‘Tis the season to buy whisky – Online!

If you’re quick, you might just get your ChristmasWhis order in for whisky from two fab online whisky retailers:
Royal Mile Whiskies and Master of Malt. Although word out is midday 22nd December for last orders, it would be advisable to check with them by phone before ordering.

Royal Mile Whiskies is a multi-award winning whisky shop with two outlets I know of (Edinburgh and London) and an excellent website. It doesn’t always compete on price with the supermarkets if you are after standard bottlings, but is practically unbeatable for the specialist and unusual whiskies. The staff are extremely knowledgeable, and are always keen to help. They have a wide range of gifts and accessories for the whisky aficionado and newbie alike.

I quite fancy this gift pack of 2 20cl Caol Ila Islay malts £39.95 + post and packaging.
(Pronounced: “cull ee-lah”. Well, near enough.)

Master of Malt have a genius idea: whisky tasting sets. These are different selections of 15ml (and 30ml) sampling bottles. Ideal try-before-you-buy, or for a DIY tasting evening.

Here are some examples:

Bourbon Tasting Set · £24.95

I’m very tempted by this:

Extreme Whisky Tasting Set · £31.95
which contains the following delights:
– Yoichi 20 Year Old
– Bowmore 26 Year Old – Single Cask (Master of Malt)
– Parker’s 27 Year Old Heritage Collection
– Bruichladdich Octomore 02.2 Orpheus
– George T Stagg

And if you miss the deadline, there’s always hogmanay.

‘Tis the season to buy whisky. Part 3: Morrison’s

When my local Safeway was taken over by Morrison's, they ripped out the authentic pizza oven and replaced it with pies and all the lemon drizzle cake you could ever want. In hindsight, perhaps I should have expected that. What I didn't expect was a fish stall that is better than Waitrose and a bottled beer selection that would one day include BrewDog beers. And they do have some whiskies that might surprise you too – usually at a good price. Would I find something for the third part of my guide to off-the-beaten-track whisky bargains for Christmas?

I'm looking for a small range of whiskies at each supermarket that would go together to make a decent and varied whisky cabinet. Ideally, they should be non-standard bottlings and save a few quid.?? I've already been to Waitrose and Sainsburys.

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban ??23.49. Save?? ??8 and Glenmorangie Lasanta ??25.99. Save ??8

Some of the "16 Men of Tain" who, according to the labels on Glenmorangie, make this Highland whisky must be spending time courting the UK supermarket whisky buyers; there's an impressive range of their wares on offer this Christmas. These two are both "wood finishes", that is, whiskies that have spent the last part of their maturation before bottling in casks that previously held another drink, in these cases, port for the Quinta Ruban and sherry for the Lasanta. Both have a suggestion of Christmas.

The Quinta Ruban is very subtly done; it isn't at all dominated by port, but has taken on spice and chocolate with some orange sweetness. Don't worry, it's not Terry's chocolate orange, but a sophisticated, late-night dram.

The Lasanta has matured for 2 years in Olorosso sherry casks, but is like its sister, not overpowered by the finishing cask. Rather than the obvious sherry character that the Aberlour A'bunadh I recommended from Waitrose, the sherry gives a hint of Christmas cake flavours: nuts and spice and dried fruit. Save it for Boxing Day.

Ardbeg Ten ??30.99. Save nothing (supposedly). Talisker 10 Year-old ??22.95. Save ??6
I'm breaking my own rules to get a smokey whisky into the cabinet. Both these selections are the standard expressions of their distilleries, and the Ardbeg doesn't even show a discount. The Talisker is a very good price and a great whisky, but easy to find in a pub (even in the UK!). The Ardbeg Ten is a little harder to spot and I haven't seen it in any of the other supermarkets, so far. It is also something of a peat monster, and every cabinet should have one. At this price, it's seven quid cheaper than at some specialist whisky shops, so there's my discount satisfied. Sort of. It is also probably the best "ordinary" bottling of any malt whisky I know.

Bruichladdich Rocks ??22.32. Save ??3
Pronounced (something like) "brook-laddie", this distillery is from the same Hebridean island, Islay, as Ardbeg, but there, the similarity ends. I'm not sure if there is any such thing as a standard Bruichladdich these days, but the marketing says "the sophisticated Islay", by which they mean "not heavily peated*". A bit disingenuous, if you ask me, but at least the contents live up to its the very smart packaging.

