Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Peat Reek: Octomore 6.3 vs xeRRex

I love smoke. I love peat.


I love Bruichladdich and I love Yeastie Boys.

By extension, it seems only reasonable that one of the only beers I buy every time I see it should pair rather nicely against a whisky I have long lusted after, but only recently plucked up the courage to buy. 

So I give you Yeastie Boys xeRRex - a 100% peated malt 10% Imperial IPA, and Bruichladdich Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley, bottled at 64% with a phenol count of 258ppm (to put this into context, Laphroaig 10 is about 40ppm). Both barley grists were malted by the malt magicians Bairds in Inverness.


And so to the booze...

Yeastie Boys - xeRRex 10%, 30-50ppm, 50 IBU

Initially the nose is predominantly peat, as to be expected, with a subtle grassy hop aroma, not a hint of the 10% alcohol with a residual maltiness.

On the palate, there's a slight malt sweetness carried by a bold and decisive bitterness from NZ Willamette that really backs up the malt character. The sweetness is almost reminiscent of a sherry cask but the overwhelming character is unmistakably peat, with a light phenolic character. It reminds me of the wash you can taste pre-distillation on whisky distillery tours (more specifically Laphroaig), albeit more refined. 

I'm well aware this is an opinion-divider of a beer, but for me it drinks delightfully, easily carrying whopping flavours that continue to grow and develop, with a light carbonation, that allows the bold peated character to grow. Somehow there is a subtle saltiness, perhaps the addition of calcium sulphite used to highlight the hop crispness has left a slight minerality - either way it suits the beer amazingly. As the beer warms up there is a little bit more to the alcohol mouthfeel that just adds to the already warming glow. There is no restraint with this beer, obnoxiously peated with a well matched bitterness that reigns in the big smoky flavours. Yum.

Bruichladdich - Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley, 64%, 258ppm

Colour - Light copper

Aroma - Wonderfully bold peat emanates from the glass instantly. A light sweetness follows, with a touch of vanilla and punch of alcohol. Allowing the whisky to open up releases an accompanying layer of oak.

Palate - Sweet initially on the tip of the tongue, then not half a second later tidal waves of peat smoke encompass and fill the mouth. This is then softened by a touch of slight roasted apple and soft vanilla sweetness from the American Bourbon casks. Slowly the peat creeps back for a long finish. 
Conclusion - A great tide of peat smoke swells in and out and around the head like the tidal movements of Loch Indaal. The layers of peat character at every stage of drinking this beautiful dram are exquisite. Not only does it hold all the levels of smoke you could possibly want but it's contained beautifully in a well rounded and surprisingly balanced whisky.


In reality this is not a versus write up and not really a comparison between the two. Just a little muse on my love affair with overly correctly peated alcohol, showcasing the most highly peated versions of each producer's craft. Bruichladdich have the ability and technique to push the boundaries on whisky, and can be considered as one of the pioneers in barrel finishing. Yeastie Boys, led by Stu McKinlay, have a similar ability to push the boundaries for beer, and have produced one of the most divisive brews in modern beer but stand by it with pride.

Slainte,

Jim

Monday, 6 February 2017

Street Food Warehouse

We love living in Sheffield... in fact, there's nowhere else in the UK we'd rather be! However, we have often lamented that the city centre pretty much closes down as soon as the clock strikes 5. In step Alive After Five - a new project helping our hometown to find out exactly what there is to offer once work is over, and to encourage more people to get off their sofas and out into town!

The Alive After Five team invited us down to the inaugural Street Food Warehouse event, based on Trafalgar Street in the city centre. We've been a number of times to other street food markets, but although we've enjoyed them, it's definitely the case that they seem to have become victims of their own popularity, with massive queues and a tendency to invite back the same group of traders time after time meaning these events had lost a bit of the "je ne sais quoi" vibe for us, so we were looking forward to trying out an alternative.


First thoughts - Trafalgar Warehouse was WAY nicer than we were expecting, having only really frequented the area to go to our most beloved but highly sticky, depraved and GREAT nightclub Corporation, which shares an outdoor area with the warehouse. There was an excellent mix of food offerings available, from waffles and brownies to hot dogs and pies. An on-site bar was also available serving beers from The Brew Foundation alongside a selection of wines, cider and soft drinks.

Our first stop was Dim Sum Su, a trader who we were already familiar with but whose food never disappoints. We were shown how the steamed buns are made and sampled the belly pork Bao, packed full of succulent and fragrant five spice meat, topped with a sprinkling of spring onion, coriander and peanuts. Super tasty and oh so fresh, a lovely light way to kick off our evening.


