A Timmy Taylors Cocktail?

In semi-beery news, local PR firm (and generally lovely folks) SLB PR have launched a new cocktail competition for Yorkshire called Made in Yorkshire. You can read more about it here.

I’m rather a fan of a good cocktail (aren’t we all) and this competition sounds like a good one. The rules are pretty simple, they just state that the cocktail must include an ingredient from Yorkshire. That could be Pontefract liquorice, Wakefield rhubarb or, well, anything we make in this fine region of ours.

Most intriguing though is the suggestion that you could use a Yorkshire ale as base for your cocktail. I’d had a few beer-based cocktails before, and generally found them underwhelming. Local chaps Leeds Brewery launched a few on sale at their lovely Pin bar and I can’t say I took to them.

They made one cocktail for each of their three regular beers, the best being a chocolaty concoction based upon their tasty mild Midnight Bell. It was quite tasty, but sweet and served oh-so cold, and left me wishing I’d just opted for a pint of Bell instead.

But, we have loads of options in Yorkshire, Black Sheep, maybe Old Peculier might work, Rooster’s various flavoured beers might lend themselves well, and some of Fernandes’ lovely rich stouts could do the trick. But, is any cocktail going to improve on the flavours already present in beer?

A great cocktail can really make the most of the flavours of the spirit. Think of the daiquiri, martini or the old fashioned, still strongly reminiscent of their base spirit, but adding extra depth to drink. Is beer already too complex a drink – blessed with its own bitterness and sweetness – to work in a cocktail? Or are the flavours just too subtle in beer to stand up to the addition of fierce spirits.

Perhaps one of BrewDog’s more extreme/daft beers, with their massive abvs and huge hop flavours would be a good solution… But they’re not from Yorkshire, so they can bugger off!

Back to the start though, this Made in Yorkshire competition should be an interesting one, and is a great advert for some of the great produce, bars and bartenders we have round these parts. There’ll be more stuff on http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/food about it as it happens.

Does anyone out there have good experiences with beer cocktails? Or bad experiences? Or good recipes?

Felinfoel Double Dragon – A Welsh Beer for a Welsh Party

Last Saturday I sent a message via Twitter to Leeds’ brilliant (AND DEFINITELY STILL OPEN) Beer Ritz asking them if they had any Welsh beer in stock. “Only Felinfoel Double Dragon – is there anything you’re after?” was their response.

I wasn’t really sure what I was after, maybe something from Otley Brewery, I know that they’re quite hip these days, and from Wales. Other than that, I was open to suggestion. Having just one beer available was perfect though, saved me having to make a decision. I dispatched my father to Beer Ritz with instructions to grab me half a dozen bottles of Felinfoel Double Dragon – ‘they sell it in Beer Ritz’, I figured, ‘so it must be good’.

Why did I want a Welsh beer, and any Welsh beer? Well, as my post title suggests, I was having a bloody Welsh party, wasn’t I?

Turns out that Felinfoel Double Dragon was exactly what I wanted. The party was a small, family affair (parents, in-laws, wife, new son [born unexpectedly in Wales, hence the theme]). Food came in the form of lashings of damn fine Welsh Rarebit.

So we cracked open the Double Dragon. A 4.2% ale, and proclaimed “The National Ale of Wales” (although I’m not sure who decided this). It was just a proper, honest ale. A rich acorn-colour, good and malty with lovely hints of hops lurking inside. While I wouldn’t be so bold as to proclaim this a FAB!POW (which is, it seems, what every beer blogger seems to call any kind of beer and food pairing these days), the smooth warm tones of the beer sat splendidly with the intense cheese hit of the rarebit and proved lovely and refreshing on a hot Spring day.

In a world where beers seem to struggle to gain praise if their not proudly single-hopped, high abv’d, hitting 100s of IBUs or flavoured with something weird and wonderful, sometimes we forgot the pleasure of supping a quality ale, in a lovely setting, with good folk.

This is what this post was about.

Do I think Double Dragon is a great ale? No. But in the right setting, at the right time, with the right people, it’s bloody lovely.

Brew A Beer for Leeds with Leeds Brewery

Ok, so it was only hours ago that I apologised for being rubbish and not posting anything, but I’m posting something now.

The plight of Leeds’ Tetley Brewery is something I’ve covered before here, and unfortunately Greg Mulholland MP’s strong words and protests unsurprisingly did nothing to stop Tetley’s closing their Leeds brewery and shifting production of Leeds’ famous (but pretty unspectacular) Tetley’s beer to outside of Leeds. Boo.

Being the press-savvy sorts that they are though, Leeds Brewery are brewing a special beer to commemorate the closure of the Tetley Brewery.

