Magic Rock haven't quite gained a global Beer Geek fan base like BrewDog, but after tasting two of their most recent beers I can definitely vouch for them being headed in the right direction.
Human Cannonball Imperial IPA 9.2% (Bottle)
The bigger brother of the 7.4% Cannonball IPA, Human Cannonball pours a nice medium-dark amber/orange/red as I was hoping, but the aroma isn't actually as big as I expected. Just a little faint booze and orange hoppyness. This beer doesn't show it's hand that easily, it's sneakier than that…
Then you taste it and it's an onslaught. Massive bitterness, loads of juicy grapefruit and mango hops, very assertive pine bitterness and an American IPA malty sweetness lingering in the background alongside a smack of alcohol just after you swallow, which is then bowled over by the hops once more.
It's full on, punishing, and not to be taken lightly. But it's bloody good.
Consider yourself warned.
As I’ve found with a few keg stouts the aroma is subdued, slightly colder than I'd like it too, even though I left it to warm while drinking a half of Red Willow Oyster Stout. A warm up if you will.
The flavour is dark, boozy, bitter chocolate fondant - big and rich and slightly hot with alcohol, it reminds me a little of Black Mozart, but in a good way. (It's a liqueur which any skier who's been to Austria will have seen in the airport). There's also a touch of prune, fruity espresso bitterness, even a hint of dark chocolate orange. The finish has a hit of alcohol but the aftertaste is dry and herbal, and only slightly Cocoa dusted.
Its a great beer, and from any other brewery it would probably be their best. But Magic Rock have set the bar so tight rope high that anything below excellent appears lesser in comparison.
This is a very, very good beer, but do I like it more than Human Cannonball or Rapture? (my two favourites) possibly not.
Would I buy another, or recommend it to a friend?
In a heartbeat.
It was a warm, inviting buzz rather than a rowdy din though, and I felt at ease as soon as I sat down. The service at this place is just one of the things that sets it apart, we took a seat in the dining section and within a few minutes a friendly member of staff was over to take our drinks order. They understand the importance of that first drink, put me at ease with a pint and I’ll happily muse over the menu for a bit without any trouble.
The waitress also new her beers, which is massively important when offering table service - just a few quick questions about what I fancied (dark, strong flavour) and she was recommending an excellent Saltaire Cascadian Black. Fast, friendly, flawless service from staff that were obviously rushed off their feet.
But we were there for the food, and on that front things definitely weren’t let down. We started with some obviously very fresh scallops with chilli, garlic and dressed rocket. Simple, well cooked, delicious.
For the main course I was seduced by the pork, black pudding and apple “Pie of the Day”, whereas Colette went for the deep fried Pollock with Tiger Prawns and Whitebait. The pie was good; nicely slow cooked and full of flavour but the gravy let the side down a bit and was slightly lacking oomph. The accompanying chips were great.
Colette’s seafood dish was the star of the show though. The battered fish and prawns were moist and tender on the inside but crispy on the outside, and the Whitebait was (rightly) unbattered and completely delicious. Salty and full of flavour these things would make the perfect bar snack alongside a pint.
Cheese board for me and some rich and sweet chocolate thing for the missus finished things up nicely. Perfect!
There are far too few places like Veritas. Where you can have a few pints of great beer, delivered by table service alongside a selection of great modern British food. Plus they have a deli inside the pub in case you just want some cheese or snacks to nibble on.
If you haven’t been then there’s never been a better time to give it a try – it’s a perfect place to drink, eat and relax when the weather turns cold.
I've written about Veritas, and a few other beer and food places in Leeds, before here.
I think about food a lot. If I’m not doing something that requires my full attention, then you can pretty much guarantee I’ll be formulating a recipe in my head or thinking about that Thai place I can’t wait to try.
This afternoon I was mostly thinking about burgers. I knew I had some really good butcher's mince in the fridge, some onions and a few of the other bits and pieces needed, but what about the all important toppings? I couldn’t decide.
