Dogfish Head at The Cross Keys

I’ve mentioned before that I write for Leeds Guide for a living. Why do I keep bringing it up? Well because my work there and this blog often over-lap in terms of subject matter (ie, I try to get as much beer content into the Leeds Guide as possible).

My latest foray has been previewing the Dogfish Head tasting event at the Cross Keys on 16th February. It’s going to be great. Read all about it here:

http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/boozeflash/dogfish-head-tasting-at-the-cross-keys/13240

Join the Facebook group here: http://www.facebook.com/LeedsGuide?ref=ts#/group.php?gid=265953517390&ref=ts

Plus, the menu’s here:

Beer One: 90 Minute I.P.A
Food: New season garlic soup, english snails & parsley juice
(Veg Option: New season garlic soup with parsley juice)

Beer Two: 60 Minute I.P.A…
Food: Devilled sprats with seashore vegetables and sorrel mayonnaise
(Veg Option: Seasonal vegetables with sorrel mayonnaise)

Beer Three: Indian Brown Ale
Food: Venison faggots, split pea puree & onion gravy
(Veg Option: Wild mushrooms, split pe puree)

Beer Four: Raison D’Etre
Food: Ginger parkin, rum & raisin syrup, horlicks ice cream

Beer Five: Palo Santo Marron
Food: Palo santo rarebit with apple & vanilla chutney

Sounds amazing!
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A Taste of America at The Angel’s Share, Leeds

So, last night as part of my super-mega-great job as food and drink editor of Leeds Guide magazine, I went out for a review meal at The Angel’s Share in Chapel Allerton. I shall say more about that in a moment. First, I will quickly mention that pre-Angel’s Share I popped in for a couple at Further North.

There, I found Marble’s Port Stout, a rich, deep, coffee-esque stout and is denser and richer than any stout weighing in under 5% should be. In short, great. Then, there was a half of Sierra Nevada’s Unrivalled.

Unrivalled is a special beer. It was designed by Christian, owner of North Bar, at the Sierra Nevada brewery and that means that North and its associated drinkeries get a good few kegs of the stuff. It’s a great beer and while at £6.20 a pint it’s not cheap (“one pound per percent” said our barman, referencing its 6.2% ABV) is a lovely smoky dark rye beer.

Anyway, that was all for starters. What I was going to write about was Angel’s Share. I shall leave the food, meal and ambience stuff to one of Leeds Guide‘s great writers Rob Wright, who accompanied me. I’m going to mention, in brief, the beers.

See, Angel’s Share have recently relaunched their second floor bar-restaurant as an American Grill (loadsa steaks and that) and in tandem with that, they’ve got some special American beers to complement the food. Hooray!

Knowing, as I do, that the drinks at Angel’s Share are largely selected by Jake of Jake’s Bar fame (who’ve been selling Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn lager by the bottle for ages) and the ultra-knowledgeable Chris of Latitude Wine, I thought what they’d offer would be good, and it was.

Is American craft brewing going to slowly start dominating the imported beer market over here? I think it’s possible. Selling for between £3.20 and £3.60 at Angel’s Share was: Blue Moon (which I personally think is a really average Hoegaarden rip off and, anyway, as @Kingwishbone points out, is only masquerading as craft beer and is actually brewed by Miller), Goose Island Honkers Ale, Anchor’s Liberty Ale, Brooklyn Lager and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. So, we settled down with our steaks and got through a good few bottles.

It seems to me that if more and more bars across the city (and other cities) start stocking a choice selection of quality American beers, it’s only a matter of time before they start to challenge yer Peronis and Staropramens as the import beer of choice.

Let’s hope so.

You can read the review, by the lovely Rob Wright, here: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/food-review/the-angels-share/13263

Another IPA: Brooklyn East India Pale Ale

Brooklyn EIPA

I pinched this photo from the web. I hope that's ok!

Yep, that bloody Pete Brown fella is still making me thirsty for IPA. He’s currently engrossed in trawling through HSC facts and figures about alcohol consumption but I, personally, would like to see a graph showing number of copies of Hops & Glory sold, versus number of pints/bottles of IPA bought.

I know my local bars and ale emporiums will have seen a small spike since I started reading this damn book. It is a great book though and something about the way Brown describe drinks makes me thirsty for them in a way most other writers don’t quite manage. What is it about his writing? I don’t know. But it’s bloody good.

But the problem with such a good writer banging on about IPA, is that it makes it pretty pointless for me to give you some half-arsed, 100 word summary of IPA that’d just be pilfered from his book anyway. So, I’m not going to bang on anymore about the history of IPAs. So there.

So, this Brooklyn East India IPA. It’s brewed by those chaps at Brooklyn Brewery, who make reliably good, and often great beers. Their chocolate stout is a real standout stout, and their basic bogstandard bottled beer is actually anything but basic. It’s a treat.

