Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: drinks
Showing posts with label drinks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drinks. Show all posts

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Sober November: The Caffeine Diaries

Those of you who follow our social media channels may have noticed that for the month of November we've given up all alcohol. Not easy when you work in a brewery and run a drinks focused blog, but we wanted something that was a real challenge to show that we were taking things seriously as we aim to raise money for CALM, a charity that's very close to both of our hearts. Anyone interested can take a look at our page (and donate should they wish!) here.

Firstly - the humble tea leaf. Tea is a drink that Laura in particular enjoys anyway, but we've both drank a lot more of it over the past few weeks, with the sheer range of types and flavours available meaning there's generally something to suit any mood!

Birdhouse Tea Co

Our most local tea producer, Birdhouse Tea Co, is run by the absolutely fantastic Rebecca (a qualified Tea Champion) and her mum Julie, and is a real Sheffield gem. A recent successful crowdfund campaign has contributed towards their soon to open new premises which will include a retail area, cafe, takeaway tea bar and even a classroom where regular tasting events can be held.

As well as a monumental plethora of single origin teas, Birdhouse create a huge array of their own blends focusing on "health and happiness", with collections based on themes such as Sheffield, the Peak District, and sweetshop classics! I've tried probably about 30 of the blends (and have also created my very own at a workshop last year) and they've without exception been real showcases of flavours and with carefully selected additional ingredients to allow the tea itself to shine. If I had to pick a favourite, I'd go for Princess Peach - a delicate sencha green tea with peachy flavours and rose and sunflower petals.


I really can't recommend Birdhouse enough, and for those of you not lucky enough to have them on your doorstep in Sheffield, their blends are all available via their online shop.

Tea Tourist

Tea Tourist is a monthly subscription service which delivers six samples of (usually loose leaf) tea, all from different producers, direct to your door in a handy letterbox friendly box. We're received five of the boxes so far, and each one has showcased a totally different variety of teas. The boxes are beautifully presented and well put together, with comprehensive information provided on each tea producer and suggestions for the best ways to brew and enjoy your tea. Each sample is designed to provide four cups, although often I've got plenty more than this from them. Favourites have included the relaxing Camomile, Rose and Fennel blend from Edgcumbes, and the smoky and punchy Sherlock Holmes tea, featuring lapsang souchong tea and elderflower blossom, from Chash


Improvements and developments have been made to the boxes in the time we've been receiving them (including the welcome introduction of tasty snacks and treats to accompany your brew), in response to feedback from customers and it's been great to see how this new company (which this month celebrates it's first birthday) is growing and changing. You can also get 30% off your first box using the code MASHTUN30.

Once our usual service has been resumed, keep your eyes peeled as we're in the process of compiling a series of tea based cocktails which we'll be sharing with you soon.


We've also enjoyed this month discovering the world of craft coffee. Coffee seems to be experiencing a similar sort of upsurge in interest as beer has done over the last few years, bringing with it the accompanying increase in artisan producers. Here are a couple we've particularly enjoyed discovering.

Frazer's Coffee Roasters

Based in Sheffield, run by Frazer himself! A massively knowledgeable gent who I had the pleasure of spending a few hours chatting coffee with at a recent Meet the Producer session at our lovely local shop Mr Pickles. Here, the emphasis is on not just producing amazing coffee grown with provenance (Frazer knows exactly where all of his beans come from, supporting small farms and community projects),  but also on educating the drinker in the best way to look after and make your coffee to get the best possible drink out of it.

Frazer's Steel City blend is inspired by Sheffield's industrial heritage, and is rich and hearty with a very dark roast providing a sumptuous bonfire toffee quality. A great pick-me-up for the morning. We've also enjoyed the newly released Christmas blend, using beans from Guatemala and Rwanda. No festive spice here, just the absolute finest of beans lightly roasted to give a beautifully rounded and smooth nutty character with hints of vanilla and a gentle sweetness. Reckon this would be a perfect afternoon treat with a good hunk of homemade gingerbread!

Dark Woods Coffee

We first became aware of these guys, hailing from Huddersfield, through their collaboration with Magic Rock - Common Grounds, a coffee porter made using a bespoke blend of Dark Woods beans (Dark Woods themselves have also since released the beans aged in whiskey barrels, which is a really interesting concept).

