When Life Hands You Lemons…

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!

Sorry for dreadful photo, it was my Christmas lunch dessert… enough said one feels!

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!

 

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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.

Love hearts optional…

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

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 or other sweetish stout (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 KP peanuts, pinch of sugar, 1btsp 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.

 

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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.

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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
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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.

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Beer for Breakfast

Let’s not beat around the bush, sometimes doing this job means having one too many drinks – I know you’re shocked but I felt I had to say it.

Just add tea!

And there is nothing, and I mean nothing, like a bloody great breakfast of some sort the day after.

But much as I am a fan of the full English, I do sometimes crave something that ticks both the slightly healthier and spicier boxes a bit better – so this morning I came up with this – the Beery Refried Bean Breakfast Tortilla. Frankly it’d be pretty good any time but as a hangover breakfast it was magnificent!

So, without further ado, here it is, the picture isn’t totally true to the recipe as I’ve added a few things I wished I’d had in the fridge – tweet pics to me @melissacole or leave me a comment if you enjoyed it or would like to suggest your own twist.

Beery Refried Bean Breakfast Tortilla
You can just buy refried beans, but they tend to just be a mushy mess that doesn’t taste of a lot, I like that these have a bit more texture, plus I like eating black stuff, don’t know why, it just pleases me! Also, top tip, to know if your avocados are ripe or not is to gently press the pointier end, if it gives it’s ripe.

Also, if you make the guacamole, the refried beans and chop everything the day before a big night out, the beans will taste better and it will take about half the time when you wake up! You can thank me when your brain stops dribbling out of your ears…

Time: 20 minutes

Equipment needed: a saucepan, two frying pans, sharp knives, chopping board, fork, pestle & mortar, small bowl & bottle opener!

Ingredients

  • Basic olive oil
  • Can of black beans
  • 1 onion – very finely chopped (reserve quarter for garnish)
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves (one fat one or two skinnier ones)
  • 1tbsp cumin seeds
  • 150ml of porter
  • Chipotle paste
  • Two chorizo cooking sausages (I used Unearthed Smoked Chorizo Cooking sausage)
  • Two medium sized tomatoes, chopped into eighths
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • Five good sized finely shredded mint leaves
  • Half a lime
  • Tub cottage cheese (I use Holy Cow, it actually tastes of something)
  • 1 egg
  • Multi-seed tortilla wrap thing (Waitrose or Discovery)
  • Chopped coriander or parsley to garnish
  • Salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Take your chorizo out of the fridge half an hour before you cook it (I find this helps stop the skins splitting) & also your cottage cheese, you don’t want this to be too cold
  2. Put your saucepan on a medium low heat, when it’s hot add the oil
  3. Whilst pan is heating chop your onion, pop in pan – you need to leave these for a good 10 minutes, you want them to caramelise nicely and start to blacken on the edges
  4. Pound your garlic and cumin seeds together with a  bit of coarse sea salt in the pestle & mortar and add to pan
  5. Once the garlic & cumin starts to become aromatic, drain and rinse your beans, add to pan
  6. Mix a teaspoon of the chipotle paste (you can always add more later) into the porter in a small bowl, stir into bean mix, allow to bubble away on a low heat and reduce until you have a nice, slightly sludgy, bean mix – mash if you want it smoother, personally I like the texture
  7. Put frying pan on to a medium high heat, when it’s up to heat add your chorizo, when it’s gone golden brown on one side, turn over and then throw in the chopped tomatoes (stand well back, this gets very spitty!) – you want the skins of the tomatoes to go black
  8. Whilst this is frying make your guacamole by scooping out the flesh onto a chopping board and mash with a fork, squeeze over your lime, add a little salt to taste and mix in the mint
  9. Pop your oven on low and put the tortilla in to warm up on an oven-proof plate
  10. When your tomatoes are blackened, remove the pan from the heat and pop it in the oven to keep warm
  11. Put your second frying pan on the hob for your egg, allow it to get hot
  12. Whilst this is heating start assembling: put a the guacamole in the middle, top with cottage cheese
  13. Add oil to the pan and pop your egg on to fry
  14. Whilst this is frying, slice your chorizo into small bite-size chunks and arrange on the tortilla, along with the tomato and beans
  15. Top your cheese & guacamole mound with the egg, sprinkle with the onion, some black pepper and coriander/parsley and serve with a great big cup of tea and some extra hot sauce if you’re feeling spicy!
Posted in beer, beer and food, beer matching, cooking, female beer writer, food and beer, Recipes & Matches, spicy, women and beer | Leave a comment

Why Craft Beer Can’t Work as a Definition in UK

Let’s get one thing straight before I give my rationales about any attempt to define anything as ‘craft beer’ in the UK…

I don’t like it when I walk into venues and they have a ‘craft beer list’ that is all mainstream brands with perhaps the odd bottle of Brooklyn or Anchor tacked onto the bottom of it to try and give it some sort of credibility.

