Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: December 2015

Saturday, 26 December 2015

A Beery Advent - The Finale!

And so here it is, merry Christmas! Well, actually, it's now Boxing Day as we were too busy drinking and eating yesterday to finish this post. Hope you all had a good one, folks!

21. Wiper & True - Plum Pudding Porter, 5.9%
Chock full of festive spices from the opening of the bottle to the final sip. This porter has the balance just right - it's fruity without being overly sweet. Roasted malt flavours combine with coffee and chocolate notes to give a rounded mouthfeel with a lovely dry finish. We got to try this one twice as it formed part of December's Karma Citra beer club! Nod to the beautiful branding, too.

22. Art Brew - Christmas Tree Beer, 6.0%
We reckon this is the only beer we've ever come across where an entire Christmas tree got chucked in the brew. Normally, resinous and piney notes in beer come from the hops... and whilst that may also be the case in this instance, it's full on "Oh Tannenbaum" on the nose which completely knocks the socks off any hop aroma. On the palate it's a different story, with enormous, stonkingly bitter hop character working in perfect harmony with the sweet, spicy, sappy spruce. Reminiscent of toffee and ginger too, this is one very unusual and complex beer. A delicious revelation.

23. Dubuisson - Bush de Noel, 12.0%
We couldn't do a beer advent calendar without including such a classic Christmas beer. This certainly did not disappoint on the festive front - vibrant with quintessential Christmas spices, wafts of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger all coupled with a bold Belgian backbone, sweet esthers and a great malty character. Warming yet lightly refreshing.

24. De Molen - Tsarina Esra, 11.0%
This particular beer was a Christmas gift last year from our good friend Sean at Beer Central, and so we thought it was only fitting to save it for a special festive occasion. For an 11% beer it is delightfully well balanced, not too heavy on the malt but holding strong with a major roasted character. Stewed plums, black treacle, and dark chocolate are prominent throughout. The bottle we had was bottled mid 2014 and had a recommended drink-by-date 2039, so we drank it pretty young... the flavours will only grow and develop as it ages, but we are impatient! An utterly scrumptious and dangerously quaffable imperial stout.

25. Ruhstaller - DiGregorio Barley Wine, 12.0%
Big guy for Christmas day! We bought this on our first trip to the excellent Junkyard in Nottingham earlier this year. On the palate it's resinous and full-bodied with a mammoth malt character. Layers upon layers of flavour - hints of pine wood and citrus come through along with dark fruit and rich toffee. A pleasing level of sweetness is balanced by punchy hop bitterness. Big, boozy and bold - an excellent match for our roast duck Christmas dinner.



Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Beery Advent - Part 4

So the big day is almost upon us and we're definitely raising the festive stakes with this one...

16. Mikkeller - Beer Geek Big Blend, 8.0%
A coffee oatmeal stout with a barrel aged twist... in fact more of a rollercoaster, with bourbon, brandy, cherry wine, cognac, tequila and whisky aged beer all blended together. The result is c
omplex and ornate, much like an "Edwardian armoire" (said Jim, unusually verbose for midday). A beer in harmony - not one of the barrels takes precedence over the others, but each adds another layer of depth and texture. The body of the original beer is still apparent, and is absolutely lovely, but undeniably bolstered by the oaky character of the wood and most of all the time spent in there. One to sip on and savour.

17. Weird Beard - Black Christmas, 4.5%
We've spoken before about our love for Sorachi Ace - an adoration we share, it seems, with the guys at Weird Beard. This festive stout is full of this intriguing hop, which in this context provides an utterly divine coconut rounded nature - we imagine this is what a fruity Bounty bar would taste like. It's a little more difficult to pick out any specific cranberry tartness, but the fruit juice added to this brew provides a welcome lightness and delicate balance. And it's sessionable! Could quite easily polish off a good few bottles of this. Laura's highlight of Beer Advent so far, hands down.

Tosin thought some Beercat modelling was required for this one
18. Red Willow - Baubleless, 6.0%
A trip to Macclesfield earlier this year was predominantly comprised of drinking beer and gin in Red Willow's brewery tap... a great way to spend a day, I'm sure you will agree. This beer is one we've had in since last Christmas, and having enjoyed a couple of bottles a year ago decided to cellar one to see how it would age. Our experiment went pretty well - sweet maltiness provides a lovely boozy backbone to this barrel aged stout, with the tannins from the oak providing a richness which is almost oily in nature. Thick and tasty - a good one to sip on with the fire roaring away.

19. Great Heck - Black Santa, 5.4%
We've been consistently impressed by Great Heck's output over the past couple of years. This brew holds roasted flavours and oaty richness coupled with a vanilla sweetness, lifted by delicate but unmistakably Belgian yeastiness. This is deep yet light somehow both at once. There's something a little bit synthetic tasting in there though that's not unpleasant but just a bit puzzling, given that the brew reports to have used proper Madagascan vanilla pods. An enigma of a beer.

