Sweetcure smoked Mackerel, with herb potato salad and Kasteel Cru Champagne Lager

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
This really doesn't qualify as a recipe, it's really more of an assembly of 'tasty stuff', with the star of the show being some fantastic sweet cured smoked mackerel fillets. The better quality fish you can get a hold of the nicer the meal will be, these were Demerera sweetcured smoked Mackerel fillets but it would work with any oily smoked fish - just stay away from the bright yellow dyed stuff!

As you can see from the picture I served the fish with a simple spring onion and herb potato salad, a crisp green salad, and thanks to a reccomendation from
Fuggled, a bottle of Kasteel Cru Champagne Lager.

To make the potato salad simply boil some new potatoes in a little salted water until just tender but not overly soft, drain and leave to cool for a few minutes. While the potatoes are cooling chop up some spring onions (I used 4 spring onions to one medium sized pan of potatoes) a small handfull of parsley and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle tip in the onions and herbs (as shown in the photo), then add two tablespoons of decent mayonnaise and season liberally with salt, pepper and paprika. If you prefer your potato salad with a little spice then use cayenne pepper as well as paprika. Leave to one side, to be eaten cold.

The fish couldnt be easier - and if using smoked cured mackerel it is already cooked so only needs the skin crisping up and the meat slightly warming through. The best way to do this I've found is to use a non-stick griddle pan. Heat it until very hot and then lay the fillets skin side down, no need for oil or seasoning as the fish has both in abundance, and cook for no more than one minute or until the skin is nicely charred and crisp. Keep an extra keen eye on them if using the sweetcure mackerel as the sugar will burn very quickly if you aren't careful. Serve with a good spoonfull of the potato salad and a crisp green salad of your choice.

The flavours really do work so well together - crisp skin, rich salty/smokey/sweet fish, fresh herby potato salad and crisp green salad - it's a perfect summer evening meal. In fact if you had a BBQ to crisp the fillets up on I think it would be even better.
I asked followers on Twitter (@EisntCNeil) for a beer match and was reccomended a 'proper bohemian pilsner' by @Fuggled but didn't really have anything of that exact description in the beer cupboard so opted for a bottle of Kasteel Cru Champagne Lager (it's brewed with Champagne yeast) instead. The beer pours a really unusual light gold colour, with very small fine carbonation as you would expect from the champagne yeast.

There was a small bubbly bright white head that quickly disappeared, very little aroma, just a lager freshness and a slight hint of citrus. The flavour is fairly light and combined with the bubbly mouthfeel it is actually quite unusual, and not entirely beerlike.

There's also fresh, lemony citrus with a little citrus hop thats sharp but not drying and a definate winey quality to it. The beer matches ok with the mackerel but is a little overpowered by it aswell, however its a great cleanser for the potato salad and stands up to the onion no problems. If i'm honest the mackerel is a touch sweet to pair well with the freshness of the lager. Maybe a little lemon squeezed over the fillets would have pulled it all together.

Overall it's a nice, if a little unusual, crisp, zesty lager. It didn't blow me away but I liked it and I think Chardonnay or Champagne fans would really enjoy this. It would also make a great drink to serve with canopies, or as a palate cleanser between courses.

Some fantastic news for UK Craft Beer

Monday, March 28, 2011
With all the doom and gloom surrounding beer tax it's always nice to hear some good news emerging amongst the bad. A figurative Phoenix from the flames, so to speak. As such, despite being a little late to the party, I want to say welcome back to Beer Ritz in Leeds.

When news surfaced that Beer Ritz in Headingley (just outside Leeds centre for non-locals) had suddenly and unexpectably closed, I was shocked and annoyed in equal measures.

Firstly I felt bad for
Zak and Ghostie, and everybody else invovled in Beer Ritz, and couldn't believe that such a popular place could be closing down just as craft beer is emerging from the underground into mainstream consciousness.
My second thought, on a personal and completely selfish level was 'Where the hell am I going to get all my decent beer from now?'.

Zak explained exactly what happened
on his blog, but essentially there was a business structure issue which meant they were advised to cease trading immediately. Thanks to a management buyout the problem has been rectified and Beer Ritz is open for business again and back for good.

For those of you that live anywhere even close to Leeds and haven't yet visited this craft beer treasure trove I suggest you give yourself a quick slap, empty the boot of the car and prepare to visit one of the best beer shops in Britain.

