Since popping up a little while ago, the gang from Newport have breathed a little fresh air into the Welsh brewing scene, which has it’s fair share of traditional brewers. Welsh beer, like its rugby players, has no shortage of strength, body and character, albeit wrapped up in packages that don’t shy away from what’s gone before. Which is why Tiny Rebel, well, stand out.
For a small outfit, their beers certainly get around. I’ve enjoyed Fubar on the bar in both London, Manchester and Macclesfield, their graffito’d pumpclips standing out amongst the others on the bar. Happily, Beer-Ritz have started stocking them, so I enjoyed a couple of bottles last weekend whilst watching the opening weekend of the NFL. And those that know me know that those beers that accompany my sports viewing generally enjoy a lofty position of being hand-picked for the role.
Full Nelson (4.8% abv) is their ‘Maori Pale Ale’ and, as the names suggests, is packed with Nelson Sauvin hops. A personal favourite of mine, I’m used to seeing ‘Nelson’ being thrown into uber-pale ales, resulting in super-floral aromas and quenchingly dry finishes. What Full Nelson does differently is it puts those hops against a richer Grain bill – and improves as a result. In addition to all those Nelson Sauvin notes that you want – Gooseberry, White Grape, a little Lemon pith – you get a nutty, almost bready underpinning of grain which gives the beer depth and flavour. It’s not an IPA, it’s not a palate-killer – its a well-rounded beer that shows thought and care going into the recipe as a whole, rather than packing as many hops as they can in. Adnam’s Ghost Ship (predominantly Citra) and Rooster’s Yankee (Cascade) are other examples of this kind of forethought and balance in ‘hoppy’ beers.
Urban IPA (5.5% abv) shows a restrained hand again in terms of alcohol – without sacrificing taste. Another beer leaning towards the Amber hue, the nose fair explodes with tropical fruit and fresh Pineapple and, on the sip, that fruit almost takes the front seat, risingly bitter at first with pithy citrus, before that malt comes crashing back in, sweetening everything up with biscuit and toffee. Perhaps not an IPA for committed hopheads, its balance proves it’s pedigree. It’s a fine IPA, robust enough to throw the gain switch up a notch in terms of flavour, but sweet enough to warrant a second bottle. Just to be sure, of course.
A quick glance at TR’s core range illustrates balance and nods to tradition, whilst at the same time being quintessentially modern; a couple of IPA’s, a clutch of Pales, and a Smoked Oat Stout. Nothing much inbetween – and that’s quite common with modern breweries, I find.
Tiny Rebel’s star is certainly rising, and I read with interest that they’ve taken over Fire Island, Cardiff’s craft beer bar in stasis (UPDATE – It’s just opened as Urban Tap House – here’s Craig Heap’s initial thoughts on it) – possibly at the expense of further expansion in terms of brewing. A more modest, Welsh version of BrewDog, perhaps? It’s Cardiff’s gain, for sure, and I wish them luck. That little hooligan Bear logo that lounges around their artwork is a charming little guy, and I for one would like to see more of him.
Let’s kick off the year with a little bottle round-up from a brewery that I’ve been enjoying on Cask around Yorkshire. The Hop Studio caught my eye back in the summer; their sleek black plastic pumpclips adding an almost futuristic/80’s neon vibe to the bar-top. Thier beers seem to be as simple in flavour too; in the best possible way. When you call a beer Blonde, you don’t want any surprises.
Pilsner (4%abv) was the bottle I immediately made a bee-line for, being a fan of all things Pils, Lager and Alt. The nose is all creamy digestive-biscuit malt, with a light body lurking underneath. Poured into a tall glass (of course), those streams of bubbles appeared up the sides in a way that brings a smile to the lips, and the beer itself drinks long and refreshing with the requisite amount of fresh, lemony citrus and the end. The finish could have been a little dryer, and the condition a little livelier, but overall Pilsner is a refreshing beer indeed.
Gold (4.5%abv) pours a vibrant amber and looks great in the glass; clear as a bell and with an enticingly rocky head. A fruity, full-bodied best, there’s that crushed-biscuit body again but this time topping off the package with an altogether fruitier sweetness; think blackberries and plum rather than citrus peel. Packed with flavour, I wish I’d have bought more bottles of Gold.