This ain’t any old beer though, oh no. It’s to be a ‘crowd sourced’ beer with the good folks of Leeds encouraged to go to www.goodbyetetleys.co.uk and register themselves before being able to have a say on the beer’s name, design and taste.

As a bonus, the more people who register, the cheaper the beer will be when it first goes on sale at a special beer festival in June to celebrate the beer’s launch. Smart, huh?

Even better (for me) is that the taste will be partly decided by a special celebrity tasting panel INCLUDING (probably) YOURS TRULY which is very exciting indeed (for me).

I’ve written loads more on this on the Leeds Guide website just here.

Smoke Me a Beer, I’ll Be Back for Breakfast (OR Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche)

Smoked beer is weird stuff. Very weird.

The first time I encountered it was in North Bar. A drunk man in a hat was talking to me. He tried to make me wear his hat. And I did. Through the whole hat-related conversation I remember thinking, ‘this man STINKS of smoke’. This being post-smoking ban I could not fathom how on earth a mere mortal could reek so much of smoke. And of bacon.

He was sipping a pint of pitch black beer. He offered, nay, insisted that I try it. Now, if a man who stinks of smoke and bacon, who insists on me wearing his hat tries to make me share a drink, I think of germs, and diseases and I say no. To appease him I agreed to order my own half of this beverage he was so keen for me to try.

Strangely, the smell of smoke (and bacon) got worse as I received my half pint. I was only when I raised the glass to my mouth and the aroma from the beer hit my nosed that I realised why. The bloody beer was smoked. And bacony.

The man may have been drunk, odd, and strangely interested in me wearing hats, but he stank of neither smoke, nor beer, Well, his breath did, but that was because he was drinking Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbeir. This beer is made by the Schlenkerla brewery who smoke their malts on beech as an age old way of drying them quickly.

It’s odd stuff. Thick enough to chew upon, a powerful nose that smells of (yes) smoky bacon crisps and then a lurking sweetness deep down that tries to battle off that wicked smoke, but never quite manages it.

It is good though. Very good. A half pint was more than enough for me, mind.

I thought this chapter in my life was over until a week before Christmas I headed up to North Bar again, this time for a Leeds Guide article called Bartender’s Choice, where a local bartender picks a favourite beverage and talks about it. And, of course, let’s the writer try it. It’s a hard knock life…

So, I met Jim. He had a big beard and held in his hand a bottle with a similar, but slightly different logo to the keg that once let forth my first taste of rauchbier.

This time, it was different. This was a Christmas special. It looked like this:

This was Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche. It was bloody gorgeous. It’s main difference from the rauchbier was that the malt was smoked on oak, rather than beech, and what a difference it made. The nose still packs a smoky punch, but underneath, there’s honey, vanilla and a warming kick (as you would expect from an 8% beer).

These notes are limited, because you should read the rest here: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/bartenders-choice/jim-thackray-north-bar/17614

Unfortunately, since my blog went into hibernation over winter, North have probably sold out of this now, but ask ’em next time you’re in. Just in case. Just be aware that if you get chatting to someone while you drink it, they might start wondering why you smell like crisps.

APPENDIX

An explanation of the post title can be found here:

Wedding, Beer, Pie and Raves

So, I realised I hadn’t written a blog in almost two months and that ‘I’m getting married’/’I’m in Siciliy’/’I just got married excuse’ was wearing thin. So here I am, writing a blog.

First off, the wedding was flipping ace. If you’re pals with me on Facebook, you can see loads of photos there. They’re well good.

Since this is still, theoretically, a beer blog I should mention the wedding beer.

For starters, I made a summery beer, flavoured with lemongrass. I worked out OK, but I think my methods for stopping bits of malt and lemongrass getting in the final brew were flawed and it was a little (well very) cloudy – less chunky than Orangina, but only just.

Everyone liked the taste though, which was good, because a few bottles were a little (well very) lively, and ended up sprayed over guest’s suits, shoes and shirts.

Ah well.

 

homebrew

Homebrew - photo by Mark Tattersall http://www.mark-tattersall.co.uk

 

My excellent neighbour Alan also made us a wedding celebration brew, which was far better than mine, and didn’t need drinking through a sieve. His was elderflower-flavoured, rather than lemongrass, so again was perfect for the summer – and thankfully the weather held out.

The very good folks at Roosters were kind enough to sell us a 72 pint keg for just £90. We took the Good Cheer Beer because of the low abv and the American C-hops they use to flavour it. Not as toe-curling as the hoppy beers I love, but we needed something palatable for less refined pallets, y’know.

And of course, we needed lots of ale because we had this to eat.

 

 

I’m not going to say anymore about the wedding, because if you don’t know me, it’d probably be well boring (it was ace though).

LIGHT NIGHT

I did this on Friday night:

(I’m the on in grey in the middle of the photo, my wife is next to me in black).

