Tag: Beer and food
What a great opportunity to take stock. What a smart use of social media.
Two tweeters decided it might be a nice idea to get the online beer community to have a global celebration of the craft beer world’s favourite beer style, and the day was set for today, 4th August.
As far as I can tell there is no central organisational structure, no big budget or organisation, and yet it’s an idea that has caught the imaginations of beer lovers and gone global.
So what are we supposed to do? What actually happens? That’s up to you. It’s up to breweries, pubs and drinkers to organise tastings, drinking, events, whatever really. A quick google search shows that many people across the planet have taken up the challenge.
Why IPA? It’s a perfect meme for every aspect of beer appreciation. It’s a definable style – even though that definition mutates continually over time. It has a long, deeply chronicled history – and that history has given birth to more myths, mythbusting, speculation, misinterpretation and debate than anything else in beer. It’s a perfect showcase for hops – the facet of beer that craft drinkers get most excited about. And it’s the style that caught the imagination of the US craft beer movement, that symbolises it. It’s the constant across the many styles craft brewers brew, a shop window for their craft. The union of a traditional old-style IPA recipe and the tropical orchard of flavours and aromas bestowed by New World hops lit a fire in craft brewing that’s now burning world over.
For me, my first taste of an American IPA was the equivalent of my first taste of a real curry: it was like tasting in colour for the first time, as if everything I’d tasted before was black and white. From there it became an obsession that would profoundly change my life. In 2007 I embarked on a mission to recreate IPA’s historic voyage from Burton to India around the Cape of Good Hope for the first time since 1869. My attempt to recreate the effects of the journey was partially successful, as was my attempt to write the most thorough, detailed history of IPA to date. Neither of these partial successes has stopped the arguments, the mythbuilding and busting, the speculation, and that’s entirely how it should be.
The resulting book, Hops & Glory, moved me up a big notch in my career, earned me the Beer Writer of the Year gong, and to date represents the best writing I can do. I can never look at IPA the same way again.
Tonight, my contribution to the celebrations is that I’ll be tweeting from a 6-course IPA day feast at the Dean Swift, London SE1. It’s a lovely little pub run by passionate, knowledgable people, and they’ve pulled together what looks to be an amazing menu, which I’m not allowed to share. If you want to know how that goes, follow @PeteBrownBeer on Twitter from 7pm UK time.
And raise a glass to the world’s most talked about beer style, and the people who have harnessed the power of social media to celebrate it in such a great way.
I promise I will go back ranting and/or trying to be funny after this post.
To the Thatchers Arms, Essex, a pub recently taken over by young Mitchel Adams, an ambitious publican who wants to create a destination food and drink pub. Via a combination of doing his job very well and using social media to promote the place, he’s quickly succeeding in his aim. The Thatchers has already been named CAMRA’s Pub of the Year in the region.
Beetroot Risotto with a Spinach & Parmesan Pesto
Beer: Adnams ‘The Bitter’ Cask 3.7%
Wine: 2006 Chardonnay, Forrest Estate, Marlborough
The two misunderstood, much-maligned pariahs of their respective worlds. No, not Adnams and Forrest specifically, but brown bitter and chardonnay; the former often persecuted in craft beer circles for being dull, boring and characterless, the latter the tart of wine, going anywhere with anyone, so much so that it had a fictional WAG named after it. Can either cover themselves in glory?
Well, as individual drinks, each is impressive – a lovely subtle, fresh, herby hop balanced perfectly with liquid Twix, versus a sharp fruitiness with just enough, and not too much, buttery backbone.
With the risotto… hmm. The chardonnay’s acidity stomps all over it, annihilating the food’s flavour. The beer looks up hopefully, but fails to make any impression at all. For me it’s a goalless draw, each side shooting wide. But others enjoy the match, and it splits the crowd down the middle with a narrow beer victory.
