Meantime Brewing and a new/old London Porter for Burns Night via Bamberg

If pale and extremely hoppy beers have been the belles of the beer ball for last couple of years, perhaps 2013 is the year that malt strikes back. If so, Meantime Brewing have started us off in the right direction with a collaboration beer: a Weyermann Porter. The nature of such limited editions is, by the time you read this, it will all be gone. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Greenwich Union pub tell you so I can tell you what it was like and how good it was with food.

Collaborating breweries, limited edition bottlings and one-off beers are quite the thing these days, on the craft beer scene. But this is one of the more unusual ones with Greenwich’s finest (only?) brewery collaborating with the German speciality maltsters Weyermann to make a London porter with all-German malts, brewed in Germany.

Meantime_collab_london_porter_med

OK, so before the EU gets on my back perhaps “London-style” porter. But yes, Meantime brewer Rod Jones packed his Lederhosen, last Autumn, went to Germany, and to the Bavarian city of Bamberg, to boot. Now things start to make a bit of sense; Bamberg is famous for its Rauchbiers, “smoked beers”, and porter – the second-most mythologised and misunderstood beer style (all porter used to be a bit smoky. Maybe…)

What followed him back from Bavaria, after several months of maturation, (the beer, that is. Rod Jones? same as ever) was a dark, velvety beer with a nod to chocolatey sweetness and a whiff of bonfire smoke. A beer of 8.5% ABV, too. Not that you could tell.

Rod Jones was at pains to point out what the beer didn’t taste of. As well as the absence of alcohol burn, there was an absence of the bitter, roasted and coffee flavours often associated with very dark beers. This, he explained, was down to the art of the maltster, and I would say, the craft of the brewer to showcase the malts: a blend of pale ale malt, two types of caramelised malt, chocolate wheat malt, with the final 5% of the mix coming from Bamberg’s famous beechwood-smoked malt.

Maltjerry bids for an entry into Pseud’s Corner
There were nibbles – substantial ones, sitting tantalisingly on the table as Rod told of standing in the freezing cold as they tasted the newly-matured porter last November, the only one present in Lederhosen, realising he’d been hoodwinked by his hosts. I felt somewhat sheepish, too, as I tucked into the food, but I had to see if this was beer made for food. Food that was getting cold. If that was rude, it was in the cause of research.

Toasted sourdough bread with hummus, deep-fried white fish goujons, thick-cut chips, samples of charcuterie, and…

“I thought it went particularly well with the pork meatloaf en croute”, I said cringing somewhat as I spoke the words.

“Oh, the slices of jumbo sausage roll, you mean?” responded my table companion. Luckily, the Greenwich Union bar was too dimly lit to reveal my blushes. I was right though, it was a very good pairing. Not a usual one for porter, but the smoke gives it an edge and the sweetness balanced by restrained hopping with East Kent Goldings goes with the herby richness of the sausagemeat.

It was no surprise that the rich malt and restrained smokiness of the beer also fitted the charcuterie very well. The light carbonation lifting the fat. Which it also did on the goujons. Porter and seafood is an old combination. This fish wasn’t as overwhelmed as with some porters. The less harshly-roasted dark malts at play, perhaps.

What was surprising was the combination with hummus and sourdough toast. I suspect the slightly burnt edges were picking up the dark malts and smoke again.

Although we can never know what the old-style porters that were all the rage in 19th-century London really tasted like, I doubt they had the refinement of this modern version. They just didn’t have the technical control of today’s maltsters.

Of course, the march of hops will continue in 2013, but this particular malt-forward collaboraton shows another way. I hope more brewers follow.

Meantime Brewing Company: about the Weyermann Porter

The Greenwich Union pub You might be lucky and find some Weyermann Porter, if not there’s Saison de Nuit and of course, the “standard” but also lovely London Porter.

The history of Weyermann speciality malts

Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: 25 choices from 2012. 3rd Dec.

