An Open Letter to Beer Lovers

You may be aware that there’s a debate going on about sexism and what CAMRA’s role should or shouldn’t be in fighting it – and you won’t be surprised to hear that I have some thoughts on the matter.

But instead of re-treading territory that has been covered by Robbie Pickering in his denied motion to the CAMRA AGM and by Robyn Black or Pete Brown in their excellent Morning Advertiser columns on the issue I’m going put a series of scenarios to you and see what you think of them.

A volunteer staffing the entrance to a large London festival asks all the men to walk up and down before they can come in because ‘we don’t want any mincing ass bandits in the festival’.

A group of women surround a man and tell him to ‘tighten his trousers and push his groin forward’ because they’re playing ‘guess the cock size’.

Perplexed people asking ‘what’s wrong with that stout being called Golliwog? It’s just a joke about a black beer, lighten up’.

And, finally, every bloke at every beer festival being repeatedly asked ‘are you sure you don’t want a pint of that? It’s not very strong’.

If you think I’m making these things up, let me be clear, they are all based on real incidents.

The first was reported to me by three separate women who had all, at different times, been asked in varying different ways by the man on the door of a London CAMRA festival to ‘lift up your arms because we don’t want any hairy-pitted lesbians in here’.

The second happened at GBBF, when a group of senior beer industry men decided that they’d play ‘guess the cup size’ about me to while away the hours as they got steadily more wasted (although seeing one of them slip over in a puddle of vomit hours later was the highlight of my day).

Someone who had just lost their father to suicide walked into a CAMRA festival to be greeted with the pump clip ‘Suicider’ and was, understandably, quite upset and even more so upon being told to ‘lighten up’ by a volunteer.

And, finally, I don’t think I personally know a single female beer drinker who hasn’t had to justify, or repeat, the order of a pint of anything over 4%, or bitter, or dark, or sour, or or, or…

As you can tell by the above, the problem isn’t just sexism, it’s that too many people in the beer community seem totally fine with either appalling inequality or flat-out offensiveness.

So, I’d like you to think about the made-up scenarios I’ve listed above, then think about the real life ones, and vote with your actions to help make the beer scene a place that’s inclusive for everyone – whether you’re a CAMRA member or not.

Thank you for listening.

Anyone for Croquettes?

Croquettes, you just don’t see them that much outside of tapas bars any more do you?

Maybe I’m just not eating or shopping in the right places but they seem to have fallen off the radar somewhat, so I’m bringing barrel-shaped, root-veg, sexy back (that really doesn’t work does it? Never mind, soldiering on!).

These were designed to go with the venison beerguignon recipe that I designed for the lovely people over at Borough Market instead of going for the ubiquitous mash.

The reason for this is I think it’s a good thing to have some texture contrast on a plate when you’re designing a dish and whilst I like a good heart-stopping, butter-laden, pile of mash as much as the next glutton, in this case I wanted a bit of crunch in proceedings.

However, I do think two of these bad boys could happily make a centrepiece of a meal in their own right, perhaps with a simple tomato sauce over the top and some steamed greens on the side.

Obviously if you’re a strict vegetarian then you’ll need to substitute the Gruyere with something similar, or you could make your own with this recipe here.

So, all of that said, here’s the recipe – I hope you enjoy!

Cheesy Garlicky Croquettes – makes 12

Equipment:croquette

  • Foil
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Peeler
  • Large pan with lid
  • Pestle & Mortar
  • Baking sheet
  • Potato masher, ricer, mouli
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Fork
  • Three shallow bowls (like pasta bowls)
  • Wire rack
  • Large frying pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 large celeriac
  • 4 large potatoes
  • 50g Gruyere
  • Whole garlic bulb (look for ones that are a little purple and have tight skins)
  • 8-10tbsps plain flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Panko breadcrumbs (I buy mine at Waitrose and use whole pack)
  • Groundnut or rapeseed oil
  • Seasoning

