Sunday, 29 March 2009

Beer & Cooking


Yesterday we had a beer and food experimental cooking day, planning dishes to use on the Adventures in Beer & Food Cookery Days. There were some successes and some dishes that need further exploring.

Rabbit and Schneider Aventinus Stew was, as expected, a great success, as was the Creme Brulee with a Strawberry fruli reduction in it, although we will use more Fruli next time. The polenta cake with BrewDog Paradox Speyside in it, was ok, but needs tweaking. It improved when we made a Paradox syrup and soaked the cake in it! Pork medallions in a Schlenkerla Marzen sauce with shallots and garlic was a great combination, although as a dish it will need a bit of sweetness. However the Schlenkerla didn't work in a fondue as we thought it would, but no surprise here, BrewDog Hardcore IPA worked a treat both in the fondue and served alongside it.

We've made a little video of some of our beer & food cookery and will have it ready any day now!

Happy Adventuring!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Anchor O.B.A.

The Good News & The Bad News

First the bad news... I seem to be on an incredible run of bad luck with my car. I can't quite believe it. I have had my Renault since 2001 and have done about 95000 miles in it, it's been a good servant, until the last 12 months, since when I have had problem after problem. A couple of days ago on my way to the pub I hit a flooded pothole, which it seems, has bent the alloy and left me with a flat tire. I pulled on to the grass verge of the single track road, and my friend, my dog and I walked the mile and a half we had left to get to the pub. It happens, I know, but it has been compounded today by having to change the tire in the rain on a soaked verge that meant the jack disappeared into the earth rather than raising the car... and why do mechanics have to do the wheel nuts up so tight, it took me over half an hour of kicking with all my considerable weight to loosen the bloody things. These things are supposed to happen on sitcoms not to real people.

The good news also happened last night when we eventually finished our hike to the pub. We arrived at the bar, where the landlord greeted us with "So words got out then?" I had no idea what he was talking about "You had better try some then" he says and pours an unknown beer from a magnum. The beer in question turns out to be Anchor O.B.A (Our Barrel Ale) a blend of all of Anchor's beers aged in a freshly emptied whisky cask. It had been sent over so that the pub could find a suitable food match for an Anchor Beer & Food matching night they are hosting.

I am a huge fan of Anchor's beers, they are all well crafted with good balance and seem to be some of the best examples of particular styles. I have written before about The Old Foghorn comparing the draft and bottled version, and there was a lot of the Old Foghorn character in the O.B.A. The aroma was dominated by a sweet smokiness, that combined the toffee aromas from Old Foghorn and the smoke from the whisky. I love it when a beer has an aroma that really makes you want to dive in head first and you just can't wait to get it in your mouth. This beer certainly had that effect on me, and didn't disappoint either. It has a wonderful complexity, with hints of the fruit that you find in the Porter and toffee and raisons from the Foghorn, there is a slightly dry, hoppy finish from the Liberty Ale and underneath it a rich smooth warmth from the whisky. This is one truly fabulous craft beer that I really hope to try again. One glass just wasn't enough.

Our initial thoughts were that the O.B.A would go well with cheese, but all the different cheeses we tried didn't really work for one reason or another and we came to the conclusion that belly pork and scallops might be the best match. I think it is one of those drinks that might just be best savoured on its own. Either way, I just want to get my grubby hands on some more, role on the tasting dinner on the 30th April!

Happy Adventuring!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Beer Cookery

Adventures in Beer & Food

I am really looking forward to Saturday! Not just because its the weekend and not because my wife is kicking me out for the day (for girl time with her friends), no, its because of Beer & Food. My two favourite words in the English language.

We are having an experimental cook off for our forthcoming Adventures in Beer & Food courses that I am doing in conjunction with the Fine Food School, Dorset. I have a mouthwatering long list of top dishes and great beers. The only problem is, we want to make a video of what we are doing and apparently slurred speech isn't the look we are going for!