The combination of my indecisiveness, Colette’s penchant for mini stuff, and spotting a perfect 9 pack of mixed mini bread buns in M&S sealed the deal. I wouldn’t decide, I’d make three different kinds.
The three flavours I decided on were: Fresh Coriander and Jalapeño salsa, Mango Chutney and Blue Cheese, and Classic Cheddar.
All the burgers had a bed of lettuce and just a smidge of mayo: The “Classic Cheddar” also had tomato, sliced red onion, ketchup and mustard.; the “Fresh Coriander and Jalapeño salsa” contained diced tomato, red onion, Jalapeño, garlic, fresh coriander, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar; the “Mango Chutney and Blue Cheese” was simply a generous slab of Stilton with a mango chutney coated top bun.
These three seemed like a good balance as you get one pretty classic burger, one spicy burger, and one rich and weird burger. Lovely stuff.
I wanted a big fruity IPA to go with these burgers. Something that was sweet and fruity enough to handle the mango chutney but also had some bitterness and depth to go with that charred meat - Plus blue cheese and American IPA’s is a match made in heaven - so Caldera IPA from Oregon was the ideal candidate.
It worked a treat. Particularly with the Blue Cheese and Mango Chutney which was far and away the best of the three. It’s just a perfect combination; salty, funky cheese and sweet, fruity chutney atop charred, well seasoned beef. It ticks all the boxes and with the Caldera was probably the best Beer and Food Match I’ve had all year.
Burger tips and other info:
- I used 700g of mince (mixed with 1 grated red onion, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 beaten egg and plenty of salt and pepper) to make 9 mini burgers. That works out at roughly ½ a pound of meat per person, split between three mini burgers. This amount is perfect for a good sized main meal when served with a big shared bowl of potato wedges.
- Mould your burgers into lime sized balls and then press your thumb into the centre and squash down. This creates a fat, red blood cell shaped burger. Place these onto an oiled plate and set in the fridge or freezer for at least 15 minutes before cooking. When the burger cooks the dint in the middle will expand creating a perfectly flat top. If you have them flat to begin with then you’ll end up with golf balls after cooking, it’s a neat trick that works a treat.
- I used butchers mince but fresh ground chuck steak with a bit of fat is even better. There’s loads of recipes online and I’m not pretending the burger recipe here is the best. This post is about the toppings, and the beer match.
- I cooked my burgers on a really hot griddle pan for 4 mins either side to medium well done.
- The Mango and Blue Cheese burger was partly inspired by this post from Andy at BeerReviews, and also the great rare beef, Stilton and onion Maramalde sandwich I ate recently in Pickles & Potters of Leeds.
In the midst of the madness Dredge was giving out some samples from Camden Brewery (who he’s started working with for the day job). He said something along the lines of, “I like your blog, have these!”, a compliment and beer? What a charmer.
I decided to drink the first of the beers alongside a homemade Thai Red Curry the other night and it turned out to be a great match.
A background sweetness, slightly malty, with a herbal hop bite and that slightly minerally, almost metallic background flavour you get with some lagers and pilsners.
It certainly acts as a quencher with the thai red curry but doesn't turn to water in the face of big flavour like a lesser lager might. It holds it's own. Which is in itself is an achievement.
It’s drinkable, quenching and refreshing like lager should be, but with enough flavour to keep things interested, a very nice beer all in all.
Camden Wheat Beer
The flavour delivers on the aroma but there's also loads and loads of mushy banana. It's not as orangey as some wheat beers but there is a tinge of citrus in the aftertaste. Another really tasty beer, with much more banana flavour than a lot of other Wheat beers I've tried.
I suppose that’s an unusual statement in the context of this beer, because this certainly isn’t traditional “Cask Ale” in many ways. You couldn’t call it a demonstration of British Brewing’s famous balance, and it’s a style of beer that is anything but well established in the grand scheme of things. Some would argue the beer style hasn’t even got the right name. But that’s all irrelevant.
