There will probably be a couple of weeks of low-to-no content here as Kate and I are getting married in Cumbria on Friday 28th October and then running off to Scotland on honeymoon.
However, beer will play a large part in our wedding day, with Summer Wine Covenant having pride of place. You may recall that James and Andy brewed the beer especially for us and we were there for the brewday. We delivered two casks to the reception venue on Saturday morning.
We haven’t tried it yet, but Covenant should be an incredibly aromatic amber ale with lots of late and dry hopping but a relatively low bitterness. We’ve actually named our guests’ tables at the reception after the ingredients (Centennial, Citra, Vienna, Munich etc) with the top table being “Covenant”. You see? Full of hidden symbolism.
Covenant will also be available in some of the best beer bars in the North of England: Mr Foley’s in Leeds; The Free Trade Inn in Newcastle and Port Street Beer House in Manchester! Tweet at Kate and me ( @KendalMintKate & @Nickiquote ) if you get to try it.
In the meantime tips on where to find the best beer in and around Oban, Glasgow and Edinburgh on our honeymoon would be gratefully received. I’m thinking the Brewdog bars, obviously.
Also, the new CAMRA BEER magazine should be out at the start of November. Keep an eye out for my name attached to an article and maybe even a more professional photo than my fizzog deserves. More on that when I get back.
I’ve been messing about a bit on Twitter recently regarding my increasing appreciation of Scotch Eggs. Joking aside though, they’re a pretty superb bar snack: they can be bought in fresh from a good local supplier, kept in a fridge and sold to hungry customers with the minimum of serving time and presentation, but the maximum of stomach-filling proteiny goodness. This is why I write the name with two capital letters: out of respect.
Bascially if you can serve cold pies in your pub, you can serve Scotch Eggs. And frankly if you can serve pies and Scotch Eggs to drinkers, there’s pretty much a moral duty to do so. This has been picked up on by a number of the new wave of craft beer bars, including Craft Beer Co and The Gunmakers in London and the Hawkshead Beer Hall in Staveley.
When I tweeted about this at the weekend, @CarsmileSteve informed me of the remarkable range of Scotches available at Sourced Market in St Pancras Station, alongside their range of Kernel and other great beers (which they refuse to put in the fridges, instead reserving that space for several varieties of uninteresting lager. Who wants to drink a shelf-warm IPA?). When I was down in London this week I took the opportunity to pop in and buy a couple of “Black Watch” eggs, made with black pudding; which must be the Black IPA of the Scotch Egg world.
I love black pudding, to the extent that it’s a starter at our wedding. I love Scotch Eggs, to the extent that we’re going to Scotchland for our honeymoon. I am therefore pretty much ecstatic with the tasty starter I had yesterday evening: warm black pudding Scotch Eggs with homemade picalilli and a bottle of Hawkshead Brodie’s Prime. The Scotch Eggs at the Hawkshead Beer Hall are made with Brodie’s Prime, but a glass of it was an even better pairing with these: the dark roasty beer and sharp hoppiness both matched and cut through the earthy, savoury, fatty black pudding.
I considered for a fleeting moment changing the name of this blog to “The Scotch Egg Prole” and becoming number one on the Wikio Scotch Egg Blog Rankings, but @unclewilco pointed me towards Forever Eggsploring, a truly remarkable and comprehensive study of the Scotch Egg that transcends the term “Scotch Egg Blog”. It even has interviews on the subject with such celebrities as Dom Joly, Tom Kerridge and our own Dame Melissa Cole.
Not coincidentally, it appears that Craft Beer Co and Sourced Market get their classy Scotch Eggs from the same supplier: The Handmade Scotch Egg Company Limited. Have you seen their selection? Chilli Scotch Eggs; Ginger & Apricot Scotch Eggs; Scotch Whisky Eggs; Scotch Eggs rolled in crisps…
You should really be able to find a Scotch Egg fit for any beer there, from barrel-aged imperial stouts to double IPAs, with some (vegetarian? smoked salmon?) stretching the bounds of the genre. Is this the start of a craft bar snack revolution?
For further beer and Scotch Egg related larks see this post by Mark Dredge.
Having only ever done a kit brew, where the wort came in cans for dilution, and seen one commercial brewday, I still find the concept of homebrewing daunting. The more I learn about beer, the more respect I have for the brewers of my favourite beers and even those well-crafted beers that aren’t to my tastes, but are consistent and reliable.
However I do want to get beyond this stage of lazy, passive consumption and comment. I am looking forward to having the pluck, time, equipment and space to do some home brewing of my own and perhaps, as people have kindly offered, to collaborate with them on a homebrew.
Some very generous homebrewers from West Yorkshire have been kind enough to give me bottles of their recent brews and their quality has left me both worried about being up to their standards and encouraged about what is possible. On Saturday night, Kate and I sat down to try three of these much appreciated gifts, whilst watching a couple of DVDs (the 1935 version of The 39 Steps and Deconstructing Harry).
