Punk IPA with peppered steak and spicy wedges - a fitting fair-well?

Monday, January 31, 2011
Lots of beer fans have been talking about the fact Brewdog have decided to make the once experimental "Punk X" the new recipe Punk IPA.

If you've not seen the news then it boils down to this; Brewdog ran a number of test brews of a new recipe Punk IPA and called them Punk X, these were tasted and voted on by fans of Brewdog in their own bars and a few select outlets. They were also briefly available bottled through the Brewdog shop. Well when the votes were counted it seemed that the Punk X was the clear winner, and will now replace the old recipe Punk IPA as the new Punk IPA.

Confused? Don't be, basically they believe the new recipe is a big improvement and a much more 'rounded' beer all in all. Mark Dredge reckons the new Punk's better, and many other trusted names say the same. I just hope that the new Punk has the qualities that I love so much about the old, namely:
Smell: Slightly soapy, medicinal hops that become more spicy and piney as it comes up to cellar temp.
Taste/feel: Faint fruit/juicy malt bowled over by a mass of herbal, spicy hops and a huge lingering bitterness and mouth drying quality like fresh grapefruit juice.

Supporters are saying the new dog on the block isn't just a beer with that famous aggressive hop flavour and bitterness, but hop, malt, fruit, sweetness and bitterness all rolled in to a complex yet much more approachable IPA. At least thats the theory. I haven't tasted the new Punk, and as a big fan of the old Punk i'm reserving my judgement until I get a pint in Mr Foley's of the new 5.6% kegged brew.

So what better way to say goodbye to the current incarnation of Punk, than enjoying it with a charred and heavily peppered rump steak, homemade potato wedges with jerk seasoning and obligatory peas? Providing it's served with plenty of Dijon and no silly sauces, it's the perfect quick and simple dinner - the kind of thing I have when the other half has 'a work night out' and I can cook exactly what I fancy.

Personally, I think this 'old' Punk IPA (6%) has easily enough floral hops and spice to stand up to the pepper steak and jerk wedges, but it's also cleansing, bitter, and juicy all at once, and manages to hold it's own flavour whilst working to enhance the stronger flavours in the meal which are typically hard to couple with beer, such as the Dijon.

Plus, whereas a more traditional pairing to this meal such as a spicy Shiraz would be relatively heavy, the carbonation and light mouthfeel of the IPA helps the meal be carried along much better. An argument for beer with dinner i'm sure you'll agree, and a fitting tribute to our fallen comrade.

Why don't good restaurants offer decent beer?

Saturday, January 29, 2011
I wrote in my last post about some good places for beer and food, but sometimes you want something a bit more special than fish and chips or a pub grub burger (all be it very good ones).

I also mentioned
Anthony's and commended them for having a very good beer menu which was chosen to complement the fantastic food on offer. So my question is, why don't more high end restaurants offer decent beer?

Partly it has to come down to the fact that for many years the yard stick for good food has been France, and rightly or wrongly, the French way of doing things is to match wine with food. Now don't get me wrong, I love French food. But Britain has come a long way in the last few years in terms of our culinary revolution, we've now got our own fair share of Michelin starred restaurants that are highlighting to the world what we've always known; British food done well is just as exciting as any other cuisine.
Beef Wellington anyone? So why don't more restaurants, particularly those showcasing British food to the world, promote our national drink? That's not to say it's just british food that matches well, I think Thai Green Curry with a hop bomb IPA is a match made in heaven.

Brewdog wrote yesterday about this and I think it made me think more carefully about it. How many times have you been to a top restaurant and seen Stella, Becks and Corona as the only beer options on the menu? It's ridiculous that so much effort goes in to the food, and they let it be served with a bland macro lager.

Michel Roux Jnr is a personal hero of mine. He just gets it. He is so rightly proud of French food, and has a vast knowledge of food and wine matching, but has also in the last few years been promoting the virtues of good beer and food matching, and was in fact named
'Beer Drinker of The Year' a few years ago. Why doesn't this happen more often? The chefs must have good taste, and I bet they drink beer... so why not combine the two!?

So please, if you are a chef, or a restrateur, and are reading this, please take a look at your drinks menu and take as much care in the beer choices as you do the wine. You know it makes sense.

The best places for good food and beer in Leeds city centre

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
What better way to start than with a few of my favourite places to eat good food and drink good beer, in my adopted home town of Leeds (lived here for over 6 years now).

Food and beer remember - there are places that may do one or the other well... but if you're looking for steaks and stouts or pies and porter, the below are good places to start. (Note: I promise none of them will break the bank either!)