The range of beers on sale is staggering and particularly for American Craft beer, Belgian Beer, UK microbrewery and UK craft beer they are unbeatable on their selection. It really is the best place to buy good beer I've ever been.

Just a cautionary note though, pay the mortgage first as you are going to want to buy a lot of beer when you visit this place, as leaving with any amount of beer less than more than I probably should will feel like a missed opportunity.

Beer Ritz Ltd http://www.beerritz.co.uk/ 14 Weetwood Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire 0113 275 3464

Top ten picks at the Wetherspoons Real Ale & Cider Festival

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
There's a lot that can be said against Wetherspoons pubs, but few could argue against their cask beer selection being the best of any large pub chain in the UK. Nearly every spoons I've been in has had at least 8 cask handpulls that are usually well chosen, often local, and generally in good condition. What they do, they do very well.

As well as this, the regular real ale festivals are a great way to get everday drinkers into the joys of cask ale; a gateway into the world of good beer. Tasting notes on the bar, international brewers, funny little third pint tasters, unusual beers at an attractive price - all of these things make the idea of trying cask ale exciting and I personally think Camra and Wetherspoons should be commended for the effort they put in.

I've had a look at the Wetherspoons real ale festival (23rd March to 11th April) website and picked out the ten beers I'll be seeking out in particular.

Rather than regurgitate the tasting notes I'll outline why I like the look of each beer, but if you want to read a full list of featured beers and their tasting notes then visit the festival website at

Let me know your picks in the comments box below and happy ticking!

Leeds Brewery - Doubting Tom 4.0%
I'm a big fan of Leeds Brewery's year round regular Pale Ale, so this limited edition Pale brewed with Cascade and Sorachi Ace hops looks like a perfect thirst quencher that will hopefully have decent hop bite and bags of fruity flavour.

Robinsons - Ginger Tom 4.3%
I'm more than a little intrigued by this new specialist beer from Old Tom brewers Robinsons. It'll be interesting to see if they can balance the spice and ginger mentioned in the tasting notes without it tasting too much like alcoholic ginger beer.

Feral Brewery - Feral the runt 4.7% (Australia)
The cask beers brewed by guest international brew masters (brewed at breweries in the UK) are a fantastic feature of the JDW festivals and are always worth a try. This citra hopped pale ale looks particularly good, will be interesting to see if they really go for an easy drinking style or more heavily hopped with the citra.

Ballast Point Brewery - Ballast Point Calico Amber 5.2% (USA)
This is an American brewery's take on a strong English Bitter which I'm assuming to mean an amber, malty beer with classic American hoppiness. US versions of UK beers are something I've found to work really well in the past with beers such as Honkers Ale by Goose Island Brewery, so this should be a good one.

Lodewijk Swinkels - Lodewijk's Dutch Delight 5.5% (Holland)
Yet another of the international brewer beers, and yet another take on a British style. This time its a 1930s Strong Ale recipe which the brewer has added his own style to, namely floral aromatic hops and a touch of caramel flavour. I really like the sound of this as a combination and the pure 'weirdness' of these international brews never fails to grab my interest.

Rooster's - Angry Yank IPA 5.0%
Another exclusive to the festival, this IPA is the brainchild of National Homebrew Competition 2010 winner Gareth Lester-Oliver, which in combination with the excellent beers Rooster are serving up throughout the rest of the year, makes this one an absolute must try, especially for an IPA lover like me.

Thwaites - Bloomin Smoky 5.0%
With summer slowly on its way I'm finding myself looking out for wheat beers on the bar, and this specially brewed smoked version looks particularly interesting. It's not a style of beer I've tried before and I'm keen to see how the unusual flavour profiles will work together. Could see this one being an all or nothing, love it or hate it kind of beer.

Freeminer Brewery - Deep Shaft 6.2%
This one has been around since 1992, which might explain the terrible name and pump clip art (possibly made with clipart by the looks of it). That said it's not a beer I've tried and at 6.2% this stout is an unusual sight on a Wetherspoons bar and probably worth a go.

Big City - Jamaica Stout 5.0% (Jamaica)
I missed Lion Stout when it ran in one of the Wetherspoons festivals previously so am keen to try this different Jamaican stout this time around. As a big fan of the Nigerian version of Guinness FES it will be interesting to see if this stout has that unusual twang 'hot climate stouts' seem to acquire, even when it's brewed in the drizzly UK.