On first inspection XS (5.5%abv)seems like a stronger version of Gold but a few sips in you realise that’s a bit of a disservice. XS has much more in common with the likes of Coniston’s XB or Theakston’s Old Peculier in terms of being a stronger Yorkshire ale. Chestnut in colour and with tonnes of crushed nuts and brown bread on the nose, XS is a mouthful of brown sugar, raisin and more roasted nuts – with Hazelnut coming through in particular. Strong and sweet on the finish, it’s another one I was pining for once drunk.
Unfortunately, I had to pour my bottle of Blonde away. A light, sherbety pale that I’ve enjoyed lots of in Cask in the past, the condition of this sample was just not up to scratch – flat, lifeless and murky. A shame, but it hasn’t dented my affection for Hop Studio. Let’s hope 2013 sees a couple more beers added to that core range.
Hop Studio are based in Elvington, near York – and that surrounding area of York is proving to be a fertile breeding ground for new breweries. In the last year or so the likes of Treboom (Yorkshire Sparkle is worth seeking out if you’re a Pale Ale monster like me), Brass Castle, and Yorkshire Heart (who, interestingly, also have a Vineyard) have all popped up, muscling in on bars across York. If you want to keep up with the area, I can’t recommend enough the excellent work done by Gavin Aitcheson and the gang over at The York Press. If the last year is anything to go by, there will be lots more to come from one of Yorkshire’s ale hotspots. It’s not as if you need more reason to go drinking in York, is it?
Ok, let’s have some fun. I was alerted to this via the magic of Twitter earlier in the week, mostly for the (seemingly ridiculous) assertion that Champagne is a great match for Currywurst. That, it may be – but I can guarantee you – Beer is better. Don’t mistake my intention – I like Champagne, as it happens – but, seeing as this is a beer blog, let’s take a look at how our beloved drink matches up more than well to this onslaught of fizz.
Probably only ranked third amongst the beer-snack of choice for beer-drinkers – with the heavenly Pork Scratching and humble Nut sitting above it – the fact remains that Crisps are a great salt-and-fat delivery vehicle for stirring up a thirst. That applies whether it’s a bag at your side when watching a film with the family or sitting in the corner of a pub, paper spread out in front of you and eyes locked to the print. My favourite? Salt and Vinegar ( Tyrell’s Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar are a particular weakness) and something crisp; IPA, or, if lucky, a decent lager. You can keep your Champers, thanks.
If it’s good enough for Bob Bob Ricard then…Sorry, no. It’s not. I just can’t reconcile this one. Venison is one of those dark meats that can be either delicate or robust depending on how it’s handled. I’ve had success with Venison and spiced Christmas ales in the past, such as Harpoon’s Winter Warmer, or Old Peculier. I’d also give it a try with Pumpkin Ales; I’d imagine the sweetness and cinnamon notes that those idiosyncratic holiday beers will really hit if off with that deep, rich Venison without overpowering it.
3. Jaffa Cakes
Nice one. Jaffa Cakes are ace, as is any Stout you put it with; especially something that echoes that dark chocolate aspect of the humble Jaffa Cake. Brooklyn Dark Chocolate Stout immediately springs to mind, but I do recall a Jaffa note in Hitachino Nest’s Espresso Stout when I tried that last summer. Bristol Beer Factory’s Ultimate Stout would be great with a packet of Jaffa Cakes next to it, too.
4. Fish and Chips
Much with the Crisps, I can see how this would work, but as I spoke about here, Fish and Chips is a surprisingly thorny match to make. I still stand by my original views – Beer, either rich and bready, like a brown ale or best, or a crisp golden beer or wheat. There’s too many permutations to count. It’s a great combo, no matter which way you fry it.
Ok, a little blind spot. I’ve never had really good sushi. So I will close my eyes and say….something Crisp? Gueze feels right – in fact, more than right – but am I doing Sushi an injustice? Your thoughts, please!
From Amber Ales to light, fruity Stouts, Chilli is beer’s friend. You can do what Mark did here and add smoke to your beans, or add Stout – why not a chocolate stout – for depth. For drinking with, I’d personally plump for something sweet and amber; Stroud’s Tom Long recently impressed me; sweet, crisp and really,really moreish.