This is Light Night, a well fun do that happens once a year in Leeds. The council are kind enough to give cash to local artists and enthusiasts and send them off around the city doing arty/cultural/fun stuff. Loads of it was good, but this was my favourite bit. Two lovely people firstly had a kids party on a rug outside Leeds Art Gallery. We played pass the parcel to ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’ (sport), wore party hats and ate cake.

When that was over they said ‘stick around for 5 minutes and we’ll have a rave’.

They did. On the very same rug we were jumping around, conga-ing and waving glowsticks in the air to tunes of 2Unlimited and Prodigy. Marvellous.

More of the same next year please.

USA! USA! North Bar’s American Beer Festival

Hey look. I’m writing a blog about beer and beers. There’s a novelty.

North Bar’s American beer fest ended yesterday. I wouldn’t be a proper beer enthusiast, or part time beer blogger, without going, or passing comment. So I went yesterday. And it was good.

Why was it good? Well, firstly I went with good, interesting friends, and we talked and chatted about all sorts. That was nice. Secondly, the beer was good.

American beer is, as any beer enthusiast will know, probably the most exciting kind of beer that there is. No, really. Get past all that crap mass-manufactured Budweiser crap and the Americans blow the socks off most of our beers. Their beers are just bigger, harder, faster, stronger, hoppier, mightier, weirder than ours. And that makes them exciting.

Most American double IPAs are designed to the point where, after one sip your taste buds are blasted and incapable of tasting anything but hop for at least three hours. Their stouts, porters and barley wines are big, strong, smokey and often around 10& abv. In short, their beers are interesting, experimental and often quite likely to surprise you.

Obviously I didn’t try anything like all the beers on sale at North Bar. If I did I’d be a) drunk and b) broke. See, American beers are generally a) quite strong and b) very expensive. They’re worth the abv and the £s though. And North Bar have been wise, The American stuff on tap was available in 1/3 pints. Perfect for a 9.6% £10 a pint beer. Let’s face it £3.30 is just about affordable, and if, you want to try something innovative, excititng and rare, well worth it.

So what did I have. Well, my I-am-socialising-so-therefore-won’t-make-tasting-notes-because-it-would-be-rude-anti-social-and-just-a-bit-weird rule meant I’m not entirely sure. I definitely have Sierra Nevada’s Big Foot barley wine. Just because I’ve never had it from keg before. Its very good on keg, smokey, not too sweet and treacley-thick. I also had a Hercules Double IPA, I’m not sure which brewery it’s from, but it was stunning IPA. Not strong enough to make your toes curl and face scrunch up, but balanced, beautifully drinkable and not tasting for a minute like it was over 10%.

I moved on to the fridges then. An Odell porter was surprisingly low in abv, and was a simple, no frills take on the style. Great, tasty and smokey, and not extreme at all, just balanced and tasty. Finally, I had Buckbean Orange Blossom Ale. Wow. It came in a can that made me look like an alcolohic tramp with special brew, but the flavour was stunning. The hops were prominent and dry, and the orange blossom gave it an amazing floral, citrus bitterness on top. A great way to finish the evening.

I’m afraid if you’re reading this now, you’ve missed North’s American beer festival, but it’s on at Further North RIGHT NOW. Go.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch

Every beer blog worth it’s salt has written about the dreadfully named and dreadfully tasty Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA.

I’ve not got round to it yet, but I’m drinking a bottle for the first time right now, while watching the USA lose to Ghana.

It’s a bloody good beer. Not intensely bitter too the point where the toe-curling hop blast dominates, and beneath that dryness, it’s all tropical fruits and sweetness – like bubblegum, and those yellow and orange striped sweets you used to get.

It’s very good. Incase you haven’t tried it yet, make sure you do.

Foraging: food for free

Some of our foraging spoils

Some of our foraging spoils

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, I’ve been getting quite excited by the idea of becoming more self-sufficient. I want to grow my own veg, brew my own beer, make and repair my own things. I quite want some chickens too.

It feels good doing these things, it’s amazingly cost-effective (it’d be nice to spend less time having to think about making money and more time having fun, no?), and it’s good for the world if you cut down on things like transport costs for food, screwing over of farmers, that kind of thing.

I’m no revolutionary. And I don’t know much about much of these stuff. Many of my ideas have come straight from Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler and also Carolyn Steel’s Hungry City, which I’ve mentioned before.

Because of this newfound excitement about such things (maybe it’s just a phase, I hope not) when I read this article in Leeds Guide a month or so back, I decided I had to do it. Incase you haven’t clicked the link, it’s a piece about Food For Free Foraging Works in Leeds, a guided walk around parts of Leeds teaching what grows in the parks and woodland in Leeds, what you can and can’t eat and how to pick it in a way so as not to damage the wildlife.

