When I look back a few years to the time when smaller, independent (yes, go on then – craft breweries) were really starting to gather steam, I invariably think of Hardknott. Dave Bailey (Brewer, Doer, Force Majeure) whose enthusiasm for the subject inspired and enraged people in equal measure, was someone who seemed to pop up everywhere; be it personally draying beer to far off places like London and Edinburgh, or making sure that his voice was heard in any debate both personally or online. Hardknott were pushing against the tide, pulling others into their circle and collaborating left, right and centre. His blog provided a useful and interesting view from behind the bar and inside the mash tun at a time when everything seemed so fresh and exciting. Battle lines were being drawn.
It helped that Hardknott’s beers backed up the rhetoric; bold, flavoursome beers that forced you to take notice. Beers that seemed perfectly brewed for both the kitchen (something that’s ingrained in the Hardkott ethos) and the bar. Sure, Hardknott seemed to suffer a little from the same ailments that many small breweries hit once an initial wave has broken on the beach – slightly inconsistent bottles, the odd flavour changes with cask beers as they find their feet, but that’s only to be expected.
I last spoke to Dave at the Leeds International Beer Festival last year – where I spent much of the afternoon glugging his excellent English Experiment IPA. We had a very brief hello at Indy Man the month after. We caught up, laughed, and that was that. I hadn’t tried any Hardknott beer since.
Why? I think, looking back as I write this, Hardknott ‘graduated.’ In my mind, Hardknott’s beers stopped shouting at me and grabbing my collar, urging me to look their way across a bar that’s even more crowded than it was in 2010 – but this time, it’s not just a range of 4% ‘Pale and Hoppy’ beers beckoning me; it’s a bar full of …well, beers like theirs. I know (and can rely on) Hardknott – so I can move onto something else. After all, there’s so much damn choice.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and when I was faced with new bottles on a beer shop recently, I made sure to pick some up. It was like reacquainting myself with an old friend; in fact, that was exactly what it was. Whilst the beer world followed Hardknott’s (amongst others, of course) lead, Hardknott have quietly expanded, rebranded (in an excellent fashion, helped along by Lemon Top Creative, bagged a decent spot in Booth’s and – to use a wanky business term – grown muscle. Much like the rebrand, the trio of Hardknott bottles I enjoyed were lean and trim; rough edges smoothed out and honed, hungry for action – the way a football manager would want players to return after a summer break.
First up, Continuum (4% abv) – which, at first sip, recalls early SNPA without the alcohol. Golden, yet served in a small enough bottle to instinctively make you reach for the tulip as opposed to the pint glass. it’s packed with flavour; pine sap and blackcurrant on the nose, an undertow of creamy malt and a more sappy, bitterly rising. It’s Hardknott’s session beer, apparently – in terms of alcohol, I’ll take that, but it’s still a shot to the tastebuds, without being too tiring.
Infra Red ups the ante with a 6% abv punch, and still has all the swagger that made it such a hit when it first appeared in pubs and bars in what seems like decades ago now. Ruddy of hue and redolent both in the nose and body of Raisin and brown sugar, there’s plenty of Orange pith streaking through it, whooping and hollering, to cut through all that malt give the beer a drying finish. Another beer that’s way too easy to drink. If Theakston were starting up now, this may be what Old Peculier would taste like.
Azimuth (5.8%abv) finishes the session. Borne out of a desire to brew something similar to Infra Red (ie an IPA), but without the malt profile, Azimuth is, simply, a wonderful beer. Peachy-golden in colour, the nose has plenty of stone-fruit, apricot jam and boiled sweet notes jumping out at you, and the beer itself manages a sly trick of tasting sweet (with more boiled sweet and jam) first, then bitter (Grapefruit and Mango), then turning sweet again at the end of the sip. The end result is a beer that I can only really sum up in one word: Juicy. It’s a juicy IPA. There you go.
With casual food suggestions on the label, these three bottles were an absolute pleasure to get to know again. Hardknott have quietly upped their game and more than hold their own – and it’s a wonderful thing to see a modern brewery progress and grow in such a natural way. Well done Dave, Ann and Graeme (not to forget Alex Routledge) – it’s a pleasure to meet you again.
“….We have Twitter accounts and apps to tell us where the great, unusual beer is these days, but nothing beats word-of-mouth rumours and loyal patronage at The Right Places paying off with incredible beer“.