Now here’s a tricky one. Eggs. A bit of a random statement. There’s so many ways to eat eggs! At a dinner for Thornbridge last year we enjoyed Eggs Benedict and Asparagus with Wild Swan, which was delicious. If you are scrambling and adding smoked salmon, then a light, smoky porter would be great.
Really? There’s a suggestion that Champagne is sometimes served with Currywurst? In Germany? The home of beer and sausage? Anyway, I don’t know, so please enlighten me. Personally, you can keep that Champagne chilled, sir. I’ll have a Marzen or a Dunkel, please – I personally prefer darker/smokier beers with spiced food. Yum.
Apart from the odd Apple that I’ve cut up to enjoy with cheese and a beer, Fruit isn’t something I’d automatically go for with a beer. However, with all those Fruit beers out there, where’s the need? Frambozen, Kriek, Tropical fruit notes in West Coast IPA’s and Stone fruit suggestions in hops, bitter citrus peel in Wit, Cherries, Damsons and Blackberries in stouts… Beer and Fruits have always been bedfellows – just not in an obvious way, at times.
I’m not even going to regale this with an answer; it’s too vast. Simply do this: Go over to the Marble Arch in Manchester with a Friend. Order a cheeseboard – whatever size, it’s your option. Order a pint of Manchester Bitter or Summer, if it’s the season. Eat, drink and chat. Tell me how that goes, without using the adjectives ‘Perfect’, ‘Heavenly’ or ‘Exquisite’. Or even just ‘Spot on’. Personally, I don’t think you can beat Blue Cheese and Stout, but that’s just me.
So there you go. Champagne bettered. My work here is done. Better still, let me know your ideas and combos – I’m the kind of guy who will try them – really.
…Just a quick spot of self-promotion; given the success of the Sweet Treats night we held earlier in the year, those lovely chaps and chapesses at Beer-Ritz have once again decided to fling open their floor to a little Beer and Cheese party. Come by, drop in, have a little chomp and a little slurp. Have a chat to the staff about anything beer.
Simple as that. It’s free. There’s lots more of these nights to come, including some special guests in the summer and beyond.
I mean, it’s a no-brainer – right? See you there! 1st of May!
Well, these look nice, don’t they? Clean, suitably Nordic labels, crossed axes on the bottle-cap and promises of all-marauding Ales to pillage my tastebuds into submission. Einstock – as well as Winter – is coming.*
Ok, I’m being a little mean. I’m just such a whore for good design that – more often than not, to be honest – you end up getting conned. White Ale (5.2%abv) evokes Wit to some extent, but pours way too pale to hold any real promise of depth. There’s some – very faint – hint of lemon peel and spice on the nose, and the sip holds nothing much more than a pleasant, but all too brief, burst of Citrus. What is it? I’m not sure. It’s not really a Wheat, not really a Wit.
The simply-monikered Pale Ale redeems things somewhat. It’s a US influenced interpretation of the style; plenty of candy-sugar sweetness and piney, resiny hop character. There’s an interesting Strawberry Jam/Victoria Sponge note floating around in the nose, along with a tiny hint of yeasty breadiness. It’s crisp, clean and not too sweet despite all that sugar in the nose. I’d gladly keep a couple of these in the fridge for a post-work loosener, for sure. It sure hides its 5.6% abv.
So, a mixed bag. Will I try them again? Well, yeah. The Toasted Porter sounds good, and the fact that they’ve brewed a Doppelbock intrugies me as well; it’s not a style you see newer breweries going for.
* Well – technically – Winter is going. I know it’s mixing metaphors, but I couldn’t resist getting a Game of Thrones reference in there. After all, there’s ice, and snow, and swords. That’s all you need really. and Zep’s Immigrant Song blasting really, really loud.
That’s right; I’m talking Session beer. Pale Ales, thirst-quenchers. Maybe the odd Wheat beer thrown in. On the whole, however, I’m rushing home for a fridge-cold sub 5% Pale ale, or praying that my pub of choice isn’t stocking 4 or 5 Imperial Stouts.