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 180C, snip the top off your garlic clove, place on some foil, add a little olive oil (being a total food ponce I also added a little truffle oil), wrap your garlic cloves up and place in oven for about 45 minutes
  2. As your garlic is done (it’ll be nicely squidgy), take it out of the oven but leave it wrapped to stay warm (it’s easier to squidge out/pound to a paste when warm) and turn the oven right down to just on/warming temperature
  3. Place a large pan of salted water on to boil
  4. Peel your celeriac and cut into 2 inch chunks, put in boiling water for 8 minutes
  5. Peel & chop potatoes into similar sized chunks, add to pan with celeriac
  6. When everything is soft (about 10/12 minutes later) strain gently and leave in colander to drain as much as possible
  7. Once veg has drained and cooled, spread out on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for about an hour to really dry it out
  8. Whilst that is drying, squidge out and pound three of the garlic cloves with a big pinch of coarse sea salt (the rest of the bulb can be used in myriad dishes)
  9. Once veg is dried, and at a safe heat to handle, mash/rice/mouli (I have a ricer, it’s way better than a normal masher, can’t recommend it enough) into a large mixing bowl
  10. Using the fine part of the grater, grate in your Gruyere and add your garlic paste, then, using a fork, really whip up the mixture to make sure the cheese and the garlic are evenly distributed throughout the mash, if it’s too dry then you can add a little butter if you want, or use any excess oil from the garlic roasting
  11. Place mash in shallow bowl/dish and put in fridge for half an hour (or overnight), sit down with a beer, this is thirsty work!
  12. Once your mash is cooled, put your flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls
  13. Form your mash mix into 12 barrel shaped croquettes and then coat them in the flour, egg & breadcrumbs (don’t forget the ends!)
  14. Pop on a wire rack over a baking sheet and put back in fridge for half an hour to firm up
  15. Once they are firmed, put your oven on 180C and put a large frying pan on a medium heat, once it’s hot, put in about a centimetre of oil & bring to temperature
  16. Fry your croquettes in batches, making sure they are golden brown all over (again, don’t forget the ends) and then place on the baking tray and in the oven for 15-20 minutes so they get really hot in the middle
  17. Drain on paper towel to get rid of any excess oil and enjoy with either the aforementioned recipe developed for Borough Market or something else, but most of all with a beer!

Idle Musings & Upcoming Events

Happy damn Friday people!

Sadly it’s not yet beer o’clock but the weekend is hovering just over the horizon and will soon be in view, so rejoice my friends, rejoice – I certainly am after receiving these in the post this morning! roosters cans

For those of you who think that all canned beer is rubbish stuff, may I exhort you to think again.

The benefits to highly-hopped beers and the general freshness of beer are myriad (when done correctly) and the use of can lining technology developed for the soft drinks industry means metallic taint in the beer is a thing of the past (unless you drink out of the can of course, then you can expect to pick up a tinny note as your lips meet the metal!).

However, I’m not too keen to jump on the ‘cans are great for the environment’ bandwagon due to the very brutal impact mining for bauxite (from which aluminium is made) has on the earth – but they do have great recycling value, are lighter to transport and chill down very quickly, so it’s kind of swings and roundabouts.

Plus, with the imminent arrival of mobile canning lines like Them That Can, you will be seeing a lot more of them on the shelves.

Right, eco-warrior hat off and onto the fun stuff!

Whilst I appreciate many of you will be sensibly down the pub tonight (as will I), indulging in a bit of #Tryanaury, if you are hanging about indoors then I will be nattering about beer to the delightful Andy Bates on BBC2’s Food & Drink programme at 8.30pm – if it looks like we’re enjoying ourselves it’s because we were, a lot! <- well, turns out that didn’t happen, but #Tryanuary is a cool thing, so do get involved!

Much I’d like to think this means there will be more beer on television being talked about by experts (as opposed to talked nonsense about by other drinks writers) I really am not going to hold my breath just yet, but you never know and I really do try to stay optimistic!

However, when I say ‘other drinks writers’, I don’t include the resident wine buff on Food & Drink in that category, because the lovely Joe Wadsack is a good friend of mine and I know his passion for beer is real (which has also caused us to have a few cataclysmic outings, but less said about that the better methinks!).