This "Laddie" is called Rocks, is unpeated, so is not smokey at all, and is also a "wood finish", spending time in casks that used to hold French Grenache wines. It gets its name from supposedly made being made to go with ice. Many a malt fan would throw a wobbler at the very thought, but you bought it, you put what you want in it. It does make a good aperitif: light, vanilla cream aromas from the bourbon casks, and showing fruity wine flavours, as well as the luscious silkiness of a non-chill filtered whisky.

Black Bottle blended ??12.49. Save ??2.50
This is not your average blended whisky, and deserves to be better known. It distinguishes itself from most other blends by containing a higher than average proportion of malt whisky, and by being smokey. Morrison's also sell Black Grouse, the smokey version of The Famous Grouse – and a reasonable blended whiskey, but not in this class. The not nearly-as-famous Black Bottle is not quite as peaty as the Ardbeg malt, nor is it as complex, but for the money, a very good, malty/smokey, everyday whisky.

Bushmills 10 Year-old ??21.95. Save ??9.41 (ahem!). The Macallan Fine Oak 10 year-old. ??23.23. Save ??9.96
In choosing the final pick for my "instant whisky cabinet", I'd go for an Irish, a Bourbon/American, or a good blended whisky. I selected the floral, creamy, toffee, vanilla Bushmills for the Sainsburys cabinet, and it's the best Irish on show here, even if it's 4 quid more expensive in Morrison's, and the full price, if accurate would put it more than ??6 dearer than Sainsburys full price. I mention in passing the Macallan Fine Oak because it also uses bourbon casks for maturing and is a great, light-tasting but lovely whisky at a good price here.

Morrisson's website
To see the full range of Morrison's offers on whisky, go here (under Offers). Confusingly, I couldn't get to the whisky range by going through Drink.

Morrison's "instant whisky cabinet"
Silky fruity aperitif. Bruichladdich Rocks ??22.32. Save ??3
Brilliant peat monster. Ardbeg Ten ??30.99. Save nothing (or ??7)
Boxing Day with Christmas cake. Glenmorangie Lasanta ??25.99. Save ??8
Bushmills 10 Year-old ??21.95. Save ??9.41

Total cost: ??101.25
Total saving: around ??20
Reserve, instead of the Ardbeg
Black Bottle blended, which would make the total cost ??82.75 at a saving of around ??25

The one pick
Ardbeg Ten

*Apart from the Octomore bottling, which is as smokey as a Cabinet war office.

‘Tis the season to buy whisky. Part 2: Sainsburys

For this second part of my guide to whisky bargains for Christmas, I find myself trudging through slush on my from Camden Town tube to the big Sainsburys in the opposite direction to the Camden Market-seeking tourists. A Bentley coupé slides to a standstill, just, at the crossing between the station and the Camden Eye pub. Not only is it the season to buy whisky, it is the weather too.

I can’t remember ever buying whisky in Sainsburys, but they often have interesting beers. I wonder if this is because the whisky section is so hard to find. Ah, here. tucked away in the corner next to a larger selection headed “White Spirits”. What a horrible term. However, I might be coming here more often; the value is very good indeed.

You may remember from my Waitrose post that I’m not just looking for some good bargains; I’m interested in some whiskies that are a little different from those you might find in a standard pub selection. So, I’ll only mention in passing the 2 for £20 offer, because as good as that offer is, it only seems to have standard bottlings.

Glenlivet 15 Year-old French Oak reserve £25.31. Saving: £7
If it is good enough to recommend as a “steal” at £27 from Waitrose, it’s certainly good enough to mention here at two quid cheaper. Good value even at full price. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this whisky went for closer to £40.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask £20. Saving £7.07
Laphroaig is a bit of a Marmite malt; the standard edition’s peaty dominance and medicinal tang is not for everybody, but it was my Road-to-Damascus malt. When I first tasted this version, I wrote “One dimensional” – it’s very smokey. Then as it worked its charms I added, “… but what a dimension.” My notes say £20, but I can hardly believe them. Perfect for the Big Chill weather. At 48% ABV it’s not quite cask strength, but it is non-chill filtered for that full-bodied mouthfeel. Wonderful, especially at this price.

