Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: February 2017

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.



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.