Sausage-Roll-Off-2014
Last year’s judging panel, very well behaved they were too!

Anyway, that’s not all that’s coming up, later this month is an annual event that I love compering and whilst it’s not strictly beery it is huge amounts of fun and that’s the Red Lion in Barnes Great Sausage Roll Off on January 28  (and although I say not strictly beery, I happen to know there will be a rare cask of Fuller’s Past Masters 1914 on tap).

It’s a top night that sees chefs competing against each other, to see who can elevate the humble sausage roll to new culinary heights.

The judging panel is headed up by renowned food critic, and all-round good egg, Charles Campion and he will be joined this year by local actor & motorcycle fanatic Charley Boorman and the infamous Gary Usher, proprietor of Sticky Walnut in Hoole, Chester and all-round social media legend.

pic courtesy of CBR
pic courtesy of CBR

Moving into February, we have Craft Beer Rising February 19-21st.

Only in its third year and already one of my favourite events in the calendar.

I’ll be a busy beer writer at this year’s CBR as I’m hosting various panel talks including, and continuing our canny theme, a chat about cans with the likes of Beavertown, Fourpure & Camden and trying to control the madness from New Zealand in the shape of the Yeastie Boys, Three Boys, Renaissance, Tuatara, and 8 Wired – as well as presenting a beer and food matching during Saturday day time, tickets go quickly, so snap them up ASAP!

And finally I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be doing a beer and food matching lunchArabica extravaganza at Arabica Bar & Kitchen in Borough Market on March 1. We’re just thrashing out the final details and getting the tickets up and running but the minute that’s done I’ll put the link in here, just mark it in your diary now, it’s going to be a belter! UPDATE: TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE HERE.

Brewing Industry, We Really Need to Talk

A woman walks into a JW Lees pub… so she’s probably dressed in a house coat, with a scarf holding her curlers in and wielding some sort of domestic implement, to drag her no-good, housekeeping-spending, drunkard husband home.

Oh, hang on a minute, that’s just an Andy Capp cartoon isn’t it?

Apparently not, according to JW Lees’ #BlameJohn campaign.

The poster (pictured) exhorts people (men) to text a number, so they can be sent ‘an excuse’ to stay out late with their mates is the latest in a round of flabbergastingly awful sexist marketing by the brewing community.

Although it has only just come to my attention, apparently it’s been around for at least a month.

Let’s look at this in the context of 2014, instead of 1954 shall we?

Firstly, it says to me – and a lot of the men who have commented on this on Twitter – that JW Lees considers men to be a bunch of infants who can’t go to the pub, or stay for another pint, unless they’ve got an ‘excuse’.

It’s somewhat akin to when you were a kid and you knew you were in trouble at home, so you begged a mate to come with you, in the vain and misguided hope that your parent/s wouldn’t shout at you – never worked for me, don’t know about you lot?!

Secondly, it puts women firmly back in the ‘her indoors’ mould; chained to the kitchen sink and fuming over their layabout husbands out spending the housekeeping.

Last time I checked, despite the increasingly and appalling gender pay gap in the UK, this is not the picture of modern Britain, or at least certainly not one I recognise – thank god.

But there’s something that I found even more repugnant than the sexism of the campaign… yep, you read that right.

Unbelievably one of the texts that someone received back as the ‘excuse’ from ‘John’, making light of a ‘gun siege’ across the road.

Here’s the direct quote from the text that was posted on Twitter by Green Jack Brewery:

“Unbelievable, locked in the pub coz there’s an armed siege across the road. Good job it all ended well. Just heard it was a water pistol! John.”

It’s only about a decade ago that Manchester, and let’s remember JW Lees is situated in Greater Manchester, started to shift its ‘Gunchester’ moniker – but it’s an issue that the city still struggles with.

According to the Manchester Evening News (MEN) and the Greater Manchester Police (GMP), a recent weapons amnesty yielded a total of 225 weapons and more than 3,500 rounds of ammunition were surrendered.