Our favourite blend we've tried is the Great Taste award-winning Under Milk Wood, deliciously balanced with a gorgeous sweetness almost akin to caramel. Really drinkable and a gentle start to any day.

As with Frazer's, Dark Woods are keen for their coffee to be treated well once it's made it into your home and so offer plenty of information on how to brew. It's a fairly new idea to us that coffee isn't just coffee, and that it isn't necessarily a good thing to chuck a glug of milk and a sugar in, but that different blends will have totally different flavour profiles and the notes and nuances within them should be allowed to sing. It's been really interesting discovering some of the complexities of the coffee and we're definitely converts to quality.

Cheers,

Laura and Jim


Disclosure: we receive Tea Tourist boxes FOC each month as part of their Tea Ambassador programme. However we have reviewed the product honestly and all views expressed are entirely our own.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Gin Festival Sheffield - A Review

The splendidly luxurious underground ballroom of the City Hall held host last month to the Sheffield leg of the Gin Festival. We first became aware of the Gin Festival team last year, when we tried out their excellent Gin Explorer box (you can read our review of that here), and so were really excited to be invited along to one of their hugely successful and highly regarded festivals. The Explorer subscription service itself has since been replaced by the "Gin Festival in a Box" concept, which has created a larger range of drink-at-home choices and brought the two brands much closer together.


We arrived to a truly bustling atmosphere, with the sold out hall packed to the rafters with hundreds of gin quaffers. Upon entry, we were provided with a copa style glass and a comprehensive booklet detailing all of the gins available, as well as handy hints for pairings, guides to garnishes and interviews with distillers - a resource which will prove useful in future as well as being a helpful tool on the evening itself.

The layout was well thought through - around the outside of the room, a quartet of bars each served from a pair of gin stations, which allowed queues to be kept to a minimum and the turn around of service to be swift. All of them were dispensing an dizzying array of gins from around the world, all accompanied with a carefully selected garnish. In addition, another handful of stalls showcased individual gin producers, who were dotted around the outside of the room serving samples of their gin along with a chat from a friendly face from the company.

Our first stop was the Tinker stall. Brought to life thanks to a crowdfunding campaign headed up by the Gin Festival team last year, this gin represents a move away from traditional juniper led gins. Drank neat, this stood out for us as a distinctively Spanish style of gin. With bold citrus, reminiscent of salted lemons and orchard fruit. An elderberry finish rounded the whole thing off beautifully. With tonic, it danced across the tongue - beautifully soft and light and a perfect one to start our night with.

Onto the bars themselves and we went straight for a Jaggi Citrus Blend, which was served with a slice of pink grapefruit. Hailing from Perthshire in Scotland. Citrus blend edition. Sweet, almost sherbetty lemon came through in absolute abundance first off, but this gin was more complex than the name perhaps suggests. Nutmeg, bay leaf and thistle are also included in the botanicals list, which gave really interesting notes of spice and a warming, herbal finish.

St Giles, based in Norwich, was our next pick. Another citrus led gin, our Gin Explorer book told us that the distillery is named after an infamous area of London where many gin shops were situated in the 18th century. Laura wasn't too keen on this neat, finding an odd almost vanilla character that was a little cloying, but the flavours really opened up and the juiciness was unleased with tonic and an orange garnish. Would love to try this in a cocktail, and we think it'd work well in other long drinks, especially a Tom Collins.

We moved on to try a couple of slightly more adventurously flavoured gins, and Orkney Johnsmas Gin was our next port of call. Named after and inspired by the midsummer period, with ingredients gathered from the islands themselves. Local heather is included amongst the botanicals and was definitely apparent on the palate, providing a floral yet earthy backbone to the flavour. We also picked up on notes of liquorice root which gave a great depth to the gin. A classic bitter finish.

Next we moved on to a gin from our beautiful home county of Yorkshire, sampling Raisthorpe Manor's Oak Aged edition. A light, almost tropical, oakiness, was instantly apparent and enhanced by a wonderful spruce resonance - bold and earthy. This was served with a slice of lemon which enhanced and brightened the base gin.


Finally, we headed over to try a couple of Belgian gins at the PJ's stand. These guys have an interesting offering of flavoured gins - we tried the raspberry, an initially sweet drink reminiscent of a sticky homemade jam, that dried out on the palette toward the end of the drink. Apple and elderflower varieties were also available. We finished off with their dry gin which was traditional yet potent, with a great hit of juniper that provided a lasting finish. Tasty and straightforward, a good one to end on by taking us back to basics!