3rd December: Sharp’s, Connoisseureurs Choice Honey Spice Tripel. 10% ABV.
From: England. Type: Bottle-conditioned Belgian-style spiced tripel. Source: Sharp’s Brewery

I could put all three beers of the Sharp’s Connoisseurs Choice range in today’s window. The Quadruple won gold in the International Beer Challenge in September, and the Honey Spice Tripel silver. My tasting notes for the Quad and the Single Brew Reserve (bronze) were lost in The Great Krusovice Passport Robbery of 3rd July, so I’ll go with the Tripel as my choice.

Sharps_connoisseurs_honey_spice_tripel_med_crop

All three beers are designed to compliment food, although when I paired the Honey Spice Tripel with some roast quail, it rather overwhelmed the dish. Purely the cook’s (my) fault.

The beer is intensely flavoured with biscuity malts and a suggestion of honey and coriander spice. You might think it would turn out cloying, but such is brewer Stuart Howe’s attention to detail with the complex fermentation regimen, the sugars are taken care of, and you are left with a dry-ish beer with floral hop aromas from Saaz and Styrian Goldings, and more aromas of spices and berry fruits from the fermentation.

If I failed with the quail there is bound to be a to be some fantastic festive fare at a Christmas near you to suit it better. You’d be a wise man or woman to try them all, though.

Sharp’s Brewery Connoisseurs Choice beers
Maltjerry on Roast Quail with Honey Spice Tripel

Black IPA: the gateway drug to “real” dark beers?

Thunder shook loose hail and hammered the kitchen window like a million drummers. A scream: “Oh God, please, no!” as a punning oxymoronic headline began to take shape in my head. Oxymoronic could only mean one more black IPA on its way from bottle to glass. I started to think: “There really is only one way to cook aubergine.”

Actually, there are plenty of ways to prepare aubergines, but they mostly give rise to aversions to aubergine. And so it used to be with dark beers.

Brewdog_libertine_med

A black IPA or merely a black Ale?

Things have changed. Aubergines have been with us for a while, but a few years ago, when it came to dark beers, there used to be just stout, by which I mean The Black Stuff. Some people swore by it. Others swore at it. This gave rise to a lot of aversions to dark beers.

Before, there were other dark beer styles others, but they were as good as lost, at least in the UK. This was a pity. I remember an aunt or a grandparent having a Mackeson, but I never tasted a dark mild until I was 30. Porter? A mythical beast to me until I met Carnegie Porter in Sweden in the 90s. Schwartzbier? Merely a legend in the The Beer Hunter.

Black from the dead

Then America re-invented dark beers: From Alaska to Boston via San Francisco emerged black lagers, stouts, imperial stouts, porters, smoked porters, gonzo imperial porters… Recently, somebody (probably an American) invented the black IPA. Beer drinkers everywhere (well, a few places) spent hours contemplating how to resolve the paradox of “black” and “Pale”.

It’s simple really. As Phil Lowry (beer writer, homebrewer) puts it: “black” (dark malts) plus “IPA” (strong, hoppy). For these newcomers, brewers use different, speciality malts not normally found in Britain and Ireland’s dark beers. Malts such as used in German schwartzbiers (black lagers) provide the darkness but without the bitter, roasted, coffee flavours you get in stouts and porters.

What is the point? you might ask. Conventional black and chocolate malts for stouts, milds and porters rarely amount to much more than 15% of the total malt bill (otherwise there’s not enough sugar to ferment). They are intensely bitter like the bitterest 100% chocolate or the meanest double-shot espresso.

Black IPAs then, use speciality malts also used for black and dark lagers. These malts provide the colour, but with a restrained roasted bitterness, which allows the hop aromas and flavours to shine, while still showing off some velvety mouth feel and subtle dark chocolate, faintly smoky flavours.

These new(ish) beers with their new dark malts tend to made with tropical fruity, citrussy, and piney Pacific and American hop varieties. It’s a particularly good marriage, and it means black IPAs go very well with barbecued meats and vegetables. Handy to know for Summer, no? They are satisfying as well as thirst-quenching, robust enough to stand up to strong sauces, rich foods, and the smoke. That makes them pretty worthwhile, don’t you think?

What was that about “gateway drug”, again?
There does seem to be irrational fear some people have who won’t drink dark beers, this Guinness aversion. Myths have grown up that are about “dark beers are more filling”. And the equally bonkers counter: “stouts have more iron”. Whatever you say, it seems some people just won’t do dark.

