Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: July 2014

Monday, 21 July 2014

A taste of Japan

We both happened to have a day off today, and weren't quite sure what to do with it. We then discovered that today is Sea Day, a national holiday in Japan to give thanks to the ocean - and so what better occasion than to use that sushi kit we got for Christmas!

We used two cups of sushi rice to two cups of water, which was massively overcatering for two people - this would have fed four for lunch or 6-8 as a starter. Carefully rinsing the rice before cooking is really important, as is leaving the rice to steam with the heat turned off for at least ten minutes after 10-15 minutes cooking over a low flame.

We chose to use Earl Grey smoked sea trout for the fish option, and bought ourselves a great piece of rump steak from the lovely folks at Mr Pickles, which was seared for 7 seconds on each side before being left to cool in the freezer for one hour, which allowed it to be sliced perfectly thinly. We went for cucumber, red pepper, courgette and spring onions too, which were all carefully cut to a uniform size.

We made maki (traditional rolls where the filling and rice is wrapped in seaweed) in veggie, fish and meat options, as well as temaki (the cone-shaped pieces), nigiri (sliced meat or fish on a bed of seasoned rice) and California rolls (where the rice forms the outside of the sushi).

As total novices who had never made sushi before, and having read a number of instructions implying it's pretty tricky, we did not have high hopes for how our little rolls would turn out. Imagine our surprise when they looked more than passable!
Garnishes and seasoning were wasabi paste, a dressing made from soy and garlic sriracha hot sauce, and home-pickled ginger.

Alongside a dram of Nikka from the Barrel, I feel we successfully paid homage to a little slice of Japanese culture.


Monday, 14 July 2014

World Cup Extravaganza

Never a pair to pass up an excuse to host a party, this weekend we thought we'd celebrate the World Cup through food and drink. We'd decided right at the beginning of the tournament that the menu would be focused around traditional dishes from the top four countries left to battle it out, so leaving it quite a lot to chance whilst still hoping for some international variety!

In the end, we got a real mixed bag, which somehow worked out coming together brilliantly - here's what we came up with...

Top of the menu was a big batch of empanadas, with a chicken, chorizo and apricot filling, stuffed into shortcrust pastry. The mini versions we made were perfect buffet food and went down a storm. Jim also had a go at pao de queijo, a Brazilian bread made with cheese. Despite the dough looking a bit like houmous before it was baked, these turned out having a lovely light texture and were a good addition to the feast. As a dessert offering, we made Brigadeiros - like a Brazilian chocolate truffle, these were made using really simple ingredients (just cocoa powder, butter, and condensed milk) but were surprisingly difficult to form into balls due to their sticky texture. They tasted good, but I'm not sure I'd make these again - cake pops behave much better! Brazilian-themed cocktails also featured, with caipirinhas made with the addition of Passoa passion fruit liqueur. Tropical!

World-renowned for their top quality barbecued meat, we decided we couldn't go wrong with a bit of a classic - steak and chimichurri sauce. The chimichurri was homemade using a blend of herbs including mint, parsley and dill, added to chilli and cider vinegar. Malbec was our Argentinian drink of choice - Otra Vida to be precise - which was an ideal accompaniment to the meat.

Another classic - frankfurters and sauerkraut! With all the food that our guests brought along too, we didn't make these with the rest of the buffet. However, they made an excellent 3am feast! To add to this, Laura made her first ever cream cake for the event in the form of a Black Forest gateau (or a schwarzw√§lderkirschtorte if we're being authentic) and despite a few initial issues regarding presentation, it turned out really well! Drinks-wise, we took the easy option and bought a crate of Becks.

This was possibly the trickiest country to find something interesting and traditional whilst still being easy enough to mass cater. In the end we went for herrings and a cheeseboard of Dutch delights! For drinks we went for gin (of course) and made Dutch Mule cocktails, adding the gin to ginger beer and limes. We also dug a bottle of Advocaat out of the back of the cupboard, although I can't say this was a popular choice on the night!

For a bit more variety we invited our guests to bring along nibbles from an eliminated country. The result was a veritable feast of international cuisine, including deep-fried arancini, tiramisu, hot chicken wings, chorizo and bean stew and homemade lemon and chilli houmous with veggies!

The spread, before the additions from our guests arrived!
The match itself turned out to be a bit on the dull side, but much merriment was had none-the-less and it was a brilliant evening all round.



Sunday, 6 July 2014

US Craft Beer Night at BrewDog Sheffield

In celebration of Independence Day, I headed down to shiny new Sheffield BrewDog last week. The brewing techniques and styles of beers created by BrewDog are clearly heavily influenced by our pals across the pond and so it was a great setting in which to sample some American delights from a variety of craft brewers.

We were warmly greeted by the staff and seated at a table covered in little nibbles and a giant American flag. Cool. Without further ado the first beer was presented to us: Stateside Saison from Stillwater Artisanal ales. Going straight in with an ABV of 6.8%, this was surprisingly easy to drink, perhaps on account of having the lowest bitterness rating of the evening (20-35 IBUs). It was plain to see that this evening was going to be all about the hops! This beer had a lovely fruity and slightly floral aroma, with tropical fruit sweetness on the palate.

