Tyne Bank’s beers have popped up in Booth’s recently, alongside new listings for the always excellent Harbour and Camden, who are settling nicely into the ‘reliable’ slot in the beer shelves. Notably, this doesn’t come long off the back of a rebrand for the Newcastle-based brewery, who, for me, possess that rare quality of, well, quality. there’s a lot to be said for consistency of quality these days – in fact, there’s there’s been a lot of noise recently about how it must be the cornerstone of a brewing business – and Tyne Bank’s beers have never been less than excellent every time I’ve tried them.
Silver Dollar (4.9% abv) takes me back to drinking it at Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House. When it first appeared, the barman at the time raved about it’s sheer ‘drinkabililty’; pints were duly ordered and sunk with the ease at which they’d been suggested. Now, it’s a bit of a poster boy for where my tastes lie right now; I’m craving body these days – searching for beer (particularly pale ale) with backbone.
Centennial and Amarillo are a hop combination you can’t go far wrong with ‘s , but Silver Dollar’s strength is, well, it’s strength of flavour – rugged, crunchy malt that even brings a little gingery cake – spice to proceedings. Combine that with a briskly citrus finish and round, sweetly fruity aroma and you’ve got a winner that fans of other ‘big pale ales‘ such as Bristol Beer Factory’s Independence, Salopian’s Darwin’s Origin and Oakham’s Scarlet Macaw should find comfort in.
That ginger-biscuit snap in the heart of the beer is evident again in Moteuka (4% abv), the palest beer of the trio. Again, it serves to bring sweetness and smoothness to what could have been too dry a pale ale, too rasping to be truly thirst-quenching. As you’ve guessed, it’s a showcase for Moteuka hops; all lime sherbert in the aroma and lifting the finish a little. Bittersweet rather than dry, it’s another beer you could happily sink all afternoon.
Now, who doesn’t like the way the word ‘Cherry Stout’ sounds? What a comforting, attractive pairing of words. Somewhat of a cult favourite on cask, my bottle of Cherry Stout (5.2% abv) certainly didn’t give too much away on the rather muted aroma: just a roasted, toasted malt note underpinned with a little liquorice. Luckily, I needn’t have worried about the flavour – deep within those black northeastern depths swum woody, perfumed flavours that brought a smile to the lips.
Those fruity notes balanced sweet and sour, rich and tart, with a floral note – not unlike Parma Violet, to my taste – but perfectly balanced with the stout. Begging to be poured alongside roast duck or beef, Cherry Stout is an endlessly interesting, rewarding beer that will give Stout freaks something to ponder.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it was about time Rooster’s got in on the bottling scene. With nothing left to prove in the cask world, it seemed like it was impossible to talk about Rooster’s in the last few years without ending the conversation with the phrase ‘I wish they’d bottle, though…’. Clearly, we want to go out and drink beer, but these days it’s vitally important to get your beers to drinkers who want to stay at home too.
The wait is over, and I have to say that it’s worth it. Not only do Rooster’s bottles look great, but the condition of the first set of beers to be released is good, too. Tom and Ol Fozard have gone with a straight light/dark/strong lineup in Yankee, Londinium (see previous review) and the lesser-known Fort Smith, and for those wanting a primer in where Rooster’s are heading at the moment, it’s a good call.
First up, Yankee. You know what you’re going to get when you pop the cap, and lord knows I’ve sunk enough pints of Yankee (4.3% abv) over the years to practically taste it before it’s poured. Rooster’s marker in the sand, there’s grassy, fresh hop bitterness played off against a softly biscuity malt backdrop, and a long, clean finish. A familiar taste, and one that’s pleasing beyond words. To bottle without including Yankee would have been unthinkable, I would imagine.