Hawkshead Brewery - Cumbrian Five Hop 5.0%
It was a toss-up between this and the Acorn 1887 (God Created Tangerine) beer for my final spot, but I just couldn't resist the list of hops on this one (Amarillo, Bramling Cross, Citra, Fuggles, Goldings) and the fact they've mixed more traditonal hops with more en vogue ones such as Citra. The Acorn Brewery beer, as with most Acorn beers, is well worth a try as well though I reckon. It's just that ten is such a nice round number.

I'll be trying to sample as many of these as possible and will let you know of any that stand out for me, most likely via Twitter @EisntCNeil, or if they're really, really good I might write about them here.

The importance of drinkability, subtlety and balance in British beer

Monday, March 21, 2011
Going for a quiet beer on a Saturday afternoon is becoming a regular treat - either meeting up with a friend for a few choice beers, taking the missus out for a spot of lunch, or stealing a few hours to myself with a paper and a pint - it's one of my favourite things to do.

This Saturday it was the latter as the other half had to work, and apart from a gaggle of bell jingling Morris Dancers descending on the place it was a thoroughly relaxing hour or so.

The two beers I was drinking got me thinking about some recent discussions in the blogosphere surrounding British beer, and what they mean to me. One being the infamous cask vs keg argument, and the other being the difference between more extreme beers vs subtle beers, as discussed recently by
Mark Dredge.

The two beers in question were Marble Utility IPA on cask and Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA on keg. I started with Marble, which was in fantastic condition and just the kind of beer I was looking for in a first pint - bags of flavour, drinkable, tasty, and refreshing. But before I dive into my take on the aforementioned debate, here's what I thought of the two beers:

Marble Utility IPA 5.7% from cask

The smell is quite light but there's a tropical fruitiness there, as well as a slight pear aroma. Once the pint had settled from the handpull it was pin sharp with a light amber colour and absolutely no haze, there was also a noticeable light carbonation from the cask conditioning.

The flavour is best described as modern British IPA, nicely bitter but with a slight mango edge. Very refreshing, beautifully balanced and drinkable but comes dry in the finish making it very moreish. Could easily drink this all day. The hops aren't overpowering or too drying but have bags of flavour, ultimately it's a full flavoured yet balanced beer.

If I was going to split hairs I could say it's a touch too light in the body, but that lightness adds to the refreshingness of the beer, and makes it feel like a Session beer even at 5.7%.

Sierra Nevada torpedo Extra IPA 7.2% from keg
The smell is slightly piny and medicinal but not as huge as I expected, perhaps needs to warm a little for a bigger aroma to come out.

The taste is a massive hit of juicy, piney, resinous hops with a very clear rich malty background. It feels thick but finishes clean with big hop dryness. A lot more going on than the Marble but on the flipside couldn't really be described as refreshing in the same thirst quenching way. As is usually the case with keg there's a prickly, fine carbonation that I think is wholly necessary for a beer like this.

A marmalade jamminess comes through but it's not overly sweet, with a nice long finish that leaves bitter hops on your tongue for as long as you care to wait before another sip.

There's also an orange liqueur note and its got that juicy oily piny quality that only big American style IPA's achieve.

So how does this relate to the ongoing debates I mentioned? Well first of all it highlighted the fact that there is a grey area in which using cask or keg could be better for the beer.
When I tried keg Thornbridge Kipling (5.2%) recently I remarked it would probably be better on cask, but that Jaipur (5.9%) was better on keg than I'd ever had it before.

Well this Marble IPA was right on the cusp (in terms of ABV and style) of where I think keg becomes the better option for the beer. But when I tasted it I realised this beer was spot on, it couldn't have been improved by being on keg, and it highlighted the fact that no matter what looks best on paper, a beer by beer approach is the right way forward.

It also reminded me that when cask is done right, it's hard to beat. It still had bags of flavour and a big hop profile but it also had a subtlety and drinkability that begged to be sessioned. But I was only staying for a couple and couldn't resist the Torpedo on tap. Yet again I'd been seduced by the big, bold, slightly brash American beer, but was I forgetting a more important 'B', was it better?

