Friday, 28 January 2011

Hello, My Name is Brewdog.

When Brewdog does Burns Night in London you would expect them to do it in some style, so when a it was announced that they were doing a 5 course tasting menu matched with beers at the White Horse in Parson's Green, with a promise of a taster of AB:05 and other brewdog rarities, there was nothing to do other than to convince the wife to overcome her fear of bagpipes and jump on the train.

The pub is an excellent venue for these kind of events and generally has a great range of draft and bottles beers. Their food menu looked good and each dish was paired with a recommended beer. The dinner was being hosted over two areas of the pub, upstairs and a back dining room. I believe there were 90 places at the event so credit to the kitchen for getting all the food out in a timely manner.

We got there early and started sampling halves of the brewdog beers. Alice Porter (excellent), New Punk ( from cask, a little lacking in condition), Edge (an awesome mild) and Alpha Dog (a fairly standard bitter, I was expecting more of a 5am saint on steroids) were all consumed before the off. A mini stampede to the function room at the back and we were treated to a 7 course tasting menu, but sadly no AB:05 as it was not ready yet.

We were hosted in the dining room by Tom and Josie, two of brewdog's dynamic sales team and had James, replete in his kilt and work boots, pop down from hosting the upstairs room to give us a talk about each beer.

So the haggis spring rolls with a spicy chilli sauce. The pair of spring rolls were crisp and had a nice meaty centre, the sauce unfortunately was ketchup like and heavy, overpowering the haggis filling and was slightly disappointing. I had imagined a light Thai-style chilli dipping sauce and think that would have been much better. James taught us how to introduce ourselves to the beer and the beer, the new Punk IPA certainly said hello back just bursting with tropical fruit hop aromas, probably the most in your face aroma of any beer I can remember. The taste did not disappoint either with the hops again to the fore but lacking the edgy bitterness that was a hallmark of the original punk. The match was not the best of the night, the overpowering spicy sauce obliterating all those nice tropical fruit flavours and the bitterness was not there to allow the sweet/bitter/hot rollercoaster described here

The salmon with was a simple Japanese style preparation with a bowl of Soy sauce and some leaves. The beer needs a bit more explaining. Hello, my name is Ingrid is a double IPA with cloudberries, brewed especially for the Swedish market. It has a strong malt slightly sweet backbone really good dry hop aroma and taste and a lingering fruity tang of the cloudberries . Such a shame it is not normally available in the UK. The food match was superb with the sweetness of the beer duelling with the salt from the soy. However skip the soy and it was not good at all.

Cullen Skink a traditional Scottish potato soup with smoked haddock, rich thick and warming with a great smoky taste. This was matched with Bitch please. I think this was a last minute substitution for the AB05 and never have I come across such a mad beer. James introduced it by putting on a nice little song. It was brewed in conjunction with Three Floyds who added heaps of shortbread and toffee to the boil. It was not a clear fact this beer could be served in slabs! Seriously sweet and rich too much for me on its own but it was my wife's favourite beer of the night. This however was one of the best and probably most unexpected beer match of the night, the thick smoky soup seemed to calm this mad beer down and allow it to show off some amazing flavours of toffee aniseed candyfloss and a rich spicy undertone. One to watch out for when it is released in April, the extra conditioning could make this something special.

After a piper,  and a scotsman quoting Robbie Burns stabbing a haggis we had our main course. Tasting notes become a bit patchy from here on in. The haggis neeps and tatties were matched with Alice Porter. A pleasant combination but I found the porter a bit lacking against the strong haggis flavours and sweet neeps. Or perhaps it was my pallet struggling to get rid of the large glass of Bitch Please followed by the shot of whisky.

Tactical Nuclear Penguin (if there is any better named beer I have not found it) is a beer that I have had once before. Seriously strong and smoky I found it interesting but not enjoyable, bit like I feel like a peaty single malt. Add an dollop of vanilla ice cream and it becomes an heavenly interesting shot - the overpowering alcohol and smoke are calmed by the creamy vanilla and it all melds perfectly.

Cranachan was great, creamy cream, sharp raspberries and crunchy oats. Black Tokyo Horizon was the beer match. This is the darkest of dark stouts, a Brewdog collaboration with Mikkeller and Nogne-O. Another very sweet beer and a thumping 15% but the overall effect with the cranachan was good. The carbonation cleansed the cream the sweetness mixed well with the sharp raspberries and the beer added a nice chocolate note and a long bitter coffee like aftertaste.

Finally we had the cheese plate; a blue, a cheddar and a brie. All very nice cheeses served with fantastic oatcakes.The beer served with it was Hardcore IPA, an interesting choice to serve - a dry very hoppy bitter beer with the cheese. The beer totally obliterated the brie, and to my suprise, did not stand up at all against the cheddar, hardly making an impact on the strong flavours. The match with the Dunsyre Blue was absolutely spot on. The tangy strong cheese and earthy oatcake seemed to be lifted and enhanced by the beer and resulted in a salty, creamy, bitter, oaty, hoppy merri-go-round that went on for an age in the mouth. Truly the match of the night. Pass the thanks! If you take anything away from this blog is should be that Hardcore IPA is the beverage to match with a blue cheese.

A great night, some very good food and great beer well matched. Say what you like about Brewdog but they have come a long way in a few years and long may they put on events like this.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Curry Match Part 1

Home brew a beer to match a curry banquet...yeah ok then I'll give it a go.