An imperial porter has all the things an espresso aficionado would go for: intense dark roasted and bitter flavours, tempered with Muscovado-like sweetness. Perhaps, if gently approached with these flavours reined in, in the form of say, a Thornbridge Raven. People (you?) might see the light in the dark.

That “one more black IPA” I poured during the ominous thunder was a new one from BrewDog, its Libertine Black Ale at 7% ABV. Maybe “black IPA” should just be called “black ale”, but where’s the fun in that? And yes, they are just as “real” as any other beer style. Anyway, BrewDog Libertine is luscious and velvety with a soaring guitar solo of Starburst-flavoured Simcoe hops over the top.

I couldn’t resist a sample as I was preparing a mixed grill of courgettes, portobello mushrooms, tomatoes and feta cheese. And of course, those aubergines made THE only way: sliced lengthways, painted with olive oil, dusted with hot-smoked paprika, and grilled until they get attractive golden, crispy patches. I call them Ubergines.

Well, at least I avoided the punning headline.

Some UK Black IPAs for you online
BrewDog Libertine Black Ale 7%, from the BrewDog shop
Windsor and Eton Conqueror 1075, 7.3% from the Beer Boutique
The Kernel Black IPA, 6.3% from Beeritz

Swedish Midsummer Night’s Dream of Beer

There are normally no murders in Sweden in midsummer, not even ones for Wallander to solve, but it is a time for beer. And even if there is no tradition for special midsummer brews, it is expected that beer is served with the midsummer lunch. I do wish we had a festival in the UK that had the same attitude.

Midsommar, to give it its Swedish name is probably the second most important holiday celebration in the calendar after Christmas. The celebration is midsummer night’s eve, a movable feast set to the Friday closest to the Summer solstice. It’s a day off work, although the official holiday is the Saturday: midsummer’s day. The Swedes are canny, celebrating events on the eve, allowing time for reflection/recovery on the actual day. Even Twelfth Night is called “Thirteenth Day Eve”.

Midsommar_plate_med

Pickled herring, cheese, ice-cold “snaps” – and beer

The food for midsommar lunch makes beer the obvious choice: gravad lax, smoked salmon, pickled herring (sill) of various flavours from mustard to curry, crispbread with hard, salty cheese, dill potatoes… The other accompaniment is snaps (equivalent to the Germanic “Schnapps”). Vodka infused with herbs and spices, often caraway, and for the real deal, wormwood herb, for a mouth-puckering bitterness that would be a joy to any hophead.

And what beer style to choose? Dry lagers like Czech or German Pilsners are great: their sharp, dryness stands up to the strong flavours, and cuts through the oiliness. There are a good few Swedish craft breweries from which to choose: Nynäshamns Landsort Lager, Nils Oscar God Lager… Or perhaps cuckoo brewery Mohawk‘s oddly named Unfiltered Lager. A devious beer, starting out being brewed as a Vienna-style lager and finishing up hopped like an American pale ale.

You’ll be lucky to find any of those brews in the UK, but you might find an English beer that would be an even better match. Meantime Brewing‘s latest seasonal: Friesian Pilsener. Yes, I know, “Friesian” is not in the neighbourhood of Lewisham, but this does North German pilsener better than the beer it was inspired by. This is so staggeringly refreshing and brimful of dry herbal aromas (sage? rosemary?) from haywains full of German hops that it will make you think June was a complete washout. See? it works!

In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a magical juice painted on sleeping eyelids turns the dreamer into a lover of whatever living thing they first see on awakening. A few drops of some of these special pilsners and you’ll never look the same way at a herring again.

Link and suggestions
Meantime Brewing’s beer range. Scroll right down to see the Friesian Pilsener. Marks and Spencer did stock own-brand bottles of the previous Meantime seasonal. Maybe they will this. You might try their London Lager, but it’s quite a different beast.

Pilsner Urquell and Jever are Czech and German pils(e)ners respectively, and more widely available.

If you have a beer pairing suggestion that is widely available in the UK, do let me know.