First up was David Bishop’s Broadford Brewery Retweet. I’m not sure I’d even met David when he left one of these bottles in Beer Ritz for me to collect at the start of the summer. I was a little worried about having left this bottle in the fridge for a few months but fortunately it was still as I think it was intended. This 4.6% summer ale was billed as “A refreshing blonde beer with a citrus twist. Hopped with Challenger and Styrgian Goldings“.
It poured a nice, very pale colour, perhaps not dissimilar to Ilkley Mary Jane. It had a good size head, as you might expect of a bottle conditioned beer after a few months. As billed, it was a really nice, refreshing citrussy beer with hidden depths of bitterness. To that extent it reminded me of the pale Oakham beers I’ve tried: very lightly coloured and drinkable, but with a sophisticated bitterness to be relished if you pay attention to it.
Next up was Roosters Baby Faced Assassin. This 6.1% IPA was first brewed by Tom Fozard as a homebrew when he was working in Beer Ritz. Now that he’s at Roosters he brewed it again, with a slightly altered recipe, and gave away these big bottles to those of us to attended an afternoon at the brewery in August.
This beer has also been reviewed by Zak, Leigh and on The Bottled Beer Year, with the Mk 1 version tasted by Ghostie here. It poured a lovely, slightly hazey orangey gold, with a remarkably inviting mango aroma. The puckeringly tart citric bitterness was no disappointment and was matched by a richly sweet but fresh malt flavour. If I was to compare this beer to any other it would be Kernel’s IPAs: fresh, sweet beers with the bitter, acidic sunshine of the US hops shining through. Lovely.
Finally, and after a glass of milk to try and reset my palate to zero, I opened a beer that had been given to me that afternoon by Ghost Drinker: Poltergeist Amber Ale. Ghostie had explained (as he does in this post) the beer was intended to be a brown ale, although the wort seemed paler than that, but it ended up being quite brown anyway.
The lovely art deco label (it looks like it belongs in an interwar cinema) informs us that the beer was brewed in collaberation with Matt Lovatt. It seemed a shame to break the black wax to get into the beer, but it was worth it. The rich sweet maltiness was evident from both the appearance and the aroma, which also gave a hint of the bitterness.
The tastes of slightly bitter and tart dried fruit, nuttiness, sweet malt and a hint of chocolate all came together to resemble a delicious Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut. Once I got this idea in my head I couldn’t shake it, so instead relaxed and enjoyed a delicious, comforting beer that perfectly ended an autumn night.
Thanks to David, Tom and Ghostie for these beers. Maybe one day I’ll be able to repay you in kind. In the meantime, check out David and Ghostie’s excellent blogs if you haven’t already and keep an eye out for Roosters cask beers, which are on great form right now. If you’re interested in homebrewing in West Yorkshire, Zak’s new Leeds Homebrew group has its inaugural meeting in Mr Foleys on Thursday evening.
I said in a recent post that my love for Brooklyn Lager had recently been reawakened. It was certainly my first US craft “wow” and I even visited the Brewery last year, documented in a post no-one read.
It was also my first Vienna lager. Style icon Michael Jackson said Vienna is:
Amber-red or only medium-dark, lager. This was the style originally produced in Vienna. Brewers still talk of a “Vienna malt” to indicate a kilning to this amber-red colour, but the beer-style itself is no longer especially associated with the city.
One suspects that Brooklyn (supposedly an reimagining of a pre-Prohibition US style) is something of a style of its own, with the blend of Cascade and more noble hop flavours (Hallertau, Vanguard) reflecting a clever piece of US genre-merging.
I’ve been very pleased to see Brooklyn Lager increasingly available in the UK, in keg (North Bar claims to have been there first) and bottle, including in Sainsbury’s. However the Brooklyn in my fridge found itself elbowing for attention with a chippy novice from Derbyshire, Thornbridge Kill Your Darlings. Also a Vienna Lager, also from one of my favourite breweries; but which one’s best? There’s only one way to decide: a Viennese sandwich!
Appearance: From the moment they’re out of the bottle, you can see that Kill Your Darlings is a different beer to Brooklyn. Whereas Brooklyn is an amber, chestnut colour, KYD has the appearance of a much darker wood, mahogany perhaps. The heads also reflect a difference in the malt bill, the relatively clean ivory whiteness of the Brooklyn contrasting with the slightly nicotene-stained froth on the KYD.
Smell: The Cascade hops really shine in the New Yorker’s aroma, a lovely pine scent mingling with a light but noticeable sugary maltiness. The KYD is more malt-forward in its aroma with an inviting burnt-sugar smell dominating.
Taste: The malt continues to dominate the KYD, with the lovely rich, deep, dark, sweet maltiness that you might expect of a US double IPA, but without the heavy stickiness. There are also hops, with a pine and a light lemon citrus emerging especially on the finish. By contrast the Brooklyn lets the fresh piney and herbal hops shine throughout, more bitter than sweet but still with a smooth caramel base: a light, invigorating, very tasty beer.