The second offering of the night was Hop Devil, an American IPA from Victory Brewing Co. I'd actually sampled this on keg the week before, but the effect from the bottle was somewhat punchier, and also had a more reddish hue than the pale ale I'm sure I drank last time! The bitterness of the hops was the overwhelming flavour, but this was coupled with a spiciness that lingered on the tongue for ages. Not quite my thing, but none-the-less a good beer that's a great example of the style.

Next we moved on to Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's IPA - an American Double IPA, making this a "souped up" version of their Dale's Pale Ale. Oskar Blues is one of a growing number of breweries choosing to can their beers rather than bottle them, to avoid any "skunking" (spoiling of the beer caused by the infiltration of UV light). I really enjoyed this beer - it had enough hoppiness to make me suck my cheeks in but this was still nicely balanced with a malty sweetness. With an IBU rating of 85 and at 8% ABV, it was a signal that this was time to move on to the big guys!
After a quick break and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or two, we returned to our tasting with a bottled version of another drink that I've previously sampled on tap: the excellent Shipwrecker Circus, an American style barley wine which is a collaboration between Oskar Blues and Brewdog itself. I loved this beer from the keg and from the bottle it was just as good. Barley wine is perhaps my favourite style of beer and the characteristically high ABV (the Shipwrecker Circus comes in at 10.5%) makes it a perfect sort of beverage to finish off an evening (although on this occasion we had two more to go!). Almost syrupy in consistency with a beautiful rich sweetness reminiscent of liquorice and caramel, with a raisin-like fruitiness that lifts the flavour above being sickly. I loved this beer - my favourite of the night.

What we thought was to be the last beer was Clown Shoes - Chocolate Sombrero, a 9% imperial stout brewed in Massachusetts. My aversion to all things clown-based means that this isn't a brewery I've typically gone for, but this was probably a lesson in how not to judge a beer by the label. Another very enjoyable drink with huge notes of roasted cocoa on the nose with a tiny suggestion of chilli. On the taste this was deliciously chocolatey and full bodied, alongside a maple syrup sweetness. The little hit of chilli came through at the end but was delicate enough not to overwhelm the palate.
An observation from the lovely Claire that the Chocolate Sombrero had a hint of banana to the flavour and the guys at BrewDog just couldn't resist giving us a taster of their Abstrakt 14 - "the closest to banoffee pie you'll get in a beer". This was a dream of a beer, definitely tasting like a good pud and an ideal finisher to the evening alongside a Reese's peanut butter cup (the only downside to this being that I now have a slight addiction to them...)

The evening was a great introduction to a variety of big, brash and bold American craft beers, and the knowledge and passion of the team at BrewDog was refreshing. An entertaining and informative night all round!

Stay classy, America.

Laura x

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Meet the Brewer: Ilkley Brewery

A couple of weeks ago, we headed down to the Sheffield Tap for their Meet the Brewer event with Ilkley Brewery. We're both big fans of Ilkley beers so it was great to have the chance to sample ales from across their range, as well as being able to chat to the team about their work.

The night began with Ilkley Gold, one of the regularly brewed core range beers with a strength of 3.9%. This beer is designed to be an easy drinker, with a great subtlety coming from the US and Slovenian hops. Like all their ingredients, specialist hops are something that Ilkely strive to source from the best producers and suppliers.

Lotus IPA had a little step up in alcohol content at 5.6%. Lotus is a similar colour to the previous beer but by no means the same. The summit hops sing through in the distinctive way that comes with an IPA. Produced in a traditional way, the beer is not dry hopped which produces a more rounded beer. Ilkley produce their beers in a variation of styles across their 50,000 pints a week. With the craft beer movement gathering speed and introducing all sorts of wacky brewing methods to the UK, it's great to see a brewery doing such innovative things using traditional techniques.

The third beer of the evening, Siberia, was a rhubarb saison, named after the location of the fruit's original place of cultivation. A nice little fact that we discovered at the event is that all the rhubarb is chopped by hand, in the various kitchens of the brewery's employees... just showing the level of care and personality that goes into Ilkley's beers and also why it isn't brewed as often as you might wish.

De Passie was sampled next - a White IPA flavoured with passionfruit, which is a collaborative brew with Dutch breweries Rooie Dop and Oersoep. A stunning beer that really delivers on its fruity promise, made with 3 different hops that are added to bring out the best flavour of the passion fruit juice. A real hit on the night and a perfect drink for a balmy summer's evening.

We then moved on to the wildcard beer: Derby Day - a 7% mint stout. Other stouts using mint that we've tried before have tended to couple the flavour with chocolate, producing a sweet and sticky beer that seems to provoke a strong reaction in the drinker. The Ilkley take on a mint beer by contrast is much more savoury and arguably more palatable to the masses despite the high ABV.

The final beer of the night just so happened to be possibly our all-time favourite beer and an absolutely mighty drink - The Mayan. This is a chilli chocolate stout that doesn't aim to punch too high with either flavour, although both are very much apparent. The result is a balanced beer tingles subtly on the tongue with a flavour that lingers for around 15 seconds... just divine.

From being able to see first hand the passion and attention to detail that goes into the Ilkley range, it's clear to see where their almost exponential growth has come from. With exciting times and further expansion to come (plans are in the pipeline for a bigger brewery and a visitor's centre), we can't wait to see what they'll think up next.