I suspect you will all have an opinion on what we should be cooking, so tell us about some great beery dishes that we could make.

Happy Adventuring!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

More Beer & Food

The Lemon Tart Problem!

Next week I'm doing a Beer & Food Matching evening at a local pub. We are running the event as a Dinner Party tasting, with small samples of food from each course paired with appropriate beers. Oysters, Thai Prawns, Pork Belly, Chocolate Pud & Lemon Tart, all sound good to me, but I have been struggling to find the right match for the Lemon Tart. It is going to be quite a tart Tart, so I was worried that a citrussy wheat beer wouldn't be sweet enough for it, and decided I needed to experiment.

Last night I sat down with a Lemon Tart and a number of fine beers to try and pick a winner. I know it's a tough job but someone has to do it. Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, Delirium Tremens, Jaipur IPA, Vedett Extra White, Blue Moon and Sam Smith's Cherry were the selected beers, an eclectic selection I know you'll agree.

The first thing to say, is that the tart was delicious! Nice crumbly, buttery pastry and a smooth tasty filling with plenty of real fresh lemon flavour and tiny little pieces of tasty zest. I always try to find beers that are sweeter than the dessert or they will just taste too bitter, which is exactly what happened with the Jaipur and Delirium. Fine beers though they undoubtedly are, they weren't what I was looking for. I always think of Blue Moon as being very orangey and I'm not really a fan, but it was OK with the tart, not a perfect match, but the citrus flavours were good together and it wasn't too bitter either. A possible. Cherry beer was just wrong, the lemons and cherries didn't get along, and it was quickly put to one side. Vedett Extra White came next, and I was expecting it to be too dry a taste. How wrong could I be, a really good match, the Lemon Tart brought more citrus out of the beer, and there was the right amount of sweetness, they really danced together on my taste buds and did everything you hope for from a great food match, enhancing both the drink and food. Brilliant. Finally I tasted the Cantillon, a sour lambic raspberry beer. It had been a while since I've had one and I wondered if the sourness of the lambic was going to be too sour for the lemon in the tart. It most certainly was, wiping out all other flavours with a big, fat smack in the mouth. I really want to have a better appreciation of lambic, but i do just find them too sour to enjoy. Maybe I haven't tried them with the right food or in the correct environment (?), but I always find them really hard to finish and wondering why I other people enjoy them.

So, it's Lemon tart and Vedett Extra White at the tasting... problem solved!

Happy Adventuring!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Beer & Food - Cooking & Matching

Beer & Food Courses

Together with the Fine Food School of Stour Row, Dorset we will be running two very special one-day classes in April. Although the precise course titles have yet to be agreed they are, loosely; “Beer and Sweet Things” will be held on Thursday the 16th April. And “Beer and Savoury Things” will be on Saturday the 25th April.

These promise to be great fun days with some really unusual ways of combining beer and food. Our first day will see us not only pairing the right beer with the right dessert but actually using different beers as a key ingredient. Have you ever considered a beer crème brulée or stout, chocolate and chestnut mousse? There’s a lot more for us to get into yet!

Our second day will be about more than just steak and ale pie. Beer breads, beer batters, beer sauces and beer marinades are all on the agenda. Beer Ventures will introduce us to some terrific beers, all unusual, all delicious and all perfect for cooking brilliant food and these are going to be two quite possibly unique days. In a few days we’ll begin to advertise and promote these events, so there are more details to follow...

Both days will be excellent value for money at £99 per person per day. There will only be twelve places on each so, as if you needed to be told…book early!

Cheers all!

Happy Adventuring!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Hop Wars

The Quest for Hoppy Beers
I become ever more addicted to the hop bug and want to have a bit of a Hop War between 4 beers... exciting hey?
Thornbridge Halcyon, Mikkeller Stateside, Moor Hoppiness and BrewDog's new version of Hardcore IPA. I think I know what will win, but i'm not going to tell you!
I'll just tell you what the winner was and say that I got it right!
I need to find a comrade or two to take on this thankless task...