That’s just bandwagoning hooey and, like all forms of false advertising, deserves a swift kick in the junk.

However, you will get venues that do this because, like anyone who tries to be ‘down with the kids’ they don’t get it, they never will, they just think it’s cool, hip, trendy, dope, sick – whatever hell word you want to use for it – but it’s not a good enough reason to try and label beers in the UK in the same way they do in the States.

And why don’t I think we can put a definition on brews like craft beer over here?

One word – history.

But what do I mean by that?

Simple really, the US craft brewing movement has been able to define itself so successfully because it started from a point where there was virtually nothing but bland, big brand lager available.

When people like Fritz Maytag of Anchor, Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada, Jack McAuliffe of the defunct New Albion, Jim Koch of Sam Adams and homebrew advocates like Charlie Papazian and Fred Eckhart all started in the 70s in the US there was Bud, Coors, Pabst and more Bud… poor buggers.

But, Watney’s Red Barrel aside, we simply haven’t had that sort of market development over here.

We haven’t had swingeing legislation like Prohibition that put a stop to all brewing (well, legal brewing anyway!).

Almost overnight more than 1,000 breweries were wiped out, taking a lot of their records with them sadly, but there is evidence that these breweries were making everything from English-style ales to Bocks to lagers (as a nerdy aside, often with a lot of corn, a now much-derided adjunct but a grain widely grown in the US and, if used well, is actually a good addition to many beers).

And a massive proportion if those companies simply weren’t able to start up again and moved on from beery ambitions, allowing companies like Anheuser-Busch, that was able to just mothball equipment as it had other business concerns, or Miller, which had started making malted milk for the candy industry, to strike up and take advantage of the repeal within weeks.

And then, of course, came two successive World Wars which wreaked even more havoc on choice and small businesses in the brewing world (alongside the obvious horrors of conflict) but, again, those bigger breweries with diverse business interests and economies of scale survived.

But they were the lucky few… which really led to a very unlucky few generations of beer drinkers in the US.

However, despite being used as a cash cow by successive governments, the UK brewing industry, regional family brewers, small concerns and brewpubs survived in the UK, and grew, providing us with a diversity of beer styles the Americans could only dream of.

Until those aforementioned pioneers started up a new brewing movement in the US in the 70s, inspired very much by British beer styles, and so we have this amazing vibrant brewing scene over the pond that has, in turn, kicked our beer culture into a whole new gear and so, in a way, we’ve kind of come full circle.

However, with the good comes the bad and that’s the C-word – craft.

Certain factions of the beer world think we need to introduce a craft definition in the UK that is based on size or age or even possibly method of dispense (MASSIVE EYE ROLL AT THAT!) which would leave breweries like St Austell, Fuller’s, Bateman’s, Bathams, Greene King, Shepherd Neame, Adnams and the like somehow in the same league as Heineken, AB-Inbev, Carlsberg or Molson Coors.

And, equally, how would you define Sharp’s, Franciscan Well or White Shield in this brave new world?

Not to mention I think we’re going to see more acquisitions of this ilk; for example, if I was someone at SAB Miller HQ, I’d be looking quite hard at a brewery like Meantime as something I desperately want in my portfolio to sit alongside brands like Pilsner Urquell  - and this is a brewery that has just produced a crowd-sourced brew from hop boxes it supplied to punters… not exactly a big business approach to beer is it?*

And, let’s not forget, what you can end up with, is a situation where a brewery like Goose Island is no longer considered ‘craft’ in the US because of its ownership.

Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve not noticed a jot of difference in their IPA, Honkers or 312 that I’ve tried over here in the 18 months or so – and most of their barrel-aged beers at GABF tasted pretty much as good as I’ve had them, particularly Madam Rose.

This is not a criticism of the Brewer’s Association by the way, they have rules and they have to stick to them, but it just gives you an idea of the corner into which things can get painted when it’s a simple system in a relatively simple marketplace like the US – god alone only knows what would happen if we really tried to do this in the UK!

All I’m trying to say is that things are never as black and white as they seem and the idea of putting in place a craft beer definition in the UK is making me turn grey at an even more alarming rate than was already happening!

(My apologies to anyone who knows American brewing history better than I; I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading when I can and this is what I’ve gleaned, any glaring errors please tell me and I will happily amend.)

*I have no knowledge nor have heard rumours about this, it’s mere speculation based on market insight

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Beery Cheese Soup

Apparently my buddy @natedawg27 is feeling under the weather and asked for soup and beer – I present both in one bowl for you dude, feel better (sorry there’s no pic, lost it in a phone change somewhere!).