Of Fripp, Howe, quail, and beer made for Sunday roast

Roast quail with Sharp’s Connoisseur’s Choice Honey Spice Tripel and Wadworth’s Beer Kitchen India Pale Ale

“There are no mistakes, save failing to learn from a mistake.” So said Robert Fripp, guitar guru with progressive rock legends King Crimson. Now, if that is true of playing music, it’s doubly true of cooking. Triply true of pairing your food with beer. You can’t really call yourself a cook unless you can rescue a culinary flop in real time. Equally, how would you know what beer goes with what unless you’ve matched a few frogs?

2012 has seen British brewers really catching on to partnering beer with food. And some, including Sharp’s and Wadworth’s have even brought out beers developed specially for the dinner table, which fine establishments saw fit to send The Nightjar some samples. I thought I’d better come up with some dinners to match their efforts.

Stuart Howe, not Steve Howe of progressive rock kings Yes, is Sharp’s head brewer. From his fevered imagaination sprang the Connoisseurs Choice collection of beers. I’m not surprised to find it’s not your average take on beer styles. The 2011 range is made up of Single Brew Reserve, Honey Spice Tripel, and Quadruple Ale. You just have to be impressed with the attention to detail in the brochure, not just glossy, but with thought put into the tasting and brewing notes. This really is how high-quality craft beer should be presented.

Roast_quail_with_sharps_honey_tripelRoast_quail_with_beer_kitchen_ipa

Wadworth’s Beer Kitchen beers ranges even wider: from Wheat Beer, India Pale Ale, Orange Peel Beer, Whisky Barrel-aged Bitter, and finishing up with Espresso Stout. Sounds like a menu in itself. To show their commitment to the beer with food idea, they have put together a standalone  website for these beers, with a page with some basic beer and food matching tips.

I chose the Sharp’s Honey Spice Tripel and the Wadworth’s Beer Kitchen IPA for Sunday dinner, and then I started to think about the food. I decided they’d be great with some juicy roast quail, for their sweet, meaty flavour without being gamey. Fat and flavoursome yet light meat: just shouting out for beer matching.

Quail are much easier to catch these days
Waitrose usually obliges, just to the right of the chicken. They might be farmed but are still exotic enough seem a bit fancy, and south of the River (Wey), instead of a hunter’s shotgun, a bargain hunter’s budget will do, so often are these fine birds marked down. It can’t hurt either that quail are quite simple and quick to roast.

I seasoned the birds inside and out, sprinkled them with freshly-chopped sage (a good herby foil for hops), and covered them each with a rasher of streaky bacon – more for the flavour and to keep the sage in place than for any larding effect. Into a small roasting dish with a couple of lemon quarters, which roast nicely to give a grilled, semi-sweet tartness.

After 20 minutes or so in a 200 degree C oven, with the quail rested, veg prepared, I thought the pan juices need extending with some left-over Chardonnay. (Not a good idea, as it turned out.) And so á table with a wine glass for each of the beers so MaltCim and I could easily compare the outcome.

The outcome
The Honey Spice Tripel is intense. It shows off its honey lacing without parading it. There is a sharpness of grilled lemons, which bodes well for my dish, to balance out the mouth-filling richness of malt, sugar and honey. The juicy, but barely gamey quail, however, was somewhat overpowered, and my sauce needed to be a good deal more unctuous. This is not to reflect on the beer, rather a reflection on a misjudgement on my part. Stunning beer, stunned quail.

The Wadworth’s Beer Kitchen IPA faired a good deal better. Although at first blush, it seems a more straightforward brew, it has  charm and a depth that lends itself to drinking with food. There is a typically English peppery hop character both on the nose and the palate that suited the quail very well. Bitter enough to cut through the fattiness of the roast quail and adding a spicy note to complement the sage. The “winner” today.

Roast_quail_1_medRoast_quail_2_med

So if the quail and the Honey Spice Tripel combination turned into a bit of a frog, it was only down to the food not matching the intensity of the beer. Stuart Howe has delivered a beer that has a combination of delicacy and power – something you might find in a new world Chardonnay, but which I’ve rarely found in a British beer.

As I finished the last forkful of quail, I was already thinking of the next roast: to see if I could do justice to the Tripel. Perhaps a honey-mustard glaze sauce would suit. Or a darker bird like pigeon. I might not have come up with the ideas without my “mistake”. I hope Mr Fripp might nod in approval.

