Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: 2018

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Fine Pups of Fyne Fest

With one of the most relaxed beer festivals we've ever been to over, and many people already (and justifiably) singing its praises, it's definitely easy to say that Fyne Fest surpasses most of the expectations of a great festival. Calm, well organised, a wonderful mix of clientele (from the most ardent RateBeer ticker to people who just want a pint of Jarl), family friendly, a beer list to quench the most demanding of thirsts, bands to keep you dancing to the early hours, and all in THE most beautiful of settings.

Also, there were dogs. Lots and lots of dogs. Here are a few of our favourite woofers...






This year was our first trip, but it certainly won't be the last.

Thank you to Iain and the entire Fyne Ales team for an amazing weekend, and to all the campers in "The Village" for making us feel so welcome. We can't wait for next year!


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Connoisseurs Choice from Gordon & MacPhail

Tonight we participated in a Tweet Tasting hosted by The Whisky Wire, introducing us to the new look Connoisseurs Choice range of whiskies from Gordon & MacPhail. The redesign has come about as part of their celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of the range, and aims to highlight the provenance of the whisky and the commitment to the art of Scotch whisky maturation. Each and every whisky in the range is non-chill filtered and bottled at natural colour. Here's what we thought of these unique drams...


Pulteney 1998, 46.0% ABV.
N: Grassy, gentle hay and a soft apple brandy sweetness. A dusting of nutmeg and raw brown cane sugar to finish off. After a few minutes, a little salination develops along with a rounding off of the spice and fruit that was present before. A little touch of alcohol spice comes even later, carrying with it a rhubarb-esque tartness.
P: Smooth, with very little in the way of oaky tannins but LOADS of vanilla sugariness. Apple pie, but served with a pineapple coulis drizzled atop in lieu of custard. More spice creeps on in as the dram opens up. A treacly nature adds to the finish.

Craigellachie 1991, 56.5% ABV.
N: Tart, tannic wood character, reminiscent of pickled walnuts. There's loads of dried mineraliness, a little chalk, and then pervasive citric notes - somewhere in between overripe lemons and Haribo Tangfastics.
P: POW! You can certainly feel the hit of that cask strength. The mineral presence is definitely still apparent, accompanied by lemon verbena and a touch of paprika. Adding a splash of water is like slapping your grandad's armchair - musk, a little book dust, and just a wee touch of secret late night cigar.

Highland Park 2004, 60.0% ABV.
N: Dank red berries and juniper with a saline edge - like walking through the hedgerows on a windy cliff top on the North Yorkshire coast. In balance with this, there's caramelised bananas doused in a salted miso butter sauce. Invitingly multi-layered.
P: Like licking a freshly sanded piece of oak. A little smoke fills the air, a chilli is simmering on the stove; cinder toffee meets cayenne pepper. For us, the ABV is not particularly pronounced, especially when considered in comparison to the previous dram. Smooth and sweet palatability.

Clynelish 2005, 56.1% ABV.
N: Earthy, dry saltiness. A stroll through a late evening herb garden, mint and lavender, the last smouldering vestiges of a forgotten barbeque.
P:Dates, salted lemons, warming spice - cardamom and cinnamon - pomegranate seeds and just a suggestion of herbal freshness to finish. It's basically the startings of a really tasty tagine. Deliciously complex and very well balanced. We approve.

Caol Ila Hermitage Wood Finish 2004, 45.0% ABV.
N: A platter of kippers, salted meats, lemon and caper butter, eaten whilst overlooking the Mediterranean. A few of our fellow tasters picked up on a prawn cocktail element - upon revisiting we could definitely get notes of the dust you find at the bottom of a packet of Skips!
P: Robust umami character - cooking the day's catch over a driftwood fire in a seaweed-ridden grotto. Bolder than your typical Caol Ila release and a complex surprise.

Big thanks to Steve at the Whisky Wire, and Stephen Rankin and the team at Gordon & MacPhail, for inviting us to participate in this evening of delectable dramming.

Cheers!