Overall, we found this a well organised festival with attention paid to every detail. We really enjoyed the evening and wish we could have made it to another session, as there was so much to choose from we barely scratched the surface of what was on offer. We'll be back next year!

Cheers,

Laura and Jim

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

That Boutique-y Whisky Company - Blended Scotch Whisky #1

We were introduced to this delightful dram by Dave Worthington (@WhiskyDiscovery) at last year's The Whisky Show. We were on the hunt for our first whisky of the day, and Dave reckoned there was no finer breakfast treat than this award-winning blend from the excellent That Boutique-y Whisky Company (it took the title of Best Blended Whisky at the 2015 World Whisky Awards). We felt it befitting of Burns Night, too - truly a whisky for all special occasions and every hour of the day! Here are our thoughts...


Colour: Lacquered mahogany
Nose: Dark chocolate ice cream, a sticky sweetness accompanied by a soft coastal waft towards the end.
Palate: The initial spice that swells across the mouth gives way to a delightful punch of smooth fruity acidity and rich chocolate, it's pretty much black forest gateau. Never at any point do these flavours clash or linger past their stay of welcome.
Finish: As the rich fruitiness gives way, there is a warming blossom honey that lingers on the palate, with gentle salination for balance.


That Boutique-y Whisky Company say that the sphere on the bottle label is testament to the perfectly rounded nature of the dram, and we would heartily agree. The youngest whisky within the bottle stands at 35 years old, and time has worked its magic beautifully. A stunning blend.

Slainte!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Imperial Raspberry Stout: Thornbridge meets Yamazaki

Beer and whisky... in case you hadn't noticed, two of our favourite things. We just so happened to have one of each in the cupboard which we thought would work well in a joint tasting... Thornbridge Brewery's Imperial Raspberry Stout, brewed in collaboration with St Eriks, and a sample of the SMWS 119.14 Raspberry Imperial Stout.

We started with the beer and were instantly hit by the deep, rich raspberry aroma. The flavour bursts with raspberry coulis, slightly tart but balanced by bitter dark chocolate and hints of sweet bonfire toffee, all backed up with a smooth and roasted malty backbone. The finish is surprisingly short for such a robust stout (the ABV weighs in at 10%) but this makes it all the more drinkable. A total delight.


Onto the whisky - a single barrel Yamazaki bottled at 53.9%. Classically Japanese, light and distinctly yet delicately tannic on the nose, but with a fruity twist. Spicy and earthy with deeper woodiness on the palate, all alongside sweet raspberries. With time in the glass it opens up and becomes a little more rounded with a softer character that allows for more of the sherry to come through from the bota corta cask. Overall though, not particularly balanced for an 11 year old whisky, but no worse for this - it's a real experience to drink and excites the palate with every sip.

Obviously we couldn't resist mixing a bit of each together to create a boilermaker and it was a TRIUMPH. 

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Upcycling with Gin Explorer

It's no secret that I love my gin. The industry is enjoying such a boom that amazing new producers are popping up EVERYWHERE, and it's becoming more and more difficult to choose which ones to try. This is where Gin Explorer comes in. Set up by the team behind the hugely popular Gin Festival events, Gin Explorer is a monthly subscription box that offers four 50ml samples of carefully sourced gins, plus tonics, treats and even snacks.


When my Gin Explorer box arrived, I was excited to discover a BONUS FIFTH GIN in lieu of a snack - especially as it came in a tiny little jam jar and we all know how much of a sucker I am for anything in miniature.

Which brings me quite neatly onto the gins themselves. First up, the aforementioned Yerburgh's Jam Jar gin, the result of a phenomenal crowdfunding success, reaching it's target in just three days! Bottled/jarred at 43%, it's creamy and fruit driven and worked well with a raspberry garnish - raspberry leaves are one of the botanicals, which provides a lovely berry freshness.

With the main flavour component being one of my favourite fruits, I was looking forward to trying Ely Pink Grapefruit Gin, 30%. The pink grapefruit shines through in abundance with a graceful mixture of tart, bitter, dry and sweet. For me, this was almost more like a liqueur in nature than an outright gin and I didn't want to drown out the delicacy, meaning I drank it neat, although it'd also work well with lemonade or as part of a fruity cocktail.

