Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: March 2016

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Wet Yer Whiskers: A Collaboration Brew

What better way to celebrate Sheffield Beer Week than to brew a beer with some of our Steel City chums! Teaming with Meg and Chris from Karma Citra, we brewed with our day job mates Abbeydale Brewery.

We bandied around a few ideas before settling down on a classic oxymoronic beverage - the white stout. While yes, we know stout is just a traditional term for strong, in the current lexicon it is most commonly used as a dark beer descriptor.

Made with loads of coffee from local experts Pollards, cocoa nibs for a hit of rich sweetness and heaps of lactose, we aimed to create a beer that when drunk confuses as well as pleases.

The result? A 5.5% beauty we called Wet Yer Whiskers! Look out for it heading out on bars around Sheffield and beyond...

There are some hops underneath... Promise

Ar' Meg operating the squeegee

Chris is life and soul of all parties!

Brewsome Twosome

The final offering!


Laura, Jim, Chris and Meg

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Sheffield Beer Map

Are you in need of a beer in Sheffield? Hopefully this map will help you find some liquid refreshment. We have arranged the map into four areas of Sheffield and highlighted our recommended watering holes.

We will endeavour to keep the maps information updated. Anywhere you think we've missed please let us know.

Jim and Laura

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Beer and Food Pairing: Spontanbasil and Lasagne

First up, let's talk about THE BEER. Spontanbasil, crafted by the legendary combination of Mikkeller and Lindemans, is a spontaneously fermented wild beer that just completely sings of basil all the way through the drink, not just at the initial tasting (which is so often the case with this ilk of almost novelty additions into beers). The tartness of the wild yeast works incredibly well with the freshness of the herb and adds layers and layers of depth. It's the sort of beer that isn't just a flavour on the palate, it's an entire sensory experience, with a heady aroma that floods through the mind and makes it the type of drink that you won't forget in a hurry.

A beer this phenomenal needed a meal worthy of it to pair with. Having sampled a small amount before, we felt that a herb-ridden pasta sauce would be a winning flavour combination. So we decided to set ourselves a bit of a challenge and make a lasagne entirely from scratch. 

The key component to a cracking lasagne is surely a top quality tomato sauce. We cooked down 8 cans of plum tomatoes with two onions, a chilli and six cloves of garlic for a total of around 12 hours at 120°C... this made far too much for a family-sized lasagne, but we've got a bit of a sauce solera system situation going on in the freezer, which the remnants topped up perfectly. Whilst this might seem a ridiculously long amount of time, caring for a sauce in this way allows all of the sugars in the tomatoes and onions to break down and start to caramelise, leaving a wonderfully indulgent, almost "meaty" rich sauce. To give the sauce a fresher nature too, we added another tin of tomatoes just before assembling the lasagne.

We decided on ox cheek for the meat, but really anything that can be slow cooked will do, such as brisket or pork shoulder, something cheap and cheerful. The meat was browned a piece at a time (we used three cheeks in total) on all sides. To this a quartered onion and a stick or two of celery were added, along with a bottle of beer (Poacher's Choice in this instance, but really you could use whatever you have lying around in the cupboard). This was cooked on the hob at the lowest setting to blip away for 4-6 hours, meaning the meat was super tender and just pulled apart once cooked. Just before assembling the lasagne, the cheeks were pulled and added to the tomatoes to warm through and let the flavours mingle. We found we also needed a little extra water to keep the sauce easily workable when layering up.

Admittedly, making pasta from scratch is a bit of a faff, but totally worth it. For a large lasagne, we made about 500g of pasta, which is 450g of '00 flour' and the equivalent of 6 free range eggs. This can come in the form of 12 yolks or 6 full eggs - the yolks give the pasta a great texture and a more "full" flavour of pasta that you simply can't get in dried. If you fancy having a go yourself, here’s a quick little tutorial:
Bring the eggs and flour together in a bowl. Once they have roughly conglomerated, tip out onto a clean worktop (you can do the whole mixing process on the work top, but it makes a tremendous mess unless you have a decent space to do it on, which we do not). Knead into a dough and really work it hard to allow the gluten to become stretchy. At this point you can set aside in the fridge for at least half an hour until its ready to roll and assemble. It also freezes perfectly well, should you want to double the quantities – just be sure to defrost thoroughly overnight in the fridge.

Back to our meal. The final thing to prepare was the white sauce. A roux of 80g of melted butter and 65g of flour formed the base, combined with a litre of hot/almost boiling milk gradually incorporated in a ladle full at a time, with the aromatic additions of parsley, basil and a grating of nutmeg. Finally a good handful of parmesan was added before removing from the heat.

Assembly time! The pasta was rolled out into thin sheets and blanched for a couple of minutes (we’d recommend doing this in more water than looks necessary, one or two sheets at a time). To layer up the dish, we started with pasta, then meaty tomatoes, then white sauce and topped with a layer of fresh basil leaves. We repeated this three times, then topped the final layer of pasta with the last of the white sauce and a good sprinkling of parmesan and mozzarella. 

45 minutes in the oven later... ta-dah!