Jim & Laura

Friday, 27 April 2018

Flavourly: Craft Beer Discovery Club

Last month we were introduced to Flavourly, an online shop specialising predominantly in beer and gin (although they do whisky, wine, and other spirits too!). As well as providing an online bottleshop, Flavourly have also established their Craft Beer Discovery Club, a subscription service which delivers a personalised range of ten curated beers each month. 

Our box contained exclusively beers from Fourpure Brewing Co, a brewery we're familiar with and have enjoyed visiting on the Bermondsey Beer Mile in the past. The box included some classic favourites but also some totally new beers including the Easy Peeler Citrus Session IPA, a recent addition to their core range based on a lower ABV version of their popular IPA, Juicebox. The box also contained 3 lagers, which is a style we wouldn't usually go for in a shop or bar, but it was a nice change to have the opportunity to try something different.

We're not going to go into our tasting notes for all of these, but highlights for us were the vibrantly tropical Shape Shifter IPA (5.9%), the crisp and quaffable Indy Lager (4.4% and great alongside a pizza), and the well-balanced and robust Beartooth American Brown (5.3%).


Also included within our box was the Flavourly Magazine, which we felt was a great touch. Inside were approachable tasting notes for each featured beer - we really liked the inclusion of recommended serving temperatures. There was also an in-depth article on the featured brewery which helped bring the beers in our box to life, alongside a piece on the four main beer ingredients, which was eminently readable - good for newcomers to craft beer as well as retaining relevance and interest for more experienced "beer geeks", a balance that can often be difficult to achieve.

Other breweries were in the magazine so we assume that depending on your personal preferences (which it looks like you can easily change at any time) you may receive a different selection - for example, there were no dark beers in our box, so stout fans may have been a little disappointed, but the customisable elements of the club ensures that nobody goes thirsty!

The second half of the magazine was dedicated to the gin box which looks great too - we particularly liked that each gin from the box had a suggested cocktail to try, as well as insights into the people behind the gin in more extensive interviews. Laura is a huge gin enthusiast as well as beer lover, and all three of the featured gins were totally new to her, so that's three more to pop on the "to try" list!

Overall, we were really impressed with our first experience of Flavourly - you could say it's taking a bit of a gamble sending out a beer "discovery" box to two people who drink a lot of beer and are well integrated into the beer industry, but we were really pleasantly surprised by the selection included (both in the box we received, and in the wider selection sent out that the magazine showed was available). The customer service was helpful too and the magazine was a genuinely good read.

Cheers!

Jim & Laura

Disclaimer: We were sent the Craft Beer Discovery Club box free of charge from Flavourly. However this has not influenced our opinions, which are all our own.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Happy Birthday Brew York!

Brew York celebrated their second birthday this last weekend, and having been fans of theirs from their very beginning, we just had to pop by their taproom, based right within the city walls of York, to join the party.

We've been consistently impressed since their inception by the level of balance they seem to have found between easy drinking, more traditional cask ales which suit the historical City of York and many of its locals, and the experimental, innovative and unique - often with pleasingly hilarious names. They've progressed massively in just two years and to top it off,  co-founders Lee and Wayne are lovely chaps as well.

As well as it being their birthday, this week Brew York have launched a crowdfunding campaign to support a new phase of expansion which includes the installation of a street food kitchen and a pilot kit. Work on the space for this is already well under way and formed the main area for guest bars and food offerings at the birthday party.


We arrived in the early afternoon and started off gently with a Debaser Berliner Weisse, 2.8%. However, not content with offering just one version of this beer, there were FOURTEEN different syrups to choose from to add to them - we sampled pomegranate, passion fruit and lemon. Then it was on to a Juice Forsyth session IPA, chosen for the lols of the name but bursting with flavour and an excellent beer even without the punnage. It was great to catch up with the guys from Fierce and Mad Hatter over a couple more beers as well, along with delicious Asian-inspired food from Street Cleaver.


We couldn't go home until Laura had tried the total dreamboat combination of her favourite Brew York beer and her favourite all time cocktail - an Imperial Tonkoko White Russian! As the photo evidence below shows, it lived up to the astronomic expectations. Beer cocktails, or "Hoptails", are firmly on the agenda as part of the expansion and we can't wait to find out what other concoctions the team come up with (so much so, we've pledged on a masterclass as part of their crowdfund, get on board guys!).