HomeBoys was founded by Masterchef 2015 finalist Pete Hewitt, with modern Asian inspired street food served from the side of a 1978 Grumman Olson Stepvan. We chose to share the Kara Age chicken wings and the pork sando bun. Kara Age simply refers to the technique of deep frying in oil - these chicken wings were coated in potato starch, for an incredible crisp finish, and were served with Japanese Kewpie mayo. The sando bun was mouth-wateringly good, with the accompaniments of pickled pineapple and kimchi being flavourful and unique. There was also something on top which I forget the exact name of but was described as a "low calorie pork scratching", what more could you ask for in life?! The two together were mega filling and both absolutely outstanding quality.


Despite being pretty stuffed already, we couldn't resist trying something with was completely unlike anything we've ever seen at this sort of event. And so our final choice was Platzki - a completely new offering to the street food world. We tried the pierogi (traditional mushroom and cabbage dumplings) and the "classic zap" - a Polish style baguette topped with mushrooms, onions and cheese. It was as long as Laura's forearm AND HAND and was bursting with earthy flavour. Worth mentioning as well that Peter, one of the three members of the Platzki team, came for a chat with us and is quite frankly fantastic - the most charismatic man in street food!


The next Street Food Warehouse event is taking place on February 13th, and we can't recommend it enough.

Cheers!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

That Boutique-y Whisky Company - Blended Scotch Whisky #1

We were introduced to this delightful dram by Dave Worthington (@WhiskyDiscovery) at last year's The Whisky Show. We were on the hunt for our first whisky of the day, and Dave reckoned there was no finer breakfast treat than this award-winning blend from the excellent That Boutique-y Whisky Company (it took the title of Best Blended Whisky at the 2015 World Whisky Awards). We felt it befitting of Burns Night, too - truly a whisky for all special occasions and every hour of the day! Here are our thoughts...


Colour: Lacquered mahogany
Nose: Dark chocolate ice cream, a sticky sweetness accompanied by a soft coastal waft towards the end.
Palate: The initial spice that swells across the mouth gives way to a delightful punch of smooth fruity acidity and rich chocolate, it's pretty much black forest gateau. Never at any point do these flavours clash or linger past their stay of welcome.
Finish: As the rich fruitiness gives way, there is a warming blossom honey that lingers on the palate, with gentle salination for balance.


That Boutique-y Whisky Company say that the sphere on the bottle label is testament to the perfectly rounded nature of the dram, and we would heartily agree. The youngest whisky within the bottle stands at 35 years old, and time has worked its magic beautifully. A stunning blend.

Slainte!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Imperial Raspberry Stout: Thornbridge meets Yamazaki

Beer and whisky... in case you hadn't noticed, two of our favourite things. We just so happened to have one of each in the cupboard which we thought would work well in a joint tasting... Thornbridge Brewery's Imperial Raspberry Stout, brewed in collaboration with St Eriks, and a sample of the SMWS 119.14 Raspberry Imperial Stout.

We started with the beer and were instantly hit by the deep, rich raspberry aroma. The flavour bursts with raspberry coulis, slightly tart but balanced by bitter dark chocolate and hints of sweet bonfire toffee, all backed up with a smooth and roasted malty backbone. The finish is surprisingly short for such a robust stout (the ABV weighs in at 10%) but this makes it all the more drinkable. A total delight.


Onto the whisky - a single barrel Yamazaki bottled at 53.9%. Classically Japanese, light and distinctly yet delicately tannic on the nose, but with a fruity twist. Spicy and earthy with deeper woodiness on the palate, all alongside sweet raspberries. With time in the glass it opens up and becomes a little more rounded with a softer character that allows for more of the sherry to come through from the bota corta cask. Overall though, not particularly balanced for an 11 year old whisky, but no worse for this - it's a real experience to drink and excites the palate with every sip.

Obviously we couldn't resist mixing a bit of each together to create a boilermaker and it was a TRIUMPH. 

Cheers,

J&L

Friday, 23 December 2016

Golden Pints 2016

We've had some amazing beery experiences during 2016 - from our own collaboration with Bad Seed Brewery, to brewery-led trips to Colorado, Bristol and Brussels, a rising standard across our hometown, Sheffield, and some excellent beer consumed simply at home. It's also been the first full year we've spent working in the brewing trade, and it is truly the most friendly, rewarding and exciting industry to be a part of. Here are some of our highlights...

Best UK Cask

Winner: Torrside - Candlewick. Sometimes, all you need is something classic, and this stout from Torrside is just exemplary of the style. Everything we've tried from these guys has been Very Good or better, and they're lovely chaps to boot. Looking forward to seeing more from them in 2017.

Best UK Keg

Winner: Buxton - Red Raspberry Rye (double raspberry edition). Drank at Port Street Beer House, this was a magnificent end to a day out at Indy Man.

Best UK Bottle/Can

Winner: Buxton - Axe Edge. Complex, juicy and consistently brilliant.
Honourable mention: Chorlton - Amarillo Sour. Another go-to and a staple in our fridge.