Aggregate scores out of five:
Wine 3.0 vs Beer 3.2
Mackerel & Horseradish Fishcake
Beer: Adnams ‘American IPA’ Cask 4.8%
Wine: 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, John Forrest Collection, Marlborough
I always compare the aromas of American hops to those of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc – and here they are, head to head. I’m not sure the cocktail of Cascade, Amarillo, Chinook and Centennial is done full justice by being served on cask. American hops can become brutish thugs in cask beer. Sometimes their power and violence can be breathtaking, but more often it can just be a bit nasty. Carbonation elevates them, refines them, has them swapping studded leather jackets for Thomas Pink shirts and cravats.
But Fergus argues that there’s a real breadth and depth of flavour here. He tells us there’s a lot of bitterness, so he’s whacked in a lot of malt for balance.
Sam talks about terroir. It’s a wonderfully evocative advert for going to New Zealand. When he describes the smell from the wet stones by the river after rainfall as being the aroma of the wine, I think he has us seduced. Again, both are excellent drinks on their own.
Once again, the wine charges in and smashes the place up. This is my favourite wine style in the world. I often have it with fish, but here the acidity once again just creates noise. The beer fares a little better – there’s the beginnings of a herby matching of flavours. But I’m not blown away. A narrow beer victory for me, and a total split in the room.
Wine 3.5 vs Beer 3.5
I’m obviously here as a beer fan. I want the beer to win. But on the basis of these two so far, I’m starting to wonder: is wine actually capable of matching with food at all? I’m so accustomed to looking for complementary flavours, I’m shocked by the boorish display of acidity here, too vulgar for an effective contrast. I adore these wines on their own, and resolve to stock up on them as soon as I can. But they need much bigger food than this to go with them. Even then, I’m not sure they would work. Is food and wine matching a myth?
And then, everything changes.
Venison & Binham Blue Cheese Suet Pudding
(V) Mushroom & Blue Cheese Vegetarian Suet Pudding
Beer: Adnams ‘Oyster Stout’ Cask 4.3%
Wine: 2005 Cab Sauvignon/Merlot/Malbec, Cornerstone, Newton Forrest Estate, Hawkes Bay
The oyster stout is a good stout. It’s a good beer. As expected, it’s full of coffee and dark chocolate and looks to all the world like a confident contender. Matching it with a venison pie is a no-brainer, a routine operation. It goes in, gets the job done, comes out again.
And then I nose the wine.
I first started getting into wine late in my university career. A year or two after the Iron Curtain came down, Hungarian and Bulgarian Carbernet Sauvignons began appearing in the supermarket for £1.99 a bottle. I mean, who would want to drink East European wine? Well, students for one. Initially buying it because it was even cheaper than Liebfraumilch, after the first bottle we drank little else thanks to its concentration of spiced Ribena blackberries on liquid velvet. These bottles quickly went up to £2.99, then £3.99… by the time we graduated they were £7.99, beyond our reach. And by the time I could afford them again, they just didn’t taste the same. Either my palate had improved massively, or the wines had been dumbed down.
Here, Cornerstone reveals itself my first winey love, back from the dead, all aniseed, pepper and red berry compote. It swaggers in and sits down heavily next to the Venison and Binham Blue Cheese Suet Pudding, invading its personal space. No slouch itself in the flavour department, the pudding looks timid, nervous. “You and me. We’re friends, right?” growls the wine. The food meekly agrees. It’s a match, but only because the food knows it would get knocked about the room and bounced off the walls it if disagreed.
The beer tries a friendlier approach: a winning smile, some supportive overtures, a technically competent and absolutely complete matching of various elements of flavour.
And yet, bizarrely, for the first time the room overwhelmingly prefers the beer. The rest of this audience is obviously much nicer than me.
Wine 3.6 vs Beer 4.2
Beer: Adnams ‘Tally Ho’ Bottle 7.0%
Wine: 2006 Botrytised Riesling, Forrest Estate, Marlborough
Our Botrytised Riesling is a kind of wine equivalent to lambic beers, both in how Sam describes its production, and in the effect it has on my palate.
It smells of petrol. But not in a bad way – I like the smell of petrol.
It tastes like cough syrup. But not in a bad way – I like the taste of cough syrup.