I tried the Gordon Castle Gin, 43%, next, with a bottle of the BTW tonic also provided in the box. Classically aromatic, with an underlying herbal nature which added a lovely elegance and balance. The BTW tonic worked well as it was clean and crisp enough to enhance the complex flavours through the gin without overwhelming them. I added a sprig of mint and a slice of lime too, which gave just enough freshness to really lift the gin.

Edinburgh is becoming quite a hot spot for gin production, and Pickering's Gin, 42%, was the only gin in the box I'd tried before. I found this fairly sweet and citrus led, very quaffable with Fever Tree tonic and with a refreshing lemony bite in the finish. These guys have created GIN BAUBLES this year which quite frankly sound amazing.

From Manchester's first distillery, the last gin I sampled was the Zymurgorium Sweet Violet Gin, 18.75%... what a GREAT name for a distillery. The gin itself was highly perfumed and very unusual - you'll love this if you're a fan of parma violet sweets! I was surprised to find however that this wasn't sticky or syrupy, but pleasantly light. I'd love to try this as the drizzle in a lemon and lavender drizzle cake!

But that's not all! As part of my Gin Explorer mission, I was challenged to come up with a way to reuse and recycle the bottles, and the box everything came in. As it's coming up to Christmas, obviously the bottles needed to be a part of something festive and I think they look great as little fairy lights!


And the box? I'll let the photo do the talking...

Cheers!

Laura

Big thanks to the kind folk at Gin Explorer for sending me a box to try out, and a thank you from Gincat Tosin for his new favourite seat!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Whisky Review: The Half Century Blend

It is always an excellent post day when a little surprise dram drops onto the doormat, and this one was one of the most special and exclusive we've ever received. After the huge success of their previous two multi-award winning whiskies (The Lost Distilleries Blend and The Golden Age Blend), The Blended Whisky Company have absolutely excelled themselves with their newest limited edition release - The Half-Century Blend (ABV 45.5%).

Every single drop of this whisky has been aged for a minimum of 50 years. The Blended Whisky Company state, "Proving that patience has its rewards, the slow-maturing whiskies contained in The Half-Century Blend were produced in an era where flavour - not forecasts - ruled the roost". So what did we think?


Colour - Rich gold.

Nose - We poured this in the kitchen before taking it through into the living room. The nose is so wonderfully fragrant that the aroma was left wafting through the house, utterly delightful. Pudding-y notes come to the fore, with vanilla custard marrying with light nutmeg spice and a fruity edge akin to maraschino cherries. Beautifully rounded alcohol aroma with a slight salination appearing as the dram warms and opens up, with a sweet tannic nature too.

Palate - Oozing elegance and sophistication, this is a mighty refined little dram. Light, with candied peel and sweet cereals. Evokes the impression of being sat in a warm wooden panelled retiring room, autumnal oak combines with rich cherry, dark chocolate and a hint of fruit cake.

Finish - Incredible depth and complexity, with ever growing and lingering spice. There's something herbal yet delicate in there which reminds us of lavender, with soft hints of tobacco for balance. Lasts for AGES. Expertly put together, a real treat of a dram.

768 bottles of The Half-Century Blend have been produced for this first batch - coming very soon to retail (RRP £599.95). A list of stockists is available here.


Slainte,

Jim & Laura


Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Botanist Sheffield Launch Night

We're not usually ones to frequent chain establishments, preferring instead to support our local independents, but when we were invited along to the launch night of the newest addition to Sheffield's bar scene, The Botanist, the look of their cocktail menu alone made us decide it was worth making an exception. The Sheffield branch of the Botanist is the 10th of it's kind across the UK, run by the New Trading Company, and is based across three floors in fashionable Leopold Square.


We received a warm welcome from Ellie and the Botanist team and were ushered straight into the downstairs bar area where Laura dithered over the cocktail menu for far too long, eventually picking the signature "The Botanist" cocktail (vodka, rum and elderflower liqueur) upon the recommendation of the bar staff. Jim went for an All Day IPirinha - a clever twist on a beer cocktail with a miniature caiprinha served alongside a full can of Founders All Day IPA, meaning you could tailor the cocktail to your own exacting requirements. A good idea indeed. Both were presented beautifully and tasted wonderful, the Botanist getting more savoury than sweet as you continued to sip which was pleasantly surprising.