Monday, 9 March 2009

Balls of Steel

New Pub Opening! Haven't said that in a while...

Tony and Sarah Lethbridge have BALLS!

They are opening a pub... now... well on Wednesday, and I am looking forward to seeing how they get on. Since I moved to South Somerset last August I have driven past what was once The Kings Arms at Charlton Horethorne every day on my way to work. I speculated that it would be another pub turned into a private residence, but to my astonishment it is being re-opened as a pub. However the local freebee paper The Blackmore Vale have told me the bad news that it is going to be a gastro pub and hotel. I hate this description, and if the owners were the ones who described it I am sure I will be disappointed.

The BMV says they have spent over a million on it in the last year adding 10 luxury en-suite bedrooms, with a restaurant that seats 70 and a smaller dining room that seats 20.

It worries me a lot that they don't mention the bar or the beer. I wait with baited breath for Wednesday to see if I have a pub to stop at on my way home from work, or one that I drive straight past.

Happy Adventuring!

Friday, 6 March 2009

Love Lager?

The Session: Love Lager

Being new to this sort of thing, I keep stumbling my way into new stuff... Today every blogger seems to be writing about Lager, for something called The Session. I don't know the why's or wherefore's but a spot of reflection to the moments in my life when for some odd reason I partook in a sip or two of lager sounds like fun. It is a very long time since I last thought about lager and it brought a smile to my face, even the really good ones don't get me out of 2nd gear, but reading a couple of other blogs has brought a smile to my face and some happy memories. It seems that all beer lovers have had their lager moments and i am probably no different.

When I was a youngster having my first beers, unlike most others, lager wasn't the 'go to' option, my Dad is preserved in a bottle of red wine and would rarely have a beer. There were always a few cans of Carling in the house, but even my untrained palate knew they were absolutely terrible. 'Me and my mates' all drank Cider (it was Somerset) or real beer whenever we were in the pub. It wasn't until I reached the ripe old age of 18 and headed off to Australia for my GAP year to the far flung town of Toowoomba that I had no choice but to drink lager. Now the only place to be seen in 1996 in Toowoomba was The Spotted Cow, a legendary pub, that is now coincidentally a mecca for great beer from all over the World, with its own European style Cafe bar... unbelievable. Back then it was very traditionally Australian and I loved it, I drank pot after pot of XXXX Heavy... for the unitiated a pot is about half a pint, but in Queensland your beer gets pretty warm, pretty quick. The choice at the pub was XXXX Heavy, light, or gold, VB and probably one or two others. Heavy was the strongest, and from Queensland so thats what I drank! (Tasting notes won't follow!)

I quickly decided that if I was going to enjoy my year in this funny town I better enter into things, drink the local brew and do what the locals did. So I thank the lager for an incredibly good time in Australia and some great friends (and also thank PH-S, CJ, AM, BS, ML, AC*, NK*, CM, AL'S, SH-S and many others).

My other 'lager time' was inevitably at university when I worked at an enormous pub on the edge of Birmingham Uni campus. Worked, lived, played and made more friends for life in there actually. In fact looking back it seems that lager has been at the forefront of making the mates that last a lifetime...

Maybe it's a better drink than I thought.

Happy Adventuring!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Beer & Food Matching Menu

We are hosting a Beer & Food matching dinner party for a customers 40th Birthday next weekend.

I think I have decided on the menu, but not all of the beers...

What do you think?

Fresh Oysters paired with Deus

Warm Thai Prawn Salad paired with a Belgian Wit - haven't decided which yet...

Venison loin with chocolate and Imperial Stout sauce paired with Aventinus? Porter? Kriek?

Vanilla Cheesecake topped with Strawberry Fruli Coulis paired with Paradox Speyside

Cheese & Barley Wine

I'm salivating already...

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Beer Ventures

Gifts & Competition this Spring!