Tally Ho is strong and dry with a not unpleasant hint of oxidisation that makes it come across as venerable and authoritative. Initially I think it lacks the sweetness I want from a dessert beer, and wish it was a barley wine instead.
It’s OK with the tart, competent, but no more than that. But then I take a spoonful of the tart together with its accompanying vanilla cream, and it’s like that bit in musicals where the back wall falls away to reveal the set for a big show tune. New flavours walk into shot, smiling, like carol singers during the finale of a Val Doonican Christmas Special. Chocolate, vanilla and caramel all sing harmonies, and beer, wine and cream become one.
The wine is way too phenolic, with or without the cream. It walks into the analogy in the above paragraph banging a drum and playing a tuneless harmonica until everyone stares at it coldly, willing it to leave.
Again, opinion is divided elsewhere – but a well-deserved victory for the beer overall.
Wine 3.2 vs Beer 3.4
OK, so on my palate I’m looking at one nil-nil draw, one beer victory by default, one bruising wine triumph and one graceful beer victory. I think the results don’t reflect how close the play has been and things could still go either way. But oh dear – here comes the cheese.
And we all know about beer and cheese.
Mrs Temple’s Alpine, Suffolk Gold
Beer: Adnams ‘Broadside’ Bottle 6.3% & Adnams ‘Innovation’ Bottle 6.7%
Wine: 2009 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Forrest, Marlborough
Sam stands up to introduce his late harvest sauvignon blanc with a dead look in his eyes. He knows he’s already lost. It’s almost unfair to make him compete in this round, and he knows it. The best I can say is that if he’d deployed this wine back there at the treacle tart’s Christmas party, that result could well have gone the other way. It’s a great wine with an unexpected flavour dimension. It’s got interesting things to talk about.
But when the cheese comes out, it falls apart, makes its excuses, gets its coat and leaves quickly.
Maybe we could accuse Fergus of cheating by bringing a tag team, especially when its these two. But either one wipes the floor on its own. Broadside with the Suffolk Gold is magisterial. Innovation with Mrs Temple’s Alpine is simply perfect.
Wine 2.2 vs Beer 3.9
I’ve learned a lot. And as I put my notebook away and Fergus celebrates his victory by producing some very special Adnams’ beers that are possibly older than he is, Sam, he and I discuss the action. In the room it’s 4-0 to beer with one draw – and this was not a room full of beer geeks, but a balanced audience of foodies who, if anything, might be expected to go with the wine. I’m happy because beer is the winner. But I did emphatically prefer the wine in one course, so my palate’s conscience is clear.
It’s dangerous to attempt to draw conclusions from one New World winemaker going up against one Suffolk brewer, but the general trend tonight has been that wine on the whole has been aggressive, thuggish and brutish. Even its victory on my palate was down to its power and intimidation, and this was emphatically the reason for its defeats. It’s the beer that has demonstrated subtlety, sophistication and style, and this is arguably the reverse of the popular image of the two drinks. Beer is supposed to be a bit thick and dumb, wine intelligent and stylish. Across a menu of diverse flavours, the positions have been reversed, and I wonder if this is true in a broader sense.
But maybe not – maybe a match between New Zealand wines and US beers, or British beers and French wines, would have seen the contenders belonging to the same class, and given a more balanced result.
No matter – It was great fun, I’ve made new friends in both beer and wine, and every drink was excellent in its own right.
Thanks Fergus, thanks Sam, and thanks Mitch and everyone else. From my hazy recollection of aged beers and bar billiards, I think the night got even better after the dishes were cleared away.
(Catch-up post: this has been on my to do list for almost two months!)
|There’s a good reason why portlier blokes should be wary of having their photos taken with slim, attractive women. I actually look about twice as big here as I do in real life.