20. Brass Castle - Christmas Kitty, 5.5%.
It's been quite a week for dark beer chez Mashtun as we build up to our festive finale! Bad Kitty is one of our ultimate go-to beers (the cat approves of it too) so the Christmas edition was a must-try for our household. And very merry it it indeed - rich, heady, cinnamon-y aroma that's just like Christmas pudding, and a dark fruit palate with creamy hints of vanilla and festive spices. Bold without being cloying, this is a deliciously well-crafted beer.



Monday, 21 December 2015

Sprout bhajis and bacon jam

Our Christmas Day starter! Inspired by Bundobust and Fat Hippo, both of whom have provided us with excellent sustenance and a bloody good time during 2015 (see also here and here).

Bacon jam (makes 2 jars)
400g of bacon
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1tsp paprika
1 chilli
100g brown sugar
A generous splash of cider vinegar

Cut the bacon and onion into 1inch pieces and chop the garlic. Fry the bacon until golden brown. Remove from the pan and fry off the onion, garlic and chilli, until the onions are translucent. Then add the paprika and continue to fry for a couple more minutes. Add the bacon back into the pan with the brown sugar and vinegar. Bring everything up to the boil, then simmer gently for 20 minutes to thicken, stirring every once in a while to prevent the sugar from sticking or burning. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then blend to your chosen consistency - we went for chunky. Decant into sterilised jars. This will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Sprout Bhajis (makes a starter for 2)
200g cornmeal or gram flour (plain flour will do in an emergency but won't provide the same colour)
A generous handful of sprouts
1tsp mustard seeds
1tsp fennel seeds
1.5tsp coriander seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
2 cardamom pods
1 dried chilli
1tsp salt
1tsp turmeric powder

Add your whole spices to a hot, dry pan and toast until the mustard seeds start to pop. Grind them up in a pestle and mortar. Once ground, add to the cornmeal or gram flour with the salt and turmeric powder and bind together with cold water - enough to transform your spicy flour mixture into a light batter. Chop the sprouts into slices and stir them into the batter. Deep fry in hot oil until golden and crunchy.

The combination for Christmas day is perfect for us - traditional ingredients that you'd expect to see on a festive table, with a definitely non-conventional twist!

Enjoy, and merry Christmas!

Jim and Laura

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

A Beery Advent - Part 3

This week sees the passing of the half way point of our very beery advent. Here's another round up!

11. Buxton - Ring Your Mother, 9.5%
This beer aims to bring an old recipe to the modern brewing age. Initially we were expecting a darker beer, but over the years the term mild has been used to mean a plethora of different things. This iteration has a light in colour malt base, which provided an interesting backbone to the beer, but with the flavour boosted by a great hop character more akin to our understanding of an IPA. Overall, light and quaffable which completely hides the ABV. Wonderfully surprising and interesting on so many levels.

12. Mad Hatter - Cranberry Rye, 5.9%
Our beers are starting to become a little festive with this one... we are almost half way through advent after all. A great nose of cranberries and a wild yeastiness, that probably comes from the character provided by the fruit. The inherent cranberry nature remains on the palate as the beer is drunk, but takes a little step back in place of a massive, bold rye character which invokes charred biscuits and leaves a dryness on the finish.

13. Doppelleu - Whisky Ale, 7.5%
This is a beer for the whisky lovers in us - intensely whisky-ey (definitely a word) from the opening of the bottle right through to the final sip. On the nose, lightly peated with sweet oaky tannins and sticky raisins. A slightly medicinal, almost briny quality comes through in the taste, which reminded us of a coastal aged island whisky. It was the perfect accompaniment to our pulled pork BBQ sliders.

14. Odd Side Ales - Mayan Mocha Stout, 6.0%
Odd Side are a brewery we have not often seen in bottle shops around the UK; this bottle was gifted to us by our bosses at work following a trip to Michigan. The beer pours dark and sticky with a deep coffee aroma - this continues on the palate with rich coffee and toasted malt on waves of velvety texture. A prickle of heat comes towards the end from the habanero chillies used in the brew. Delicious.

15. Mordue - Imperial Raspberry Porter, 7.3%
Another gift from a colleague, brought direct from the brewery! Sweet and syrupy on the nose with a fruity tang creeping in. The flavour is classic porter, with a delicious ripple of raspberry sauce and cocoa. The kind of beer that deepens as you drink, the flavour enriching and coating the palate. We had some of those posh M&S mini glittery chocolate and raspberry meringues in the cupboard, which were a total joy alongside this. Decadent and boozy.



Thursday, 10 December 2015

A Beery Advent - Part 2

Continuing on our beery journey through December... We've tried to select beers that represent a good selection of our favourite breweries (those that bottle, at least), covering a range of styles, with many also having a little story behind them too.