Next episode: British cheeses with Fullers Vintage Ale, Sharp’s Connoisseur’s Quadruple Ale, and Wadworth’s Beer Kitchen Orange Peel Beer

Links
Sharp’s Connoisseur’s Choice range
Wadworth’s Beer Kitchen page

 

Strange Brew: The Day The BBC Went Beer

Strange Brew: the riff to 60s supergroup Cream’s opens BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme. And as the intro to Eric, Jack and Ginger’s timeless guitar anthem is replaced by the opening teaser quotes of what the programme will be about, the strange brew in question is not going to be tea; it is an altogether more significant half hour, signifying the day the BBC takes beer seriously.

On Sunday 23 March The Food Programme’s Dan Saladino gave over the whole of the 30 minutes of this long-running and respected food magazine programme to beer. More specifically, “Dan Saladino finds out why America’s brewing scene is a growing influence on British beer.”

Bbc_food_prog_beer

And obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be happily reporting it, the spotlight of the BBC falls on the side of the US brewing to show the innovations of craft brewing that are giving ideas to some of the microbreweries in the UK. This is where unsuspecting Radio 4 listeners get to hear about the barrel aged beers, the solera system micro-brews, the new hops, and the new styles of beers coming from America. Strange brews to most people, perhaps, but all part of what is described as the evolution of beer.

That this subject matter is being presented on The Food Programme is significant. It isn’t a trend magazine show about the hip new fads coming out of Hoxton, nor is it a populist TV Show full of celebrity chefs. The Food Programme is for people who are serious about their food and drink. And, while one 30-minute programme.cannot break any wine hegemony, craft beer’s very association with food is on the right track and feels like something of a triumph.

Strange brew? You tell me. Listen to the podcast.
BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme: The New Beer Frontier podcast

Men with Odd-shaped Balls Drink Brains with Food, Shock

“Sorry I’ve come so formal”, said Simon, removing his tie. Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less. I had no idea what to wear, myself. I also had no idea who else was going to be there. Everybody else was in the dark-grey suit. Nice that somebody should care to dress for dinner, but all I cared about was it was a beer dinner given by Brains Brewery and I wanted to know what the menu was and how a range of thoroughly British beers would cope. Especially with dessert.

Simon wasn’t a solicitor, but Mark was. I told them I wrote about beer, they looked quizzical as I confessed my curiosity about what the choice of dessert beer would be. “Dessert beer?” I could see flit momentarily across their consciousnesses before they moved on to the more pressing subject of by how many points Wales would beat England by at Twickenham on Saturday. This was, after all, a dinner for The Wales in London club.

Brains_dessert_smallBrains_bill_and_melissa_cropBrains_duck_confit_small

We finished our welcome drink of bottled SA Gold, and followed it with a half of the cask version. (They preferred the bottled.) Before we could discuss the finer points of spear tackling or American craft brewing, we were called in to dinner. I found myself next to Bill Dobson, head brewer at Brains. Briefly, ex-Wales international centre and British Lion Tom Shanklin joined us, until he realised he wasn’t Beer Magazine editor Tom Stainer and went to find where he was supposed to be sitting.

Tom Shanklin’s seat was taken by Melissa Cole, beer writer and tonight’s beer co-MC with Bill Dobson. Melissa was also responsible for choosing the beers to go with each course. Something of a relief I’ll admit. You see, as much as I love and champion beer with food, I’m more used to a wider variety of styles than is usually available from a large-ish British regional brewer. Bill and Melissa guide us through each course pairing throughout the evening.

However, a quick straw poll of the assembled diners revealed that beer dinners were not the norm for the Wales in London members, unless several pints of Kingfisher were the chosen accompaniment to a chicken Madras. Best not to freak people out with a Rosé de Gambrinus lambic, then.

Here is the non-vegetarian menu and its chosen beer.