The flavour of this beer is stunning. On the first sip you could easily mistake this for a regular pale IPA, with the wafts of bitter citrus and dry, herbaceous, almost woody English hop character.
In the second sip you get a different beer. The hops are there again but they swim around with a deep, smooth mocha chocolate and just the tiniest hint of spiced orange in the finish. In the after taste, providing you don't take another quick sip (which is hard to resist) you get a little grapefruit as your mouth dries and a lasting but not harsh bitterness.
Ultimately though it all rolls together as one big, bitter yet soft, citrus yet chocolate, juxtaposition of a beer, and it's as goddamn near as good a pint of cask beer as you'll ever drink.
If you’ve never made a Hotpot at home then you are depriving yourself of one of the best one pot dinners the British Isles has ever given birth to. It’s just got everything; crispy butterglazed potato, succulent slow cooked lamb, sweet stewed veg (in my version) and a richly flavoured stew-like gravy which spreads across your plate like a lava of Lancashire loveliness.
I add beer to my version (who’d have guessed) but make sure you go for something fairly light, with a nice clean malty flavour like you get with pale English Brown Bitters. Personally I think Marstons Pedigree is the perfect choice. A stronger beer such as a stout or porter would just completely drown out the delicate flavour of the lamb and herbs, and anything too hoppy won’t cook out well at all.
I’ll also warn the purists that this is my version of a Hotpot, it’s not meant to be rigorously traditional or definitive, it’s meant to be tasty. Hence the addition of the Pale Ale, Root Veg, and Fish Sauce which adds an extra layer of savouriness and seasoning but not a hint of fishiness to the flavoursome sauce.
To make this you’ll need:
- 600g of Stewing Lamb (Neck end or shoulder)
- 400ml of Pedigree Pale Ale (and more for drinking)
- 300ml Water
- 2 Onions (One sliced, one roughly chopped)
- Roughly 6 Large sliced Potatoes (I like to use red ones)
- 1 Large Parsnip (Chopped)
- 1 Large Carrot (Chopped)
- 1 Clove Garlic (Chopped)
- Sprig of Fresh Rosemary (Leaves only, chopped)
- Sprig of Fresh Thyme (Leaves Only)
- 1 Chicken Stock Cube (I use Knorr)
- 1 Beef Stock Cube (I use Oxo)
- 2 Tsp Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce
- 1 Tsp Fish Sauce
- Butter, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper
How to make my Lancashire Lamb Hotpot with Pedigreee Pale Ale
In a large oven proof casserole dish (a 22cm cast iron Le Creuset is always my weapon of choice) sear the diced Lamb in a large knob of butter and a good glug of olive oil on a medium-high heat. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan and transfer to a separate large bowl once well browned.
Throw in the onions, parsnip and carrot and fry until lightly browned then add the garlic and herbs and fry for another few minutes.
Add a heaped tablespoon of plain flour to the veg and stir well to coat, before deglazing the pan with the water, scraping any sticky bits from the bottom. Let it boil down a little then add the beer and crumble in the two stock cubes, season well with salt and pepper, and simmer on a low heat while you slice the potatoes. (Which by the way I never bother peeling, life’s too short and it helps them hold together.)
Tip the veg and liquid into the large bowl with the meat and combine well.
To assemble the hotpot use a slotted spoon to lift half the meat and veg into the bottom of the pan, leaving the liquid in the bowl.
Next add a double layer of sliced potatoes, then the rest of the meat and veg on top of that.
Then pour over the liquid until it is just below the top of the meat and veg mixture before topping with a layer of sliced potatoes (If you have any liquid left keep this for extra gravy). Season well with salt and pepper, cover with a tight fitting lid and place in a preheated oven at 170-180*C for 1hr30mins.
After the slow cook remove the lid, add some knobs of butter to the top of the hotpot and return to the oven uncovered for another 30 minutes until the top is golden and slightly crisp like the photo at the top. (You may need to crank the oven up for the last 5-10 min.
with buttered green veg (I like kale) and a large glass of beer for everybody that’s eating.