6. Intrepid - Porter, 4.8%
We selected this beer as 2015 has truly been the year of Craft Beer Hour! We've followed this from the beginning and were able to properly get involved with a greatly enjoyable trip to the Intrepid brewery, followed by tea at the fantastic community owned Anglers Rest in Bamford. This beer is pleasantly smooth, with wafts of a delectable hop character that brings a delicate floral nature to the malty mouthfeel, whilst being altogether an easy drinker. A classic porter brought to the more modern palate.

7. Crew Republic - Foundation 11, 5.6%
Fickle reason for picking this initially - Laura cannot resist any beer with an owl included in the artwork. Having tried this on keg a few months ago, we were blown away by the powerfully fruity, refreshing nature of this American-style pale ale, produced by a Munich-based brewery. The bottled version has less hop pizazz, but is still a very tasty drink... Resinous and lightly floral in aroma. Grapefruity and bitter on the palate, with an almost savoury, herbal edge and a dry finish.

8. Northern Monk - Strannik, 9.0%
As soon as this hits the glass, you know you've got a BIG drink. Massively rich and creamy on the nose, with molasses and hints of tannins. On the palate it's thick, almost to the point of being syrupy, with full bodied flavours of black treacle and hot buttered toast. The finish is deeply roasted, with an almost burnt nature that lingers behind. We've been ageing this for about two years - definitely worth the wait.

9. Siren - Barrel Aged Broken Dream, 7.4%
Aged in Ardbeg barrels, this appealed to the whisky fans in us as much as the beer lover! There's a hint of sweet wood smoke from the cask but this doesn't overwhelm at all... in fact we'd have liked a little more! None the less this is a beautiful beer that feels luxurious in drinking - oily, rich and leaves a gentle peaty sweetness on the tongue.

10. Blue Monkey - Silverback in the USSR, 10.5%
There is absolutely no doubt that if this beer was a monkey, it'd have to be a gorilla. Aptly named indeed. We mentioned earlier on that Strannik was on the syrupy side, but nothing compared to this... it's like drinking a melted down liquorice stick, with a similar mouthfeel to a fortified wine. Roasted malt character, and aniseedy sweetness partnered by hop bitterness. Boozy as hell. (Honourable mention at this festive time to our favourite-ly named Christmas beer, King Kong Merrily On High, also brewed by our pals at Blue Monkey!)



Saturday, 5 December 2015

A Beery Advent - Part 1

For the past two years, we've indulged ourselves in Master of Malt's simply outstanding advent calendars - Jim choosing whisky two years in a row, and Laura sampling both the gin and vodka offerings. This year, however, we've both made the transition in our working lives into the brewing industry, and wanted to celebrate this by sharing some special beers in the run up to Christmas. So here goes...

1. Tempest Brew Co - In The Dark We Live, 7.2%
A bold start to advent with this black IPA! Huge hops and rounded roasted malt on the nose. This follows through on the palate too, with vibrant floral hoppiness giving way to toasty coffee and a robust dry finish. Went amazingly well with a nice bit of Roquefort. We've been consistently impressed by the output from this Scottish brewery this year... looking forward to seeing what 2016 will bring for them!

2.  Six Degrees North - Chopper Stout, 7.0%
We spent one of our favourite evenings of 2015 in the Aberdeen Six Degrees North bar, with this beer being one of many sampled, including as an ingredient in a beef stew! Beautifully Belgian on the aroma with notes of rich caramel and dark chocolate. Slightly burnt flavour (in a pleasant way), really well balanced maltiness and satisfyingly rich. Clean on the finish which prevents it from becoming too heavy. Masterful brewing!

3. Hanging Bat - Fifty Fifty, a Sorachi pale ale, 5.0%
The third in a row of beers selected on account of our Scotland road trip - a definite highlight of 2015! We'd been to Edinburgh before but this was the first time we'd made it to the Hanging Bat. Super fresh aroma, dill tickling the nose. More bitter on the palate than other Sorachi Ace beers we've tried, which overwhelmed the coconut character we're so used to, but this perhaps makes it a more accessible drink... Sorachi Ace is quite the marmite of the hop world! Dry, yet refreshing.

4. Wold Top - Marmalade Porter, 5.0%
Bitter orange apparent, but with boozy, creamy, chocolatey smoothness overriding any sort of fruity nature. A bitter finish evokes marmalade again at the end, but overall it didn't make us come over all Paddington Bear... a very good porter, but wouldn't say that it quite lives up to the name. EXCELLENT alongside a mince pie.

5. Arran Brewery - Sleeping Warrior, 8.3%
This barley wine was brought back from our holiday to this picturesque island in May. It was one we'd thought of ageing, but hey, seven months is a long time too! Full of bonfire toffee on the nose, with rich caramel and smooth espresso (with 2 sugars!) on the palate giving way to a long yet delicate sweet finish. Deliciously boozy but still clean and light to drink. A wonderful barley wine.