And why not? We do them so damn well. When asked what he admires about British Brewing a couple of weeks ago, Brooklyn’s Eric Ottaway – without a moment’s pause – smiled and replied: ‘That you can get so much flavour out of a 3-4.5% beer’. We know that the Americans generally don’t think in the same terms as us when it comes to session, and that’s all fine, but I know what I’d miss if I emigrated over there. Seriously.
As Pete Brown pointed out in this wonderful little piece, our problem with the sessioners is that we assume them to be dull. There’s so much out there to distract us; so much white noise out there and ‘next big thing’ turning our head, it’s likely that we disregard the familiar for the exotic.
We fall back into the pattern when the sun’s out – or I do, anyway. This week I’ve been rediscovering the simple beauty of the likes of York’s First Light (a 3.8% favourite from last summer, as it happens), Saltaire’s snappy, crisp superlative Cascade Pale Ale (4.8%) , and Black Sheep’s All Creatures (3.5%abv). Durham’s Magus (3.8%) and Kirkstall’s Three Swords (4.5%) have all been go-to’s for me recently, as well. Dull? Never.
Want something more exotic, more internationally-influenced? Hawkshead NZPA? Camden Pale? Magic Rock High Wire? Fyne Ales Jarl? Buxton Moor Top? Christ, the list goes on. Tasty, refreshing, and of strength enough for a couple to be more than warranted. In fact – try and stop me having more than one Moor Top (those that know me know my love for Moor Top runs deep and wild)!
So come on, Spring. Show us what you’ve got. You too, Summer. Bring on your hottest. We have the beers to cope, rest assured.
There’s an old blogging maxim (that I’ve just made up) which states that if you’ve got a good idea for a blog post, 98% of the time it’s been written before – and usually better. That was certainly the case this time – as I pondered a subject close to my heart: Dogs in Pubs.
Keith Wildman over at the excellent Sabotage Times posted this tribute to four-legged punters earlier in the year, and I’ve been forwarding it to like-minded mates for a few months now. I agree wholeheartedly, obviously. Dogs in Pubs make me feel warm and welcome – even before I was a dog owner. As Keith says, there’s nothing that gives a more comforting, homely feeling to a pub than a pooch wandering around, getting up to mischief, or spread out under a table following an afternoon’s amble.
For me, Pubs should aspire to be ‘the third place‘, and it follows that seeing as though Wilson (my dog) is a part of my home, I’d like him to be a part of my chosen drinking place too. One of the reasons we bought a dog, in fact, was to have a companion to walk with – and when I’m involved, weekend walks normally culminate in a pub visit.
Dogs in Pubs are (or at least should be) a vital stitch in the fabric of our Pub culture – suburban and country pubs, anyway. They break down social barriers, provide shared interest and amusement, and make connections with your fellow drinkers. All these factors contribute to that sought-after ‘third place’ feeling.
Of course, not everyone will agree. I’m aware of that. Some folk simply don’t want a dog within earshot or eyesight whilst enjoying a beer, in much the same way that I feel about children. Some pubs – the more food-orientated, perhaps – don’t or can’t go there, either. Fine. I can’t take Wilson everywhere with me – but trust me, I’ll sit there wishing he was there.
Reading Keith’s piece, it’s great to see so many pubs out there welcoming dogs with open arms and a fresh water bowl. Personally, I have an array of Market Town Tavern pubs to rely on, a pubco who have never let me down. The first time I visited The Grove in Huddersfield, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the fantastic bar – it was the bloke in the doorway holding his Border Terrier. The Rising Sun near Swinsty Reservoir is a regular little stop-off for us whilst walking; a sandwich and a pint of Theakston’s amongst the Bikers out for a weekend ride; always friendly, always laughing.
Where do you go with your dog? Anyone out there who deserves a special mention? If you’re planning a trip out and are unsure, there’s a fantastic – and most importantly, up to date – resource over at Doggie Pubs.
So come on, pub owners – as warmer weather approaches, open your arms and welcome us all. Let’s get those pubs filled with the sound of glasses clinking, laughter and beer flowing – and get the dog treats stocked up.
