Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Monday, 12 June 2017

Can Conditioning - What's the Point?

As canning continues its near meteoric rise as the medium of choice for small pack dispense for many small independent modern breweries in the UK, it is no surprise that developments and targeted improvements to the process are continually being worked upon.

Currently, the majority of canned beer is done through packaging a force carbonated product rather than one that naturally carbonates through residual yeast continuing to ferment the beer, creating CO2 as it does so, as is often seen in bottled beer. We are however now starting to see breweries using can conditioning instead - Moor Brewery in Bristol are one of the pioneers of the process in the UK and are the first to be granted real ale status by CAMRA for their cans.

Having briefly met Paddy of Windsor & Eton Brewery, and Kieran of their offshoot project, Uprising Craft Brewing, at a breakfast organised by The Can Makers at SIBA Beer X earlier in the year, we were invited to taste their test run of can conditioned Treason - West Coast IPA prior to them being launched fully to compare against the filtered, force carbonated version. Here's what we made of them...

Appearance: Due to the residual yeast present in the can conditioned version, it requires a slightly more careful pour than the filtered beer. For research purposes, we were sure to give the same care to the filtered version. The naturally carbonated can gave a firmer head to the beer, more like you'd see on a well poured pint in a pub, compared to the filtered which looked "gassier" with larger bubbles. The clarity of both beers was the same with a little bit of chill haze present in both.

Aroma: Much punchier in the can conditioned version. The residual yeast helps to clear up any dissolved oxygen in the beer, in theory enabling the beer to remain as intended for longer. We did detect a slight oxygenation to the filtered beer, although it's worth pointing out that had we not had the can conditioned for contrast, we probably wouldn't have picked up on it as the hop character was still present... just a lot more overtly fruity for the can conditioned version.

Flavour: Again, we preferred the can conditioned version, although there was nothing wrong with the filtered! The can conditioned had a fresher quality to it with a more vibrant hop character, and we felt that the force carbed version had a somewhat more cloying sweetness to it, perhaps due to the filtration process removing some of the hop flavour which provides a balancing bitterness. It's also worth noting that due to the continuation of fermentation, the ABV of the can conditioned beer comes in slightly higher than it's force carbed counterpart (6.0% compared to 5.8%).

Overall: An interesting experiment! We did think that the can conditioned version triumphed on all counts, however, for smaller operations lacking the space and time to invest in can conditioning, this is by no means a death knell for force carbonated beer in cans (provided the beer is well looked after throughout the brewing and canning process), as both cans were tasty and of good quality. Treason, winner of a Gold IBC award in 2015 and the 2016 Indie Beer Can festival, is currently available in Wetherspoons outlets, and it's good to see that Uprising are keen to go about things in a non-macro way and strive to improve the quality of their product.

Canning in general can be a great way for beer producers to dip their toe into smallpack, particularly with companies offering mobile canning becoming more prevalent, making canning more affordable without the need to invest in infrastructure and equipment. Although across the board the quality of canned beer has been variable, it's definitely continually improving, with breweries progressively honing their technique. Cans are also better for the environment when compared to bottles, being cheaper to transport and more easily recyclable, and also take away the chance of a beer becoming lightstruck. Whilst we didn't intend to write this post to look at the potential advantages of cans over bottles, suffice to say we believe the can is here to stay!


Jim and Laura

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013

Named by Jim Murray as the "World Whisky of the Year" in his 2015 Whisky Bible and subsequently reaching massively lofty heights in the £££ stakes at auction, we pretty much anticipated this was a whisky we would never taste. And then a chance retweet meant we won a bottle from the kind folks at The Whisky Exchange. A couple of weeks of do-we-drink-it-or-do-we-cash-in followed, before we realised that was a stupid argument, we'd paid nothing for it, we didn't need the money and besides, we actually wanted to know what it tasted like. Also, CHRISTMAS YOLO. Christmas 2014 was a good day...

We've since savoured this dram, always treating it as a "special occasion" kinda whisky, and so World Whisky Day seemed like the perfect time to polish it off. Here are our thoughts.

Colour: Indulgent mahogany.

Nose: Walnuts, raisins, plum pudding, deep dark wood and bags of demerara sugar, with some allspice and cinnamon thrown in for good measure. The sherry influence is hugely apparent and creates an opulent and enticing aroma.

Palate: Rounded and robust. Hints of black forest gateau with cherry liqueur and dark chocolate both identifiable. Dried fruits and rich sugars follow through from the nose. It's suffered somewhat from being open for such a long time, gaining a slight astringency, and in hindsight we should have just got on with it and drank it quicker as the flavours (although definitely still apparent) have diminished slightly. That said, it's still a great drink and in it's heyday was truly magnificent.

Finish: Long, tannic and warming, the chocolate notes in particular lingering along with the wood. Delicious.

To conclude - it's a very fucking lovely dram indeed, we have absolutely no regrets about drinking rather than selling, and we reckon it's well worth the initial £80-100 pricetag. But over a grand? We'd rather have 20 bottles of Uigedail thanks.

