Tag: Harviestoun

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July Video Blog: Scotland!

I bloody love Scotland, me.  I lived there for five years while at university, getting a degree and booking bands in the students’ union in St Andrews, going to buy records and get drunk in Edinburgh, going to chill out in the stunning beauty of the Trossachs.

This month I got to reminisce about all this as we attempted to cover the brewing scene of an entire country in about twenty minutes.


Because this particular series of video blogs is all about cask ale, and from an admittedly low base, cask ale is growing in Scotland at about 30% year on year.  When I was at uni there were three types of beer, all from Tennent’s, all a bit tasteless and horrible, apart from the ones that tasted of burnt sugar and were horrible.  So bad was Scottish beer I switched from being a cask ale drinker to a standard lager drinker.  It took me ten years to recover.

It is very, very different now.  Brew Dog, who we don’t visit here (their Edinburgh bar is all keg, and the man who pays the vlog bills wants to focus on cask) is merely the most visible of Scottish brewers who are currently displaying extraordinary levels of invention and enthusiasm.

In the Guildford Arms in the centre of Edinburgh I find one of my old favourites.  Then we go to Caledonian, where Peter looks round one of the most stunning traditional breweries you will ever see.  Many in Scotland are unhappy about the takeover of Caledonian by Scottish & Newcastle, and more recently Heineken. Not without justification, there was a feeling that things would be bastardised and cheapened.  But I visited before Heineken took over, and now going back again, the unique coppers, the hop room full of whole leaf hops, the open fermenters, the range of beers, are all unchanged.  The only real difference is a massive commitment to health and safety, a more corporate head office presence through boards displaying targets for reducing accidents and so on.  The brewing process and the resulting beers are unchanged.

I have a chat with Steve Crawley, MD of Heineken, in which we discuss whether the brewery’s flagship, Deuchar’s IPA, really is ‘not as good as it used to be’.

And then we’re off to Bridge of Allan, just outside Stirling, where Peter gets a bit tipsy talking to a round table of four brilliant Scottish brewers about the state of brewing in the country: Fergus from Inveralmond, Douglas from Traditional Scottish Ales, Amy from Harviestoun, and Tuggy from Fyne Ales (who I’m currently trying to persuade to adopt me).  I review a Scottish Wit Bier, try to sum up the style of stout in under a minute, and by the end we’re struggling to do a decent outro.  It’s hardly surprising.

Next month – next week in fact – we are filming our final video blog of this series at GBBF.  If you’re there on trade day, come and say hello.  If there’s anyone you think we should be going to talk to, please shout!

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Back Garden Bliss

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.

As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s a heavenly beer match waiting to happen.  Because of the variety of spicy flavours in there I’ve found an American IPA/pale ale – not a hop bomb of varnish-like bitterness but something with some nice resinous, spicy notes, such as Sierra nevada Pale Ale or Norrebro’s Bombay Pale Ale – goes amazingly – the latter is one of the most swoonsome matches I’ve ever tasted

And to follow? Well, while we’re outside, me and the Beer Widow went camping last weekend.  We had a campfire every night (No firelighters.  First night – paper and about five matches.  Second night – just kindling from the forest floor and three matches.  Final night – forest kindling and one match!)  I’d got a hunch from tasting whisky barrel-aged beers while judging the International Beer Challenge, which I wanted to check out – and I was right.  When you’re sitting around a campfire, as the moon rises and nearby campers launch lanterns into the darkening sky, you can play with beer and fire matching.  Something like an Ola Dubh 30 or 40 year old is the perfect accompaniment – the smoke from the air mingles in your nostrils and brings out nuances in the beer, and at the finish, as you swallow, you can taste the embers of the fire on your tongue.  One of the most remarkable, multi-sensory tasting experiences I’ve ever had.
Now where are those matches?