Well, I did really enjoy it, and I don't know whether it was the high ABV doing tricks on me but the further I got down my glass the more I liked this beer. But at the back of my mind I knew there was just something missing - all the flavours were up front, big, bold, obvious. I was missing that subtlety, that balance of flavour, those notes that are hard to pin down, and difficult to put into words.

The Marble politely presented its flavours one after the other with a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts, whereas the Sierra Nevada shouted through a star spangled megaphone what I should be enjoying.

Maybe that's the difference in these beers, it's a case of subtlety vs impact, a beer based transatlantic personality clash you could say. Diversity is essential, but for me what's equally important is that we don't forget why British Beer is World renowned, and what made it so good in the first place. At least that's what I thought, on balance.

Thornbridge craft keg range - Jaipur, Italia, Kipling, Saint Petersburg

Thursday, March 17, 2011
There was a welcoming buzz in the air when I visited North Bar in Leeds last night. The bar stools were full of folk sitting and chatting to each other or the bar staff, and the tables were crowded with an even mix of clustered regulars, beer geeks, bloggers and young couples.

It seems that everybody likes an excuse for a mid-week drink, and last night that all-too-tempting excuse was the launch of Thornbridge’s Keg range.

On the adverts for the event the line-up was billed to be Kipling, Wild Swan, Jaipur and Italia, but upon arrival it appeared that the session strength pale ale Wild Swan had been replaced with the breweries polar opposite brew; the heavy weight imperial stout Saint Petersburg. It’s got to be said that Wild Swan is a fine cask ale, a summer thirst quencher or beer garden quaffer, but I wasn’t exactly itching to try it on keg so the Saint Petersburg was a welcome late substitution in my eyes.

There’s been a lot said by the likes of Mark Dredge, Tandleman and Pete Brown and many other bloggers about cask vs keg. For me the argument needs to come down to taste not convenience – if the beer tastes better on keg then serve it on keg, if its better on cask then serve it that way, frankly I don’t give a crap about logistics, it’s just about what’s best for the beer. So the question is, how did these beers fare?

I started out with a glass of Thornbridge’s 4.8% Pilsner, brewed in collaboration with Maurizio Folli of Birrificio Italiano. Appearance wise it is true to the style, ultra pale and crystal clear. I must admit I’m not a connoisseur of this type of beer, and like many a UK beer lover have been somewhat disenchanted by dull mass-market offerings.

This beer is far from average though. It smells slightly lemony-citrus with just a hint of herbal hop aroma. The first taste is refreshing, crisp, and thirst quenching (yes I know these are all classic marketing words for beer with no flavour but that’s not the case here). There’s also a slightly grainy tasting malt backbone that you don’t get with lesser pilsners. It’s a nice beer but not one I’d rush to buy again if it was on the bar.

For an alternative dissection of this beer have a read of the reviews at Good Stuff, The Beer Prole and HopZine

The smell of this 5.2% ‘South Pacific Pale Ale’ is wonderful; pure passion fruit and mango. It’s got that fantastic tropical, juicy, slightly herbal smell that Thornbridge achieve so well. It’s something I love in pale ales so up to this point things are looking good.

Thankfully the taste backs up the smell and you get a nice balance of sweet/sour passion fruit which leads into bitter grapefruit in the finish and a dry, floral, herbal, fruity hop aftertaste. On keg it felt relatively light in body and for me was ever so slightly too cold. I think this beer's strength and style represent my turning point where cask would probably just inch it over keg flavourwise. That said, it was still a great beer and on keg would be a perfect beer to get a lager drinking friend into something a bit more adventurous. Jaipur for beginners you could say.

I purposely left the Jaipur IPA (5.9%) until after Italia and Kipling because I’ve had it enough times before to know how good it is, and I thought I’d never get to the others if I had it first. Plus I didn’t want to ruin my palate with hops or make the other two pale in comparison, so to speak.

I’ve had Jaipur on cask numerous times, it’s widely available and consistenly good. However I have found that the strength of the hops and that grapefruit bite come through in varying degrees when on cask, which is a little annoying when you fancy a really big hop hit.

That wasn't the case here, and this keg was right on the money. In my humble opinion beers of this style and strength just taste better on keg, that sparkle of gas and few degrees extra cooling just bring the beer alive and let those super fresh pithy hops really sing. They were brighter and more orangey, with juicy grapefruit, citrus, orange, mango, passion fruit and a drying edge that balances so well against the slightly sweet body.