That was a comment left by Chris Hall (Rum & Reviews/The Beer Diary) on my recent post regarding Five Towns, a brewery that has produced consistently good beer for a while now and gained one of the best word-on-the-street followings that I can think of, without the aid of social media (until recently). He’s absolutely right, and his statement, in my opinion, captures the essence of beer hunting.
Even whilst typing, the phrase seems antiquated. Yet it’s the hunt that still keeps the fire alive for a lot of us. CAMRA Socials, Twissups, Beer Retailer Offers (such as boxes of beer on a certain theme), Crawls, festivals, or simply a quiet pint in a new pub ‘just to see what’s on’ is often not so much about the pint you end up with but seeing what choice you have. Me? I’m more often than not looking for something new, so that I can enjoy it – and then yes, tell people about it. That could be a tweet, or a blog post (if really good), or simply dropping the beer into my next related conversation with a buddy.
Being in the right place at the right time is massively rewarding as it brings the element of surprise into it. I recall after moving to my area a few years ago and finding Marble Pint on the bar of my local, nestled in between the usual faces of Saltaire, Copper Dragon, Leeds and Ilkley. I drank it all afternoon, and despite calling in pretty much weekly that summer, never seeing it again in that pub.
The circle then gets wider as a lot of pubs still do the ‘coming soon’ boards; when topped off with a recommendation from the landlord or bar staff, you’re more inclined to go back to try the beer in question. Many pubs I follow on Twitter now tweet these – which I do find useful – but does it take away a little of the process? Have you missed out on the trail of beer after beer, week after week, being fed tips from the pub in question? When this happens, you feel a little ‘inside the circle’, part of a secret. You’ve got a little insider knowledge.
I guess my point is this: is there a new breed of drinker who only visit pubs when they know something interesting (to them) is on the bar? A drinker who simply doesn’t visit pubs out of routine, as a social venue, thereby missing good ol’ word of mouth? Am I falling into the hoary (well, it seems hoary now) trap of making sweeping generalizations about beer hipsters? Or the younger end of the market?
Answers on a postcard, please. Actually no – just leave a comment.
Odd that on warm days we want to stand over hot coals, poking and prodding embers, hands greasy with lighting fluid and charcoal dust. It’s not a good look. The Barbecue always takes precisely twice as long to light as you expect, unless you don’t expect it to, in which case it does it straight away. The wind, seemingly aware of your intention to simply cook some food, changes course determined purely by which way you position the damn grill.
But we do it anyway – of course we do. The sun’s out. Enjoy it while you can. Blue skies, sun cream and a freshly mown lawn (obviously there has to be some kind of manual labour involved first before enjoying the weekend, that, again, is what we do), marinating meat, chopped salad, and beer in a bucket of iced water. Drink it before the label falls off.
Tables out, ready to rock. Man vs Food time, time to put all those Steve Reichlen books into practise. I can do better than all those BBQ joints, springing up like hipster weeds across cities and markets. Punchy flavour, charred meat, smoke and salt. You can do anything on a barbecue and it’ll taste good. Last weekend it was pork chops, this weekend it’s Lamb steaks. Kofte next week. We’re here all Summer, Sun. You do your bit, we’ll do ours.
But it’s not the meat we’re in love with today. It’s the whole sweet pepper, split lengthwise and smeared with cheap Goat’s cheese, brushed with Olive oil on the grill and sprinkled with Salt. That’s it. Juicy, sharp, sweet, tingly, charred. Food for adjectives. Food for sunny days.
Cold beer in hand (Little Creatures Pilsner; clean, kind of creamy, floral finish but everything nicely muted) we sit, mostly quiet, wondering how many of these we could eat. Sunny Sundays.
The first time I heard about Treboom was (somewhay aptly, given the music connection) in the office of Revolutions Brewing, taking a break (Tea, Pork Pie, Mini Babybel) from brewing a beer with them. They’d been doing some beer swaps, and Treboom’s pumpclip stood out on a table strewn with them.
“Ah…Treboom…” said Andy Helm as I eyed the clip, conspiratorially. “Good beer. Really good, actually. Check ‘em out.”
So – not one to ignore advice from brewers – I duly did. It took a while (I was to later find out that Treboom’s beers generally don’t last long on the bar) but I soon became acquainted with Yorkshire Sparkle; a crisp, super-pale-ale that begs for a sun-drenched beer garden, a packet of Salted Crisps, and excellent conversation. Too late to include in Great Yorkshire Beer, Treboom joined the likes of Hop Studio, Hand-Drawn Monkey, Collingham and Brass Castle in breweries (well, HDM is kind of a brewery) really gaining a cult following in Yorkshire of late. When Jon Chappell (York Tap) and I put our heads together to decide what we were going to put on the bar for the book launch, Yorkshire Sparkle wasone of the first non-book-included beers on the list.