Beer Soup – serves four

Ingredients

200g diced carrots

250g diced leek

200g diced celery

4 cloves garlic smashed & finely chopped

700ml brown chicken stock

500ml big ballsy bitter e.g Fuller’s ESB/Bateman’s XXB/Celt Bronze/Adnams Broadside

75 g butter

40 g flour

950ml milk

680 g grated Black Bomber or other strong cheddar

Couple of grates of nutmeg

10ml Lea & Perrins

3g dry mustard

Hot sauce or cayenne pepper (optional)

Seasoning

 

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together carrots, onion, celery – then add garlic a minute before the vegetables are softened
  2. Deglaze pan with chicken stock and take from heat, ensure it’s settled to a simmer before adding the beer; put back on heat to gently simmer until vegetables are totally tender and the beer smell has settled into that fresh bread aroma, about 8-10 minutes
  3. Remove from heat and blitz smooth, (if you want a super-silky finished product then pass through fine sieve and muslin) and set aside
  4. Make a white roux with flour and butter, then make add milk to make béchamel, put in a couple of gratings of nutmeg and then slowly whisk in the beer mixture, until it’s fully integrated
  5. Slowly add cheese, stir until whole lot is lusciously amalgamated
  6. In small bowl whisk together the L&P and dry mustard, pour into soup and whisk in, check for mustard heat and add a hit of hot sauce/cayenne if desired
  7. Check for seasoning and serve with chunky bread
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Beer & a ‘bab

Ready to roll!

It’s official, I am a well classy chick – last night I had beer & a kebab.

At least the kebab was home-made and the beer was just one bottle of my Celt Experience collab, Apparition IPA, so just in case you’re worried (and I’m sure you’re not) I’ve not been chugging Stella and grabbing a pitta full of elephant’s foot on the way home…

I got the inspiration for this very Welsh-themed kebab, not due to ‘chip alley’ in Cardiff but because Celt is a Caerphilly-based brewery and the mince I bought was Welsh lamb; so I thought, I know what I’ve got in the cupboard, a tin of laverbread.

Now, before those of you who have been traumatised by this ingredient as a child recoil, you don’t really taste it much, and for those of you who are confused, the lovely website laverbread.com explains:

Laverbread, or bara lawr in Welsh, is a traditional Welsh delicacy, mainly found clinging to exposed rocks and is harvested on the West Coast of the British Isles and Southern Ireland. After being gathered, the seaweed is thoroughly washed and cooked until it becomes soft. It is then minced to convert it into a thick black/green paste like texture…

…or alien snot-like texture as I like to refer to it (brings back memories of this guy!).

Seriously though, it’s an excellently gross product but, as with so many things like this, it is actually delicious when used correctly*.

It adds a wonderful moist, open texture to the kebab as well as a hugely satisfying savoury note, that weaves in an out of the lamb’s sweet meatiness; because seaweed is a known source of glutamate, which is responsible for one of our basic tastes of umami and so does malted barley, so you just want to keep munching.

Plus seaweed has contains over 50 known minerals and trace elements regarded as essential body requirements and has high quantities of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and iodine and vitamins A ,B, B2, C & D – so there, I made the kebab healthy people! *looks around for award*

So, as I await my accolades for transforming Britain’s eating habits I give you, without further ado, the Umami-Bomb Beer Kebab!

(*Just before the recipe, I want to add that the statement about ‘when used correctly’ does not, and never will, refer to tripe @jayrayner1, never I tells ya!)

Umami-Bomb Beer Kebab – serves four  

Sorry about the filter, fat thumbs deleted other one!

I served this in beer flat breads (simple recipe at bottom of the page so to speak, if you want to go the whole hog please bear in mind for your timings that you’ll need to make the dough just ahead of of the kebabs – on the upside the warming oven is a good place to pop the dough on top of to prove a little)

On the side I did sweet potato wedges (scrub skins, wedge, steam for about 20 mins until flesh gives to a fork, rest for 10 mins, roast on high heat in ground nut oil for about 25 mins, turning twice, drain on kitchen roll, salt whilst hot) with a harissa, cucumber & mint yoghurt dip.

Time: 1 hour (if you use shop-bought pitta or wraps, 1.15 if you make flat breads as below)

Equipment needed:

Food processor (or an insane willingness to grate onion)

Fine sieve

Usual chopping knives & boards etc.

Measuring spoons

4 wooden chopsticks – soaked in water for at least an hour

Frying pan (small one if you have one, it’s only for spices)

Griddle pan, very hot grill or BBQ (if former two, you’ll also need a damn effective extractor or big windows!)

Large plate

Ingredients

500g Welsh lamb mince (keep in fridge until last minute)

60g laverbread (freeze other 60g, another beery recipe coming up soon that calls for it!)