Of those weapons surrendered: 80 were illegal firearms and included shotguns, including one disguised as a walking stick, handguns and a sub-machine gun.

Yes, you heard me right, a sub-machine gun.

So, let’s examine again how ‘funny’ that ‘gun siege excuse’ was JW Lees…

 

UPDATE: There appears to be an apology from JW Lees on its Twitter timeline, yet no removal of the offending poster or personal apologies to the people to whom the person behind the account was so snarky to earlier *sigh*

Brazilliant!

Well, how very exciting, just heard that my book is going to reprint in Brazil. Happy days!

And just in case you haven’t seen it, I was also commissioned to pair some beers with the World Cup food piece in Waitrose Kitchen, it’s looking rather spiffy (see base of this post or if you’re a Waitrose card holder you can download via the Apple Store).

I know I may be biased as the magazine did commission me and all, but it’s great to see Waitrose committing to great beer so much, when there seems to be a bit of backsliding going on from other multiples that were previous champions of our national drink and dedicated to bringing through new brews.

In case you missed the news, it is teaming up with Thornbridge for the Great British Home Brew Challenge this year, which encourages home brewers to enter for the chance to see their own recipe transformed by Thornbridge into a commercial beer on the shelves of Waitrose – how cool will that be? 

 

June_footiesnacks-1 June_footiesnacks-2 June_footiesnacks-3

 

 

When Life Hands You Lemons…

posset
Sorry for the slightly ropey pic, it was my Christmas dinner dessert

Ahhh, another post, another bad pun! But, seriously, when life hands you lemons, add limes, lots of other highly-calorific ingredients, splash in a bit of booze and make lemon & lime posset! 

This dessert actually started life as a drink, as the very interesting site Historic Food tells us: “A well made posset was said to have three different layers.

“The uppermost, known as ‘the grace’ was a snowy foam or aereated crust. In the middle was a smooth spicy custard and at the bottom a pungent alcoholic liquid. The grace and the custard were enthusiastically consumed as ‘spoonmeat’ and the sack-rich liquid below drunk through the ‘pipe’ or spout of the posset pot.”

This, however, is simply a dessert, which is how we are more likely to see it these days.

I selected Sharp’s Single Brew Reserve Citra for this because I think it’s the most elegant use of Citra I’ve ever tasted; its light, limey lemony flavours make it dangerously drinkable and the perfect accompaniment for this dish too.

However, I have no doubt that the more pungent Oakham Citra or any other well-hopped beer with strong lemon and lime notes would work as well, it will just come through a little more aggressively. I’m also wondering if perhaps something like Green Duck Beer’s Seville Saison or Beavertown’s Bloody ‘Ell might work if you swapped out the lemon and lime for orange, but sadly I haven’t had the time to try that out yet (or the bravery on the calorie front, this is not a healthy option!).

Anyway, I look forward to hearing from you if you try it – just keep an eye on the bitterness quotient or it may overwhelm that tangy/sweet balance that is key to the perfect posset.

Citrusy Citra Posset
Makes 4 ramekins
Equipment
Knife
Board
Microplane
Juicer
Silicone spatula
Two small pans
Fine sieve
Measuring jug
Four ramekins
Chef’s blow torch (optional)

Ingredients
2 small or 1 very large unwaxed lemon (Amalfi if you can get them)
1 lime (reserve zest)
100g golden caster sugar
425ml extra thick double cream
50ml Sharp’s Single Brew Reserve Citra or similar
100ml Bottle Green ginger & lemongrass cordial
Fine sea salt