It was one of the best events I’ve been involved with. Afterwards, Dominique said, “Hardy’s beer dinner was a great success! Pete’s talk and tutored tasting was the perfect combination of information and entertaining anecdotes. Our wine drinking regulars surprised themselves at how well the beer complemented the food. Particular highlights for us were The Kernel Pale Ale Centennial with the delicious Barbecued Ribs (recipe taken from Pete’s recommended BBQ bible) and the Duchesse de Bourgogne, a slightly sour red Belgian beer with Stilton. We are now trying to finalise a new interesting beer list and it’s a tough choice as my mind and palate have been opened to this vast, exciting new world. We are also thinking of offering a Christmas menu with beer matching.”
Since the dinner, the beer list has evolved and expanded. I often say you can’t tell people about beer and food, you have to show them. Hardy’s is certainly showing them now. If you’re ever in London, check them out.
And thanks once again to Niki ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’ Segnit for making that auspicious first meeting happen.
OK while the weather holds, this is too good not to share.
A couple of people picked up on the reference to beer brined chicken in my Garrett Oliver post. Now your barbecue has seen some sausage and burger action, it’s time to raise it to the next level.
The following recipe is adapted from this book, which has changed my life:
It looks like a novelty book. It looks like it should be rubbish. But it contains secrets, such joyful secrets.
The problem with bbq food is that it gets burnt and dry. Now this might be common knowledge in the States, where barbecuing gets taken much more seriously, but we tend not to know it over here because bbq weather is so rare – the secret to moist, flavoursome barbecue meet is brining. Marinade the meat in a herby, spicy solution with lots of salt and brown sugar, which tenderises and keeps it moist.
If you just did that, it would be pretty good. But you can go further – once your meat is marinaded, about half an hour before putting it on the grill, just as the coals are flaming and you’re waiting for them burn down into embers, dry off your chicken/lamb/pork/beef and coat it in a salty, sugary rub. This caramelises very quickly, giving you a tasty burnt layer on the outside but protecting the meat inside and locking in the moisture and flavour.
With these principles you can’t go wrong. The following recipe is the one form the book that I’ve cooked six times in the last few weeks, but with the principle established, you can mess around with different seasonings.
First you do the brine:
Half cup of firmly packed brown sugar
Half cup sea salt
1 cup hot water
1 tsp chopped/grated lemon zest
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 bottles beer – I think anything works, but something quite fruity and mid-brown has worked best for me.
Dissolve the sugar and salt in the water, then add everything else. Marinade the chicken for as long as you can – four or five hours is perfect.
Then you’ve got the rub:
2tsp fennel seeds (it says ground but I use them whole)
Pinch of chilli flakes to taste
2 tsp chopped lemon zest
1 tsp brown sugar
3 tsp salt
Drain the marinade off the chicken, coat in the rub, stick it on the barbie! Simple.
ROSARY GOATS CHEESE WITH BROOKLYN SORACHI ACE
BRILLAT SAVARIN WITH BROOKLYN LOCAL 1
HEREFORD HOP WITH BROOKLYN LAGER
OSSAU IRATY WITH BROOKLYN BROWN ALE
SOME OTHER CHEESE WITH BROOKLYN DARK MATTER
MONTGOMERY’S CHEDDAR WITH BROOKLYN EAST INDIA PALE ALE
COLSTON-BASSET STILTON WITH BROOKLYN CHOCOLATE STOUT
After having the naked audacity yesterday to suggest that a large regional brewer doing something that improves beer quality might actually be a Good Thing for beer drinkers, I’ve decided to completely blow any remaining credibility I might have with the miserable indie kid wing of the beer fraternity and write a post in praise of Guinness.
Beer Nut – I’m not necessarily calling you a miserable indie kid but I know how you feel on this particular issue. It might be best if you just look away now.