I finally managed to have a natter with John Lewis at the launch. As is often the case, Treboom is a labour of love between one couple – John and his wife, Jane Blackman. “We set up (Treboom) because I lost my funding as a research scientist at the University of York, working on Prostate Cancer.” says John. “We had always wanted to do something together and, as I had been a homebrewer, a microbrewery seemed the obvious choice as is quite scientific!”
They started in early 2012, making beer in Cask for pubs within a 30 mile radius of York. A little investment and a grant from DEFRA later, and Treboom’s beer is enjoying a charmed life in the myriad pubs of York and surrounding areas. “Things are going very well – people are enjoying our beer. Yorkshire Sparkle is our best seller and won silver at the York CAMRA Beer Festival last year, and Baron Saturday also came top in a York Battle of the Breweries.’
It’s not all classic styles of beer though. John firmly ascribes to the tried-and-tested method of using seasonals to supplement the core range with something a little different. ”Yes, we’ve made some interesting seasonals including a green hopped beer called First Draft and a Wheat Beer using Bog Mrytle from the North Yorkshire Moors.” Bog Myrtle, eh? That’s one to try.
Next week Treboom are throwing open their doors for their first Brewery Beats festival. With a connection to drumming (a Treboom is a drumming term), Jon and Jane have assembled drummers from all over the world to come and provide entertainment to guests while they in turn get to know the brewery.
“Two groups of drummers came to us independently because they had seen the logo – one of them actually practices in Shipton where we are based. They suggested doing something together and Brewery Beats is the result. We have Japanese Drummers, African Drummers, Egyptian Dancers and a band called The Eclectic Sparks playing.”
But wait – there’s more. “Jane is a ceramicist and so we decided to invite some artists along too. There will be 12 artists here in total with work ranging from painting, printmaking, ceramics, photography and jewellery”.
Food is taken care of, too. John explains. ”The festival really combines all our interests into one package -art, food, music and beer! Harrogate Preserves will be there – they use our Kettle Drum Best Bitter in their chutney – Haxby Baker produces artisan bread and is going to use our beer to make some bread. Butterfly Chocolates are going to use our porter (Baron Saturday) to make some truffles. We’re very excited about it – and there’s going to be a cheesemonger so, along with our beer, there will be the makings of a Ploughman’s!”
The festival’s completeness sums of what I’ve learned about Treboom in a short space of time; a brewery that clearly wants to be of a community; one spoke of a great wheel that encompasses more than beer. “The event is really to introduce people to Treboom and show them what we are about and where our interests lie. We want to make good quality beer and do interesting things along the way rather than become a beer factory.”
That’s an admirable cause, indeed.
I first interviewed Malcolm Bastow (who is, ostensibly, Five Towns Brewery) back in 2010; his amazing work rate – and hit rate – being the main factor to me contacting him. As it’s often mentioned in conversation about one of Yorkshire’s most cult breweries, he doesn’t actually do this full-time. But make no mistake, we’re not talking home – or cuckoo – brewing here. Five Towns is a fully-fledged brewery, with casks of delicious, delicious beer rolling down his drive and into our pubs and bars.
If you can find it, of course. Five Towns’ beers are culty, in so much as that you need to really go to certain pubs to get them often, but when you do, you make sure you have one. There’s no gimmick, no marketing, just beer. I’ve yet to come across a drinker (or brewer, to that end) who doesn’t talk in reverent tones of Malcolm’s work. Why? The beer is packed with flavour. It may be odd to hear me make such a simple statement, but, in much the same way Oakham and Bristol Beer Factory manage to do, Five Towns beers may appear simple on both the clip and description, but that only serves to lull you into a false sense of security. The beer in your glass, swirling with intent just after being poured, will give your tastebuds a workout.
Like many, I’ve been imploring him to bottle for a while, so was over the moon when not only did bottles appear recently, but my favourite (of all things, a Dunkel) was included in that range. Mango Junction (6% abv) pours a rich, burnished gold and the nose is full of sweet, dense fruit sugar – like sticking your nose into a jar of Apricot Jam (or should that be Mango Chutney?). The beer starts off smooth, then sweet with the same fruit-led profile as the nose, before drying…and drying…and drying to a big, bitter finish. It’s like a Fruit IPA, I guess – brewed with a complete lack of fanfare. And it works. It’s delicious, and I immediately wanted another one.