The meal as a whole worked superbly together. The richness of the dish brought out the tartness in the beer, which in turn cut through the lasagne and freshened up the palate beautifully. Adding plenty of basil to the lasagne provided a bonus complement to the beer and allowed all the flavours to absolutely sing. A triumph!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project

Post-Traditional Brewing

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project are without doubt forging a name for themselves in the world of sour beer. Whilst still relatively small, their reputation is steadily growing, making slow beer in a way that is traditional yet at the same time truly modern. The techniques at the heart of their processes were long-established before "clean" beer became the mainstream... A time in which bacteria were embraced if not fully understood, a time where tartness was accepted and not a reason to bring a drink back to the bar. Crooked Stave take these principals but drag them full throttle into the modern age, showcasing innovation, knowledge and education in absolute spades.

The brewery is a producer of the kind of beer that is not really feasible for any brewery in the UK - here, we simply don't have the massive amount of space (and money, in the very vast majority of cases) required. America on the other hand, with an abundance of relatively cheap land, enables longer term sour producers to thrive. As well as this, in the case of Crooked Stave and other similar producers, the thriving wine scene across parts of the US is key too. The climate in areas such as along the West Coast and some of the southern states including Texas is perfect for grapes and is now home to an array of seriously up and coming vineyards. While these things don't seem directly linked, the major crossover on these two situations is wood... really big wood.

The foudre (or foeder, as our US pals know it) is an integral part of the large scale, long term sour beer production process. These vessels take up a fraction of the space to hold a massive amount of beer, allowing it to sour with the addition of in-house bacteria and yeast mainly comprised of Brettanomyces (we know it as Brett, coz' we are best buds). These gargantuan oak vats often come straight from wine producers, who often want rid of them as they are susceptible to the kind of bacterial infection that Crooked Stave crave... fortuitous indeed for us sour beer fiends. While Crooked Stave do also host an ageing program consisting of bourbon barrels and liqueur casks, these are mainly used to finish or round off a carefully selected blend of sour beer from different foudres.

Next door to the ageing room, the brew house itself is relatively small, with a tidy little brew kit and an open cooling plate used in spontaneously fermented beers, along with stainless steel holding tanks and fermenters. At the helm of this (cool)ship is Chad Yakobson, a man whose expertise lies in a Masters dissertation entitled "Pure Culture Fermentation Characteristics of Brettanomyces Yeast Species and Their Use in the Brewing Industry”, an intriguing topic indeed and a study which we'd love to have a good read of (the site hosting it is down at the moment, but we're hopeful!).

Not being able to drink on the brewery premises due to local liquor laws, and the brewery itself being well out of the way of Denver's central district, Crooked Stave have an additional brewery tap, quite unlike the majority of the breweries we visited during our Colorado trip. The tap itself is situated within a shopping collaborative that would make even Camden Town blush. The Source is an 1880s brick factory turned boutique food/boozery, consisting of a bakery selling delectable French pastries, a butcher's with an in-house beef ageing room, coffee roasters, an Italian deli with a wall of spice from around the globe, and more.

With 22 different lines across the bar, including a mixture of sour beers, saisons, a couple of more conventionally fermented beers and non-alcoholic Kombucha tea, the tap room was a wood-clad treat. We started off with two different releases of St. Bretta, a delightfully fresh whitebier fermented with 100% Brett. The first was finished with clementines and the second with satsumas and mandarins. Both were thirst-quenching and bursting with fruity freshness, although the satsuma version had a little more in the way of tartness which made it our unanimous favourite. We continued to drink through the list via beers that were dry-hopped, brewed with sage, or aged with apricots, until we reached the two barrel aged beauties sharing the name of Cybies.

The pair are oak-aged, mixed fermentation Belgian beers that sit happily at 9%. The key difference in these two beers is the fruit additions. The first, Salvador Cybies, is finished in barrels rippled with tart cherry stickiness, but it was the second that flew to the top of the list of beers we had in our short time in the US and possibly our joint all time favourite beer: Silly Cybies. Initially fresh raspberries on the nose and palate, exactly like fruits plucked straight from gardens and hedgerows, the alcohol and fermentation added waves of flavour on top of layers of funky depth, coupled with an intoxicating rich wood finish. Fantastic.

We are starting to see a few of Crooked Stave's beers making their way to the UK, as the market increasingly demands interesting tart beers on this side of the pond. What can be a little off-putting for consumers here is the cost, something we would refute as a reason to leave these beers on the shelf because frankly they are expensive to make. It can take years to create a high quality long term sour, which then needs to be blended and often finished, whether through dry hopping in the case of the excellent Progenitor or with fruit as in the aforementioned Cybies Series. There is a real skill in blending that is arguably closer to whisky production than conventional ale brewing. But for us that knowledge, skill and overall commitment to a product is the real cost of this style of brewing. Crooked Stave are proof that this investment is certainly worth paying the price for.

Massive thanks to Zack, Andy, and the rest of the Crooked Stave team for their warm hospitality and taking the time to teach us about their beers and show us round their magnificent brewery. We were beyond inspired!


Jim and Laura