Win a Case of BrewDog Beers! We have recently started stocking the controversial, yet brilliant BrewDog beers, so to celebrate these great brews and the oncoming start of Spring we have decided to have a competition to win a case of beer. Simply go to the contact page on the Beer Ventures website, enter your personal details and answer the following question in the message section.
Closing Date Friday 3rd April. Winner will be notified. Open to residents of the UK only.

What is the name of the Beer Ventures mascot?

The 6 Nations

The 6 Nations has just a few weeks to go and we still have a case of beer you will love to go with it. The only way to enjoy the rugby on the TV is with a Beer Ventures '6 Nations Case'. Not only that but we will also provide you with a scorecard both for the rugby and more importantly to rate each nations beers against one another. There is also a Rugby Quiz for those of you with a competitive nature... Beers from all 6 Nations including a French Biere de garde, an Italian Double Malted Lager, and a classic English IPA.

10% Off Special Offer!

Order a ‘6 Nations Case’ Before 14th March and get 10% off the total order – Just type ‘6 Nations’ in the discount section of the checkout screen

New Products

The Hogsback Brewery Gift Case includes a branded pint glass, t-shirt and beer towel with 9 fantastic bottle-conditioned Hogsback beers.

Phoenix Lager is an award winning all malt lager from Mauritius. An unusual place to brew a beer you might think, but Phoenix has been brewed since the early 60's and has quite a following. 'A polished, golden yellow beer with 5% alcohol. Phoenix beer is pasteurised after bottling, according to natural conservation methods.The quality of the underground water also allows them to produce a beer with no chemicals additives. Time of maturation before distribution is meticulously controlled.'

Follow the BeerAdventurer on Twitter -

join the Beer Ventures group on Facebook.

Happy Adventuring!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Beers I Love Today

Beers for Today

As the first hint of Spring has come and gone and I look out the window at the daffodils being pummelled by a 60 mph wind I have to remind myself that its less than a month until the clocks change and the thought of those long summer evenings don't seem quite so far away. My seasonal beer palate doesn't know quite what to think, it is starting to hanker after lighter beers and sunnier flavours but still knows there are still a few, long, dark nights ahead.

I have a real hankering for big hop flavours, there just can't be enough hops for me right now. The hoppier the better, so my list below is not as balanced as it should be, but hey ho, its about me and what I like! These are some of my favourite beers of the moment:
1, Hoppiness (Moor Beer, England)
- this beer is a blend of two other beers that I just adore. In fact all three could easily have made this list. It is a 50/50 blend of JJJ and Revival, two great hoppy beers with very different characteristics. The JJJ is a triple IPA with masses of hops in it... to balance this out, it weighs in at a hefty 9% and is one big beer, full of tropical fruit flavours and sweet malt. Revival is a 3.8% beer that tastes like it should be considerably stronger, it has delicious resiny pine hop bitterness that is very refreshing. The end result is Hoppiness (6.3%) a delicious blend of the sweet tropical fruit and refreshing resiny hops. Once this is bottled (which I'm assured is coming soon) it will become a classic I'm sure, a perfect Spring beer.

2, Trois Monts (France)
- a new favourite that I really enjoy drinking at lunchtime with a 'picky' lunch. Cheese, breads, cured meats, olives, salads... whatever I find in the fridge really, put it all out on the table and tuck in with this tasty beer to wash it all down. Be careful not to have too many at lunch though, as it packs a punch at 8.5%, it is not as funky as some other Biere de Garde's but it is flavourful with lots of carbonation, a big rocky head and a well balanced bitter aftertaste.

3, Aventinus (Schneider, Germany)
- I find different things to enjoy in this beer every time I have it. Some days its the rich banana and chocolate, others I really find a stronger port wine flavour, the raisins and dried fruit flavours are always there, but sometimes much stronger than others. The different flavours in it, also mean that it pairs very well with different foods such as banana and chocolate desserts and game dishes, I particularly enjoy it with Venison. I love the fact that it always tastes slightly different but it always has a familiarity, it's like having a favourite jacket that can be worn whatever the weather and changes use with the seasons. Its an all time favourite that hides its 8% strength incredibly well and is to be drunk whenever the mood takes.

