Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sheffield Beer Scene

Despite a short, degree-length gap, Sheffield has always been my home. It is a land of hills, streams and more green space than any other city in Europe.  Arguably more importantly it also has an absolute abundance of real ale houses, with an ever-growing number of establishments serving and selling excellent beer. This is a tradition that sewed its roots (arguably national) in the form of The Fat Cat, which is now in its 32nd year - the original owner of which, Dave Wickett, started the Kelham Island brewery and helped fund the now pervasive and great quality Thornbridge Brewery.

The love of real ale in our fair city is insatiable, with new pubs, bars and shops springing up serving up the godly nectar. In this, Sheffield seems to buck the national trend of closures of pubs, due to an obsession (always healthy) with beer.

Along with the opening and refurbishment of a number of pubs in the past few years, more recently we have seen two new beer shops open. As part of the new market, just before Christmas came Beer Central - a shop selling a range of local brews from city breweries such as Kelham Island and Bradfield as well as those just across the Derbyshire border including Chatsworth and Raw. Alongside these, you can find numerous releases from further afield – some of my favourites include London (Weird Beard, Camden) and Belgium (Westmalle). We’ve now got a loyalty card which is serving us well!

The other shop that coincidentally opened at around the same time is the somewhat more experimental vendor of liquid intoxicants located just out of the centre, conveniently next to another of Sheffield’s great new ale houses (The Broadfield).  Hidden in the back of a vintage shop, Hop Hideout has given a new lease of life to the old office of a long-gone bank. Now with its far more beneficial role as beer shop, the walls are lined with shelves containing a fantastic array of bottled beers. We found some absolutely superb treats for Christmas, including Rogue – Santa’s Private Reserve, and Mad Hatter – Panettone Tripel, and the selection is ever changing meaning that there’s always something new to be found.

Both of these new shops show a willingness to engage with their customers, share their knowledge of all things beer, and generally demonstrate fantastic service all-round.
Our current beer selection, running a little low 
The addition of these two shops on the liquid landscape has also encouraged established, almost complacent, beer shops around the city to increase the range and provide more for us as consumers. TheDram Shop in Walkley now stocks more previously unseen breweries, and even the Bargain Booze’s of the city have a tendency to sell one or two more than previously.

As this trend of new places opening and old places adapting continues it can only be a good thing for us beer drinkers.



Thursday, 13 February 2014

A weekend in Whitby

We haven't been on a big holiday in five years, but weekends away are something we always really enjoy. We were treated to a gift voucher to stay in La Rosa Hotel in Whitby for Christmas, and booked our stay for early February to bring a bit of cheer to these gloomy days!

Whitby has always been one of our favourite places - the Gothic eccentricity of the whole town is like no other seaside resort, and although it's only 2 hours drive from home it's just that bit too far for a day trip, so a visit there is always a special occasion. Having the opportunity to stay at the absolutely marvellous (and really quite bonkers) La Rosa just accentuated this.

We began our stay with champagne afternoon tea at the hotel. The tea room itself is full of Alice in Wonderland inspired Victoriana and is truly unique. We feasted on a variety of sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, and a yummy chocolate brownie (not to mention the unlimited supply of tea and entire bottle of prosecco!), sat by the window on throne-like seats with a stunning view over to the Abbey.

We were then shown to our room and home for the weekend. Each room is themed, and we selected "Little Red". Laura was beyond delighted to discover that the exquisite attention to detail even stretched to a red velvet cape, and there was what we think may have been a wolf skull in a velvet-lined cupboard. Just incredible. The four-poster bed and little treats such as rose-flavoured homemade chocolates ensured that we were totally surrounded by an air of luxury and relaxation.

After exploring the room (whilst small, there was a lot to see in there!) we headed out into Whitby to sample some ales. Whilst we didn't find anything particularly unusual or even locally brewed, the pubs are all cosy and welcoming and the beers (including Timothy Taylor's Landlord and Mr Grundy's Passchendaele) hit the spot on a very cold and windy day.

We ate out at an Italian restaurant, Moutreys, which came highly recommended. We went for the mussels starter - which was delicious - and both ordered a pizza, as the restaurant boasts a proper pizza oven. These were an excellent choice: Jim went for the meat feast, and Laura selected goats cheese and chorizo. Definitely some of the best pizzas we've ever eaten, and we even had enough to take a few slices away!

The rest of the evening consisted of Drinks by the Dram whiskies from china teacups. Enough said.
We awoke the next day to a knock on the door - the delivery of our picnic breakfast in bed. Such a brilliant idea and executed very well. Inside a vintage wicker picnic basket we found cheese scones, warm from the oven, hard boiled eggs, fruit, yoghurt, fresh coffee and a slice of fruit cake - a lovely start to the day.

After a sad farewell to La Rosa, we paid a visit to Fortune's smokehouse, for homesmoked kippers!