Cheers, and a very happy World Whisky Day!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Beavertown & To Øl: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

The collaboration between Beavertown and To Øl was sure to produce something special. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were born of the same base malt and mashing process, then both sent in their uniquely separate ways. The beers were both primary fermented with a fabled Scottish yeast strain that made it's way to Belgium and back to N17, where it was thrown into these worts. We managed to get our hands on these due to a fortuitously timed trip to Cotteridge Wines last April, and have been holding on to them for a special occasion. The end to a bank holiday which we worked the whole way through seemed suitable enough! On to the beers...


An 8.1% Muscat barrel aged bretted gooseberry Belgian pale. The beer itself sings with layers of elegant sourness, reminiscent of greengages initially then on to gooseberries, coupled with a hit of lactobacillus which builds beautiful acids across the palate. While the tartness is crisp, the tannic oak adds a delightfully savoury note, and the sweetness of the original wine softens with an apple scrumpy cider character, which goes hand in hand with the distinctive brett stone fruit funk. It leaves you with the same dancing feeling across the roof of your mouth like you've just eaten tangfastics (if thats a suitable tasting note without incurring potential lawsuits), with a zesty sherbet bite provided through the high carbonation and a lasting lip-puckering finish.


This is a different beast entirely, an imperial stout boosted with a hit of roasted malts, beechwood smoked malts and heaps of brown sugar to help amplify the ABV to an impressive 13.7%. The beer is left to mature in Speyside whisky barrels, before being seasoned with sea salt. A bold boozy kick flies out of the glass instantly, with a waft of warm smoke and a savoury salination (Laura thought it smelt a bit like a really nice gravy?!). The same characteristics ripple across the palate, along with a rich oaky character. While the carbonation is near non existent, the sticky sweetness of molasses bolstered wort is still surprisingly light and a little delicate. The finish is warm and boozy with a twang of characteristic Belgian yeast, but this doesn't linger for more than a few seconds, with quite a short mouthfeel considering the smoked malt character.

Overall - a very cleverly crafted duo with little to suggest that they were borne of the same base beer. The Jekyll just pipped it for us, being so inherently drinkable, but both were excellent and a great showcase of what two goliaths of the industry can produce.


Monday, 20 March 2017

Sheffield Beer Week 2017 - A Round-Up

Sheffield Beer Week is over for another year and we've flung ourselves in absolutely head first this time! Here's a quick overview of the events we attended...

A relatively quiet start to the week for us as we joined in a twitter hour with @catsontap. We've long been fans of beercats Rosie and Milly, and our Tosin is a regular on their page too! We kicked off with something pretty special brought back from our trip to Brussels last year - Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic Bio. Face-puckering, fruity and a glorious treat to kick off the week. We also imbibed Cloudwater's Seguin Biere Brut, reminiscent more of a wine than a beer and utterly delicious.

Every week, Sentinel Brew Co host a film night, wittily titled Brew-vie Tuesdays. We've not made it down to this before but in conjunction with Sheffield Beer Week they decided to show "Beertickers: Beyond the Ale". Filmed in 2008 in and around Sheffield, it was so entertaining for us to look back at the beer scene as it was around the time we both first properly got into real ale, with many a familiar face amongst the footage! Great pizzas and popcorn, too.

A Lervig tap takeover at the Rutland Arms kicked off our evening, with the highlight being Sippin' Into Darkness, a chocolate martini imperial stout at 12%. Bold, boozy and tasted like a Double Decker chocolate bar fondue.

We then headed up to Brewdog for the Mad Hatter meet the brewer event and bumped into the team from Weird Beard. Plenty of beery chat and a lot of laughs were had.

An even bigger night for us on the Thursday. First off we hit up the Beer Engine's North vs South beer and food pairing, featuring four beers each from London based Fourpure and Fierce from Aberdeen. The food at the Beer Engine is some of the best in Sheffield as far as we're concerned, and a new guest chef brought in to create the pairing menus for this event elevated the offering to an even higher level. The highlight for us was Fierce's Tropical Tart, a beautifully light and tangy passionfruit sour, served with spicy prawns and crab laksa.

A short walk back to Sentinel for a tap takeover hosted by Yellowbelly Brewery where we sampled their collaboration with bloggers Wayne and Janice from IrishBeerSnob, Juice Wayne - a Rock Shandy IPA, inspired by an Irish soft drink and bursting with oranges and lemons. It took Laura until Sunday to realise that Juice rhymes with Bruce...

Finally we headed up to the launch of Abbeydale Brewery's new Brewers Emporium range at the newly refurbished Devonshire Cat, which was buzzing with a vibrant atmosphere and presented a great range of progressive beers to choose from.

We started the day with a Beer Writers Breakfast hosted by the The Can Makers, giving us an insight into a truly up and coming portion of the market and with tasty pastries from Sheffield based Percy & Lily's. It was the first day of the Beer Now conference, ending with a trip to Beer Alive festival. It was the third time we've attended the festival and it's been scaled down pretty drastically this year. It's a shame that this resulted in a rather lacklustre beer selection - the lack of involvement from brewers directly, which was a great feature of last year's festival, was missed.