Well, just as I’d finished drafting this post, The Golden Pints were announced for 2011. Given that I’d already done this, I’m going to post it up anyway in lieu of a Golden Pint list, with a few additions. Anyway, I like lists, and it’s been fun running through what beers I’ve particularly enjoyed over the year. By way of a cop-out, I’m not going to rank the best beers this year, because I think they are all fantastic. What’s even more exciting is that I’m sure I’ve missed loads; which means 2012 will have to rectify that.
So, what about a Brewery of the Year? A difficult one. When I think of Breweries that made 2011, three stand out for me; Magic Rock, Buxton and Red Willow.
Given the shared experience of the people involved – both from a brewing and a retail point of view – Magic Rock would have had to have really worked hard to fail. Their relatively small core range covers every base, their pumpclips catch the eye; and their beer tastes good. When you really get into the range, the beers are deceptively simple, too. They’ve worked their arses off; doing countless Meet The Brewer nights all over the country, brewing to capacity, and even introducing a couple of new beers in Rock Star and Bearded Lady. But that Yorkshire grit and no-nonsense approach is still there. No fuss – just taste – and lots of it.
Buxton pull a similar ‘one foot in each camp’ trick but go even further. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a brewery combine fairly hop-forward, or ‘big’ beers such as Axe Edge or Tsar, and yet appeal to the average ‘pub-bound’ drinker. Buxton do this by again turning down the fuss, and just brewing tasty, tasty beer. People that know me know that I’m a Pale Ale freak, and when Moor Top emerged – just a single-hopped, simple Pale Ale – it blew me away (See also Hawkshead’s superlative Windermere Pale and NZPA). You think you’ve seen it all from a style, and then another taste comes along that make you realise that the genre is not dead. Buxton are a brewer for all camps, and one that’s already been popping up on many ‘best of’ lists already.
Finally, I have to mention RedWillow. I know how hard Toby works, and trust me, the guy is a machine. A tired, Oyster-shucking machine – but a machine nontheless. Red Willow flip the previous statements made about Buxton and MR around; simple-sounding and looking beers that reveal hidden depths and innovation when tasted. Fathomless – turns out to be an authentic Oyster Stout. Ageless – turns out to be one of the most aromatic, juicy-tropical-fruit bombs tasted all year. The awards have slowly, slowly begun to trickle in for the Macclesfield brewer, and I’m sure 2012 will only result in a bigger award cabinet being needed.
Beers of the Year
Ok. As I said above, I can’t pick one, really. Here are the ones (in no particular order) that I really enjoyed, from reasons such as taste, to simply being the right beer at the right time. If your beer is on here, then thank you for brewing such Good Stuff.
York Micklegate Porter – Magic Rock Human Cannonball, High Wire & Rapture – Maui Big Swell IPA – Rooster’s Iron Man IPA – Buxton Moor Top – Buxton Axe Edge – 8 Wired IRA – RedWillow Ageless – Sierra Nevada Juniper Black – Brodie’s Hackney Red – Rooster’s Baby Faced Assassin – Oakham Citra & Inferno – Brewdog Bramling Cross IPA – Revolutions Night Porter & Propaganda – Hawkshead NZPA & Windermere Pale – Durham Magic IPA (Bombay 106) – Odell Mycernary – Redemption Big Chief – SummerWine Rouge-Hop – Marble Summer – Kirkstall Three Swords Pale – Raw Pacific Ghost IPA – Ilkley Smoked Witch – Cropton Yorkshire Warrior – Camden Helles – Hardknott Light Cascade – Black Isle Porter – Stroud Amber Ale – De Molen Op & Top – Five Towns Schneider V2 – Birrificio Italiano Tipopils – Williams Bros Joker IPA – Great Northern Wheat IPA – Theakston’s Lightfoot … and the list goes on….
Of course, I’ll have missed some out. It’s impossible not to. If your beer has ended up on this blog, however, then it’s The Good Stuff, rest assured.
I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank Mark and Andy for organising the year’s Twissups, and Luke Downing at Dough Bistro and Nick and Vickie at Homage to Fromage for opening their businesses and kitchens to the possibilities of Food and Beer. Dean Pugh at Mr Foley’s remains a constant source of info and orchestrator of some excellent bottle-swap nights (and Wing nights, and NFL nights!), and IPA Day was a great (and quite drunk) event. We are very lucky indeed. Of course, all the staff at BeerRitz have been stars, as always. We are lucky to have such a place in Leeds (and we almost didn’t for a while; thanks again, Zak!)