4, Stateside (Mikkeller, Denmark)
- I absolutely love American style IPA's and this beer is first class, if it was cheaper I would happily drink it all of the days and all of the nights! Stateside is a deep amber colour with a good head that hangs around for ages. The aromas are of citrus and pine hops, not as over-powering as some crazy hopped beers I've had, with a fresh fruit sweetness on the second nose. It has grassy, citrus hops at the start, with sweet malt balancing it out very nicely, leading to a dry and mildly bitter finish. This is a hoppy IPA, but not one that assaults your taste buds, it has a touch of mouth-coating oiliness but in a very pleasant way! Delicious.

5, Hardcore IPA (BrewDog, Scotland)
- The first time I had this beer I was disappointed, not because I didn't like it, so much as, it wasn't what I was expecting. Over the last couple of years the 'hardcore' IPA's I have tried have been American and thus excessively strong, with crazy hop bitterness. This beer isn't one of those and so to me wasn't hardcore. However it is a great beer that has grown on me to the point that I happily include it in this list. It is 9% and has plenty of sweet malt along with a respectable hoppiness that you would expect in an IPA. The hops give a nice grassy aroma and palate with some butterscotch and an orange fruitiness. There is a decent hop bitter finish, but this is certainly not an extreme IPA in the American sense. However it is a great drink and whilst it doesn't do all it says on the tin it makes me very happy and I keep finding myself taking another bottle home from work with me.

6, Karmeliet Tripel (Bosteels, Belgium)

- The Belgian Tripel style has always enticed me, and this one is top my list. The creamy texture from the oats make this quite a unique beer, it is made using 3 grains, wheat, barley and oats and somehow blends the three characteristics perfectly. It pours a golden yellow with a big, white, rocky head. The aroma is fruity, apples and pears, with some hay... at a tasting I did, it was once described as horsey on a summer's day, I quite like that description in a funny kind of way. The taste is complex, there is sweetness (a bit of honey I think), citrus - lemons and oranges and spice, all wrapped up in a light, crisp, yet creamy package. An amazing beer, and the wife's favourite to boot!

7, UBU (Purity, England)
- A premium amber beer that I have a real soft spot for, having been fortunate enough to have spent a day brewing it. A favourite beer in my pub days, often stocked after winning best beer at one of our Festivals. Beautifully balanced with a subtle sweetness that makes it soooo moorish, and at 4.5% you can certainly drink far more of it than you can many of the others on this list. I have enjoyed many a pint outside and it is this thought that makes me include it here.

8, Snake Dog IPA (Flying Dog, USA)
- I have talked of American IPA's when discussing some of the other beers and have selected this one as a personal favourite. Many will disagree with me and to a large extent they will be right, but this was one of the first beers of this style I tried, and instantly appreciated. It has masses of citrus hops from start to finish, it will be too much for some, not enough for others, but give it a go... its a great beer.

9, Jaipur IPA (Thornbridge, England)
- Not another IPA I hear you say, but its just that time of year and I've got my hop head on! This really is a very well made beer, great balance, lots of hops but it won't blow your hop head off. The aroma is of fruity hops, pineapple comes to mind, and the taste follows through with a great combination of tropical pineapple, spicy hops and citrus, all finished up with a warming alcohol finish, you know there is some strength to this... but not too much at 5.9%. It looks innocent enough as it's quite pale for an IPA, but the dry, citrus hop bitter aftertaste leaves you knowing you've had a much bigger beer.

10, Weizen Rauchbier (Schlenkerla, Germany)
- I am ending with a couple of smoky beers as I can't get enough of anything smoked (weird as I've never been a smoker). I thoroughly enjoy all of Schlenkerla's beers and have written about them on here before. The Weizen wins out this time because it is such a great friend to food. Smoked fish, cheese and meats all work really well with this beer, and I just love it with pork belly.