It was a belter. Perfection on keg and better than nearly every cask version I’ve had.

Saint Petersburg
I left a half of this Imperial Stout until last, weighing in at 7.7% and this being a weeknight I thought a pint might be pushing it. I never got around to trying this in any form before so can’t compare the dispense to others, so I'll stick to what’s most important, the flavours.

You get a huge hit of rich, dark, roasted espresso coffee on the nose, it dominates and very little in the way of chocolate or other traditional stout aromas come through. The taste again delivers a massive espresso roastyness but there's also a slightly burnt, smoky malt flavour and a very dark bitter chocolate edge as well. There’s also hints of slightly stewed fruit, like a rich mince pie without the spice and a wonderfully fresh late hop bite.

For a big beer it manages to be hugely flavoursome, complex and yet refreshing, and the carbonation helps to avoid that cloying mouthfeel some Imperial Stouts display. The relatively cool temperature hides the abv really well but as the beer warms a slight alcohol hum becomes apparent in the aftertaste. Along with that warming alcohol you get a really nice coffee aftertaste that is genuinely the same as with drinking an espresso. Beautiful!

So a great night all in all with some fantastic kegged beers. It’s all a matter of picking the dispense to suit the beer, and in this instance Thornbridge have got it almost spot on.

Iceberg Wheat Beer - Titanic Brewery

Monday, March 14, 2011

Titanic are one of those breweries that may look a little old fashioned at a glance, with slightly tongue in cheek beer names and dated website etc, but actually make some fantastic modern beers. Titanic Stout is still a favourite of mine, it's one of the bottled beers I keep going back to again and again. Perfect carbonation and deeply roasty, malty cocoa flavours that come together in a smooth, hugely drinkable beer. I also really enjoyed the Titanic New York Wheat Porter I tried during one of last years Wetherspoons Real Ale Festivals.

So it was a pleasant surprise on a recent supermarket trip to see a big 'New' sign down the beer aisle and this offering from Titanic next to it.

The daftly named 'Iceberg' (I did warn you) is a combination of Maris Otter pale malt and wheat malt, with Yakima Galena and Cascade hops. Sounds promising.

The clear bottle wasn't really selling it to me if I'm honest, although it did allow me to see the fantastic colour of this brew. For a wheat beer it only has a very light haziness, it's almost clear, with a really nice pale orange hue, more vienna lager than wheat beer.

There's not a lot to pick up on smellwise, just a little crisp hop and a slight lemony freshness. It has an almost pilsnerlike light aroma.

The taste starts lemony and fresh with a very slight light malt, that takes a few sips to pick up on. There's a nice bitter orange pithyness but not that full on orange flavour you would associate with a normal wheat beer. The body is very light and doesn't have much of a traditional wheat beer thickness to it - but the lightness suits the beer and it doesn't ever taste 'thin'. It poured with a thin head but it stuck around.

This is where things get really interesting. Hugely bitter citrusy lemon hops come through in the end and it finishes extremely bitter with massive hop dryness. This is a really clever beer where the hops come through late but huge, the finish is very, very long and that hop bitterness just builds and lingers longer with every sip. It's very refreshing but that dryness just urges you to take another sip. I'm glad it's a relatively low abv because it is just so damn drinkable.

Which brings me to my next point. This beer surprised me. At 4.1% this is a session strength beer that is huge on flavour, something I haven't found in a really long time.

I really enoyed this quite unusual beer, it's got the bitterness in the finish of a great IPA but the refreshing quality of a light wheat beer or great unflitered pilsner. A perfect summer beer. What a find, and easily in time for BBQ season!

“A pint of non-descript please” – How specific is the term ‘beer’?

Friday, March 11, 2011
As is often the case I was recently reading the BBC Food website looking for a recipe when something caught my eye, it wasn’t what I was looking for but it had the words ‘beer’ in the recipe and as such got a swift clicking.

I know what you’re thinking; steak and ale pie, maybe beer battered fish, right? Wrong.

This was a recipe for “Chargrilled steak with beer, mustard and watercress salad”. I was more than a little intrigued by the use of beer in a salad dressing, and lots of questions instantly popped into my head. Wouldn’t it fizz up too much? How would it mix with the oil and mustard? What type of beer would it be? Maybe something like Summer Lightning that is light but has a peppery hop edge to go with the Watercress?