Fort Smith – named after the town where Rooster Cogburn lived – is one I’m less familiar with having only tried on cask a couple of times, but based on this outing it’s a beer I need to cosy up to more often. 5.5% abv, amber in colour and again, in excellent condition, there’s an explosion of Mango and Grapefruit on the nose, a smooth, sweet body and a lingering, rising bitterness at the end of the sip which tells you that it’s a loud, proud IPA that manages to straddle both sides of the Atlantic. Wonderfully balanced, Fort Smith is a powerhouse of flavour wrapped up in a very respectable abv.
So, overall, welcome home, Rooster’s. Now, can we have Wild Mule next? It’ll be Summer, soon. Rooster’s bottles are available at Beer Paradise. You can also read Bibulous Me’s excellent review of the bottles (with the same plea for Wild Mule!) here.
In a tenuous link to the last post, I tasted Harbour’s collaboration with Arbor (that gets confusing after a while…), 1B. Clocking in at 7.4% abv, it’s not one to be trifled with. The label proclaiming it to be a Belgian Brown Ale, conceived during Arbor’s ‘Freestyle Fridays’, where essentially they take a day off and brew what they want.
More on that later. 1B is slightly Dubbel-esque inasmuch as it’s big, brown and boozy – although the formula has been distilled down to the bare bones of the style. There’s brown sugar, raisin and some banana on the nose, and that overall profile carries onto the taste – which is smooth, sweet and rich. Some alcohol heat makes an appearance at the end, which brings the abv into sharp relief -but overall it’s a fun, boozy beer. Seek it out if that’s your thing but be quick.
Bristol-based Arbor have been brewing since 2007 by all accounts, but I was only made aware of them early last year; their quirky range of largely single-hopped beers recalling a southern Mallinson’s to my Yorkshire eyes. They seem to work with what’s available and, the occasional underconditioned bottle aside, make good, solid beer with excellent hop presence. Looking back , they’ve collaborated with other local breweries and generally had fun.
Given the variance that the range has there’s almost no point now – the beers simply won’t be around. Aramis, Full of Beans (A smoky, smooth dark mild with coffee), Brigadier Bitter and Olympic – themed Black IPA 2012 were all guzzled with varying results, but Yakima Valley IPA was wonderful – and the one I’ve picked up every time I’ve seen it since. Sweet, amber and full of boiled-sweet body and a wonderfully floral/grapefruity nose makes it incredibly familiar and satisfying. If you’re going to choose one Arbor Ale to seek out, make it this one.
Arbor are currently undergoing a rebrand, and they are certainly one UK brewery that I think will come out on the other side of that stronger for the effort. The potential is there; and with a business (which is what a brewery is, let’s not forget) that’s half the battle. One to monitor.
To say I’d been looking forward to tasting these beers is somewhat of an understatement. I hadn’t been able to get my hands on them until recently (kindly given to me by a good friend – you know who you are!) and, frankly, I couldn’t wait to get them cracked open. The fact it’s Christmas sort of made them more special, a little more seasonal; beers to savour during the recent colder nights.
If you don’t know the back-story, you can get more info on the link below. When a brewery like Fuller’s – one of the countries most revered breweries – open their recipe vault, you sit up and listen. The Past Masters range, now widely available, is more than worthy of your attention.
Double Stout (7.4%abv) sports a much more restrained aroma than I was expecting; rather than being a noseful of smoke and coffee, there’s waves of deep, rich, biscuity malt, with some unmistakable alcohol heat pushing it forward. The beer itself is smooth, with a head that disappears quickly, with a jammy, plummy note that appears first. When this disappears, you’re left a fairly complex aftertaste of roasted malt, a little smoke, and a hint of bitter chocolate. The taste is rounded, smooth and sweet, and unmistakably silky. It’s light, super-drinkable and damn tasty.
XX Strong Ale (7.5%abv) pours a deep amber and again confounds the expectation of something thick, strong and rich. It’s lively, vibrant and bursting with marmalade-orange, candied fruit and bitter citrus peel flavours, all wrapped up in that familiar warmth. There’s muscovado sugar notes in the body, backing up all that fruitiness with rounded sweetness, and the end result is a strong ale that’s supremely drinkable. Too drinkable, some might say! Like the Stout, it disappears from the palate as quickly as it arrives, making for a beer too moreish for it’s own good.