V2 Schneider (6% abv) blew my socks off at a beer festival a couple of years ago and it hasn’t changed one bit. Yorkshire’s only regularly produced Dunkel (and please, correct me if I’m wrong) is a complete bullseye; deep mahogany in hue, thick, luscious tan head, and plenty of obligatory banana and clove notes in the nose. Sipping reveals further complexity; some sour cherry, a little cola. It’s big, brown, boozy and complicated. Seriously good stuff. Gimme more.
So, I’m off to go buy some more. What more can you say? Sometimes the underdog, the guy who works hard cranking out beers with no bells and whistles, wins. Sure, the beer may stay local, but that just means you have to go to it, rather than let it come to you. Do the legwork, and you’ll be rewarded. I’ll say the same thing I said in 2010; Malcolm, please ditch the day job and scale up. Please!
You can read my 2010 interview here if you like. Here’sa nice article from the Wakefield Express, too. And yes, Malcolm is still working full-time! If you’re out and about, I can also heartily recommend both Niamh’s Nemesis and Peculiar Blue in particular.
It’s easy to look backward as well as forward for a brewery of a certain size. If you’re lucky enough to be part of one with a substantial body of work behind it – such as Shepherd Neame or Fuller’s for example, then you’ve got at your hands a treasure trove of ideas and recipes gathering dust in some vault somewhere, waiting for the likes of John Keeling or Richard Frost to pull them, blinking, into the modern sunlight and give us all a taste of the past.
You can dismiss beers such as Shepherd Neame’s new Brilliant Ale (4% abv) – the latest in a short rerun of older Sheps recipes – as raiding the storecupboard when you’ve got nothing fresh in for dinner. Fuller’s managed to avoid this trap with the excellent Past Masters range by simply putting their money where their mouth is, creating beers that not only stand up in their respective categories, but in most cases exceed them. Shep’s don’t seem to enjoy the same kudos as Fuller’s do, but deserve applause at least for thinking of other things to keep us interested.
Yes, they’ve installed the Pilot Plant, following the likes of Brains, Bath Ales and – my personal favourite – Thwaites – to flex a few unused muscles in terms of brewing ‘off-menu’, but realistically people will always, no matter how hard they try, see these ventures as only satellites orbiting the big-brand planet. Like I said, it’s not a bad thing at all, but doesn’t feel quite authentic to me. Playing on heritage is the one ace in the pack that these guys do have, no matter how far removed those beers can sometimes end up from those halcyon days.
I like these beers. They feel cosy in many respects – even after reading up on Brilliant Ale and understanding that actually it’s a complete update, using Cascades rather than EKG’s, but hey – at least it’s their recipes to mess about with. IPA was pleasantly robust and sweet, with a decent bitterness and yes, a ‘British’ feel about. Double Stout was an oaky, roasty mouthful that – again – felt like a big hug. Brilliant Ale is simple, sure; light – almost flintily lager-esque in the nose, slightly sweet with a decent, dry finish - but it’s good. I’d buy it over Master Brew and Spitfire any day.
Plus, it may be anathema to some to even mention it, but the labels are excellent; even up close the attention to detail is gorgeous. Brown bottles only seal the deal. You see pump clips like these on the bar, and you’re likely to buy it.
…And I’m glad that Shep’s are giving me that chance. These beers don’t feel ersatz or bandwagon-jumping. I want my big brewers to give me something different – something that the newer guys can’t. A story, perhaps – not just endless interpretations of newer styles which will always feel exactly like that. Novelty. They are widely available and offer a glimpse of heritage to the layman; which I think is really important. The average drinker is probably not going to get too hung up on authenticity but buy into the idea of beers like this – reconnecting in a whole new way with the brewery in the process.
I’ll be watching to see what crops up next. There; you have my attention.
Disclosure: I was sent the bottle of Brilliant Ale by Shepherd Neame, but bought the rest.
Well, get yourself over to CAMRGB, who have very kindly launched a bit of a giveaway with the book and a spiffing CAMRGB T-Shirt, to boot.
Head on over if you want to take part.