A full on and inspiring day at the Beer Now conference, kicking off with Bob Pease of the Brewer's Association, who gave us useful insights into the American beer scene. Our favourite part of the day was undoubtedly the Live Beer Blogging featuring beers from Abbeydale, Ilkley, Lost Industry, Sentinel, Sharps, Thornbridge and Twisted Barrel - a frenzied hour of tweeting, chatting, learning and drinking.

A raucous coach journey later and we were treated to BBQ and beers at Thornbridge Brewery, a brilliant evening where we also discovered that table football is never going to be our forte!

The Beer Now conference was wrapped up, with inspirational talks from Richard of Ferment magazine, Jules of Hop Hideout and of course Sheffield Beer Week fame, and Andy from the excellent Elusive Brewing.

FINALLY, we trekked up to the Greystones for a special edition of Karma Citra, pairing a selection of Tiny Rebel beers with some super spicy Caribbean food. Always a brilliant event and a fun and laid back end to a very hectic week.

To finish, it's worth mentioning that our festivities during the week didn't even scratch the surface in terms of the amount of events running. We really were spoilt for choice, and have been left feeling very lucky to live in a city with such a thriving, varied and exciting beer scene. A mighty round of applause to Jules Gray for co-ordinating everything... we're already looking forward to finding out what Sheffield Beer Week 2018 will bring! But first, a lie in and a green smoothie are most definitely in order.


Jim & Laura

Friday, 10 March 2017

Teeling Whiskey - Dublin

In the heart of Dublin's famous Liberties sits Teeling: the first distillery to open in Dublin city for around 125 years. The grey stone exterior matched the slightly lighter sky as we walked under a burnished copper phoenix furnishing the glass entrance doors. We were met by welcoming faces in the lavish yet cosy visitors' centre and booked on our tours.

The tour itself starts in a museum of sorts, portraying the history of Dublin's distilling past, then onward to a slick marketing video before moving on to the actual production floor. One unit houses the entire production cycle, from modern mash mixer and lauter tun through to the fermenters, a mixture of modern stainless and more traditional oak vessels. Finally, across on the back wall are the three copper spirit stills (named Alison, Natalie and Rebecca after Jack Teeling's daughters), oh so slowly changing from their current burnished rose gold colour to an eventual algae green over time. This tour of the compact distillery differs from many facilities of similar volumes of spirit, us being used to the more sprawling distilleries of rural Scotland.

Teeling as a brand itself is still new to the scene, established in 2012 with the distillery opening in 2015 - however, the Teeling family itself has been prolific in the whiskey industry since 1782. Stephen and Jack Teeling, the two brothers heading up the distillery, were initially part owners of Cooleys, but opted out when it was bought by Beam Inc. in 2011. With them, they brought a stockpile of aged whiskey over to the Teeling brand, the oldest released at the moment being 33 years. This means that the distillery can release well aged and kept whiskey and not be forced into rushing out young spirits.

Whilst in a lot of distilleries you are able to look around a warehouse of rows upon rows of wooden barrels, at Teeling this is not the case. Restrictions were put in place due to a great fire in 1872, where rivers of flaming alcohol flowed into the streets from a duty warehouse and malt store, destroying the best part of £5million of whiskey in today's money, as well as houses and animals in the tenement of the working class around. All spirit is now stored safely outside of the city.

Our tour guide, Eve, was friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the company, sharing family history alongside local Dublin lore and a clear passion for the product. Once our tour was complete, we moved into the tasting area for some sampling.

We opted for two different tastings - Laura going for the Small Batch release which was served with a Winter Spice cocktail.

The Small Batch is based on a 75/25 corn and barley blend, aged in bourbon and subsequently finished in Nicaraguan rum, releasing waves of spicy creaminess, vanilla warmth and a rum character worthy of pirates. The cocktail comprised a Small Batch base with Teeling's own vanilla liqueur, a homemade cinnamon and apple syrup, and chamomile and lavender "Put the cat out" tea from local suppliers Wall and Keogh. The result was a warming, floral delight that was perfect to brighten up a dull winter's day.

Despite it being but early in the day, Jim decided to go for the top tier of tastings, sampling the Single Malt, Revival II and a port wood single cask. The Single Malt was a delightful blend of 6 casks: bourbon, madeira, port, Cabernet Sauvignon, White Burgundy and sherry. Figs and forest berry massive on the nose, with a canteloupe freshness following up. The finish was reminiscent of sweet port, but with a dry finish and a touch of saltiness towards the end.

The second release of the Teeling Revival was aged for 12 years in bourbon and then for a final year in calvados barrels, resulting in a wonderful vanilla sweetness and a rounded body that is rich and smooth on the palate, and an apple pie finish.

Finally was the distillery exclusive single cask - an eight year old whiskey finished for a year in port wood, and bottled at 60% cask strength. A pale and delicate colour, but with bold flavours of dark chocolate and rich fruits with a huge black forest gateau character.

We completed our trip with lunch in the cafe, delicious sandwiches and more Wall & Keogh tea rounding off a great experience. A highly recommended destination for anyone fancying a break from all that Guinness!


Jim & Laura

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.