Both beers have been brewed with a deft, effortlessly stylish hand, and I can’t fault either of them. If you see them about, don’t miss out. It’s testament to British Brewing that our older breweries – the bedrock on which our vibrant brewing heritage is built upon – have such an Aladdin’s cave of recipes to pull upon and give us a taste of beers from the past.
Well, they’ve finally done it. Summer Wine Brewery have poured their lush beers into bottles. Those of you who know James and Andy personally (and that’s probably most of you; they do like to get around!) know how much of a trial this has been for them. As brewers – and people – they don’t like to compromise in any way, and their bottling regime reflects that. They’ve done it all themselves, and are selling it themselves via their spankingly shiny new online shop. Kudos is certainly deserved; these bottles are in excellent condition; just like they’ve put the empty vessel under the tap and poured.
So, without further ado, let’s get onto what I did when I got Rouge-Hop (5%abv) into the kitchen. Rouge regularly battles Diablo for the title of my favourite SWB beer. It’s a pleasure – big, sweet and hoppy. For those that haven’t tried it, it’s a deep mahogany-red hued beer, with a tan head and an aroma of Lychee, tropical fruit and sweet biscuity malt. That firm maltiness carries through the to first gulp, but the beer then ratchets up the bitterness, making the finish grassy, green and ever-so-slightly dry, with just a hint of coffee lingering. It’s a surprisingly assertive end to what you think is going to be a sugar-fest, but that just balances everything out. And of course, when I think of Red, hoppy ales – just as Amber Lager – I think of Pizza.
Making your own Pizza is a doddle, and stuffing the crust with cheese is a piece of cake too (well, dough).
There’s a bit of forward thinking needed with the sauce. Make it a day before for really good depth of flavour. Take one tin of chopped tomatoes, and simmer gently in a pan with a good dollop of Olive Oil, a shallot, and four (yes, four) big cloves of garlic. Using a hand-blender, pulse it a few times to turn it smooth, and then season with a little Salt, a good spoonful of Brown Sugar, Black Pepper, Chopped Oregano and Basil, and lashings of Chipotle Tabasco Sauce. If you’ve not discovered this yet, you’re in for a treat; that trademark sharp/sweet tabasco bite is rounded off with a deep, woody smokiness. It’s perfect for sauces like this. I don’t often name brands, but I’ll make the exception here. Simmer for a little longer on a low heat with a squirt of Pureed Tomato, and leave.
As for the dough, all you need to do is take 200g of Strong Plain Flour, a teaspoon of easy-blend yeast, about 8fl oz of lukewarm water, and a pinch of salt and sugar. Simply mix the dry ingredients and add the water slowly until a dough is formed. Knead and then rest the dough, covering it with a teatowel. After a couple of hours, it will have risen, so ‘knock it back’ and knead it lightly again. Leave to rest for another 30 minutes. After that, the dough is done – you just need to get however much you need and roll out.
When ready to go, lightly fry your sliced chicken breast and seal them up – they’ll cook again in the oven.
Pre-heat the oven to 220c, and roll out your dough onto a greased baking tray, the edges flowing over the side. Lay a ring of Mozzarella cheese around the edges and then fold back. Be as rough as you like; you ain’t gonna win any awards for daintyness with this pizza.
Spread your sauce on the base, lay your chicken on top and top that lot off with more Mozzarella and another cheese of your choice. Blue cheese works well, as does more smoked cheeses; but in this case I just used strong cheddar. It just gives a bit of ‘something else’ to the topping.
Bake until golden, and leave to cool before slicing up and sharing with someone and a cool bottle of Rouge-Hop. If you find that the Mozzarella starts to get a little ‘watery’ on top, just switch to grill for five minutes or so and bake the top a little more. Enjoy!
Check out Summer Wine’s Blog on the Blogroll to get your mitts on some of their beers.