I did this walk earlier today. And it was excellent.

Our guide, Mina, was effusive and clearly excited by the possibilities of foraging (she gets most of her food through foraging and freeganism) – you should have seen her excitement at finding osyter mushrooms – and she took us round Meanwood Park (which is simply stunning, look at the picture below) showing us some choice selections.

Meanwood Park, ahhhh

Meanwood Park, ahhhh

It’s amazing just how much you can pick and eat. Mina pointed us in the direction of the obvious (nettles, camomile, water cress) to the more obscure (jelly-ear mushrooms and hairy bitter cress) showing us how to identify plants and mushrooms, how to check they’re not going to kill you, and how to not deplete the area of any plant (ie never take something if you can’t find it twice in the area).

The key finds, other than the aforementioned osyter mushrooms were wild garlic (which is all over Meanwood and is a long-leaved plant that smells just like garlic) and chicken-of-the-woods mushroom. The latter was half way up a tree, required some climbing and is amazing. It smells, looks and tastes like roast chicken. And it’s quite ugly look:

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods

After a good three hours of strolling, picking and tasting, Mina serves up an amazing picnic of quiche, pie and cake, made using ingredients found from foraging. Plus, she cooks up some wild garlic and oyster mushrooms that we picked just an hour ago – no more than one food mile there!

It’s a fascinating walk, and it’s left me itching (not literally, although I did get a few nettle stings) to get back out and do some foraging of my own. I’ve already got a wild garlic pesto in the fridge from today’s finds, and a third of that chicken-of-the-woods mushroom to boot.

As a final note, all the proceeds from these walks go to a very good cause, a non-denominational education centre in Kenya (more info here: www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=34548307757&ref=mf) run by Mina’s family.

If you’re interested in doing the walk yourself, contact Mina at minamoo@gmail.com, and she will get in touch with the next dates

ReetGood Rides the Zeitgeist: Thornbridge’s Halcyon

Thornbridge's Halcyon

Thornbridge's Halcyon

My blog ain’t usually at the forefront for beer related news, or reviews of the newest concoctions, bottles or brewing methods. It’s more just me occasionally rambling about stuff I’ve drunk, when I get round to drinking it.

For example, I’ve not yet reviewed Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch, when every other bugger has. I will drink it some time and review it then, but I’ve not got round to it yet.

But this time I’m writing about a beer only a matter of days since everyone else has. Which is novel. Zak Avery wrote about it here, Real Ale Reviews kind of did it here and HopZine did it here. Others have banged on about it too.

What is it (if you haven’t followed the link yet)? It’s Thornbridge Brewery‘s Halcyon. Why are people writing about it? Well, because 1) it tastes good, 2) it smells good, 3) it has a nice attractive bottle (look at my photo) and 4) it’s quite novel in terms of brewing.

Most beers dry hop (i.e. used dried hops for hop flavour/nose), while Halcyon is hopped with fresh hops (from Mr Capper’s farm, Hertfordshire, no less). This method probably does all kind of smart, chemically things to the beer to make it taste good, the main thing for me though, is that this beer tastes fresh, the hops taste ripe, vibrant and, because I can’t think of a better word, zingy. It’s dry, bitter and also has a long, lurking fruitiness that picks up on about every tropical fruit you could ever desire. Plus a lovely warm, refreshing pineyness.

Which is all very nice.

As Zak pointed out in his lovely video blog, this beer isn’t quite perfect, there’s quite a lot of, erm, “gunk” in it from the hops. But then I’m not a massively discerning individual. The gunk don’t bother me, and I can deal with it for making such a great tasting beer.

Finally, I should mention why I decided to pop this bottle open in such a timely manner. It’s not to be newsworthy, or interesting. It’s because I figured it’d be a lovely bottle of beer and, therefore, a bloody great way to celebrate LEEDS UNITED GETTING PROMOTED TO THE BLOODY CHAMPIONSHIP! HOORAH!

Beery Goings On At North Bar

A quick note here and my usual plug for the day job.

North Bar, in Leeds, is probably my favourite drinking in den – and one of my all time favourites. They’re great. Friendly staff, quality music, and best of all, a brilliant assortment of quality beers from around the world.

They’ve got some special stuff going on at the moment.

Firstly, there’s a Belgian Beer Festival from 1st-15th April. In anticipation I had a special tasting of the Drie Fonteinen Kriek and Smisje Wostyntje Torhouts mustard bier (yep, mustard beer, it’s loads nicer than you’d think).

Read all about that here: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/boozeflash/north-bars-belgian-beer-festival/13931

They’ve also got a rather nice art exhibition on too. I didn’t write about it, but the great Sophie Haydock – our art editor – did. Read about that here: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/preview/charlyghundoos-skewiff-/13859