Blogs? Well, there’s been some great blogs starting up or coming into their own in 2011. For me, Ghost Drinker and Beersay deserve special mentions, as they bring an enthusiasm and exuberance about beer onto the screen that is sometimes sorely missed from blogs. On the other side of the coin, ATJ’s and Zak’s blogs always provide food for thought from inside the industry and I’m glad they’re still churning out quality content after all these years. I appreciate how hard it can be to blog these days when juggling (a number) of jobs and when I see others doing it, it just spurs me on to quit moaning and get writing.
Finally, I’d just like to thank everyone that reads TGS, and that I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a few beers with over the year. You’re a good bunch, and despite the bickering (which makes it interesting, let’s face it) I’m happy to be part of such a vibrant, varied and passionate community. Hopefully, 2012 will be an interesting year for me, and I hope to be able to contribute to UK Brewing in a way that I know many of you do, day in, day out.
To carry on with the Halloween season-theme, I thought I’d join the ranks of bloggers at making a Pumpkin Pie this weekend. I’d never made one before – and it is slightly more involved, baking-wise – but if you’re into Autumnal flavour (spices, richness, cosy comfort food) then it’s one to attempt. The Streusel-crumb topping is something I saw whilst researching the recipe, and I’m glad I added it – the sweet, candied crunch it provides really rounds the Pumpkin filling off nicely.
Firstly, you need to roast your Pumpkin. Get any size you want – but a decent one. If you can only get small ones, get a couple – after all, it’s better to have too much than not enough. Half the Pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and stringy insides, then roast, face down, on a baking tray in an oven at about 180c. When soft (depends entirely on the size – about 30-50 minutes, I’d say), remove, drain the excess water you’ll get, then scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash it up and leave to cool.
Now you need to make your sweet pastry. Sift 140g of Plain Flour and 1/4 tsp of Baking Powder together in a bowl. Add (and you can put as much or as little as you want here, but I recommend a heavy couple of pinches) of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Ginger – all powdered, of course. Add a little Salt, and 50g of Caster Sugar. Finally, add 50g of diced, cold unsalted Butter. Rub it together with your fingertips and soon you’ll have breadcrumbs. Make a well in the middle, add one beaten Egg, and mix until it becomes a stiff Dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface and line a greased baking tin with it. Crimp up the edges, then cover with cling film and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden.
Now to finish off the filling. To the Pumpkin mash, add one whole tin (200ml – ish) of Condensed Milk, a dash of Vanilla Essence, more Cinnamon and Ginger, a pinch of Salt, 1tbsp of Demerara Sugar, and mix up. When the mixture is cool (it should be by now anyway) add two beaten Eggs.
All you need to then is pour the mixture (you’ll hopefully have more than you need) into the pastry case. Bake at 220c for 15 minutes.
Whilst the first stage of baking is happening, make the Streusel topping by putting 2 tbsp of Plain Flour in a bowl, and adding 4tbsp of Demerara Sugar, 1tsp of Cinnamon, a chunk of cold, unlsalted butter (about 5g) and rubbing together to make a crumb like you did with the pastry. Add 60g each of chopped Walnuts and Pecans and mix in – there you go.
Take the pie out, add the topping, and bake at 180g for another 30-35 minutes or so. It’s done when you put a skewer into the centre of the pie and it comes out clean.
Well, there you go. It’s a decent couple of hours all together in the kitchen; but hey – crack open a beer, put some music on and you’re laughing. Beer-wise, I didn’t drink any whilst this was being ‘tested’ whilst warm – but yesterday I had a slice with an old bottle of Mikkeller’s Jackie Brown (6%abv) and it was lush – the coffee-focused finish of the beer just took some of the sweetness away from the Pie in a really balanced way. I’d certainly recommend going for lighter, but dryer, darker beers rather than heavy, sweet ones – the Pie is sweet, spicy and creamy and you don’t want to over-do that. SummerWine’s Barista, Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch, Kernel’s Porter, Hardknott’s Aether Blaec and Dark Star Espresso are all beers which immediately spring to mind.
And of course – you can also give this a go with Sweet Potato if you have no Pumpkins!