STARTER
Ham hock, Pommery mustard, and parsley terrine with homemade piccalilli.
Paired with:
Brains Milkwood

MAIN COURSE
Confit leg of Gressingham duck, fondant potato, aromatic red cabbage & sherry vinegar jus
Paired with:
Brains Bread of Heaven

DESSERT
Chocolate and raspberry mousse with berry coulis
Paired with:
Brains Original Stout

Brains Beers with Posh Dinner: The Verdict
The Milkwood was new to me, and the nutty and slightly spicy maltiness (from rye crystal malt), was a good match for the ham terrine. The beer has another slightly unusual ingredient in malted oats, which I imagine, contributed to making it feel a bigger beer than its 4.3% ABV might suggest. A touch of sweetness too, as a go-between for the piccalilli, which was refined and tart, but not like the famous jarred version that resembles toxic waste. Would a touch more complexity from a heavier hand with the hops been even better?

Duck confit just seems like perfect pub food. It’s slightly salty richness needs a beer to lighten the palate and quench the thirst. Melissa pointed out the cherry(stone?) note in the Bread of Heaven was a much better idea than overwhelming the meat with actual cherries. She was right. The red cabbage was a bit too much for it, but the oddly, the sweetness in sherry vinegar jus found the fruit in the beer, picked up the ball and ran.
“Bread of Heaven, feed me ’til I want no more! (Respons-i-blyyyy)”…

And so to dessert. I had almost guessed it would be a dark beer with chocolate, but I hadn’t guessed that Brains Original Stout was a mere 4.1%. Half the strength of the Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter I go on about in these pages (and as I did to Simon and Mark). Sensibly, the chocolate mousse with which it was paired was not so intense as to smother the beer, and I was so glad to see it served in a goblet rather than a boring beer glass. All the better to show off the coffee and chocolate aromas in the beer.

It worked then, I’m pleased to report. Not that I managed any kind of scientific survey, but from comments made during after-dinner speeches from honoured rugby guests Tom (Not Stainer) and Robert Jones for Wales, and ex-England full-back, now orthopaedic surgeon Jonathan Webb, I’d have thought this evening resulted in 100 or so more converts to the cause that drinking good beer with good food is a great idea. You don’t have to have outrageous beers, and you don’t have to wear a tie.

Links
Brains Brewery’s beer range
More pics and comments on Maltjerry’s flickr site
Melissa Cole’s Blogspot

Burns Night: Honour Saved by BrewDog and Ardbeg Heavyweights

It’s time for me to re-think Burns Night supper.

I say this having got it mightily wrong this Burns Night. Forgot the neeps, decided to go with mashed potatoes and made a flour-based onion gravy using a dark-ish beer finished with some Laphroaig. BP would have been better off if they’d used my offering in the Gulf of Mexico last year. Cullen Skink? Culinary sink, more like. Honour was saved though, by the drinks I chose to accompany the supper.

Haggis_2012_med

I’m sorry to have almost let the haggis down, because, for this sassenach, haggis is about honour. It is not for me to talk about the honour of celebrating Scottishness, although every puddin’ chieftain sold south of the border honours Scotland. I can’t even really talk about honouring Burns. For all the poetry and the whisky, it’s the haggis that is piped in to the dining room as the centrepiece of the supper.

There’s no getting away from it, though, haggis is offal, and by placing our attention on such a dish we honour the beasts that went to make it. Lamb isn’t just about gigot.

It might be tempting then, to think about haggis as wastebasket food, but it is far from that. Haggis is big in flavour, big in texture, and great, hearty winter comfort food. To do it honour we need to encounter it at its best. Are the traditional accompaniments the right ones to make it shine?

In the tradition, neeps and tatties is a lot of stodge to go with something that is already padded with oatmeal. So you need something to lighten things up. I could happily leave the mashed or boiled potatoes for another day, and if you insist on the swede, then you’d better have plenty of butter.

And to drink? Burns Supper is one of the few feasts in the year where it’s not hard to persuade the most blinkered wine-is-best character that you are probably better off drinking some fruit of the malt. A proper haggis is deep and richly flavoured – and often strongly peppery. Whisky, is a given surely, but a big enough beer at the same time makes an excellent liquid foil.