The beer adds a lot to this one pot wonder but because of the use of the relatively lightly flavoured Pedigree Pale Ale it doesn’t come out like a bastardised steak and ale pie - for which a darker, stronger beer would be better suited – and doesn’t have an overpowering ale flavour to it.
Serving the beer alongside is an obvious but perfect match, i
t’s got a malty body but isn’t too sweet and with a lightly hoppy finish it awakens your palate ready for the slightly sweet/savouriness of the hotpot.
I'd be the first to admit that this hotpot with a glass of Pedigree is beer and food matching for dummies, but damn it tastes good.
So Sunday was the day that has been postponed, rearranged, cancelled, and finally, well, finalised more times than I can even remember – my brew day with Dean from Mr Foleys in Leeds. Or should I say, Blue Suede Brews.
We decided on the beer months and months ago, a well hopped Red Rye Ale not dissimilar to something like Founders Reds Rye P.A. around the same time in June I wrote this actually: Red Hop Ales the New Black IPA?
The idea behind going for the Rye was to give an added depth of flavour and a biscuity, slightly spicy malt flavour to balance out those big hops.
The recipe was kicked back and forth between me and Dean - essentially an amalgamation of a few different recommendations from brewing buddies, homebrew websites, and some last minute tweaking and tinkering from Dean who ultimately decided on the ratios we used. Oh and we threw in some Galaxy hops at the 11th hour because they smelt so damn good. But that’s what homebrewings all about isn’t it.
The ingredients were as follows:
Malts: Maris otter, Crystal, Cara Red, Rye
Bittering Hops: Riwaka
Aroma Hops: Amarillo and Galaxy
Dry Hopping Hops: Amarillo
Yeast: US 05
It came out a really nice deep, medium dark red/amber, but that could all change with fermentation, and secondary fermentation in the bottle. What looks dark now may well drop out to be a much more crystal red, only time will tell.
Once I know, you’ll know.
p.s. Here's a sneak peak of the spiral label artwork I designed for the beer, tested on an empty bottle, it's called Red Eye Rye....
I want to talk about this beer because it's a great example of one of my favourite kinds of beer, a perfectly executed Dry Stout. I did see rumblings from some bloggers (was it you Ghosty?) saying it should be International Imperial Stout Day - an homage to the over the top beer geek favourite - but I'd have to disagree.
First off, Dark Arts gets the mouthfeel spot on, Medium-thick but not syrupy or overly creamy. My first thought flavourwise was genuinely “that is what a stout should taste like”. Very roasted, quite dry, almost burnt in it's smokiness and only just kept in check by some bitter, dry hops in the finish. It is very familiar tasting, in many ways - It's a proper, full on, dry stout.
Once it warms up you get a bit of tobacco smoke, burnt bitter sugar, ashy chocolate and just a tiny bit of mild liquorice. It's just a very, very well crafted beer that at 6% just about sneaks into the winter warmer bracket but doesn't enter the 'this will hurt in the morning' ABV range of impy stouts.
Genuinely loved it.
Generally speaking though, the reason really good beer doesn’t spend too much time in the cupboard before I drink it is because I can’t wait, not because of some higher sense of duty. Hence the reason I’ve drank a fair few Buxton beers recently - Essentially, I couldn’t wait to try them.
Buxton Spa (Pale Ale) 4.1%
Those US and NZ hops give this beer a lovely fruity citrus flavour.
Buxton Best (Amber Ale) 4.3%
I must admit that the fact this is called a “Best” annoys me a little. Buxton make unbelievably good beers that are very modern, very hop forward, and actually pretty unusual. Then they go and call it Buxton Best. Which would be fine if it was a Best, I like best bitter, but this beer is so much more. It's a modern Amber ale made with American and English hops and rye malt – how good does that sound? Don’t sell yourself short guys!
Moving on. The beer has a great orange/brown/Amber colour and a slightly spicy, citrus hop aroma. The mouth feel is textbook Buxton - big, lush, cask ale like, with full but soft carbonation.