It’s almost unfair to compare Kill Your Darlings to a world classic like Brooklyn, but this examination has demonstrated two things: (1) that Thornbridge have, once again, expanded successful and very enjoyably into a new style with a delicious and complex malty Vienna lager; and (2) that Brooklyn Lager has earned its success (as both a gateway beer and as a standard to return to over and over again) due to a perfect balance of hops and malt which come together in a very drinkable beer with hidden depths.
On our final full day in Bruges we needed somewhere to grab lunch and write some postcards, so I fell back on Around Bruges In 80 Beers and picked De Windmolen, a corner cafe in the east of the city overlooked by two or three of Bruges’ windmills.
Inside it’s a nice little cafe with bare floors and an assorted miscellany stacked on shelves and attached to the walls and roof, including a Michael Jackson book and some very creepy ragdolls. Commercial radio was playing for the bar staff and the three regulars happily propping up the bar in the otherwise empty cafe.
Although it was very pleasant inside, the best place to sit is on the terrace out the front, looking at the windmills, safely under the cover of a canopy if it starts to shower. Which it did.
I enjoyed a Tripel Karmeliet and Westmalle Tripel, as well as tucking into a large Croque-Madame (literal translation: Mrs Crunch / actual meaning: Mr Crunch with a fried egg on his head). This came with a truly enormous salad; the type of salad that could choke a horse, or Gregg Wallace, or Gregg Wallace’s horse. In fact, the type of salad that can take on two strong lunchtime beers and leaves you in the mood for a brisk walk around the canals that encircle Bruges. So that was what we did, ending up slightly drenched in a cafe on the other side of the city, warming up with a St Bernardus Abt.
In the context of Bruges, De Windmolen doesn’t really register as a beer destination, but it is a lovely, friendly, pretty little place with good staff and a well-chosen selection of bottled beers (the book says 19). Worth both the dander to and the stumble away from.
For the rest of my posts on Bruges, click here.
If you read, write or tweet about beer it’s more than likely that you think about what you consume generally. Food and drink is not merely fuel, but an end in itself. Which is a nice way to characterise what might be regarded by some as an eating disorder*.
Much in the way a smoker will tell you that there’s nothing better than a coffee and a cigarette, nothing goes as well with beer than food that is high in salt and saturated fats, particularly porcine products: scotch eggs; pork pies; black pudding; chorizo; bacon butties; roast pork sandwiches with crackling; pork belly. Germany is a wonderful country but it has given the world no greater gift than the combination of beer and sausages, and I’m looking forward to this year’s Leeds Christmas market already.
The humble hot dog, whether beef or pork, is also a fine companion to a good hoppy beer; perhaps more reliant on toppings for taste, but doing a solid job in the body’s engine room, taking the weight of the alcohol. North Bar, which provides good, quick and simple food prepared by the bar staff, do hot dogs with cheese and salami if you like. But for the main event I’d encourage you to visit Primo’s Gourmet Hot Dogs in Leeds Corn Exchange.
The jumbo frankfurters in Primo’s find themselves dressed to the nines in the finest American fashion. After many hours in front of fatty, cheesy foodporn that is Man v Food, veering between wonder, lust, revulsion and self-loathing, I couldn’t resist the Dodge City, a bockwurst sausage with beef chilli, West Virginia coleslaw and Monterey Jack. It was a top dog, but only one of an array of classic or spicy options. You can even construct your own, using a base of one of six types of sausage, including all-beef, chorizo or Lincolnshire.
Although Primos is more of a cafe, happily, as Neil has reported, there are also some great American beers imported by James Clay to go with your sausage. The two available when I called in recently were Brooklyn Lager and Dixie Lager. I went for the Dixie for the novelty, which was a light and pleasant pilsnery pilsner. Dixie was apparently an established New Orleans craft brewery which was very badly hit by Hurricane Katrina, and the beers are therefore contract brewed elsewhere. This one was apparently brewed in the EU.
Next time I think I would opt for the Brooklyn Lager. Kate and I have fallen back in love with this beer recently, and they also went down well on my stag do. The caramelly but light maltiness and that nice subtle kick of Cascade hops that balances the herbal noble hop flavours makes it a great gateway beer, a great fridge beer and a great food beer.
For me, Primo’s is a reminder of some of the great American bar food I enjoyed in New York. It’s really nice to have the beer to go with it; two simple pleasures done well.
* I’m constantly surprised that more beer geeks – particularly those who hold down desk jobs like me, rather than the hardworking ones who actually schlep sacks of malt, crates of bottles and barrels about all day – are as lithe as they are. Many of them are younger than me, however, so perhaps middle age will wreak its horrendous revenge. Scratchingfreude.