It’s, unsurprisingly, inspired by the recipe for the beers that George Hodgson brewed to send across the world to India in the 1820s (that’s the history lesson done, kids) and uses British malt.

And this EIPA is pretty good. Yep, pretty good, but it fails to be quite great. Why? Well it kind of falls short of having real pizzaz when compared to other IPAS on the market, like Crown Brewery’s stunning Unpronounceable IPA (read more).

It pours a nice slightly golden bronze colour with a slight white head. The nose takes some real gulping before you get beyond them hops that you’d expect with an IPA then, lurking in the background is a slight caramel maltly sweetness.

Drinking though, it’s odd. First it’s hops and hops and hops, all pepper and spice, but perhaps not as many as you might expect (or want). It certainly does haven’t the attack that some other beers can boast. Underlying that, the sweetness on the nose comes back again, it’s deep and caramel and for some reason recalls a Belgian tripel for me. I think maybe my tongue was having an odd day.

Then, lurking somewhere deep down, I swear I could just get a hint of wood, maybe oak. Am I just making this up because real IPAs of the past will have spent ages in barrels? Quite possibly, perception is a funny old thing.

So what’s lacking? Maybe more hops? Maybe a more complex flavour? Or am I just getting so used to fancy experimental beers (I don’t like the term ‘extreme beers’) that I’m getting all snobby about simpler beers (but then I loved a couple of bottles of Kelham Island beers I had recently, and they weren’t odd in any way).

It’s a solid, tasty beer, but, given the choice between EIPA and some of the other IPAs out there in the big wide world, I’ll probably leave the EIPA on the shelf.

The Alcohol Industry, The Government and Pete Brown

A quick post here. As I’ve plugged before, I did a nice big article for Leeds Guide magazine on how the pub trade is suffering, using the historic market town of Otley, near Leeds, as an example and speaking to, amongst others, Greg Mulholland MP, Pete Brown and CAMRA representatives about the problems. You can read that here:

http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/feature/time-at-the-bar-1/12974

Now, if we’re dissecting the industry and the problems facing it, one can hardly ignore what Pete Brown calls the neo-prohibitionist crew. These are the people who have attentive ears in the government (or indeed are part of the government) who seem to be willfully misrepresenting facts and figures to make alcohol seem a far bigger demon in society that it actually is.

Now, I’m not a man with a head for numbers, and I’m not the kind of journalist who can read, analyse and understand all the stats being dug up. Pete Brown is though, and his blog has made fine reading this last week (provided you’re interested in the topic and can handle the numbers and graphs flying around.

Read it here: http://petebrown.blogspot.com/

IPA Craving: Thornbridge Jaipur

Jaipur on my mantlepiece

Jaipur on my mantlepiece

I recently started reading Pete Brown‘s Hops & Glory, having already read his previous two books. In the opening chapters, his rhapsodising about the glory that is Indian Pale Ale got my taste buds tingly and my thirst hankering for a taste of the oh-so bitter, peppery, citrusy blast of a good strong IPA.

Now, I’m not talking Deuchars (much as I love the stuff) but proper , strong IPAs, with a real alcoholic punch and packed full of gorgeous hops. Who cares that they were designed to be drunk in the intense heat of India, and therefore aren’t quite as warming as a nice thick stout or a rich, fruity barley wine? It might be bloody cold out, but if you’ve got a thirst for something, there’s no avoiding it.

So, I popped down to my cellar and picked out a bottle of Thornbridge’s Jaipur. Now, blogging about Jaipur seems, in some ways, a bit futile. The bloody thing has won loads of awards, has been a favourite at loads of beer festivals and has had countless words writtem about it already.

But then surely we get into this weird, obsessive world of beer blogging to share experiences of our drinking? It’s not there to show off how obscure and interesting our tastes are (or at least it’s not for me). So, then, Jaipur.

It’s bloody good. Obviously. As much fun as it would be to say, ‘it’s so overrated, blah blah’, this beer is just great. The golden pour, the floral, grape-ish nose and, best of all, that taste as you gulp it down. There’s hops and hops and hops. It’s not all overhwelming bitterness though, far from it. It’s sweet and slighty honeyed. The sweet malt flavours battle it out with the hops, creating a great sensation on the tongue.

And then, 10 minutes after your last sip, it’s still there, lurking, a long, long balanced finish. A great beer.

Thornbridge Hall

Thornbridge Hall

On a side note, while we’re here. Thornbridge Brewery must be one of the most pictaresuqe breweries there is, based in the gorgeous Thornbridge Hall in Derbyshire. Surely worth a visit for the beer and the views?

Thornbridge Brewery’s website is here (careful, mind, it keeps breaking my browser).