It was then time to head home. We chose the coast road, and spent a couple of hours in Scarborough on the way - seaside fish and chips are truly a must! Somehow they taste better when you can hear the seagulls as you eat...

La Rosa is an ideal venue for a quirky, romantic weekend away, and we already can't wait to plan our next trip.

L & J x

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Whisky Tasting at The Greystones with StarmoreBoss

In the back room of the Greystones pub, on a stage normally reserved for blues musicians and comedians, StarmoreBoss hosted the first whisky tasting the pub has held. The event, described as an "Introduction to Whisky", had us initially apprehensive, as we were expecting a dram or two we had already sampled. However, we were impressed to be presented with five whiskies we had never tried before, some from distilleries and blenders which we hadn't even heard of.

To accompany the whiskies came a discussion on the marvellous elixir, its origin, production and styles, from our host Jefferson Boss - a true fountain of whisky knowledge!

The tasting opened with Bain's Cape Mountain grain whisky. This South African dram is the first to be produced in the country. We found it to be a light toffee vanilla whisky with an oaky texture throughout the mouth, with a lightly spiced quite short finish, but still a really well rounded grain whisky. A good easy-drinker and a pleasant, gentle start to the evening.

The second, following a roundup of blending techniques, was Teeling Irish Whiskey: a small batch blend using the pot still distillation method. At 46%, this was a rich fruity dram that filled the head and upper nose with apple crumble and the rest of the palate with custard, that followed through to the mid length floral finish.

This was followed by an example of an American Bourbon. Having had mixed experiences of this type of whiskey in the past, the Elijah Craig 12 Year was a surprising treat. Given much longer to maturate than most Bourbons (which are normally aged for about 4-5 years), the resulting product is a deep intricate whisky that sings with a greater oaky aspect than most. On the nose it is fruity and delicately spiced, with a palate that fills the mouth with a sweet and fully rounded, lightly smoked finish.

The penultimate whisky in the evening's proceedings was a Speyside offering - the Glentauchers 1994, showcasing a cream custard texture that prickled across the tongue with a rich light peat texture. A singing sherry character brings with it a fruity spice across the tongue and into the finish.

The night ended with the Ileach Peaty, a dram from an unnamed Islay distillery: a young, textured, highly peated whisky. The strength of the oaky smoke filled the head with a fireside warmth, accompanied with an iodiney pepper character across the palate. Having sampled whiskies from each of the Islay distilleries, it's definitely fair to say this was a great choice to exemplify their characteristics.

The night as a whole was really interesting, and great for beginners and budding connoisseurs alike. Jeff was knowledgable and passionate throughout. Also the owners of a new boutique-y off-licence in Sheffield, StarmoreBoss have a lot to offer to the city and we're excited to discover what future events and collaborations may bring.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Favourite Pubs: The Sheaf View

Set comfortably next to the wonderful Heeley Millennium park and community orchard, The Sheaf View is undoubtedly one of the best pubs in the city of Sheffield. Opened in its current guise in 2000, it is a true institution for real beer - if you want a pub with fine real ale, great whisky and a smashing pork pie, then look no further.

The bar consists of eight hand pulls, with a mix of local regular beer, including Kelham Island - Easy Rider and Acorn - Blonde, and up to 6 six guest ales, always with a dark beer and sometimes the glorious addition of a higher strength ale.

Along with these cask beers, they have a selection of continental lagers as well as a few wheat beers, fruit beers and draught cider.

While the Sheaf View doesn't have a kitchen so there is no hot food, it often has a great selection of sandwiches, ranging from corned beef to polish sausage, and a staggering array of crisps and other bar snacks. The aforementioned pork pies are approaching legendary status.

Behind the bar is a mighty whisky selection consisting of over 100 bottles of Scotch, Irish and Bourbon, which caters for all budgets and palates. There's also an extensive range of other spirits to suit even the fussiest drinker. Pretty much the only thing you can't get is a cup of tea.

The atmosphere is always relaxed and friendly - cosy in winter, but with a lovely beer garden showcasing a fantastic view of Sheffield on the warmer days.

Best of all, it just so happens to be our local.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Slow Beef Stroganoff

Traditionally, a stroganoff is a quick dish to make, however as most recipes advocate the use of fillet steak it is also quite expensive. Whilst this cut does have a lot of flavour, you can still get excellent results from a cheaper stewing steak, with just a little more patience.

500g diced stewing beef
250g mushrooms
Vegetable oil (for frying)
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch chilli powder (depending on tastes)
1 glass of red wine
500ml beef/chicken stock
125ml sour cream
Big splash of Henderson's Relish (or Lea and Perrins if you aren't lucky enough to live in Sheffield!)
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C and boil the kettle for stock.

The first thing to think about is achieving a tender meat, so firstly place the cubes of beef evenly across a plastic board. Cover with cling film, and using a rolling pin attack the meat with stress reliving whack after thwack, then dust the severely tenderised pieces in plain flour ready for browning.