Method

  1. Grate the zest from your lemon/s & lime using the microplane and juice – you need around 100ml (reserve any extra for finishing flourish)
  2. Place 25ml of the beer, a teeny pinch of sea salt, citrus juice, zest, sugar and 50ml of the cordial in a pan and slowly heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is nicely viscous, should coat the back of a spoon easily
  3. At the same time, gently heat the cream until it’s just about to boil, stir, then pour in the syrup and stir well with a silicon spatula but try to minimise bubbles
  4. Pass through a sieve into a small jug
  5. Pour into your ramekins and if you want a lovely smooth finish just run a chef’s blow torch over the top (thanks @felicitycloake for that tip)
  6. Allow to cool & then refrigerate
  7. Heat the remaining cordial, beer and any juice with the lime zest in a pan – reduce gently until able to coat the back of a spoon
  8. Whilst that’s happening, wash out your jug
  9. Once the syrup is nice and sticky, scrape into the jug and allow to cool in fridge with the posset for a couple of hours
  10. Half an hour before serving, pour your syrup over the possets, run the blow torch over again quickly and then leave on the side to warm up a bit, they’ll taste better
  11. Enjoy with a glass of your chosen Citra beer!

 

I’m Nuts for You

I am not a premeditatedly romantic person, sorry, I’m just not.

I try… but I invariably screw it up.Valentine's cup cakes

This year, however, I think I might have managed to get it right and I’m so chuffed about it, I thought I’d share.

But, before I give you this recipe, I think I should state, for the record, my other half is a bloody saint to put up with me.

What I do for a living, my messiness, my scatter-brained ways – he really should be knighted for his selfless sacrifice to mankind for taking me off the market, so others don’t have to suffer the same fate.

So, I made an effort and surprised him with home-made cupcakes and a little GreaseBug robot.

Because there are quite a lot of said cupcakes, I sent him off to work with them and I got a dead-chuffed phone call, but with a teeny caveat as he was a little worried about ‘sharing heart-shaped cupcakes with his colleagues’

To which my response was ‘oh don’t be miserable, it’s Valentine’s Day, it’s nice to share them’ .

On reflection I may not actually be doing as well in the romance department as I thought…

Anyway, despite being absolutely hopeless in the relationship department, I can say I’d like to think that I’m pretty good in the cooking with booze department, so here’s the cupcake recipe that I used as my Valentines gift to all you lovely beer-lovers out there.

Just a quick aside before I continue, I just need to warn you that I appear to have stumbled upon the frosting of the gods… if you like peanut butter and chocolate as a combo that is… (so apologies to the delightful Nic Donald at By the Horns whom I’ve made gag twice in the last 10 days talking about peanut butter and to anyone else who can’t bear the stuff either).

Obviously, if you don’t like peanut butter, you can make this with Smarties or M&Ms or anything else you like really and just omit the peanut butter (perhaps you could substitute this evilly awesome stuff instead).

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Chocolate & Chipotle Peanut Butter Icing – makes 16

Equipment
Muffin or cupcake tray (muffin is bigger so will make less, probably 8-10)
Baking tray
Two mixing bowls
Whisk (electric or hand)
Silicone spatula/scrapey thing
Pallet knife
Scales
Measuring spoons
Food processor
Cupcake or muffin cases (unless you’re using a silicon tray like I did)

Cupcake Ingredients

250g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
4tbsp cocoa powder (proper cocoa only, no drinking chocolate)
Pinch of fine sea salt
150g caster sugar
75g Reeces Pieces or Peanut Butter M&Ms
2 medium eggs
250ml buttermilk
4tbsps chocolate stout or other sweetish stout, low roast bitterness is important (I used Brewster’s Chocolate Cyn because I had some)
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp rosewater (optional)
90ml vegetable oil

Frosting (whack it all in a bowl and whisk)
90g unsalted butter, softened
90g chipotle peanut butter*
300g icing sugar
90g cocoa powder
2tbsps milk
2tbsps chocolate stout
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp rosewater (optional)

Method:

  • Put a baking try into a preheating oven at 190°C/170°C fan/Gas Mark 5 (I do recommend an oven thermometer, found out my oven runs 15°C hot).
  • Sift flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cocoa & salt into large mixing bowl – add the sugar, stir and sprinkle in sweeties, stir gently
  • In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, stout, eggs and vanilla extract (plus rosewater if you’re using it)
  • Slowly add the oil to the rest of the wet ingredients whilst whisking, don’t freak out when it goes weirdly lumpy, it’ll go smooth again
  • Using your spatula thingy, add wet ingredients to the dry, folding and combining until just mixed, don’t overwork it or the cupcakes will be dense and you risk breaking the sweeties.
  • Half-fill your cases, put the cupcake tray on the pre-heated baking tray (I used a silicone heart shapes one) and cook for around 15 minutes
  • Check they’re done by sliding a knife in, if it comes out clean then they are, then allow to cool on a wire rack
  • Once cooled, use the pallet knife to smother them with frosting – then fill your face! Sorry, give them to a loved one…

*Put 200g salted peanuts, pinch of sugar, 1tbsp chipotle paste (or more if you wish for a stronger heat) and 1tsp vegetable or groundnut oil, whizz in a processor for 3 minutes. You will have some leftovers :)

Alternatively, stir 1/2tbsp chipotle paste into 90g shop-bought peanut butter.

 

Suicide Is Not a Joke

Today there has been a massive win for the world of social media, not only because it helped to ‘Find Mike‘ – the man who took time to talk a suicidal young man off Waterloo Bridge when others were just walking past – but it’s bought suicide into the spotlight.

Let’s think about mental health a bit more

We don’t talk about suicide much, mostly because it’s a confusing, painful and divisive subject.

But we should.

Why? Because if you haven’t thought about it, then it’s quite likely someone in your work place or social group has.

Did you know that:

  • The UK is in the top third of suicide rates in the world (Wikipedia)
  • 14% of the population has had suicidal thoughts (Samaritans)
  • 6,045 people killed themselves in 2011, an increase of 437 since 2010 (ONS)

Ultimately a lot of those who have suicidal thoughts can be helped by people who will just listen, folk who care and who allow the person to feel validated simply as a human being – which is what Neil Laybourn did in just 20 minutes for Jonny Benjamin on a cold, windy day on Waterloo Bridge in London.

When I was in my early 20s, a young, smart, but ultimately very emotionally fragile, male friend (who worked in the pub trade) committed suicide. The funeral was held for just close family and was over and done with as quickly as possible, and his sister would never speak of it, ever.

Then whilst I lived in Putney our neighbour, who apparently had a pretty decent career and certainly a very loving girlfriend, hanged himself – it turns out it wasn’t the first time he’d tried.

And just the other day, one of my closest friends in all the world told me that he’d been struggling with depression and when he’d heard that someone in the family had taken his own life, he found himself empathising and knew it was time to get serious help – can you see the pattern here? They are all men.

Men, sadly, are three times more likely to take their own lives than women – and that’s despite the fact that female suicides have increased significantly since 2007 (ONS).

This number always seems to peak around the times of economic hardships – this makes sense as men are still far more likely to be the major breadwinners and will therefore take job loss or monetary hardships more personally.

I can only imagine that when you see yourself as the breadwinner, the pillar, the person who puts food on the table and heats the house, how crippling it must be to have your livelihood taken away.

And even worse, how hard it must be that you can’t even talk to the person you normally would, your significant other, because you feel like it is them you are letting down the most.

In no way comparing my world to this dark place, but I know that I find it very hard to talk to my husband when times are financially hard in the freelance world, when clients don’t pay on time, or default.

I find it humiliating because I like to think of myself as a strong, independent woman and I can’t bear to ask for what I feel is almost like an old-fashioned housekeeping allowance.

As I type those words, I know it sounds a little silly, I can hear the rational voice telling me that of course my other half doesn’t mind contributing more to the household, he earns a lot more and has a sane steady profession…

But that doesn’t make a difference to how I feel – because what I am feeling has little basis in rational thought – but that’s emotions for you (sometimes I reckon Mr Spock and Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory have got it right, who needs ‘em?!)

But you’re probably wondering what this has to do with booze, after all, this is a beer blog… I’ll tell you what prompted me to write this post – it was something that was bought to my attention on Twitter – a cider, with a noose on the pump clip, called Suicider.

I’m sorry but for me, there is no excuse for calling a product Suicider for juvenile giggles – there’s simply not and I know I’m not alone.