The clubhouse at Walcountians Sports Club is in a poor state at the moment. There is an urgent need for a new roof so the onus is on everyone involved to raise as much money as possible. My section, the lacrosse club, is luck enough to have a talented curry chef who caters for 100 people each year at his curry buffet night. This year in addition to the curry buffet we will be having a more up market Curry Banquet as an additional fund-raising event.

I will be adding value by attempting to home brew a beer specifically to match the curry served at this banquet.

What factors are there to consider when matching beer to curry. We certainly don't want some flavourless fizzy (or not so fizzy...yes I'm looking at you Cobra) lager. But this at least gives me a decent name Mongoose, cause it eats cobras for breakfast(1).

Strong flavours in the curry will need a strong beer to match. ABV needs to be high but not too strong...say around 6%. The beer needs to be bitter and well hopped ideally with plenty of citrus aromas, it needs a small amount of residual sweetness. Looks very much like we are talking about an IPA.

So we have a 6% Mongoose IPA that was the easy bit. But there are many flavours of IPA. We need to consider the grain backbone, how dark should the beer be, which hops for bittering aroma dry hopping. Should there be a twist, chilli, ginger, coriander or cardamom in the secondary?  Chickpeas in the mash?  So many possible variations, I guess I will be making a lot of IPA in the next few months.

(1) I am aware that the indian mongoose does not actually eat cobras, it is mainly vipers apparently but there is no premium lager called viper aimed at the curry market so I'm using a bit of poetic license.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Oi Herby No!

 Bath Ales Festivity with Irish Sausages and Mash.

The Food
Sausages from Paul Rankin's Range produced by Finnbrogue with creamy mash, broccoli and my own recipe herby sweet caramelised  onions. Onions cooked with thyme, bay brown sugar and a splash of beer (recipe may come in another blog). I have to say that the sausages were magnificent easily the best supermarket packaged sausage I have had in a long time. Firm in texture but still juicy and packed full of pork goodness and just the right amount of herbs and spices.

The Beer
A seasonal beer from Bath Ales Festivity is a robust full bodied porter with plenty of chocolate and coffee. It is one of my favourite dark beers. I was lead to believe that they were sold out a few weeks ago but found 4 bottles on the shelves in Waitrose so bought them all!  Unfortunately this batch seemed to have very little carbonisation and poured with no head, I don't remember it being so flat before so perhaps a slight fault with this batch. I did however drink it and feel the need to test another bottle straight away afterwards.

The Match
Porter and Sausages seems a natural combination in my mind bringing to mind thought of pubs on a Sunday lunchtime in front of a roaring fire. The combination was pretty much a success. The little carbonation tried its best to cut through the rich sausages and the butter in the mash and the chocolatey bitterness played well with the caramelisation on the fried sausages. I thought the difficult match might be the thyme heavy, sweet onions and while the porter held it's own again the sweet onslaught I'm not sure that it was not slightly overpowered by the herbs.

So not quite the outstanding match of my previous attempt but not bad. Lose the herby onions and it would be much better.

Note for next on the food presentation.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A Punk and a Mexican have a Fight.

Brewdog Punk IPA and my homemade chilli con carne

For my first food pairing my little knowledge of beer and food matching suggests that IPA and chilli would be a good one, although I was a little concerned about the sweet tomato sauce.

The Food
This particular homemade chilli has rather spicy chilli kick with a smokey hit from the paprika and a sweetness of carrot and tomato in the sauce (too sweet really if I was being critical about the food).

The Beer
The Punk IPA is an old friend. An initial smack of hoppy pine and citrus and a long lingering bitter finish that drags you back for more.

The Match
First round to the Mexican as a lot of the initial hop hit of the IPA is lost in the strong flavour of the chilli and tomato sweetness. Then the punk fights back and the long bitter aftertaste outlasts and finally wipes away the sweetness and when that eventually fades the warm tingle of chilli is left on the palate, tempered but unbowed by the beer. Quite a rollercoaster and not an unpleasant one.

In sumary this is definitely a pairing I would recommend the chilli is definitely enhanced by the Punk IPA but I do miss that big initial hop hit that I would get from drinking the beer without food.

I feel that the punk's hardcore big brother may be an even better match. I also look forward to trying the new recipe Punk with a less sweet chilli next time.

Final note to self...take a picture next time.

A brief introduction...

So here is me 38, can't spell for toffee and new to the world of blogging. How can it not be a riotous success!

I've been reading so many beer review blogs and other beer related columns recently and kind of wanted to join in the fun. However the question remained what, within the gamut of beer topics to write about?

  • Craft Beer reviews? Already done by many and done well. 
  • My home brewing? Easy to talk about but not sure how interesting to the world at large, one of my main aims is to help spread the word about craft beer so I have discounted this as a main topic. 
  • My pipe-dream of setting up a microbrewery in Epsom? For another day and another blog.
Not much to go on there...but what about the crossover between Beer and my other passions? Cricket, Lacrosse and Food.
  • Beer and Cricket. Well my cricket circles certainly drink plenty of beer and I play in a beer sponsored league but not much of it is craft beer and I'm sure by the 3rd week of the season talking about drinking many pints of London Pride and talking bollocks about cricket would be a bit old hat.
  • Beer and Lacrosse. See Beer and Cricket except without the beer sponsor on the league.
  • Beer and Food. Well I have just got a copy of The Brewmaster's Table, my knowledge of matching beer and food is basic at the moment but I do expect it to improve. Not totally original but less crowded then pure beer reviews ...  just perhaps we have a goer here.
So this is a long winded way of saying this will be a blog about Beer and Food. beer with food reviews, cooking with beer, beer in restaurants and perhaps a specific home brewing project to come up with the ultimate beer to match with a special curry dinner.