We then went upstairs to be seated. Instantly, the decor absolutely blew us away - it is absolutely stunning. Victoriana blends seamlessly with the floral theme and the entrance to the room, which has been made to resemble a woodland glade, made us feel like we were being transported to somewhere almost ethereal. The focal point of the dining room is a little bandstand, where on the night of our visit acoustic musicians added to the relaxed ambience of the room, even making Shaggy sound classy. Who knew this was a thing?! The venue plans to host "Sunday afternoon sessions" with this sort of feel, alongside evening gigs.


Onto the food! While we perused the cocktail menu (again), we welcomed a little nibble platter of pork crackling to the table, slightly Asian-inspired with chilli and spring onion (and we think soy sauce provided much of the saltiness), deliciously crunchy and served with sweet apple sauce which cut perfectly through the chilli... and can we all please take a moment to appreciate the tiny wheelbarrow?!


Starters arrived swiftly after along with our second cocktails of the evening. The homemade Scotch egg had a lovely runny middle, and came with a piccalli puree - initially a tad perturbing, but absolutely couldn't fault the flavour, tangy and piquant against the well-seasoned sausage meat and egg. The basket of wings was a generous portion, and again served in the most twee (in a good way) fashion in a little wicker picnic basket. The cocktails were just as impressive as the first round - the blackberry and mint julep was refreshing with a good kick from the bourbon, and the rosemary negroni was probably the nicest negroni I've ever had in a bar, with savoury bitterness coupling brilliantly with grapefruit and rosemary. It's worth mentioning that the spirit menu (particularly the gin) is extensive and the emphasis is on using quality, carefully selected options in the cocktails too - no sticking to "house" options here.


We both picked the "Hanging Kebabs" for main - Laura the jerk salmon with sweet potato fries, and Jim the salt and pepper belly pork with regular fries. When these arrived they looked spectacular, although it would have been good to have been informed that the vegetable component of the salmon kebab was sweet potato (this wasn't specified on the menu), as I'd then have picked a different side. It ended up being far too sweet potato heavy meaning I couldn't finish everything. The salmon was well cooked, though, and the jerk seasoning was spicy without being too overpowering. Jim's belly pork was melt in the mouth, but pretty heavy on the salt.


Jim couldn't resist his favourite sticky toffee pudding for dessert, accompanied by a Wild Beer Millionaire, a salted caramel stout which made the rich pudding even more of a treat.
Laura decided to refrain, instead choosing a sweeter cocktail to finish off the meal - a pear and cinnamon Sazerac, a well-balanced, slightly festive and imaginative twist on the classic.

We had been informed towards the start of the evening that staff training was still underway, with new members of staff shadowing more experienced members of the team. We really appreciated being informed of this - service was a tad reserved in places but having this explanation meant that in no way did we see this as a negative.


Overall, a hugely enjoyable evening. Although the main courses weren't quite up to the standard of the starters and nibbles, the lavish but welcoming feel of the venue and the outstanding, elegant cocktails more than made up for it and we'll undoubtedly be back to work our way through more of the menu.

Many thanks to the team for having us down!

Cheers,

Laura and Jim

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Brussels Beer Project and the Good Beer Feast

On the first anniversary of Brussels Beer Project's inaugural brew and the launch of their first Barrel Aged release, we stepped inside what appeared to be an unassuming shop front, to find a highly polished ultra modern brew kit hidden behind a small, modern bar. The first thing to hit us was the enticing smell of pumpkin and mashing malt. Today's brew, a beer to be released for Halloween, comes in as the 29th different beer recipe since the brewery found its home in Dansaert 188, Brussels. 


We arrived pre 11am and quickly found a beer to sip on appropriately named Morning Sunshine (a raspberry and multicereal beer, with a delicious bitter-sweet balance at 5.7%). In the open plan area beside the brew kit, we caught our first glimpse of the beer of the moment, Maoris Tears, a rose wine barrel aged Wakatu hopped saison. With only 800 bottles available, plus a couple of kegs for the bar, we snapped some up to bring home and of course had to try one there and then. The beer prickled with a resinous oak and freshness of limes, dry crispness from the yeast with light phenols joining later on, before being taken over with a robust rose wine character at the end. Unusual, inventive and downright delicious - words which we came to find defined not just this beer, but the whole ethos of the brewery itself. 