Demon Drink
If I got the food combination wrong this time, at least I got the drinks choice bang on: a cherished, horded, one-last-bottle of the syntactically challenged BrewDog “bitch please” – their collaboration beer with American brewers Three Floyds, and Ardbeg Alligator – a mighty, special edition Islay whisky from Ardbeg, matured in new American oak casks so charred on the inside they are said to look like alligator skin.

The bitch please is certainly big enough: a barley wine made with peated Islay malt with the addition of magnificently un-Reinheitsgebot shortbread and toffee, and spiced up with an earth-spanning range of hops. If that wasn’t enough, the finished beer is then barrel-aged for 8 months in casks that once exchanged their tannic secretions with Jura’s malt whisky. Unfortunately, mere mortals can’t get it any more because right after I got mine, Valhalla bought the entire remaining stock for Thor and Odin. I heard.

Talisker is my first choice Burns Night dram. Not any fancy bottling either; the normal 10 year-old. That was my third oversight of the evening: no Talisker. I could have gone with the Laphroaig Quarter Cask I used in the gravy, but then I hit upon the Ardbeg Alligator.

The Alligator is a beast. Where Talisker has pepper and some sherried sweetness in its bracing saltiness, this Ardbeg has gobfulls of pepper, barely cracked, and chilli and ginger. This coming after a nose like barbecue glaze that’s dripped onto the coals.

And the haggis stands up to it all. It feels like its honour has been saved. Maybe this is all you need for the perfect Burns supper: a mighty ale and a beast of a whisky. And the words of Robbie Burns.

*********
I wish I’d gone with what Laphroaig posted as their suggested sauce: a simple cream sauce flavoured with wholegrain mustard, chives, lemon and “2 generous dashings of Laphroaig.” Quarter Cask works best, they say.

Robert Burns’ Address to a Haggis. in standard English
The Nightjar’s take on how BrewDog did Burns Night Supper 2011

The Ardbeg Alligator direct from the distillery shop.
You can’t get bitch please, but you can get Tokyo* from the BrewDog shop.

German Beer Purity Law: “Reinheitsgebot” on Wikipedia

Jamie Oliver’s lamb shank and beer recipe – tweaked

The story so far

Jamie Oliver discovers beer and food go great together in the kitchen. and tells the French to do something anatomically regrettable with their wine. It’s all part of the Yorkshire episode of his trip around Britain. And having insulted an entire nation, wisely comes up with a proof of his own devising that there is an affinity between food and beer: a Persian-inspired recipe for lamb shanks with Guinness.

The Middle East not being the hotbed of beer recipes it once was, you can guess the Persian part of the influence comes from the non-beer ingredients. In the televised sequence, I think he uses an ale from the Leeds Brewery, but by the time the recipe is posted on the C4 website, the recipe’s name has magically transmuted into “Guinness lamb shanks”.  I’ve had a go myself, and tweaked it a bit. Here’s what I did…

The recipe suggests as an alternative to Guinness “a good dark ale”, which is about as helpful as saying “add some nice red meat here”, but it does give me some room for my own suggestion. Given the inspiration for the dish, I have what I think are some even better suggestions that combine dark fruit flavours and dark-ish ale, and have a couple of ideas for beers to pair with it.

Here is the original Jaimie recipe.

Lamb_shanks_and_fullers_1845_med

The Persian slant in the recipe is in the dark fruit in the cooking sauce, which includes raisins and thick-cut marmalade, and a finishing mint oil and spring onion garnish. The marmalade immediately suggested to me Fullers – more specifically Fuller’s 1845, a big, copper-coloured bottle-conditioned ale bursting with Fullers house style old English marmalade tang and rich, cakey flavours.

At the end of cooking, to finish the sauce, I added a good slug of Fuller’s London Porter; Guinness will do fine, especially if you can find a bottle of Export Stout. I picked up this trick from a Keith Floyd recipe for chicken in beer – and it does add an extra depth to the sauce.

Jamie’s recipe forbids any substitution for the mint oil and spring onion garnish, which is intended to give a refreshing lift to the final dish. However, Waitrose seemed only willing to sell me half a hundredweight of mint, so I made a fresh oregano oil instead. It adds a sharp lightness to the finished dish, and I think, goes better with the beer. Everybody’s tried mint and lamb, anyway.