The event was a triumph - a brilliant showcase of everything Brew York can do (they had 8 casks and 21 kegs of their own on offer), with a great choice of guest breweries, food and cocktails, and a chilled and friendly atmosphere. The current tap room is an asset to York in its own right (it's even got a little beer garden right on the banks of the Foss) and the new space will only serve to enhance and amplify this.

Happy 2nd Birthday Brew York, we look forward to watching you continue to grow and develop for many years more.

Cheers,

Laura and Jim

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Wingin' It...

We've got a week off for our anniversary this week, so it felt like a good time to embark upon the noble quest of perfecting the cooking of the humble chicken wing. Wings have to be one of the best accompaniments to beers so we thought we would put together a couple of recipes of some of our favourites and suggested beers to pair with them.

We always buy our wings from our favourite local indie retailer, Mr Pickles, as all of their produce comes from within Yorkshire and they place great emphasis on sourcing all their meat ethically. The chicken is free range and comes from Loose Birds farm in North Yorkshire.

Each of the recipes below is for 12 wings, to serve two as a main course.

First up is a classic wing, the buffalo!

Marinade

2 crushed garlic cloves
2 chillies
Juice of half a lime
Hearty dash of Tobasco
1 tbsp Sriracha
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp each of smoked and hot paprika
Large pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Coating

100g cornflour
Pinch salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp of smoked paprika
1 egg

Blue cheese dip

2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
75g blue cheese (we used Yorkshire Blue)
1 tbsp mayonnaise
Squeeze of lime juice
Pinch of salt

Method

Combine the ingredients for the marinade with a dozen chicken wings, and set aside in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight if possible to allow all those flavours to work their magic.

Before frying, combine the coating ingredients excluding the egg. Whisk the egg separately, dunk in the wings, then roll liberally around in the dry coating mix. The cornflour will help give these wings a real crunch.

Deep fry your wings for around 7-10 minutes in batches, making sure not to over fill the pan, as this will stop the wings from cooking properly. Keep warm in a preheated oven (180°C) until everything is fried.)

For the dip, crumble the cheese and whisk together with creme fraiche and the mayo, then add the lime juice and salt to taste.

To serve, load the wings onto your plate with a generous heaped tablespoon of blue cheese dip. You'll probably have too much dip, so make sure there's some celery in the fridge for a snack for supper. We decided not to scale down the recipe because surely nobody in the world believes too much blue cheese dip is a bad thing. We made a potato salad with chives and capers to serve alongside.


Beer-wise, a bold IPA is a perfect companion for these wings. You'll need something with a good punchy hop character to stand up to the spice in the wing coating and cut through that rich creamy dip - we chose Brew By Numbers 65/01, their first double dry hopped IPA brewed with Citra and Columbus. Piney and citrussy, it worked exactly as intended alongside the wings.


Next up we've gone for our household favourite, Korean style wings. Again the below is a recipe suitable for 12 chicken wings.

Marinade

1 tbsp Gochujang (fermented chili paste)
1/2 tbsp fermented bean paste
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 crushed garlic cloves

Quick Kimchi

Salad:
1/2 a head of Chinese leaf
1/2 a red pepper
3 spring onions

Dressing:
1 fresh red chili
1 tbsp Gochujang paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 crushed garlic clove

Method

Heat all of the ingredients for the marinade together in a saucepan, then pour over the wings and leave to marinate overnight.

Before cooking, make the kimchi. This recipe is for a quick version of this side dish, but it's still pretty damn delicious. First chop the Chinese leaf into pieces around 2cm square and leave to rest in salted water for at least 10 minutes, before rinsing well with fresh water. Chop the pepper and spring onion into similar sized pieces and add to the Chinese leaf. Combine all the dressing ingredients together and mix well, to a loose dressing. If you can't get hold of Gochujang then chili flakes and and chili oil can be used, but really the main character of the wings and accompaniment is helped along by this fermented paste so it's worth the effort of seeking some out. Pour the dressing over the vegetables, mix well and leave to sit whilst the wings cook.

Pop the wings on a baking sheet and grill under a high setting for around 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes to help them cook evenly and and encourage a crispy skin.