Bushmills Single Malt £17.97. Saving £10
There aren’t very many Irish single malts, and despite years of advertising with “triple distilled to be smoother than Scotch”, still haven’t overcome a perceived inferiority among many whisky lovers, which is a pity. Irish whiskey, whether blended, as single malt, or (best of all) pure pot still, ought to have a place in every cabinet. The Bushmills has the light floral nose characteristic of a good Irish, with some toffee, creamy maltiness and bags of vanilla from aging in bourbon barrels. Another real bargain. Although not on offer, the Jameson 12 Year-old Special Reserve (not a single malt) is worth considering.
Balvenie Signature 12 Year-old £23.49. Saving £7. Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year-old £24.15. Saving £5
Balvenie is a Speyside distillery, more usually associated with lighter flavoured whiskies, often using sherry casks for maturation or finishing. The Doublewood has a second maturation period (finishing) sherry casks for those wine-y and dried fruit flavours that are so Christmas-y. The Signature is a relatively new bottling and another that is released in batches. I tasted batch 001, but I think this is 003. The one I tasted was a lovely mix of sherry and bourbon cask influences, as you might expect from a bottling that is made from a mixture of bourbon and sherry casks. The Doublewood on the other hand is finished in casks that previously held sherry. For me, this makes the flavour more seasonal, but the Signature is a little more unusual.

Sainsbury’s website

Your nearest Sainsburys might have a completely different stock, so you might want to see the whole range of whiskies on their website – and it is extensive. Not quite as many more unusual bottlings as Waitrose, and rather lacking in the American whiskies.

Sainsburys” instant whisky cabinet
Elegant aperitif: Glenlivet 15 Year-old French Oak reserve £25.31. Saving: £7
Bonfire in winter. Laphroaig Quarter Cask £20. Saving £7.07
Floral, toffee vanilla all-rounder. Bushmills Single Malt. £17.97. Saving £10
After-dinner or with mince pies. Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year-old £23.49. Saving £5

Total cost: £86.97
Total saving: £29.07

The one pick
Laphroaig Quarter Cask

‘Tis the season to buy whisky. Part 1: Waitrose

There’s no better time of the year to be buying whisky than in the pre-Christmas run-up. As soon as bonfire night is over, the shelves at the UK supermarkets start to gear up their malt-based beverages in readiness for Christmas. Breweries start putting out their winter warmers, with varying degrees of success. If you’re looking to build a bit of a whisky cabinet, or just looking for something to get in “just in case”, now’s the time; the discounts are practically cut-throat.

Over the next few days, I’ll post some recommendations that you can easily find in the major UK supermarkets (subject to availability), starting today with Waitrose.

Waitrose has a really good range of whiskies, Scotch, Irish, American, and some superior blends – and they’re not just your usual pub brands. In fact, I hardly see the point in buying an “ordinary” bottle of whisk(e)y you can get at your local. Waitrose gives you the chance to spread your whisky wings a bit.

Glenlivet 15 French Oak Res £27.49, Glenlivet Nadurra £35.99
Glenlivet has a bit of a reputation for being an “ordinary” malt, but their standard bottlings have really improved over the last few years. Both of these examples are stunning. The 15 year-old French Oak Reserve took silver in the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival in the “wood finish” category, which means the whisky has had spent some time just before bottling in other casks in this case, French Oak barrels from Limousin, which is unusual in the whisky world. The effect has been to give a subtle spicy vanilla touch. At under 28 quid, this is a steal. Great as an aperitif.

The other end of the meal, but perhaps not Christmas dinner, is the time to bring out the Nadurra. Meaning “natural” in Gaelic, the Nadurra is non-chill filtered to keep all its natural oils, resulting in it being extra silky smooth on the palette. It’s honey sweet, without being sickly like a liqueur. This is one to tempt people who think they are non-whisky drinkers.

Aberlour A’bunadh, Batch 31 £26.99
This on the other hand, would be great with the xmas pud. It’s a big, full-flavoured whisky, whose impact comes from being matured in Olorosso sherry butts. It’s sweet and full of Christmas spices, with just enough balancing sharpness from the wood to keep it from being cloying. A new batch is released every so often, (we’re up to Batch 31, so it must be a couple of times a year, at least). The exact flavour between batches cannot be exactly replicated, but that’s what keeps things interesting (and me buying).