First up is The Stew & Oyster (aka "Calls Landing"). Located just off Call Lane, this recently extended bar is a fantastic place for, well, Stew and Oysters.

But there's also an extremely well stocked beer fridge including the likes of Brooklyn Lager, Duvel and Liefmans; as well as some well chosen keg beer offerings and 3 regularly changing cask beer hand pulls.

A choice of 3-4 stews are usually available. All are tasty, hearty, and satisfying, with an impressively multi-national range of flavours on offer. Past favourites of mine include Italian tomato and meatball, butternut squash and pumpkin, and possibly best of all, chorizo sausage and butterbean.

Theakstons is the house ale, and guest ales are generally from larger breweries such as Adnams and Greene King, but occasionally some lesser known breweries will also get a look in. If I had one gripe it would be that the ale is sometimes served a touch too cold, but it's a personal thing and others may find it just right. All in all it's a relaxed bar that serves simple, cheap, tasty food and a selection of good beers.

Next up is a fairly new bar, but one that is fast becoming a favourite of mine - Veritas Ale & Wine Bar, on Great George St.

Veritas has a very similar interior style to its sister bar Arcadia in Headingley, but utilises the extra space to great effect with a large curving deli counter serving local cheeses, meats and nibbles as well as an impressive and regularly changing menu of lunch and evening meals. The steak and Ale 'Pie of the day' and the roasted belly pork with cider apple gravy being two highlights that come to mind.

With 8 real ales on offer and some well thought out beers on tap (including my girlfriends favourite Fruli), plus an extensive bottled beer menu, this is a beer lovers dream.

The ever changing guest ales mean there's always something new on when you visit - For example I’ve had Brewdog IPA (old recipe 6% cask version), Elland 1872 Porter, Black Tom Mild, and Black Sheep Riggwelter to name but a few, and they’ve always been in excellent condition. Plus the chalkboard lists the guest beers' price, style and strength, making a decision much easier.

The Veritas bottled beer menu is also a very nice touch. A huge number of different beers from around the world feature, and are grouped into various categories with short well written explanations of the flavour, strength and style of each. Plus they’re one of the few bars in Leeds (Arcadia being the only other to my knowledge) that stock the outstanding Brooklyn Dark Chocolate Stout, and have a collection of the more unusual Belgian beers such as Kwak and Floris at very reasonable prices.

My third pick is The Brewery Tap on New Station Street, near, you guessed it, Leeds Train Station.

It's one of a few Leeds Brewery pubs in and around the city centre; notably The Midnight Bell (very good food but a little expensive, more of a gastropub type place), and PIN (unusual little bar on the trendy Dock street, but is a bit too 'cocktail bar' for my liking).

The Brewery Tap however, strikes a nice balance. There are generally all three of Leeds Brewery's regular beers (Pale, Best and Midnight Bell) plus one seasonal special and a few guest ales on offer. They even have their own lager called Leodis (the Old English name for Leeds) that's brewed on site, as well as the likes of Sierra Nevada and Leffe on tap, and an excellent wine menu - essentially it's one of those places that has something for everyone.

The food doesn't let the side down either, the menu is best described as 'pub grub' done properly, with everything made from scratch on site and executed with skill and care. Whether it's a homemade burger with fresh tomato salsa and hand cut chips, 'Leeds Best' battered fish and chips with minted pea puree, or a simple Steak and 'Midnight Bell' pie, you can be sure you'll get a tasty meal.

Honourable mentions:

The Adelphi on the corner of Dock Street and Hunslet Road is a fantastic pub with a number of small rooms all served by one main large bar, it looks pretty traditional from the outside but it is actually modern and quirky on the inside, with interesting, tasty food and drinks to match the shabby chic decor.

Anthony's on Bore Lane is as close as Leeds has got to a Michelin starred restaurant and fully deserves the praise it recieves. As well as mind-blowingly good food they are one of a thankfully growing number of high end restaurants in the UK to appreciate the necessity for a well chosen beer list, as well as a wine list the size of a phone book.

The Cross Keys on Water Lane is just down the road from the aforementioned Midnight Bell and its only downfalls are very similar. A little bit too 'gastropub' in terms of prices and a little bit of a walk from the City Centre. That said, the food is fantastic, with an impressive menu including lots of seasonal and local produce as well as some excellent ale and beer on the bar. It's owned by the same people who run North Bar, which if you've been, is enough in itself to bolster it's beery credentials.