11, Paradox Smokehead (BrewDog, Scotland)
- My absolute dream of a beer, Islay whisky is my favourite, so to make a beer with Islay whisky casks is A OK in my world. This is an Imperial Stout aged in Islay casks that has taken on all of the smoky character that epitomises this style of whisky. It is complex, sweet and smoky and there is no better way to finish a good evening than with a glass of Paradox Smokehead and maybe a wee dram alongside.
There you have it, my beers for Spring! When I started this yesterday there were 12 and I can't work out where or how I lost one. But I've built up such a thirst with all this writing about beer that I now just want to have one. The hop drug has me by the balls and is pulling me towards the fridge.
Enjoy the beers.
Happy Adventuring!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Barley Wine & Cheese

Beer & Food at The Stapleton Arms
On Thursday when the rest of the beer enthusiast world (or enthusiastic beer world?) was drinking copious amounts of black lager at the launch of Zeitgeist I went along to the Stapleton Arms (in Buckhorn Weston, Dorset) for a Barley Wine & Cheese tasting. I did send my spy's to Zeitgeist (so more to follow) and had some excellent feedback both on the beer and the evening.

Justin Hawke who is owner and brewer of Moor Beer Brewery lead the evening which included six strong beers and six cheeses. It was a very relaxed evening an opening few words from Kav the landlord and a description of what the beers were from Justin and then a help yourself style open table. I had invited my friend Mal to join me, a man who will eat or drink anything put in front of him, but wouldn't normally consider talking about it. He thoroughly enjoyed the evening but confessed to having never talked so much bullshit in all his life! I don't think I've ever seen him with quite as bad a hangover either...

The beers selected for the evening were Moor's JJJ - a strong Double IPA, so heavily hopped that it broke the pump on the copper the first time it was brewed! Thomas Hardy's Ale - the classic 11.7% Barley Wine. Fuller's Vintage Ale - full of strong aroma's. BrewDog's Hardcore IPA - heavily hopped but with a lovely balancing sweetness. Anchor Old Foghorn - big flavours and aromas of toffee and raisons. Hogsback A over T - full of rich fruit flavours.

The cheeses were Montgommery Cheddar, Green's Cheddar, Stinking Bishop, Ogle Shield, Exmoor Blue and Shropshire Blue. Only the Shropshire Blue and Stinking Bishop were not local.

I meant to take notes and do a full write up on here of exactly what went with what etc... however we may have had a couple too many beers before we started, and then topping up with a number of over 9% beers lead me to not quite managing any notes at all and a slightly fuzzy memory!!
What I can say, was that five of the beers were absolutely fantastic and one was very wishy washy in comparison. We started with the Anchor Old Foghorn, a favourite beer of mine that I have previously reviewed on here, it goes well with a number of cheeses. Hogsback A over T was next it was lovely, rich and fruity and was a big hit with the Stinking Bishop that accentuated the fruit. Moor's JJJ was next, with sweet malt leading to heavy tropical fruit hops, it was a big hit especially with the Cheddars and Ogle Shield. We followed this with BrewDog's Hardcore IPA, which had similarities to the JJJ, but I can't for the life of me remember which cheese it was best with!

The Fuller's Vintage Ale was the biggest disappointment of the night. It hinted at lots of big flavours with the strong, spicy fruit aromas but failed to deliver on any of it. One of our tasters described it as a weak cup of tea, and I don't think that was too far off the mark.
Thomas Hardy's was a nice way to finish its tremendous sweet fruit flavours matching the Shropshire Blue best.

My apologies for the undetailed write up of what was an excellent night. It was nice to do a tasting in a very free and easy way without being talked at too much, Justin and Kav worked their way around the tables for those who wanted to discuss the beers further or needed help in what to look for. The good news is, that I am taking the next tasting evening at the Stapleton Arms in a months time.
So what did I learn from the evening?
Definately not to take my mates if I want to write something later!
But it is more fun that way!