Talisker 1998 Distillers Edition £34.99
The Talisker 10 year-old is what you want after coming home having braved the snow, wind and ice. It is famous for it’s big peppery attack, and while being smokey, is not as heavily peated as some of the Islay whiskies. So, as I look out across a carpet of white, why am I recommending this Distillers Edition? Well, it’s a brilliant refinement of one of the Diageo Classic Malts. Another “wood finish”, this time, casks that have previously held sherry. The smokey pepperiness is still there, but the edge is rounded down with the influence of the sweetness of the sherry. Get this for long winter nights in, and when you do make it out through the drifts to the pub, start off with a bracing Talisker 10.

Makers Mark Bourbon £25.69
Jack Daniels, although not a bourbon as such, has practically cornered the market in rock and roll whiskey, and probably because of that, is one of the few whiskies the younger market will touch. Well, they should try this, and so should you; especially if your only experience with bourbon or other American whiskies is Jim Beam or Jack. Bourbons are extremely flavourful and stand up to a mixer, but this is great on its own. Sweet, fruity, and powerfully spicy (cloves in the lead) with lots of vanilla from the casks, which also give some tannic backbone to balance the sweetness. Big enough for a nightcap whatever you’ve eaten.

Waitrose “instant whisky cabinet”
Elegant aperitif. Glenlivet 15 French Oak Reserve: £27.49. Save £7
Xmas pudding dram. Aberlour A’bunadh: £26.99. Save £6
Refined peaty sweetness. Talisker Distillers Edition: £34.99. Save £6
Hendrix rather than Slash. Makers Mark Bourbon: £25.99. Save £

The one pick
Aberlour A’bunadh

Waitrose whiskies online

Open It! Day 3: Highland Park Hj??rta, for MaltCim’s 6th anniversary

I’m almost as bad at not opening special bottlings of whisky as I am beer. These whiskies almost seem to conspire against me to remain unsampled. It doesn’t matter so much with a whisky; the contents in an unopened bottle won’t deteriorate, but nor will they improve – except perhaps in value. Even though the Open It! weekend seems to be almost exclusively about beer, it doesn’t preclude any drink. From it’s inception, I had in mind one particular bottle of whisky that is appropriate to crack today. The reason for keeping it unopened so far, is perhaps

Highland Park Hjärta came out in the middle of 2009 in a limited edition of 3,900 bottles. As soon as I heard about it, I knew what I had to do. On December 8, 2004 MaltCim had a kidney transplant, and her new kidney came from her brother, Jonas. On each anniversary, I send him a bottle of whisky as a thank-you for his incredible, life-changing gift. 2009 was the fifth anniversary, so I wanted the whisky to be a bit special.


“Hjärta” means “heart” in Swedish, so what more apt whisky to celebrate with? Well, as far as I know, there isn’t a “Njure” bottling, but then again “kidney” doesn’t quite have the same ring about it. Of course I had to taste the whisky first – I wasn’t going to send any old spirit just because it had a good name. I managed to find it at the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival, and it certainly passed the taste test. I told Jonathan di Blasi of Maxxium, the Scandinavian drinks importer, he loved the idea, and a plan was hatched to get a bottle from Bergen in Norway to Östersund in Sweden.

As a back-up, I secured a second bottle from the Highland Park distiller shop, but it wasn’t needed. Jonathan kept good his promise, and even though delivering the bottle to Jonas was a saga in itself, the feat was accomplished and the whisky much appreciated. This left me with the back-up in my own whisky cabinet, and I just couldn’t bring myself to open it; it wasn’t meant for me!

And then Open It! came along, almost to the day of the 6th anniversary, and it just seemed the right way to celebrate it. Whisky and beer are for sharing, not hoarding, after all. Bearing in mind that this has probably altered my appreciation of the whisky, this is what I thought. Neat, the nose is full of candied fruits (pears?) and toffee. There is a subtle whiff of wood smoke. The first sip gives a huge rush of gingery pepper, a thick, silky, almost chewy mouthfeel and a long somewhat fiery finish with the smoke trailing off. Adding water seems to bring out sea air. The toffee malt deepens (toffee apples?) and polished wood emerges. Full-bodied on the palate with vanilla ice cream flecked with crystallized ginger. The fire has died leaving a coating sweetness and a swirl of smoke. 

Cheers, then Jonas! I hope you enjoy this year’s whisky – and no, I’m not revealing that here, yet.

If you want to read the story of how the Hjärta reached its destination last year, go to our Antarctic Odyssey blog.
Read Highland Park’s own tasting notes.
But if you really want to do something good, register for the organ donor register.