In the flavour you get a tiny bit of sweet toffee before the rye malt kicks that out of the way with some spicy, biscuity flavours and a dry orangey finish which balances between spicy and citrus hops.
Buxton Gold (Golden Ale) 5.3%
This pours a really nice unfiltered, hazy orange with golden orange at the edges. The aroma is oranges, biscuit, and a touch of lemon pith.
Again, for me this is much more than a “Golden Ale”, which for me has had a fair bit of linguistic pejoration over the years. Golden Ales are the drinkable, slightly lemony, perfectly golden beers you give to “lager drinkers” to try and coax them onto good beer. This is not one of those perfectly fine, but unexciting, beers.
Amarillo, Liberty and Nelson Sauvin hops make this a proper, full on, modern, US inspired dry fruit cocktail that’s kept in check by grainy, biscuity malt. It finishes dry yet perfectly balanced. Another cracker from the Buxton boys.
Wild Boar (India Pale Ale) 5.7%
This is a great addition to the Buxton range. A 5.7% India pale that’s not too strong to have a pint, but definitely not a session beer.
It's got a great balance between bitter grapefruit and a little sweet tangerine and citrusy orange. It's a great beer, and from the look of this lot, I’m going to have to concede that these guys just don't make a bad beer.
So. If a beer tastes great, does it matter what it’s called?
The fact is, as soon as the weather turns cold and dreary I slip into that old cliché of craving dark beers, and when it gets really cold, I’ll move on to the warming Barley Wines and Imperial Stouts. As such, the miserable wet weather recently has left me craving regular Stouts – beers I can drink by the pint over an hour or so, and which are best served not too cold.
Here’s a few I’ve enjoyed this week.
Buxton Kinder Stout 4.1%
As is usually the case with Buxton, this pours perfection. Nice and thick with a creamy White head and an impenetrable black body. The aroma is as classic as a dry stout gets. Smokey, slightly ashy and with a slight sweetness lingering in the background.
The taste delivers exactly what the aroma suggests, a classic dry stout. Dry, smokey, and with a really nice roasted malt middle that turns dry and ashy in the finish. “Session Stout” feels like a bit of an injustice because the flavour of this is so good, but it is really drinkable and dry and at that ABV I could happily drink a fair few of these over the course of an evening.
As is often the case with traditional Porters, the aroma is much lighter than it’s heavier Big Brother (or is that younger Brother?) the Stout. You just get a little light coffee and a herbal edge from the hops - It’s not a million miles away from a good Black/Dark Lager in the aroma.
The flavour of this is a balance between roasted hazelnut, filter coffee and a bit of lingering dark chocolate. The mouthfeel is light to medium, as the soft carbonation is quite foamy and cuts acts to cut through what is actually a fairly heavy body.
It’s a massively drinkable, in many ways uncomplicated beer that I could drink again and again.
I’ve just realized that out of a roundup of 4 Stouts, 2 of them aren’t strictly Stouts - one’s a Porter and one is this beer, which Marble non-commitally call “Stout(ish)”. It's not going well this is it?
Don’t be fooled though, this is a big, full on beer that for all intents and purposes is a Stout.
This beer pours an opaque browny black with an off white/beige head. The aroma is of malty chocolate, a touch of Espresso, and toasted/roasted grain. The flavour of the beer isn’t as dominated by chocolate as you might expect, it’s got a really upfront coffee flavour and plenty of roasted malt alongside that bitter chocolate. It finishes nice and dry with espresso and more bitter cocoa.
This is a much sweeter, creamier Stout than the other ones I’ve mentioned down to the inclusion of Oats in the brew which (because of the fats and proteins in them) cause the beer to become much more viscous, which in turn gives the sensation of a creamier flavour.
Alongside that creamy, brown sugar sweet body, you get milk chocolate and subtle, mellow coffee (think latte). It’s a satisfyingly sweet stout if that’s what you’re looking for, but not a beer I could drink a lot of.
That isn’t a criticism though, it’s a beer I really enjoyed and which is well worth a try.