As you all know, I spent a large part of 2012 spending time in the pockets of brewers around Yorkshire whilst writing Great Yorkshire Beer. One of the things I learned early on – in stark relief – is that things change incredibly quickly in this business. It seemed that almost as soon as copy was filed, changes were happening; rebrands, changes of personnel, new premises being sought. So, with that in mind, I’m going to catch up with the brewers involved for a series of short updates over the summer.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited over to The Fleece in Otley to celebrate Wharfebank’s 500th brew. It’s been somewhat of a steep progression for Martin Kellaway and his crew recently; Wharfebank are now a bustling, thriving modern brewery with a couple of local pubs, a small core of staff and beers in cask, keg and bottle. For the 500th brew, they’ve teamed up with Ken Fisher (the man behind Grateful Deaf Beer) and…well, I’ll let Martin explain:
‘I wanted our 500th brew to be special but also a lot different from what our other 499 brews had been. Tony Jenkins (Business Support and all-round go-getter at WB) has met Ken on many occasions whilst working together at the GBBF and we quickly agreed that some of Ken’s wonderful style of beers could form the basis of our celebratory beer. Combining Ken’s style with that of Jayne Hewitt, our very own Master Brewer, we together created ‘D’ -our 6.6% 500th brew. It’s got 6 distinctive hops with a IBU of 65 – it certainly is special.’
So, something a little different for Wharfebank’s fervent army of followers across the region. That’s not the only change; Wharfebank’s new brewer is actually taking on his first commercial job. Steve Crump is an award-winning homebrewer, who is being welcomed into the fold to bring fresh ideas to Wharfebank. Without going into too much detail about what lies ahead, Martin is as excited about the appointment as Steve is.
‘Steve is a brilliant home brewer, and he joins our team to create new beers that push our range even further, whilst building on the successes we already have.’ beams Martin. What I like about Wharfebank is that, despite their solid reputation for no-nonsense beers, Martin and the team keep a close eye on what’s going on and want to be part of progression – in their own way – with no risk of trying to be something they aren’t. For example, building a partnership with The Harewood Estate to use their fresh hops each year. ’One or two of our experiments haven’t worked, but it’s the benefit of brewing on our small scale that enables us to try new ideas. We are ahead of where we planned to be but we can always do better, and every day we strive to improve.’ adds Martin.
Wharfebank’s bottled range (purely an idea when interviewed for GYB) is now available, and I can personally recommend the IPA and SPA in particular. Not only that, but Wharfebank’s experimental foray into the Spanish market has been incredibly well-recieved, and remains an opportunity for export success.
We spent the evening in The Fleece, which is a fantastic pub (with one of the best beer gardens around) on the riverbank in Otley. The team there really do get the food right - the menu was incredibly well-paired with the beer on offer. Acquiring The Fleece -and The Half Moon in Pool – has always been high on Martin’s agenda, and I asked him how the two were performing. ‘The pubs have all traded well, despite the poor spring weather.’ he says.
‘The Fleece has gone from strength to strength with the new management team of Oliver Renton and chef Simon Miller. Oliver runs front of house and Simon was recently a quarter finalist on BBC Masterchef The Professionals.’
‘The Half Moon in Pool-in-Wharfedale has traded well, with great support from our local community. Fred and Heather are our managers and are a doing a fine job. We’ve introduced simple, locally sourced and freshly prepared pub food, along with our refurbishment of 5 letting bedrooms. We are also building the cask sales so that the introduction of guest ales should become a permanent feature very soon’. The Half Moon is a cosy village pub, and one worth stopping at if passing through Pool.
Most recently, Wharfebank joined forces with Castle Rock to take the reins at The Rook and Gaskill in York. It’s a different proposition from the other two, as Martin explains. ‘The Rook is run by Steve Bradley, who also runs the thriving Fulford Arms. Since opening in late 2012, we’ve has created a beer range on cask and keg that is proving really popular. The recent introduction of The Yorkshire Lager – from the Great Yorkshire Brewery – has also been very well received to compliment Freedom Pilsner, Titanic Stout and the 10 ales we have on. There’s always 2 beers from WharfeBank and 2 from Castle Rock the bar, always a LocAle from the York region plus many fantastic rotating guests. Food has slowly been introduced – which is a unique offering of Caribbean! Music and events are also driving trade, so yes, overall a very positive outlook.’
SO, overall, a productive and positive year for Wharfebank, with some real focus and attention on the places that you can enjoy their beer in as well as the quality of the beer itself. Behind the bar, they’ve also launched a Master Cellar Club, which provides a strong link between brewery and publican, providing training, special beers and general support. This idea is one that I think sums up Wharfebank very well – a small regional brewery thinking like a larger one, especially when it comes to that area we all love between brewery and consumer – The Pub.