Open It! Day 2: Brasserie d’Achouffe, La Chouffe 1997

I am aware I might have done enough on the first evening of Open It! weekend yesterday to convince MaltCim that beer is not a social drink. It had started promisingly with the AEgir Julebrygg 2009, opened and shared before and with dinner. After that, I’m afraid I spent rather too long on Twitter looking at what everybody else had dug out of their cellars. No chance of that happening on Day 2, we’re going to a  party.

I’ve bought some Fuller’s Vintage 2010 for Eric’s birthday present, but was really struggling for a proper Open It! I could take to a party. And then I found this La Chouffe a Belgian golden ale from Brasserie d’Achouffe. It’s champagne sized, according to the website, but the party air would have been completed better by a cage and cork, don’t you think? There’s no age statement on the label that I could see, but the best before date gave 1998, so I’m going for brewed in 1997.

How have I got a 13 year-old bottle of beer lying around? Well, here is the perfect example of why Open It! is needed: it was waiting for a special occasion that never happened. It might just have the alcoholic legs, at 8%, to survive 10 or more years. I remember perfectly well that it was a present from Chris, and I suppose I was thinking I might share it with him one day. Sadly, Chris is not going to be there.

We risk taking the car. After the countrywide snow of the past week, there’s been just enough thaw and the forecast is degrees in the positive overnight. Anybody would think from that we would be driving to South Shields over the Penines rather than Soutfields over the A3, but the winter driving MaltCim grew up with involves with tyres with studs. Our tyres, although legal, must seem like slicks in this weather.

Arriving, late, I am offered and accept a Bud. I think of doing a spoof tweet: “Rare Mikeller proto-collaboration with Budweiser for #openit Day 2”, but lacking mobile Photoshop skills to doctor the label appropriately, not to mention a lack of usable mobile, I decide against it. No, it’s time for the real thing.

Eric is pleased with his Vintage bottles, and as I stash them away and warn him off them for the evening, I produce the bottle of La Chouffe. I can only find plastic glasses, and imagine an apology to the Achouffe gnomes on the label who have been guarding their ale for the best part of a decade and a half. The beer is lively as it pours, and although slightly hazy from a slight lack of care in the last hour of its existence, it is a bright, old gold colour. The aroma is spicily scented, but hard to pinpoint – the breweries own tasting notes say coriander but that seems to have faded.

It tastes fresh and slightly vinous, although it has obviously not soured. The fruitiness claimed for this beer has changed in character. I suspect by now, it is stronger than 8% too. It is certainly drinkable – refreshingly so, but perhaps past it’s best. We chalk it down to “interesting”. Eric takes another Bud. I start eying the Fuller’s Vintage.

Brasserie d’Achouffe

First night of #openit: AEgir Bryggeri’s Julebrygg 2009

Open It! Wrote Mark Dredge, mult-award-winning beer writer. Mark is saying that this weekend, December 3-5, is the time to dig into the far reaches of our cellars, cupboards, garages and fridges and pull out that bottle we’ve all been saving for that special occasion. Then blog, tweet, or Facebook about it.

Brilliant idea, and not just applicable to beer. I intend to open a bottle of whisky on Sunday night, but the concept equally applies to wine, or any tipple you care for. On Friday, though, I started off with a beer:  AEgir Bryggeri’s Julebrygg 2009 (Christmas Brew, in translation).

I almost came into possession of this Norwegian Christmas beer during December 2009. Jonathan di Blasi, a fellow judging panel member in the whisky competition at the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival runs a bar restaurant in Leikanger, Norway, kindly offered to source a very special bottle of whisky that I wanted to give to MaltBrotherInLaw. He personally drove it all the way to Stockholm with the intention that our paths might cross as I made my way up to the frozen north of Sweden to celebrate New Year.

There was space in the car, and as well as the Highland Park Hjarta whisky, there were two bottles of beer from the AEgir Bryggeri. Now, I realise this sounds more like a Sigur Ros track than an up-and-coming Norwegian micro brewery, but nevertheless, I was really looking forward to trying them. Sadly, last December’s weather conspired against us, and I didn’t manage to pick up the beers. It was September this year before I got hold of them, and well, that’s just not the right time of year to break open a Christmas beer, so into the store cupboard it went.

When Mark Dredge announced Open It! I knew one of my bottles to try would be the Julebrygg. Would it have survived a long car journey a plane trip and a year in storage? At 7% ABV, I had high hopes that the alcohol would have cushioned its journey. And so it proved.