One large white onion (supersweet if you can get it)

2 medium-sized garlic cloves

2tbsp cumin seeds

2tbsp coriander seeds

1tsp fennel seeds

1/2 cinnamon stick

1tsp black peppercorns

2tsp salt

1tbsp harissa (I love the Belazu stuff, it has right balance of heat for me)

50ml of strong dark beer (I used Celt Experience Ash)

1 medium egg, whisked up ( you’ll only need half so have a little pot to hand to keep rest in freezer, perhaps let down with a little milk for egg washing this pie another time!)

Flour for dusting

Groundnut oil for cooking and hands!

Method:

  1. If you’re using a BBQ, light it now and wait 15 minutes before starting this recipe
  2. Take your frying pan and pop over a medium heat
  3. Toast off all dry spices and whizz up in processor or pound to powder in pestle & mortar
  4. Whilst the spices are cooling, roughly chop your onion and peel your garlic cloves, whack in processor and whizz until a paste, take out of processor and put in sieve over sink (possibly whilst wearing industrial googles!)
  5. Get your lamb mince out of the fridge, and pop in processor bowl with harissa, laver bread, whizzed up spices, salt & egg
  6. Return onions to mix and pulse adding beer slowly, until combined but not totally smooth and not too sloppy, you need to form it around the chopsticks into makeshift sausages (you may not need all beer, it’s a ‘by eye’
  7. Pop the bowl in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to firm up a bit
  8. If using the grill put it on at this point to get uber-hot
  9. At -5 minutes before removing mix from fridge if you’re using a griddle pan put it on now
  10. Get a plate out and cover with a thin layer of groundnut oil
  11. Get your chopstick out of water, dry lightly and dust well in flour, this’ll help the mix to stick
  12. Rub groundnut oil on your hands and take a quarter of the mix and form it in a loose slightly rectangular sausage shape around the chopstick, lie it on plate, repeat
  13. Take your plate over to where you’re cooking and go!
  14. Basically, when you think a decent crust has formed on the kebab, turn it to another side, repeat for all four sides
  15. Make your kebab -seriously, I don’t have to tell you how to do that do I?
  16. Ok then, shove into middle of some flatbready stuff, totally over-add other accoutrements, try & get majority in mouth, drink beer with!

Kebab filling:

Just like everything else in life people have their personal preferences, I had mine with home-made baba ganoush, finely shredded cabbage, slivers of onion, quick-pickled cucumber and iceberg lettuce – then dipped it in the harissa yoghurt dip, of which I’d made plenty for the sweet potato wedges.

Fill yours with what you like, from fresh tomatoes to spicy salsa or pickled chillies or garlic mayonnaise!

Simple Saison Flatbreads

I rarely use cups to measure things, they are a very inaccurate thing in general, but my mum taught me this recipe when I was little and it’s stuck, it’s so easy why mess with it? This is roughly twice what you need but it freezes well, so why make it twice when you can make it once and defrost the other half?

So, here we go:

2 cups wholewheat flour

1 cup gently warmed Saison (you won’t be surprised that I used Ilkely Brewery Siberia)

1 tbsp salt

1tsp sugar

Flax seeds (optional)

Put flour, sugar, salt in bowl, work in warmed beer until you get a ball, add flax seeds if you’re using them and knead for about five minutes, put somewhere warm for 15 minutes.

Cut in half, freeze half, cut rest into four balls, roll out until very thin.

Get a frying pan very hot, individually fry breads in a mix of oil & finish second side with a knob of butter. Keep somewhere warm under a damp towel.

Wipe out pan, repeat process three more times! Ta da!

 

Posted in beer, beer and food, collaborations, cooking | 1 Comment

Helping Women Grow, Not Show

I just read the most depressing quote ever in a Huffington Post story from Gloria Steinem, the renowned American feminist.

‘The Miss America contest is in all of its states … the single greatest source of scholarship money for women in the United States.’

Now whilst I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the subject of the story as to whether Miley Cyrus has clothes on or not (well, actually, I could but now’s not the time) I would like to just take a moment to celebrate the fact that my lovely friend and exceptionally tolerant GABF room mate, the amazing Jessica Heidrich is someone who has recently benefited from a scholarship, was a very worthy recipient and didn’t need to wear a bikini to be noticed.

She was not only Sweden’s first woman brewer but was also the inaugural recipient of a Pink Boots Scholarship and did a presentation about her scholarship-funded course at the recent PBS meeting in Denver, encouraging other women in the room to apply for scholarship courses that would increase their professional knowledge and standing.

Any woman who works in the beer industry, in any capacity, can become a member of the Pink Boots Society and apply for one of its scholarships. Please think about joining, it’s a brilliant scheme and one that could improve your career immeasurably.

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