Use a heavy set casserole dish to brown the meat, making sure you do this in batches as you want a good colour on the beef. The pan should be hot enough so that a good sizzle emanates from the beef but also not so hot that it burns. Remove the meat to a bowl, then on to the mushrooms. Chop them in half so that they are about a similar size to the pieces of meat.  Make sure the pan is still hot, so that the mushrooms brown without releasing their juices. The mushrooms will start to pick up some of the singed beefy bits off the bottom of the pan, and turn golden on their edges - at this point remove them and set aside with the meat.

Next, in the same pan, but on a slightly lower heat, fry the onion and garlic with a little oil and the tomato puree until softened, adding the spices around 5 minutes in.

When the onions are softened, add in all the the meat and mushies, stir and add a glass of red wine. Give the bottom of the pan a gentle scrape to release any meat relics left behind from the previous steps. Add enough stock to cover the meat and bring to the boil, then when everything is up to temperature put the whole lot in the oven for around 1 hour and 20 minutes (although you could leave even longer if you wish).

The meat will now be nice and tender. To finish, remove the meat and mushrooms from the pan and bring the sauce to the boil. As this begins to thicken, slowly add a paste of flour and hot water to the sauce and stir continually until the flour is integrated. Add the sour cream and reduce the heat then taste for seasoning, adding a splash of Henderson's Relish as well as salt and pepper.

Bring everything together and heat to a simmer. Serve with boiled rice and fresh chopped parsley.

This dish would also work well cooked the day before and reheated on the hob.



Friday, 3 January 2014

Review: Smoke Sheffield

As you may have noticed, we like our meat, and BBQ'd meat is surely the greatest. So when we heard about a new chain of restaurants, Smoke, launching their first outlet in Sheffield, we had to go and try it out.

From the outside the wafting aromas of meaty smoke entice, before becoming a fresher wood scent as you enter the restaurant. Instantly you can see from where the smoke emanates: a round open BBQ grill and kitchen forming the focal centrepiece of the restaurant.

Along with the woody whiffs, we were welcomed to the restaurant by Adam, our server for the afternoon, who was helpful and friendly throughout - we even got pre-meal story time to tell us more about the foundations and background of the restaurant.

While we perused the menu, we nibbled on complimentary BBQ popcorn, which was delightful - smoky, warm and full of flavour. The brisket came recommended, so we went all out, ordering brisket, brisket chili, and burnt ends (of brisket).

The brisket was already a favourite piece of meat: a large cut marbled with fat that keeps the meat melting in the mouth - even after the fifteen hours of cooking overnight it was still moist and succulent, with a soft intricate flavour of wood smoke. The light singe on the edges of the meat added a good crunch. This was all served with chips and a winter slaw consisting of red and white cabbage with a watermelon dressing.

The burnt ends were excellent: hearty chunks of flame-licked brisket, all smothered in a home made BBQ sauce that set the meal (metaphorically) ablaze.

The chili, whilst not overwhelmingly meaty, was really tasty and filling (and let's be honest, we didn't exactly need any more chunks of meat). The jalapeƱo corn bread muffin which accompanied it was incredible, and came with butter and honey to serve. Laura even got a bonus muffin to take away, which was in her lunchbox to bring a bit of joy to the first day back at work after the festive period!

The dessert menu also looked great, but our brisket-overload put paid to any plans for s'mores! Still, it's a good excuse for a return visit.

With a number of further Smoke restaurants planned across the country over the next few years, this US-BBQ idea is clearly a concept which is taking off throughout the UK. Smoke does it very well, and it's great to see what will hopefully become a flourishing chain take its fledgling steps.


L and J

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Honey Bourbon Roast Ham

So if there are any better things to be eating this time of year, or any time of year really, than sweet alcoholic meat, I have yet to find it. Ham is one of the greatest meats as it can be eaten hot with roast veggies, warm as part of a buffet with a couscous and salad, cold with pickles or on sandwiches.

The first step is to boil the ham for 20 minutes per 450g. There are a number of options regarding how exactly to boil the meat - you can add a simple veg mix: leeks, onions and carrots with peppercorns and star anise, or boil in a few litres of coke or even ginger beer: the latter add a lovely sweet flavour through the meat. Once the ham is hot inside (test this with a skewer), remove the ham from the pot and allow to cool a little for the next step.
If your ham has a skin you will want to remove it as the texture will be rubbery and unpleasant - however, leave a layer of fat as this will render a little in the oven and intensify the flavour. Score the fat and into that rub mustard, then a mix of brown sugar, orange and chili flakes. Stud with cloves. Over the top, pour a mix of whisky and honey, and pop into a hot oven for about twenty minutes. Don't forget to baste it with the whisky honey that comes off the ham.

Perfect on its own as the centrepiece to a special occasion, or alongside a bird for a feast of a Sunday dinner.