers that maintained status in my beer cellar - a go-to, reliable, tasty ol' friend. Anchor Steam is rightly an icon in American Brewing; sure, it's not particularly cutting-edge, it's not a hop-bomb, it's not an 'extreme' beer. In fact, It's standard - but in a good way - and I hpe thier new owners carry this ethos on. Find me a 'California Common' that's held in such high regard, if you can. Their range of Christmas Ales are anticipated with bated breath, the artwork alone rendering them near collector's items without even starting on the beer held within the bottle.

Aside from Steam, Anchor's entire range stands for reliability - so when the likes of Small, Ninkasi and the aforementioned Christmas Beer come along, they really stand out. Humming - their latest- I like. It's different, but I like it. It's pale (rather than the burnished gold of Steam), not so sweet, and thinner than Anchor beers usually are. I suspect that Anchor wanted to get a more hoppy feel for Humming, and they've certainly succeeded in that - the hop aroma is fresh, astringent and grassy (courtesy of Nelson Sauvin) and the bitterness builds nicely. It's actually the last thing you expect from an Anchor beer. I'll have another one or three, for sure - I just wish Anchor did this sort of thing more often - and I'll be saving my next bottle for warmer weather. And the label and artwork is just the icing on the cake. Gorgeous.

If you've never visited Anchor's website, do so here. It's one of the best out there. Also, for further Anchor-lovin' , Zak alluded to his love of the stuff on Real Ale Reviews a while back - check it out here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Turkey Ravioli with Sage Butter and Durham Evensong

Ok, here's the last of my pasta and beer recipes for the time being. I hope you've enjoyed them - I've been really pleased with the results, the feedback has been good. I've really learned a lot about Pasta since visiting Italy, and I've been super-pleased with the results with the beer matches that I've suggested. As I said, here's the last one - and it turns out to be a little seasonal. Good timing!

Ravioli is super-easy to make, because all you need do is make sheets and cut them. I use a glass actually, but any shape you want will be fine. Just make sure the edges are crimped otherwise the water will seep into them, rendering all your fillings tasteless. Serving relatively plain Ravs with a flavoured butter is very popular in Italy, and after tasting something similar to this, I can see why. The breadcrumbs do need to be fresh, though. Don't use the stuff in cans; just leave a couple of slices of bread out overnight and blitz.

Turkey Ravioli with Sage Butter (serves two)

Firstly, the filling. Take a large pan, and a drop in a large slug of Olive oil. Brown 250g of Turkey mince and two finely chopped Shallots. Season with a little salt and black pepper, and add 20g of breadcrumbs. Stir in one heaped tbspn of Tomato Puree, and one minced/crushed garlic clove. finally, add your chopped herbs - Rosemary and Thyme. Stir well, add a little more oil if the mix is on the dry side, and take off the heat to cool whilst you make your pasta.

Make your pasta in the usual way, and cut out shapes - whatever you want. Fill the middle of the shape with filling, put another shape on top, crimp the edges and set aside. Do this until you've got enough.
Boil your water with a load of salt, and cook your Ravs. They will be done in a matter of minutes; when the Rav goes white and gets soft, take out and leave on a colander to drain. Making your butter couldn't be easier: gently simmer a block of butter, seasoned with a little salt, and a generous helping of chopped fresh Sage. When the Sage gently crisps, take off the heat and pour over your pasta. All done!

I enjoyed this with Durham's excellent Evensong. A robust ruby beer, the slightly herbal, woody nose perfectly compliments the herbs in the dish. The vinous fruit and full-on, toasted malt-led body lends a little depth to the turkey filling, whilst the slightly warming, alcohol edge to the beer really makes it a seasonal match. A fantastic beer from a fantastic brewery. Let me know if you try this one out.