However, I wanted to give the producer a chance to explain themselves, so after getting no response to my emails, I rang Phillip Maggs at JJ’s, the producer of Suicider.

As I’ll also be writing a column on this for a magazine, I asked him, on the record, whether he thought the name was offensive and he sounded genuinely baffled.

“Off the top of my head I wouldn’t, I guess people could take offence to a lot of beer names too, but on the other hand there are probably more people that would find them funny and just appreciate it’s just a name for a drink, I can’t really see that there’s a problem.

Hurriedly adding: “No offence is meant to be caused.”

But as Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind puts it: “We strongly encourage everybody to consider the impact of using mental health language in a way that could add to the stigma of mental health problems.

“Having a cider named ‘Suicider’ is not particularly helpful as it could be seen as making light of something which, last year, saw the deaths of over 6,000 people.”

So, what do we do? Well, I know a lot of people have already emailed JJ’s cider to ask them to change the name, and if you find it offensive then you can also, but I’d ask you to do so politely and without inflammatory language,

This isn’t a witch hunt on this particular brand, I’m using it as an example of how being thoughtless is often as damaging as being deliberately malicious.

If Neil Laybourn had been as thoughtless as everyone else who walked past Jonny Benjamin that day, Mr Benjamin could have become another part of those horrifying statistics I gave you earlier.

However, rather than contemplating that sad thought, I’d like to end this post on a positive note, so I’d like you to ask you to support the Time to Change campaign, led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, which aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental health by encouraging people to talk openly about it.

Mind’s Paul Farmer is asking people to step up to the plate on the February 6 to achieve one million conversations about mental health in 24 hours.

“We want to challenge negative perceptions and encourage people who may need support to take the first step to better mental health.”

There was a recent, very select, study on the benefits for men’s mental health of going down the pub – but I see no reason that this shouldn’t apply to everyone, so maybe if something is bothering you, if you are hanging on by a thread, if you’re feeling depressed about something, how about you ring a friend and ask them if they’ll go to the pub with you to have a chat.

But if you are feeling depressed, please do be aware that alcohol is, ultimately, a depressant and that talking is far better for you than drinking to excess.

And if you don’t think you can manage to express your worry or pain to a close friend, maybe make an appointment with your GP.

But if even that seems too daunting, maybe you could just ring someone, there are dozens of great helplines for people who are worried about their mental health, or if you’re worried about someone close to you.

So please, if you need help or think someone else does, contact Mind or one of the groups listed here at Rethink.org

Sometimes to start talking, all you need is to know someone is listening.

Finger on the Beery Pulse

It was 11.30am when I made this, so my trusty tea mug seemed much more appropriate, but I think a Marble Earl Grey IPA or a Roosters High Tea* would go jolly well.

Regular readers might be a bit confused by this one as it’s a vegetarian recipe AND doesn’t have a beer in the picture either – don’t panic, normal service will resume shortly.

But before I get to the recipe, I just wanted to say how delighted I am to see beer (and more specifically women in beer) being covered by the BBC Magazine today – what a tremendous recognition of the amazing contributions that female brewers are making to what is traditionally considered ‘a man’s world’…

It’s a tragedy how badly women have been disenfranchised from the world of beer – not just on a professional level either.

It’s utter lunacy, for example, that there are still people who will say things like: “drinking pints isn’t ‘feminine'” or is “unattractive”.

Beer is the most egalitarian of drinks, it’s the finest social lubricant around and the fact that big brands have marketed it in a way that is solely aimed at men, and so badly dumbed down their products in the process, has prevented whole swathes of women (and men) from discovering the amazing array of flavour experiences great beer can offer.

It has also, sadly, painted the picture that beer is a boy’s club and put a lot of women off from thinking about the beer world as a career path.

I’m not going to say there isn’t an issue with sexism and misogyny in the beer world because I’d be lying.

However, I don’t think it’s any proportionally worse than the rest of society and, if anything, has such strong female role models these days that sexism is probably disappearing faster in beer and brewing than in a lot of other areas of industry.