Serve the wings with a hearty pile of the quick kimchi. (The rest of the kimchi will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for 7-10 days).


This works best with something really crisp and refreshing to drink - we selected Galleon, a dry hopped lager brewed by Fuller's in collaboration with Fourpure for last year's Fuller's & Friends project. The clean character of the lager works to offset the heat of the wings and cuts across the palate nicely without detracting from all those delicious Korean flavours.

Overall, we couldn't choose which we liked best and decided quite simply that we're all winners in the wing off. How do you wing it?

Cheers,

Jim & Laura

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Northern Monk: Death and Glory

Northern Monk need no introduction, having produced a wide range of excellent beers since their inception. Death and Glory, released simultaneously in January this year, caught our eye as they are
some of the first beers released under the watchful eye of new Production Manager Colin Stronge (previously of Buxton Brewery) - and obviously we're suckers for the big boozes. We drank them to celebrate the start of our anniversary week off, and here's what we made of these two behemoth releases.

Glory - Triple IPA, 10.5%


Invitingly aromatic, from the nose alone this could practically be mistaken for a glass of fresh pineapple juice. More pineapple on the palate alongside ripe mango and melon with a silky caress of caramel, it's soft and sweet with a sumptuously full mouthfeel. Although we weren't drinking it at it's freshest (the best before date is next month, although at less than three months old and tasting this good we'd argue it could have longer on there) it was still absolutely bursting with an abundantly tropical hop character. Very easy drinking for the ABV and ridiculously well balanced. Glorious indeed.


Death - Imperial Stout, 12.0%


This is a BIG beer. A rich, sweet, aroma reminiscent of black treacle fills the room, let alone the glass, as soon as you pop the can. On drinking, the high ABV is definitely apparent but it manages not to overwhelm the palate, having a nicely balanced yet heavy roast character. There's freshly ground coffee with two sugars and just a dash of cream alongside decadent dark chocolate and just a hint of dried red fruit and berries. The finish reminds you that this is a boozy beer with a lingering, bold residual sweetness sitting proudly alongside a lasting bitterness.


No, we didn't Black and Tan them. Sorry.

Jim & Laura

Bonus Beercat: Tosin displaying relevant expressions to suit these two very different beers

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Beer review: Track Brewing Co.

Based in a railway arch a stone's throw from Manchester Piccadilly, Track Brewing Co have been on our radar for a good few years now. Making some of the finest cask and keg around, they made the move into bottles in November last year, so we grabbed a few of their new releases to give the range a try.


Sonoma, 3.8%

Track's flagship, and enormously popular pale ale. This beer is regarded by many as the absolute epitome of what a sessionable cask beer should be all about, so we were excited to see how the journey into smallpack had treated it. Soft citrus on the aroma as we would expect from this beer, with a beautifully delicate hoppy bitterness on the palate balanced by a sweet malty backbone. Crisp finish, perfect for it's ABV. Easy drinking, refreshing, and whilst definitely reminiscent of its counterpart in cask it's just not quite the same. We couldn't put our finger on exactly what was missing, maybe we need to start pulling our bottled beer through an Angram... but having said that it's still bloody delicious. Stock the fridge high.

Koda, 6.5%

A brand new to us lactose IPA. On the nose it's all orange sherbet; creamy, fruity and with just a hint of enticing sharpness. A good punch of vibrant hop character (it's brewed with Mosaic, Centennial and El Dorado) sits happily alongside the silky smooth mouthfeel. It's ridiculously well balanced and manages to simultaneously leave behind both bitterness and a lovely sweet reminder of what was in your glass.

Tenaya, 8.0%

A Citra and Galaxy Double IPA that pours a very pale hazy yellow. The aroma reminded us of mango Rubicon, but with that characteristic New England yeasty bite bursting through too. Tropical notes galore with flavours of passionfruit and more tasty mango, with hints of apricot lingering in the background. The bitterness doesn't overpower, which can so often be the case with this type of beer. A great example of the style.


Overall, then, it's fair to say we were pretty impressed with our first taste of Track's bottled releases, not that we expected anything less. The bottles themselves look beautiful, and it's nice to see a brewery new to smallpack choosing to package into glass rather than can - an increasingly rare move, but it certainly seems to be working for them so far. Their taproom is open on Fridays and Saturdays now too, so it looks like a trip across the Pennines is on the cards for us soon.