To accompany? More Fuller’s 1845 would do nicely, but an extra Jamie-type tweak would be Fuller’s Vintage (8.5.%) Also available from Waitrose, if they haven’t replaced it to make room for more fresh mint. As a contrast, Fullers Discovery (4.2%), which is made with a proportion of wheat, would give a refreshingly zesty and slightly floral contrast.

Links
My post on Jaimie’s Channel 4 programme, in which Jamie discovers the joys of cooking with beer and sticks it to the French.

Jamie’s Great Britain Episode 2

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/jamies-great-britain/4od#3251660

Jamie Oliver’s Persian-inspired Guinness and lamb shank recipe.

Fuller’s beers

Lambshank Redemption blog (got to my headline before me…)

Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain highlights beer and food together

“The French can stick their wine up their arse”, says Jamie Oliver. Wow! what could have caused this outburst in Episode 2 of the Channel 4 series Jamie’s Great Britain? Would you believe because he tasted a recipe for mussels in which beer was used instead of wine? Of course you would, but let’s see what led to Jamie’s road to Damascus experience. 

After I had a bit of a moan about Observer readers voting for bars with bergamot vodka cocktails, I was delighted to hear from @newviv that beer features in an episode from Jamie Oliver’s latest Chanel 4 series. If, in the Observer’s UK they would rather have Hanky Panky (cocktails) in a Soho bar, it’s great to know that there’s a place for beer in Jamie’s Great Britain.

“Jaime travels to Yorkshire to sample Yorkshire pudding and ale”, runs the blurb on the Channel 4 website. And if that conjures up an image of the dreaded cliché of flat caps and whippets, then you haven’t reckoned with the trademark Oliver twists. 15 minutes into the show, there’s a short bit in a pub involving said delicacy, and then he is off to the up-and-coming Leeds Brewery, a city micro not five years old.

Jamieleedsbrewery

Jamie Oliver at Leeds Brewery’s flagship pub The Midnight Bell

Mention of Yorkshire brewing legend Timothy Taylor and cricket “guru” Geoff Boycott get us rolling and then Jamie and his crew take us on a short tour of Leeds Brewery and on to one of their pubs. The cooks there are “re-inventing pub grub using different beers in whatever they can make”. We are told: “At least half of the dishes on the menu are cooked with some style of beer. “Everywhere where wine would go, we try and put beer instead.” For example, bacon and black pudding in a salad with a dressing made from an ale reduction.

Jamie says, “As with wine, beer can offer a totally different flavour to food depending on how it’s used and where the hops come from”. The cooks here use hops from America, Eastern Europe and “Good-old Blighty”. Jamie learns that English hops are “more mellow”, American are “more in-your-face and light” (I think he said), and the Eastern European hops are “perfumed”.

There is a mussel dish in which Leeds Pale ale, with its Eastern European hops, is used where white wine would traditionally be, in a version of moules mariniere. It is at this point that Jamie informs the French about vino-rectal insertion. Even I wouldn’t go that far – and certainly not on camera, but Jamie does, and in one sentence brings a credibility to the beer-with-food cause that a thousand emails to Saturday Kitchen never could.

Cut to the pub table to show some finished dishes: sausages with beer, the salad with beer dressing, and beer and onion soup – all served (and I hope, paired) with beer. That might not appear radical at first, but in any normal pub, the dishes would be made with red onion gravy, wine vinegar dressing, and perhaps cider for the soup. By not being too wacky, this pub wins people over by demonstrating beer’s easy affinity with food in recognisable combinations.

Jamie concludes the piece by demonstrating a Persian-inspired dish of lamb shanks that includes beer. I’ve made it myself, so come back and hear how I got on.

Jamie Oliver makes a point of his being brought up in a pub, and it’s good to know cavolo nero and porcini haven’t caused him to forsake the hop and the malt. And if the popping sounds you hear in kitchens across the land take on a slightly different character, you know cooks are taking to heart (if not rectum) Jamie’s instruction.

Thanks to Sam Moss at Leeds Brewery for use of the photo.

Links
Jamie’s Great Britain Episode 2, About 15 minutes in.

Leeds Brewery’s flagship pub The Midnigt Bell

Leeds Brewery