Well first of all, I’ve got a bone to pick with you BBC Food. Sort the grammar out on the recipe title. The recipe isn’t for "Chargrilled steak with beer, mustard and watercress salad" it’s for “Chargrilled steak with beer mustard and watercress salad”, that pesky comma implies it’s a watercress salad with a beer and mustard dressing, not a steak served with some beer mustard and a watercress salad. Have they not read Eats shoots and leaves?

Now to my point (only took 200 words). Everything in the recipe is very specific; cider vinegar, yellow mustard seeds, ribeye steak, rapeseed oil etc. Until you get to ‘beer’, one of the title ingredients no less, and you just get a flat ‘110ml of Beer’. That’s it? Just, beer?

I’ve seen this lack of detail before in recipes like the aforementioned steak and ale pie, but at least they usually say something like ‘one bottle of ale’ which I usually take to mean 500ml of something like Speckled Hen or London Pride, an everyday, readily available, perfectly decent English ‘Ale’. I can forgive the use of ‘Ale’ in this instance because I can infer enough from that word to know what type of beer the recipe is requesting. But to just use the word ‘beer’, and give no explanation as to which of the thousands of types, styles and flavours are needed left me a bit confused. Now put beer geekery aside for a moment - Even if we strip it back to the most basic of style definitions, one which everybody in the country would identify with, i.e. ‘Lager or Bitter’, ‘Beer’ is still a confusing choice of words.

It’s a bugbear of mine that chefs are notoriously bad at appreciating the diversity of beer (which you can read about in my other post about ‘Why don’t good restaurants offer decent beer’) but I think this one comes down to a case of what the majority classes as ‘beer’.

I think most people reading this blog would consider ‘beer’ as an all-encompassing term to define various styles. So, lager is beer, IPA is beer, Bock is beer, English Bitter is beer, Mild is beer, Amber Ale is beer, I think you get the picture. However I think that the confusion around the term, and possibly the reason the BBC chose to define the ingredient simply as ‘beer’, stems from the fact that a lot of normal* people think of two types of drink available from taps in the pub – ‘lager’ and ‘beer’. I’ve had said to me a few times something along the lines of “You’re a beer drinker not a lager drinker aren’t you?” and what is of course being implied is that I’m a “Bitter drinker” who likes beer from the old man handpulls. I nearly always let it go and say 'yes', despite the voice in my head shouting ‘imbeciles!’.

It’s a muddled and backwards way to define things because if Beer=Bitter then why do people still say “Fancy going for a beer?” when actually they mean lager?

My interpretation of the recipe I mentioned was that it required an English Bitter type beer such as the aforementioned Speckled Hen or London Pride, but for me the fact I could decipher it isn’t the point. It’s the UK beer industries job (and us as the commentators) to demystify the more complicated terms, explain that beer can mean anything from a lager to a porter, identify the differences and promote the diversity of flavours and styles.

Chefs and food writers aren’t blame free either; they’re doing a half-arsed job if they think ‘beer’ is a good enough descriptor of an ingredient. It promotes the view of beer as one dimensional, interchangeable, boring. What if I’d substituted braising steak for the ribeye? I assume that wouldn’t matter? Or French’s Hot Dog mustard instead of English? Next time just list the ingredients as “Beef, beer, mustard, salad, oil” and have done with it. Either that, or do your job properly, you’re meant to be the experts.

p.s. In case your wondering, “A pint of non-descript” is from a comedy sketch taking the piss out of Corrie/Eastenders which I vividly remember. Unfortunately Google is saying NO to its existence at present, meaning I’m either mental, or Google has failed. I'll let you decide which is more likely.

*'normal' was the best word I could think of, in this instance it simply means 'not a beer aficionado'

Breaded pork escalope with roasted new potatoes and chestnut mushroom sauce

Wednesday, March 09, 2011
I'm going to keep the recipes to a minimum on this blog because I'm a home cook and not a chef, and let's face it there are other people out there doing it bigger and better. However I wanted to share this recipe because it's something we eat all the time, it's really simple, and every single time I make it I love it. Plus it goes really well with the Fullers Bengal Lancer IPA I decided to crack open tonight.

Also, you may notice a lack of measurements. I'm not Delia, so it's tough I'm afraid. If it's anything that requires exact measurements I will try and say though.