But here is my fear for the future: because alcohol is rapidly becoming the new tobacco, I’m concerned no one is ever told about brewing as a possible career.

So, if by chance, there are any educators reading this I’d really like you to think about the last paragraph of the BBC article:

“Alcohol is currently so demonised but I’d like to get to the point where brewing is pushed in schools as a career choice to young girls who are interested in science,” says Cole.

Maybe I’m aiming high, but I see no reason why young adults of any gender shouldn’t be told that the brewing industry could be a great career path for them – it’s a wonderful, nurturing, fun and rewarding place to work.

Right, rant over and onto the what I had for brunch the other day!

It was really rather yummy and follows a theme of being a bit healthier (not just for January but going forward) and being a bit more mindful of food waste.

This was made with leftover lentils from a rather lovely roast chicken dish the night before (see, didn’t take long to get back to the meat of the matter did it?) but is easily made like this.

Beery Pulse Patty with Duck Egg – Serves 2

150g red lentils

Bottle of Brain’s Boilermaker or a strong, dark ale that’s not too bitter

1 medium white onion finely chopped (or red, or a bunch of spring onions)

2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated

Two handfuls of finely chopped spinach or other greens

Thumb-size piece of ginger, grated or finely julienned

1tbsp rogan josh paste (I used Patak’s)

1/2 squash cut into half inch squares

1/2 aubergine cut into half inch squares

1tbsp plain or gram flour

2 duck eggs (room temperature)

Oil and unsalted butter or ghee

To serve: Two tablespoons of kashmiri chilli chutney, mixed with four tbsps of ketchup and your soft herb of choice, chopped and sprinkled over (I used chives, you can use basil, coriander, parsley, chervil, dill or mint)

Method:

  • Cook your lentils according to instructions with a mix of 50% water & 50% beer, ensure there’s no liquid left & leave to cool
  • Prep your veg and steam the squash for 10 mins and the aubergine for five minutes (use this time to make your sauce & chop your herbs)
  • Heat a large frying pan to a medium heat, add a little oil (I use groundnut) and add your squash and aubergine and fry until beginning to brown slightly
  • Add the onions and allow to soften, after a few minutes add the garlic, ginger and rogan josh paste, cook for a few minutes, you’ll smell when it’s done, the rawness of the garlic will recede and the flavours will come together
  • Add the greens until they wilt
  • Add lentils back into the pan and sprinkle the flour until it all starts to come together and hold, you may not need it all, just depends how wet the mix is
  • Remove from pan to allow to cool for a few minutes, wipe the pan and pop the oven on low
  • Return the pan to the heat and add the butter
  • Make a rough circle or patty with the lentil/veg mix and gently fry (I used a faffy cheffy ring for this and the egg to amuse myself, but you don’t need to)
  • Pop on plates and put in the oven
  • Wipe the pan and add a little more butter, cook your duck eggs, runny is best
  • Pop duck egg on patty, sprinkle with necessary herbs and sauce, pop the yolk and apply to mouth
  • Enjoy!
*I always try to be transparent about my involvement in things and Rooster’s High Tea is the next incarnation of a beer I made with them called Mad Hatter

An Unusually Somber Post

When I was in the new BrewDog bar in Shepherd’s Bush on Saturday night, the conversation took a slightly somber turn as we discussed the Clutha Vaults tragedy.

Those of us in the trade at the table spend a lot of their personal and professional life in pubs and found it deeply sad that this tragedy hit when people were enjoying a night out, in their local and that whole community has been affected, as well as the police officers and pilot, whom I assume were doing their job of keeping that community safe at the time.

The dead include not only the pilot, who was a Gulf War veteran, and the two officers in the helicopter at the time but people from all walks of life – from a poet to a window cleaner.

A random tragedy that affected people at a time when they were enjoying a night out is something I think we should all just take a moment to think about, and appreciate how lucky we are that we weren’t there and that we, unlike those who perished, are still able to do just that.

My thoughts and prayers are with those affected.