Antoine, one of the brewers at BBP, started our brief tour at the goods entrance and malt store, past the mill and a few stacks of wine barrels imbuing their flavour to beer, onto the brew kit and small bottling line. It's clear that being the newest brewery to open in Brussels centre came with considerable space limitations, although these appeared to have quite adequately been overcome - for example, the roof height is low, so fermenters are specially designed to be short and stock of bottles and kegs is all kept off site. The brew kit itself is high-tech with a semi-automated mashing process and a super shiny whirlpool. The brewers are quick to point out that the use of technology, for them, does not detract from their influence on the beer production itself - their focus is on careful recipe development, experimentation and expression of personality. Finally, we moved into the bar, where you sit on repurposed malt sacks next to another, larger, stack of oak barrels behind a glass shutter door. There is something of a cyclical feeling about sitting on the bag that contained the raw ingredients for the drink in front of you, as well the ageing beer to your side. Past Beer, Present Beer, Future Beer.


BBP was brought to life utilising a crowd funding model, allowing locals amongst others to support a modern Belgian brewery wading against the traditional Trappist tide. When the brewery first began, initially as a cuckoo brewery, the first core beer was voted on by those supporting the project. A series of experimental beers were produced and put to the public test - Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta (a coriander and range pale, a paradise seed and juniper saison, cardamom and candy sugar pale and a Belgian IPA respectively) until a victor was left standing. And the Delta IPA, as it is called now, was one of our favourite beers during our trip - a fruity, fragrant IPA with a decent bitterness that cuts through a residual sweetness from malt sugars left behind by the yeast, hopped with Citra and German aroma hop Smaragd (also known as Emerald) - the combination gives the final beer a modern flavour profile that until recently was practically unheard of in Belgian beer. 

At the time of our visit, BBP were also hosting Good Beer Feast, their first beer festival, featuring some great international breweries including UK natives Weird Beard and Anspach & Hobday, as well as Cerveses La Pirata (Barcelona), Kyoto Brewing, Austmann Bryggeri (Norway) and more, plus 'T Verzet, Nanobrasserie de L'Ermitage and Hof Ten Dormaal, fellow Belgian breweries carving a name for themselves under the more progressive banner. The festival used the slogan of "Small Breweries, Big Beer" which comfortably described all those in attendance except perhaps for Stone... 

We had a superb afternoon supping in the sunshine - highlights being Hof Ten Dormaal's Sloe Sour which was amazingly refreshing and aromatic, putting a modern twist on the lambic style, and La Pirata's Black Block imperial stout - just an absolutely sumptuous treat. Overall, it was clear that this one day festival held at the same time as the huge Belgian Beer Weekend was a real statement of intent to provide an alternative to the traditional. And looking round the sea of sunblushed faces of the brewers and drinkers (often one and the same) is hope for the city and country as a whole that the beer scene can continue to expand and develop alongside countries such as America and the UK, as well as retain the long-established and much cherished customs that Belgian beer is so renowned for.

Santé!

Jim & Laura

Monday, 15 August 2016

Whisky Review: Aberlour 16

We were first introduced to Speyside distillery Aberlour through a Waitrose offer a few years ago, with their no-age statement A'Bunadh being one of the first single malts we invested in. Since then it's always been one of our top "go-to" distilleries, with the 10-year being a regular feature on our whisky shelf, so when we spied it's older sister at Bakewell's excellent whisky shop The Wee Dram we couldn't resist. The 16-year is double cask matured in traditional oak and sherry, and is bottled at 40% ABV.


Colour: Rich copper.

Nose: Creamy, with hints of raisin from the sherry cask balanced by a fresh woody characteristic from the oak. The aroma deepens as the dram opens up, giving off an inviting edge of sugary sweet mocha. Given the ABV, we chose not to add water.

Palate: Very well balanced, with the two woods complementing each other and providing delicate harmony in the dram. Nutty, with flavours of almond imparting a marzipan character but without overwhelming sweetness. A honeyed smoothness envelops the tongue as you drink.

Finish: Sweet maltiness and oodles more honey linger on.

Slainte,

J&L

Sunday, 15 May 2016

New Belgium Brewery

Neither of us have ever been keen cyclists, but after two trips to New Belgium during our time in Fort Collins we might just be tempted to dust off and re-oil our bikes (currently decaying in the cellar).