A reassuring hiss as the cap came off, it poured a deep, dark chocoalte colour with a  creamy rocky head, and smelt very fresh, with aromas of malt loaf and beurre noisette. It tasted of malt loaf too, and reminded me in style of a British traditional winter warmer. Very full-bodied, too, almost like a silky chocolate mousse and a warming finish. It says on the bottle that it is made for drinking with (Scandinavian) Christmas food, but this would have been great with a traditional British xmas pud.

Follow the Open It! weekend and join in:
On Twitter, search for the hashtag #openit
On Facebook, look for the Open It! page or go here.

Nigel Slater cooking with beer as “star ingredient”

I like Nigel Slater, and I like his style of cooking. Even if he is the epitome of a Guardian Reader’s cook, he is un-chef-y and cooks for flavour rather than show. BBC are showing Series 2 of his Simply Suppers, and if some of the seasonal dishes he presents are a little out of place in these chilly days, there is one that isn’t and what’s more, beer is proclaimed as the “star ingredient”.

The dish in question appears in Episode 5, named “Unsung Heroes” and the recipe is for Beer and Beef stew. It is clear he means for beer to be the hero in the dish, because it adds what he says is an “endless depth” to the finished dish. This is very heartening to hear on a mainstream British cookery programme.

The Beef and Beer sketch begins with a visit to the West Berkshire Brewery and an interview with brewer Will Twomey, with shots of him in action emptying the mash tun, checking the boil and adding late copper hops that will “be stripped of their essential oils and impart their flavour to the beer”. Will tells of the huge range of styles of beer and the 100-plus varieties of hops, and that darker, maltier beers are more suitable for cooking. Nigel thinks there is “something comforting about the naturalness of ingredients” in beer. A very encouraging start.

Back in the kitchen, Nigel takes the praise of beer as an ingredient up a notch, saying that sometimes, it can be even better than wine. (He presumably just means when cooking. Steady on!)  He goes on to offer that cooking with beer gives “whole waves of flavour: a little bit of bitterness, a bit of sweetness, and depending on what you put it with, you can get some amazing results.”

The recipe is straightforward, with one exception: he takes his cut of stewing beef, and instead of cubing it, he cuts it into steaks. I agree that this will not only look good on the plate, but it will keep the juiciness of the meat better. He seasons then browns the steaks, without flouring, and removes them from the pan, to then fry sliced onions slowly in the juices for 15 minutes. Only then does he add flour, risking the wrath of the sauce police, but Nigel doesn’t care; he wants this sauce to be thick and comforting to keep the cold out on a windy night.

Returning the meat to the by now, glossy, sticky, honeyed onions, he then adds his star ingredient, the beer. And this is the only disappointing aspect of the entire piece. He just calls it beer. Yes, we like that you give it all the praise, but weren’t you listening, Nigel, when Will Twomey said there was a huge range of beer styles from which to choose? Do we take it as read that you went with his advice of a darker beer? What is your opinion as a cook of Will’s (presumably) untutored cooking tip? I would suggest a Chimay Blue, or a porter like Bateman’s Dark Lord.

Still, let’s not let that detract from the event. I’ve spent many a Saturday breakfast hurling abuse from my sofa at BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, as their wine experts recommend a wine to accompany the guest celebrity chef’s pre-Football Focus creation, when a beer would be more appropriate.

The final ingredients are added: a dollop of mustard for even more depth, and some thyme. While it’s all gently simmering for 50 minutes, Nigel has time for one more surprise: he makes a rough kind of apple sauce to go with the finished dish. He says it provides a light contrast. Interesting to suggest apples with beef not just pork, I will try it. I have added mustard to beer dishes and it depends what result you want. It can take the focus from the beer, and then the dish can benefit from a few tablespoons of some really dark beer stirred in at the end.

The minor gripes aside, I want to emphasise how encouraging it was to see this on prime-time TV. And I hope more people are inspired by his view that: “We very rarely use beer as stock. As it cooks it mellows and sweetens slightly. And you end up with a sauce that’s really glossy and very deeply flavoured”, and that the beer gives “endless depth to this dish”. Right at the end, though we are reminded of beer’s position as he offers, “Even if you’re not a beer drinker, it’s well worth having a few bottles in the cupboard.” Never mind; it’s a start.

If you are in the UK, you can catch Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers on iPlayer.
This was from Episode 5, from about 16 minutes in.

West Berkshire Brewery www.wbbrew.com