Best Overseas Draft

Winner: Crooked Stave - Silly Cybies. A barrel aged raspberry sour, bursting with fruity flavour, exploding across the palate, and a body that leaves your mouth literally watering in need of more. Simply beautiful. Gutted that this doesn't seem to be one of the Crooked Stave releases that makes it across the pond.
Honourable mention: Lervig - Sippin' into Darkness. The top beer of IndyMan, described to us as "liquid Double Decker", and we can't say it better ourselves. LUSCIOUS.

Best Overseas Bottled 

Winner: Brussels Beer Project - Delta. A delicately balanced light beer reminiscent of an APA but with a quintessential Belgian twang of fruity esters, heightened by a classically American dry hop hit.
Honourable mention: Yeastie Boys - Xerrex. Because obnoxious in beer sometimes is needed.

Best Collaboration Brew 

Winner: Buxton/Lervig - Trolltunga. We've both thoroughly enjoyed this on keg and in bottle, on numerous occasions. Astoundingly refreshing and delightfully tart. Love the artwork, too.

Best Branding 

Winner: Mad Hatter - colourful, distinctive, just on the cute side of "a bit weird". Inspired!

Best UK Brewery 

Winner: Hawkshead. In our eyes, they've done no wrong this year. Their cask output is consistent and maintains their appeal to a more traditional local market, but in keg and bottle they've pushed the boundaries of what beer can be. Chuckleberry Sour and Tonka have made a welcome return, and new beers such as their Tiramisu stout have been some of the best we've drank all year. Bravo!
Honourable mention: Buxton. Similarly to Hawkshead, they manage to nail traditional styles at the same time as coming up with innovative and delicious beers. Pipped into second place simply as we haven't seen as many new releases from them this year as we'd have liked.

Best Overseas Brewery

Winner: This was a toughie, but we've gone for To ├śl, largely for their range of dry hopped sours. Always interesting, often challenging, and largely delicious.
Honourable mentions: Omnipollo, New Belgium, Cantillon.

Pub/Bar of the year

Winner: Small Bar, Bristol. One of those places that you'd quite happily never leave.

Best Taproom

This is an additional award we wanted to add in here simply because we've had so many incredible experiences this year. January witnessed a two week long trip to Colorado, and the taproom game over there was just ridiculously good. From the mammoth machines of Odell, Oskar Blues and New Belgium (bigger read here), to cosy barrel rooms at Funkwerks and Great Divide, delightfully "pubby" afternoons spent at Equinox and Left Hand and being generally spoilt at Crooked Stave (more on that here), it's been very difficult to choose a favourite. Shits all over anything we have in this country (although we know there are many people coming close and we appreciate those efforts... plus we haven't been to Wylam yet and we have HIGH HOPES).
Winner: Black Bottle Brewery, Fort Collins - for it's warmth, friendliness, zaniness, complete openness to every single member of society, and stonkingly massive range of some of the tastiest beers we've ever drank. Also bottomless nachos. Utter perfection. (You can read more here if you feel so inclined).
Honourable mention: Brussels Beer Project, Brussels - proof that you don't have to do anything fancy to have a great space. We wrote more on this too.


Best Beer Event

Winner: Rainbow Project launch at Magic Rock Tap. We volunteered on the bar here and were made treated like one (well, two) of the team. Great beer, good vibes, top day all round.
Honourable mention: Karkli-Fest. A day in beautiful settings with Karkli's head honcho Kumar and his family, who are quite frankly some of the loveliest and most welcoming people we've ever met. Food, drink and company were all exceptional and it was one of those days where you come home feeling so lucky to be a part of this industry.


Online Bottle Retailer

N/A for us, as we are lucky enough to have three brilliant bottle shops within walking distance from our house (shout outs to Hop Hideout, Beer Central and Turners!)

Best Beer Snack

Winner: Karkli - crunchy, twirly, sticks of spicy joy.
Honourable mention: Smofo - a Sheffield based company making the best pork scratchings IN THE WORLD.

Twitter Personality of the Year

Winner: @ThaBearded1 aka Carl of Twisted Barrel. Hilarious, informative, beard nearly as good as Jim's and not bad in real life either ;) bonus point for having a cute bunny.

Cheers, all... here's to 2017!

Jim & Laura

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Sheffield Cookbook: Second Helpings

The second release of the Sheffield Cookbook, from Meze Publishing, is out now just in time for Christmas, and a veritable plethora of Sheffield's restaurants, cafe and pubs are showcasing their top recipes within. Now we're big fans of the first book, and have the Nottingham version too, and this second edition is MASSIVE... proof that Sheffield has a thriving and vibrant foodie scene!


