If you’ve seen The Trip or Restaurant Wars: The Battle For Manchester, you’ll be familiar with Simon Rogan and his two-Michelin starred restaurant L’Enclume. L’Enclume is in Cartmel, a village in Cumbria also notable for its sticky toffee puddings and for Rogan’s increasing empire (second restaurant, hotel, pub), which has drawn comparisons with Rick Stein’s impact on Padstow.
L’Enclume deserves its praise, and as a result Cartmel has become a destination for foodies with disposable tuck money. It therefore makes perfect sense to have a microbrewery there and, accordingly, Unsworth’s Yard Brewery was set up in January 2012. In accordance with L’Enclume’s emphasis on local ingredients and suppliers, Unsworth’s Yard’s beers have made it on to the drinks list at the restaurant and are also available in bottle or on cask from the brewery shop, in the village pubs and off licence.
After a very special visit to L’Enclume, I picked up a couple of bottles from Hot Wines to try later. The Land Of Cartmel is a 3.7% pale ale, available in bottles that do not appear to be bottle conditioned. It’s golden, with only a slight hint of coffee in the aroma. It has a good body for a 3.7% bottled beer, which could be down to the wheat in the recipe. There’s a noticeable but not overpowering dry bitterness, tasting a little bit chalky or woody with even a hint of peat at the end. Apart from that last note, it reminded me of both Coniston Bluebird and Butcombe Bitter.
The Marshal presents itself as a bit special. It’s more expensive and comes numbered and dated (this one bottled on 8 October 2013) in a swing-top bottle. A 6% strong pale ale, it has the rich brioche aroma of a Belgian blond. The bitterness is wrapped delicately in a creamy mouthfeel and alcoholic warmth. Once again there’s an earthiness that I would guess is attributable to English hops, although I expect the hop character would be significantly different in a younger bottle. It’s reminiscent of some of the older, southern English breweries’ revivals of their traditional British IPA recipes, but also isn’t a million miles away from Orval (without the Brettanomyces). Like Orval, it would go very well with cheese, perhaps from the cheese shop next door.
At times Copenhagen can seem like a Guardian-reader’s utopia: all bikes, roughage, serious television drama and Scandanavian design. Naturally, to complete the picture, it needs its own gastro-oriented food market to rival Borough Market or Mercado De San Miguel in Madrid.
Copenhagen’s version is Torvehallerne, which opened on a square near Nørreport railway station in September 2011. There’s an open area and two covered markets full of units selling a wide range of fresh fish, meat, cheese, vegetables and various prepared foods.
One Danish speciality we’d read about was smørrebrød: open sandwiches on rye bread. On one stall in Torevehallerne (Hallernes) we sat at the bar and ordered some impressive-looking smørrebrød with a glass of Mikkeller beer.
It wasn’t clear which beer it was (“fadøl” just means draught beer) but I think it may have been Green Gold or, if not, a similar IPA.
In any event, it was a very nice beer and went especially well with the breaded fish, cured herring and even, at a stretch, the roast beef-topped smørrebrød. It was particularly effective with the herring, which was delicious, but nonetheless it good to have a strong acidic beer to balance the taste and ultimately clear the palate.
Also at Torvehallerne on the weekend we visited, Carlsberg were giving away free four-packs of their new beer, Carlsberg Copen*hagen, a beer sold in a clear bottle apparently designed to be “gender-neutral” in its branding and marketing. The bottle I drank was a slightly skunked light pilsner with little to commend it over, say, Corona. In stark contrast to the Mikkeller and smørrebrød, it was far from the best Denmark had to offer.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads this blog (hi, you two) that one of my favourite pubs is Mr Foley’s in Leeds. As I’ve mentioned before, the careful selection of interesting cask, keg and bottled beers that makes Mr Foley’s what it is, has until now been down to the manager Dean Pugh.
In a trans-Pennine transfer, Dean has now moved on to manage the newly-opened BrewDog Manchester, becoming @BrewDogBarDean in the process. A few of us went to see the new bar at 35 Peter Street on Saturday.