I spent some time last night on Twitter doing one of those ‘virtual tastings’ that are proving quite popular at the moment. It was for Booths, the northern food outlet, and they’ll be stocking Great Yorkshire Beer in their Ilkley Store if you’re local. The main reason behind it was to launch their Beer and Cider festival, which is running right now until the end of May.
Up here, Booths have a somewhat cult following for those who like beer. Their range is excellent, and more importantly, local to that specific store, which means that no matter where you are it’s always worth popping in and seeing what treats you can find. Doing virtual tastings and the like is helped immensely by the fact that the beer’s so damn good; especially the two corkers from Cumbria that were sent along to comment on.
Festival Ale is brewed by Hawkshead – who have had a long-standing relationship with Booths – and weighs in at a lithe 4%abv. Fresh, zippy, incredibly light of body but finishing with huge mouthfuls of lemon and grapefruit pith, it’s a Pale Ale that you really want to try to get your hands on if you are a fan of Windermere Pale and NZPA (and who isn’t?). It’s a limited edition brew, but I start the move here and now for Booths to stock it permanently. Wonderful.
Stringer’s Delta V (6.5%abv) is a big, bold, brutish UK IPA. Burnished Amber, the nose was incredibly vibrant with fresh, peppery hops – with more than the usual citrus default going on. On the sip it’s thick with boiled-sweet sugar and a big, boozy warmth appears at the end; just before a long, long, long bitterness kicks in, reminding you that this is a beer to respect. It’s lovely; another home run from Stringers.
Anyway, check out the festival for northern treats and don’t miss these two. You can also check out Baron Orm’s (who took part, too) ratings here. Also, in a stroke of coincidence, Dave Bailey has recently blogged about getting Hardknott listed in Booths - and it’s worth a read.
So, a short blast of summer sun and I already want meals that reflects it; light, tasty, mostly Mediterranean -inspired food. An invitation extended to family for ‘Sunday Dinner’ becomes problematic when you don’t want the full ordeal of a Roast – so – what to do?
Cheese-stuffed Chicken wrapped in Bacon is a bit of a simple crowd-pleaser, especially if you use really good ingredients. I’ve made this a thousand times before and it’s a perennial favourite. If you make the sauce in advance (which I would always recommend you do) then it’s really just a case of keeping an eye on the oven; while you have a beer, of course. So, to start, make the tomato sauce: One large bottle of Passata goes into a saucepan with a glug of Olive Oil, Black Pepper, three cloves of Garlic (chopped), a pinch of Sugar, Basil and Oregano. Stir well, and simmer gently for only five minutes. You can turn off the heat and leave it to stand, covered.
To make the filling, empty one tub of Ricotta Cheese into a bowl, and add to that a little grated Cheddar. You could also use Parmigiano or Pecorino; the idea is simply to spike the Ricotta with something a little more punchy – as it can be quite bland in itself. Season with Black Pepper and a little Salt. Place in the fridge to cool back down and stiffen slightly for another 20 minutes.
Take Chicken Breasts, and slice a pocket in the largest part, being careful not to slice through the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the filling, and then wrap in bacon. The bacon’s got to be good; I used C&K’s excellent Beer and Black Treacle Bacon (which they kindly sent me after I drooled over it on Twitter) but otherwise I would use any smoked bacon – the deeper the smoke, the better.
When I wrap the bacon around the chicken I tend to fix it with toothpicks. Your chicken will have cheese bursting out of one side, and if you can ‘seal’ that side with bacon, you’re onto a winner.
All wrapped up? Cool, turn your oven on to 175c. Whilst that’s warming up, you need to seal the wrapped chicken in a pan, turning over on all sides and watching to make sure the cheese doesn’t leak out. Again, I find doing this helps the cooking process along and helps keep the cheese inside the chicken once it goes into the oven.
Once browned on all sides, transfer the breasts to the hot oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. You may get some liquid escaping from the cheese and chicken; if that happens, drain it off – you don’t want the meat standing in it.
Serve with the sauce and some herbed roast potatoes; use Rosemary and Thyme. Beer-wise, you don’t want anything too hoppy as I feel it makes the tomato sauce taste a little strange; something with a hint of sweetness in the body is what you want. Adnam’s versatile Spindrift (5% abv) is a good choice; light, refreshing and jaunty, perfectly quaffable. In fact, pick up a few and enjoy them in the garden after enjoying your dinner.