On our first trip to the brewery we met with Spokes Model and long serving employee Bryan Simpson in the tap room over a generous pour of their flagship amber ale Fat Tire (5.2%) and he ran us through some of the history of Fort Collins' biggest craft brewery. Established in 1991 after a cycling trip to (Old) Belgium frequenting many of the beer bars and Brasseries the country has to offer, husband and wife team Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan aimed to emulate some the beers on their garage brew kit. And so New Belgium was born.

The original brew kit

As we travelled through the state of the art facility, one of the largest craft breweries in America, we were struck by the sensitivity for tradition in the brewery as well as the want to push forward and produce modern American beer, all against an ideology of environmental care and sustainability. From the original brew kit from humble home brew origins, to the highly polished stainless steel four vessel brew system with steam recollection, to the traditional oak vats used to produce their sour beer next door, to the ultra-modern lab with stir-plates and Erlenmeyer flasks of beer samples. This approach of modern brewing technology coupled with traditional European techniques allows New Belgium to produce one of the biggest ranges of quality beers of any brewery we've been to.


As the tour continued we headed into the foudre forest, an absolutely beautiful room with more than 64 10,000l repurposed wine vats used in the making of slow sour beer, intermingled with a selection of whisky casks from Denver distillery Leopold Brothers, and a climbing wall. All the foudres are filled with one of two different base beers lovingly named Oscar and Felix, the first a black lager and the other being a golden ale. As we stood chatting surrounded by wood we were offered a glass of La Folie (GABF 2001 Gold Medal), an utterly delectable Flanders Red style sour beer with a blend that has been acidifying for anywhere between one year to as much as three. The tartness is reminiscent of apples and peaches, with a light yet lingering oaken texture toward the end. One of the best beers we've ever drunk, and in the most perfect of settings to try it... the heady aroma of the room is the sort you can conjure up just from thinking about it.


The final section of our tour through what is affectionately referred to as the Thunderdome - a frankly enormous bottling line and relatively smaller canning line which took in all around 4 minutes to stroll across. The continuous rattling of glass and clunk of machines highlights the scale of New Belgium's output (as if 64 oak vats of beer weren't enough to do that), capable of 700 bottles a minute with only a hand-full of people operating it. Slick.

We finished up in back in the tap room with a glass of La Terroir, created with the aforementioned Felix as the base then dry hopped to add a layer of complexity, that buoys all the other layers of sour freshness. Another contender for lifetime favourite beer for us both, and impossible to pick which we loved more between La Terroir and La Folie. We brought a bottle of each home just to re-test this theory but still just concluded that both were astounding.

Us with Bryan and Chris from the New Belgium team!

We spent a good couple more hours in the taproom, working our way through the New Belgium core range along with specials including their collaboration with Ben & Jerry's - a 6.3% salted caramel brownie brown ale which was SO up Laura's street (and she got to to try the ice cream the following day too). We massively enjoyed chatting to all of the staff we met, every single one of whom was bursting with enthusiasm for the company they all feel truly a part of (which indeed they are, the company being 100% employee owned). Bryan also told us a story of how Neil Fallon from one of our favourite bands, Clutch, had a go on Bryan's guitar while the band were involved in creating a collaboration beer. Bryan might just be the coolest man we've ever met.

We had such a brilliant day that for Laura's birthday we decided to return, where we joined on the general tour. This followed the same format as the first but was slightly less in-depth but still relaxed and informative. This one included a go on the brewery's helter skelter!

There have recently been a number of rumours regarding the future of New Belgium and the likelihood of it being bought out. We asked Bryan on our first trip who vehemently denied that this was a possibility. Our tour guide on the second visit was a little more vague, which could suggest that it has been mentioned throughout the company but is still by no means a certain. But as the brewery is an employee owned company, it would be hoped that their votes and opinions would be taken into consideration before making a decision with potentially a huge impact on their future.

With a second site in Asheville, North Carolina, having opened earlier this month, it will surely be the case that New Belgium's reputation as a progressive and far-reaching brewery can only increase. Although the brewery prioritises the American market and hopes to sell in every state as a priority over growing export, we are hopeful that before too long we will start to see their beer on our shores!

Cheers,

J&L

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!


Cheers!

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!