I like Guinness. Sorry, but I do. I like it as a brand – it’s stuck to its guns with mould-breaking, innovative creative advertising for eighty years now – and I occasionally like it as a beer. If there was a better porter or stout on the bar, of course I would choose to drink that instead. But the point is, in 99 out of 100 pubs, there isn’t a better porter or stout on the bar. There’s no porter or stout at all. Apart from Guinness. In fact when you think about it, the fact that Guinness – a dark, bitter stout – is as ubiquitous as it is in a world dominated by pale, tasteless imitation pilsners, it is a remarkable achievement. You might be about to comment that Guinness has been dumbed down and isn’t a patch on what it used to be. I’m not in a position to disagree with you. You might also be about to comment that Guinness isn’t a ‘real’ stout, that it’s way too bland or even that it actually tastes of nothing at all. There, I would have to disagree. Guinness is a big brand, one of the few beers that can truly claim to have a global presence. And the main reason it’s not even bigger? Survey after survey shows that the vast majority of beer drinkers find it too bitter, too challenging, too full-bodied. If Guinness were to reformulate to something as robust as the craft-brewed porters we all know and love, it would kill the brand stone dead. It might not be challenging to you, but it is to 99% of drinkers who ever come across it. And still it survives. The success of Guinness should actually give us hop that there are enough people who like challenging beer to make brewing something a bit more challenging worthwhile. If Guinness hadn’t kept the dark flame alive when porter and stout were otherwise extinct globally, would those styles have made the triumphant comeback that’s happened over the last ten years? And there’s one other thing. It’s St Patrick’s Day. If you really, truly believe that Guinness is shit, then go to a pub in Galway tonight and tell the people drinking there that they have crap taste in beer and don’t know anything about drinking. Good luck with that. I’ll be in the Auld Shillelagh in Stokie tonight, having a few pints, otherwise I’d come with you and help try to find your teeth on the floor of the pub. Guinness probably holds the world record (ironic that!) for number of books written about a single beer brand. Today there’s a new one out – Guinness ®: An Official Celebration of 250 Remarkable Year, from Octopus publishing. I don’t know if it’s any good or not, but it does have some recipes in it, and the publishers asked me if I’d put one up ande give the book a plug, so I am, because it’s Paddy’s day and I. Like. Guinness. So here’s one for Iced Chocolate, Guinness and orange cake. Slainte! This sumptuous cake is perfect for a special occasion. The recipe may seem a little involved, but it’s easy to accomplish if tackled stage by stage. Preparation time 45 minutes Cooking time 1 hourServes 8 2 large oranges250 g (8 oz) caster sugar175 g (6 oz) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing150 g (5 oz) self-raising flour25 g (1 oz) cocoa powder2 teaspoons baking powder3 free-range eggs, beaten25 g (1 oz) ground almonds5 tablespoons draught Guinness 150 ml (¼ pint) double cream Icing20 g (¾ oz) unsalted butter50 g (2 oz) caster sugar3 tablespoons draught Guinness 100 g (3½ oz) plain dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped step 1 Peel one orange. Finely grate the zest of the other orange and set aside. Using a sharp knife, pare away the pith from both oranges. Cut the oranges into 5 mm (¼ inch) slices. Put them in a small saucepan and just cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 50 g (2 oz) of the sugar and continue to simmer until all the liquid has boiled away, watching carefully to ensure that the oranges don’t burn. Leave to cool.step 2 Beat together the butter and the remaining sugar for the cake in a large bowl until very pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder, then beat into the butter mixture alternately with the eggs. Add the ground almonds, reserved grated orange zest and Guinness and beat for 3–4 minutes until you have a soft dropping consistency.step 3 Grease and line the base and sides of 2 x 20 cm (8 inch) round cake tins, then divide the cake mixture equally between the tins, smoothing the surface. Bake the cakes in a preheated oven, 190°C (375°F), Gas Mark 5, for 25 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before carefully turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.step 4 Whip the cream in a bowl until soft peaks form, then spread over one of the cakes. Arrange the cooled orange pieces over the cream and carefully place the other cake on top.step 5 To make the icing, put the butter, sugar and Guinness in a small saucepan. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Leave to soften, then beat gently with a wooden spoon. Leave to cool and thicken. While still warm but not too runny, pour the icing over the cake and use the back of a spoon or a palette knife to spread it evenly.
Back in September I was invited to a beer and food matching dinner at Simpsons restaurant in Birmingham by Purity Brewing. It was an intimate gathering for twenty in a private dining room with chandeliers and silver floral wallpaper.