Being the beery types that we are, one of the things that we first noticed about this book is that Sheffield breweries and pubs are very well represented. Abbeydale Brewery is represented by their pub, The Rising Sun in Nether Green, who's kitchen team have whipped up a rolled lamb breast dish with crispy lamb neck bon bons, using Abbeydale's Daily Bread (we have since been to the Rising Sun to taste this dish and can absolutely vouch for it's deliciousness!).


Sentinel Brewery have created a pork and black pudding Scotch egg (which has malt in the coating!), served with brown sauce made from brewer's wort - a really interesting way to incorporate beer and the brewing process into food!


If you're more of a dessert person, one of our favourite shops, Beer Central, has submitted a chocolate cake recipe using Thornbridge Brewery's sumptuous Cocoa Wonderland stout. Thornbridge's best bitter, Lord Marples, is also represented by the Stag's Head pub (which forms part of the Thornbridge portfolio) who use it as a braising liquor for their venison shank.

The recipes are mainly targeted towards pretty ambitious home cooking, but generally use ingredients that are easy to get hold of, making the book perfect for those who like a bit of a challenge in the kitchen. For example, the ham hock ballotine with textures of apple from Thyme Cafe is an excellent mix of simple flavour combinations, incorporating a more technical way of cooking. We're also dying to have a go at one of our absolute favourite dishes - Rico from the Rutland Arms has shared his secrets on how to recreate his INCREDIBLE cod dish, which comprises beautiful roasted fish with arroz nigre (a risotto type dish made with squid ink), braised octopus in garlic and smoked paprika XO emulsion. We always make a beeline for the Rutland whenever we spy this on the specials menu, and the recipe is detailed and informative enough that we have confidence we can at least have a go at doing the dish a bit of justice (we will report back in due course!).


So much deliciousness in every single one of it's 318 pages. Bravo, Sheffield Cookbook!

Cheers,

Jim and Laura

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Brewtown Tours

We were recently invited on a little adventure round York on one of the very first ever trips run by Brewtown Tours - an all new brewery tour experience run by ale enthusiast Mark Stredwick.


We met up at the York Tap to start the tour, which is the perfect convenient location for both locals and those travelling in (and means you can grab a pre-tour beer should you feel so inclined!). A picturesque 40 minute drive out through the suburbs to the east of York, whilst discussing our first, last, and favourite beers, took us to our first destination of the day, Half Moon Brewery. Located in an old blacksmith's forge, Mark quite appropriately described Half Moon as a micro-micro... a small yet perfectly formed 5 barrel plant run by Tony and Jackie Rogers.


The beers produced by this tiny brewery are big hits with local country pubs and are starting to gain headway in the venues of the cities nearby. An entertaining introduction to the brewing process was provided by Tony, followed by a mini food and beer pairing showcasing other local producers led by sensory consultant Jo Menneer. We both thoroughly enjoyed the F'Hops Sake golden ale (3.9%) paired with Mounfield's "hogg roast" herby pork sausage! As we boarded back onto the comfy Brewtown minibus, we were all given a goodie bag containing a bottle of Half Moon beer along with a block of St Helen's farm goat's cheese and Guppy's chocolate from the pairing, which was a really lovely touch.


The next stop a short drive later was The Hop Studio, the brewery of the three on today's itinerary that we were most familiar with. Famous for their hop forward pale beers, The Hop Studio are a staple on many a bar around Yorkshire since their inception in 2012. Clutching a glass of their Beerjolais, we toured the mezzanine level which has been recently converted into a bar, but houses the original malt store, auger and cold liquor tanks. The tour continued downstairs with a look at the wood clad brew system and fermentation room, where their process was described eloquently and passionately by founder Dave Shaw. On our return to the bar we tried our favourite beer of the day, a limited release of a beer simply called "Chocolat" - a white chocolate stout that sings of vanilla from the bourbon barrel it was aged in.


Finally, we pulled up at relative newcomers to the York brewery scene, Ainsty Ales, just as it was getting dark. Another beautiful location, situated in a barn overlooking both the farm and field, which will eventually be used to grow a small hop crop to be used in the brew house in a few years time. We were given a tour of the brand spanking brewhouse by head brewer Alan Hardie - previously of York Brewery - and were treated to some tastings of their core releases, of which the delighfully named golden ale Wankled Waggoner (try saying that after a few pints!) was the one we enjoyed the most. The tasting room there is not quite yet up and running, but it's sure to be a fantastic space in the near future - a quirky, rural bar with great potential.


Brewtown Tours currently offers two different routes around York (with at least a third in the pipeline) as well as a tour around Leeds. We had a relaxed yet informative day and thoroughly enjoyed our experience. It was great to get out into the suburbs and visit places that on a trip to York we would never usually think to travel to, but which were all well worth the journey... especially when being chauffeured in style!

Cheers,

Jim and Laura