Cheers!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Gin cocktails

I'll be honest, my gin collection is starting to get a tad out of control. I used to think gin was just gin - a simple spirit, with little to distinguish one brand from another. This assumption is increasingly wrong in a market which is continually improving, with a greater variety of different distillers producing gins which are carefully thought out, innovative and ultimately delicious.


It's upon drinking them neat that the nuances of flavour can be picked out and pondered upon, but many of the gins on my shelves lend themselves equally well to cocktails, with the characteristics of each neat gin determining the additional components I like to try alongside them. Here are a few of my current favourites.

NB Navy Strength Gin


A Craft Gin Club discovery, NB Gin hails from East Lothian, Scotland. Neat, it's very balanced and a beautifully classic London Dry style gin, however at 57%, although it remains smooth and has a good burst of citrus, the strength is a little too apparent for me to appreciate the gin fully without a lot of ice (which helps to open out the flavours) and a lemon twist for garnish.

Craft Gin Club labelled this the perfect gin to make into a martini, and who am I to argue with perfection?! To a very cold glass (this is important), pour a double measure of NB Navy Strength, add 10ml of extra dry vermouth, stir and garnish with an olive - simple as that, but so much more complex on the palate than it is to make. My olive garnish was another item from my Craft Gin Club box - Alco Olives, themselves infused with NB Gin! Overall, I'd say this is a heavyweight gin which although tasty gains greater balance and drinkability from a cocktail.

Sibling Gin


I absolutely adore this gin. The first time I tried it (in the Devonshire Cat in Sheffield, which has an excellent gin menu), it absolutely blew me away with a massive hit of what I perceived as bubblegum flavour - something I've never experienced before in a gin! According to the Sibling team (actual siblings themselves!) it's quite common for people to pick up on bubblegum notes from the blueberries used as one of the botanicals. It's got a gorgeous, very slightly earthy, fruity edge to it and it's so unusual. Highly recommended.

In a cocktail, I thought I'd play more on the blueberry elements within the drink and stirred the gin down with a small spoonful of blueberry jam and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, before topping up with prosecco. Decadent and delicious. This gin also makes a beautiful G&T, with Fever Tree tonic and a few blueberries to garnish.

Robin of Locksley Gin


Our most local gin! Based just a ten minute walk away from our house, we absolutely love this gin and the folks who run it are fantastic as well. The gin neat is light and zesty, with a slightly floral aroma and an incredibly smooth, balanced palate bursting with fruity citrus.

For the cocktail, I decided to use an ingredient from another of our local favourites - Birdhouse Tea Co. The citrus and grapefruit notes in the gin I felt would work really well with peach flavours, so I iced a cup of my favourite Princess Peach sencha green tea and added a good splash of Locksley gin. The cocktail was finished off with a squeeze of lemon juice, a tiny splash of sugar syrup (to taste, my friend preferred it without the additional sweetness) and garnished with a piece of pink grapefruit. As an aside, Birdhouse have just opened their own tearoom, bar and restaurant and it is STUNNING. Sheffield, pay attention - they have a tea cocktail menu too!

Brandon's Gin

An American gin for my final choice - this one hails from Rocktown Distillery in Arkansas. This one was recommended to us by the fantastic Starmore Boss, one of our local booze purveyors and without a shadow of a doubt the most knowledgeable. Neat, it's crisp, fresh and almost a little creamy on the palate, with a beautiful honeyed character for an almost silky finish.

For a cocktail, we chose a Souped Up Negroni. Now, the classic gin, vermouth and Campari mixture is boozy as hell as is. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to mix up the Brandon's with the bourbon from the same distillery - a Negroni/Boulevardier hybrid, if you will. We mixed a shot each of the bourbon and gin with half a shot of red vermouth and Campari. The result was bitter, ridiculously boozy and very grown up, full of Seville oranges with an oaky backbone from the whiskey which helps set it apart from your standard Negroni. Not one for the faint hearted, but definitely and defiantly delicious.

Cheers!

Laura