I was impressed. If you’ve been to one of the other BrewDog bars (I’ve visited Glasgow and Edinburgh) you’ll know what to expect: an interesting range of keg beers, no cask beers, an excellent selection of imported bottles, good music and a stylish slightly industrial decor using reclaimed materials. Manchester is over two floors, and I think it’s probably one of the biggest of the bars.
Kate and I enjoyed a few great beers. On keg we had:
BrewDog Dead Pony Club, the rew 3.8% session ale, which had a lot of fruit flavour with a significant amount of grapeskin;
BrewDog Dogma, a pleasantly sweet dark honeyed Scotch ale; and
Mikkeller 19, a deliciously sweet and complex IPA using 19 single-hopped beers (and a successor to Mikkeller 10).
The bottles we enjoyed were:
Mikkeller Belgian Tripel, a pleasant example of the style brewed with coriander and orange peel;
Mikkeller Single Hop Citra, a single-hopped beer that Kate found enjoyable in its own right (rather than just a tutorial on the characteristics of the hop);
Port Brewing Mongo, a big, citrus-fresh Californian double IPA; and
BrewDog Anarchist Alchemist, the new 14% “triple IPA”, which tastes like Hardcore IPA with a bit more barley wine character, but not so much as to be overpowering.
With all those strong beers, it’s a good job that there’s some food on offer, and the burger and pizza menu (three of each) designed by Masterchef winner and occassional BrewDog collaborator Tim Anderson, is very tempting. I tried a slice of a tasty veggie pizza with breaded aubergine and had a Milwaukee burger: an excellent pork burger with pickles and sauerkraut.
Manchester is already well-served with great pubs, from the Marble Arch to Port Street Beer House. But if I were a Mancunian I would be very happy to welcome BrewDog to the city: a nice place to spend an afternoon with some great beers and good company.
Following the visit, I’m pinning my hopes on the BrewDog Leeds licence application being successful. The recent AGM presentation suggests that, if it the licence is granted, BrewDog Leeds will open in September 2012.
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.
Saturday night in Leeds, exactly one week from Christmas Day. Snow on the ground; fridge full of food. Nothing else to do but make a spicy Cajun gumbo and work through the American beers in the fridge. Again I should warn you that my palate remains at best charmingly innocent and at worst unsophisticated.
I’d bought the Green Flash Le Freak some time ago in Beer Ritz and sensibly should have had it whilst it was fresher. Nonetheless what is advertised as an American Imperial IPA meets a Belgian Trippel matches that description and is quite thick and very slightly bubblegummy with a solid bitter aftertaste. Kate’s not a fan of Belgian beers so I soon had the whole (9.2%, 1 pint 6 fluid oz) bottle to myself.
The combination of the viscosity, sweetness and bitterness was nice but I didn’t fall completely in love with it. I suspect it might have worked better for me if the hop taste was fresher than the aged bottle I had. Perfectly nice though. You can see Rob’s video review of this beer at Hopzine here.
I still had three American IPAs in the fridge that I’d brought back from New York in November, so I thought I’d better have them whilst they were good. I had specifically decided not to come back from New York with a suitcase full of beer, but we had a few left in the fridge in the hotel room on the last day, and I wasn’t about to let them go to waste.
First was the Lagunitas IPA. This turned out to be an oddly bland beer with the hoppiness almost tacked on at the end. After a while it came across like a fairly dull cooking lager but with a bitter aftertaste.
Next was the Smuttynose IPA. I’d had this on keg in New York and really quite liked it. It was slightly lighter in colour than the Lagunitas. The bitterness was more complex although not too punchy, with a good mixture of lemon and pine. Although slightly cloudy, it was a really nice, light refreshing beer, with a hint of detergent.
The Smuttynose IPA was very good match indeed to the spicy meat gumbo from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s America” book. Give the recipe a go if you get the chance.
Finally we had the Bear Republic Racer 5. I’d been looking for this beer for ages in New York, having read about it beforehand on Richard Burhouse’s blog amongst others. However, perhaps because it’s Californian, it was a bastard to find until I tracked it down on the penultimate day in a supermarket in Williamsburg.
Racer 5 turned out to be the best beer of them all: big flavours of mango, citrus and pine that worked really well together. If I had to drink only one American IPA for the rest of my life, it would certainly do, although right now I think my first choice would be O’Dell IPA.