Festive Drinking

Things have been quiet round these parts for sometime now. Almost an entire fortnight infact. What with Christmas, traveling around the North of England to visit various friends and relatives and a general laziness that comes from having ages off work, I didn’t get round to any blogging.

I did, however, get round to some mighty fine drinking. Again, it being Christmas and all that, the drinking was largely social and often in the kind of quantities beyond normal responsible levels (especially if the people who inspired Pete Brown’s latest blog are to believed [they really shouldn’t]), means that some beers are remembered just sketchily, others very well, and none have any kind of notes to be taken with them. So I’m going to bash through December and the start of 2010 at pace. Here we go.

Christmas Eve started well. Well, it didn’t, we were meant to go up to Burnley for a party but the never ending bloody snow foiled that. Solution: a trip to North Bar. As we were preparing to order, the splendid manager there, Matt, informed me that Crown Brewery’s Django Reinhardt – a damson porter – was about to come on tap. I instantly ceased my plan to order a Stille Nacht and waited with baited breath for the recommendation. It was worth the wait, rich in fruit flavours, warming and powerful it’s a perfect winter tipple and it got me all ready to settle down infront of the telly with a DVD of Bugsy Malone.

My Christmas Beers

My Christmas Beers

Next up, inevitably, was Christmas day. Drinking-wise today was all about Bucks Fizz (a bottle of Champagne was polished off between the two of us, before lunch, naturally), loads of muy dulce sherry from Beer Ritz. This stuff, Valdivia Pedro Ximenez, is, as the tag in Beer Ritz says, “nectar of the Gods”. It’s honey and treacle and currents and pudding and all the sweet tastes of Christmas rolled into one. I did, however, break out a Chimay Bleue to accompany our vegetarian Christmas dinner of mushroom pie. A great beer, packed full of complex flavours, it went down a treat.

The real beery treat on Christmas day, though, was two of the presents my thoughtful girlfriend got for me. Having taken advice from Zak at Beer Ritz, she’d been out and bought me corked 75cl bottles of Flying Dog Wild Dog Schwartz and Victory V Saison. I’ve not dared drink these yet – I’m waiting for a special occasion.

Gouden Carolus Noel

Gouden Carolus Noel

Boxing Day meant more of that heavenly sherry, and visits to family, all finished off superbly by Gouden Carolus Noel a special Christmas beer that was just that – special and Christmassy. The dark brown beer was heavy, spicy and figgy and a superb nightcap.

The 27th was another family day and as soon as my driving was over, I indulged in a Dark Star Espresso Stout. For a 4.7% beer it’s surprisingly rich in flavour and manages to pack in a really rich coffee flavour without overwhelming that comforting warmth you’d want from a stout. The beer presents continued here, with my folks getting me a Yorkshire ale box (two Copper Dragon beers and a great Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter) and my brother getting my two beers from Sheffield’s Kelham Island plus a cheese washed in the curds from their Pale Rider, which was interesting. A real taste experience which took some getting used to (cheese and beer work well eaten and drunk side-by-side, but combined in one is a little more acquired) but eventually kept my palate very happy indeed.

From there, it was days in Lancashire centered around the wedding of two friends. I shan’t go into details but it was an amazing do, complete with dancing, surf rock, great food and, most importantly, a lovely couple getting hitched. As an aside they also provided a cask of very local Hen Harrier by the Bowland Brewery. As you’d want for a wedding (and a subsequent NYE party which it lasted for) it was easy drinking, crisp and pale with some nice citrus flavours.

New Year’s Day (aka my birthday) was a day to break out a couple of quality beers, namely the aforementioned Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter, really amazingly rich with roasted barley flavours, and even better the BrewDog and Mikkeller Divine Rebel. This beer, a collaboration between two very impressive craft brewers, is partly aged in whiskey barrels and the taste tells you that straight away. It’s full of toffee and caramel flavours and packs a mighty punch.

An even better beer-related occurrence on that day, however, was another present from my wonderful girlfriend. This time it wasn’t beer, but the ability to make beer (give a child a fish and he’ll be able to feed himself for a day, give the child a net and he’ll be able to… and so on). Yup, she signed me up for a two day homebrew course in February. I will report back on that in good time.

Which brings me to my final subject. My homebrew. I made some back in November. Because my house is cold it took ages, but it’s ready to drink now, and also in hands of numerous friends and family members across the country. What’s it like? Well, it’s from a kit called Old Homewrecker, but it’s only around 4.5%. It’s a darkish winter ale and, like all novice homebrew, it’s just about ok. It’s drinkable, but as it has no hopping to speak of, it likes anything like a real depth of flavour. Plus, it’s got a fair bit of sediment in. We don’t have a name for it yet.

I expect my next brew, post-course, will be far better.