(Serves 2) To make this you'll need:
  • 2 Lean Pork steaks - trimmed of fat and flattened to about 1cm thick with a meat mallet
  • 1 Egg
  • Flour
  • White breadcrumbs (either fresh or dried ones)
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Clove garlic
  • a good handfull of Chestnut mushrooms
  • Single cream
  • Butter
  • Sea Salt
  • Black pepper
Serve with:
  • Roasted new potatoes (toss in olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary then roast for about 40 mins at 200c)
  • Buttered green cabbage


1. If having the roast new potatoes with the pork then get them in the oven first and forget about them, they can't really go wrong.
2. Chop the onion and fry on a medium-low heat in a little butter and olive oil until soft.
3. Slice the chestnut mushrooms and add these to the onions along with a crushed clove of garlic and reduce heat to low.
4. Coat the flattened pork in flour, dip in the beaten egg, then coat in the breadcrumbs. Set aside.
5. Add about 150ml of single cream to the mushrooms, season with a little salt and lots of black pepper. Add another knob of butter to help thicken. (You can never have too much butter in this sauce!) Adjust the amount of cream if you want more or less sauce, but add more mushrooms and pepper aswell as it should be slightly thickened and rich with flavour. Leave to bubble on a low heat.
6. Shallow fry the the escalopes in veg oil (olive oil will burn) on a medium
-high heat for 2 minutes either side until golden brown. They will cook quite quickly as are fairly thin. Drain on kitchen roll
7. Serve with the potatoes and cabbage (or your choice of veg). With the sauce spooned over the edge of the escalope

I was going to be drinking the Bengal Lancer tonight anyway because it was in the fridge and I fancied it, but actually, it was a great match!

I'm not going to bother with a review as such because it's been around for long enough that I think you've probably tried it! All I'll say is it's a well balanced, british style IPA, with a nice hop bite and light bitterness, and a juicy background of malt. It's no hop bomb, but it's a great, clean, tasty, well balanced beer. Something Fullers do extremely well. Always, sparkling bright with great bottle conditioned carbonation, it's another nice beer from a consistently good brewery.

"Bitch Please" by 3 Floyds and BrewDog - plus Nerotype Single Hop Black IPA by SWB

Sunday, March 06, 2011
When I returned home on Saturday to a bare fridge that matched my empty stomach I felt safe in the knowledge I could take a short walk into town and treat my self to a perfectly cooked, thick-cut rump steak and chips from one of my favourite places in Leeds - Mr Foley's Cask Ale House. They serve proper, well cooked, reasonably priced pub grub and their rump steak is better than some I've paid twice as much for. At around £8 it's a total bargain. Washed down with a few pints of Wharfebank Wispa IPA it was just what the doctor ordered.

An added bonus was that I'd been exchanging tweets with Dean from Mr Foley's (
@mrfoleys) about Summer Wine Brewery's Nerotype Single Hop (Simcoe) Black IPA, and he offered to give me a little taster before it was put onto the bar. This beer blogging malarky has it's perks right?

Despite not having any head (served by gravity straight from the barrel with no beer engine or spinkler to churn it up) the beer looked fantastic, dark yet crystal clear. It's an unusual one this. It does have a slight smokeyness but mainly the aroma and flavour are dominated by big passionfruity simcoe hops,very aromatic like fresh mango, not hugely bitter but slightly dry in the finish. If you closed your eyes you could be forgiven for thinking you were drinking a regular IPA. Also very different to a hoppy porter, which I've heard some say Black IPA's are similar to, with the fruity hops making this instantly recognisable as an IPA, regardless of it's tint.

With a full belly and an afternoon to fill, myself and drinking companion decided a wander over to
North Bar was in order. Which is where things got really interesting...

I spotted it as soon as I walked in, a slapdash badge made up of half 3 Floyds Logo and half BrewDog, "this looks interesting..." After speaking to the ever reliable bar staff in North Bar I was told it was the "Bitch Please" Barley Wine that BrewDog made in collaboration with the famous (or infamous?) 3 Floyds Brewery from the US. I remembered hearing about this last year but never thought I'd get to try any having not seen the bottles on sale anywhere, and here was the even more special Rum Oak Barrel aged version on tap right in front of me. A rare find not to be missed, and it seemed my timing was perfect, my second half being the last pulled out of the keg and then, as they say, it was gone...

The video below explains the ingredients and brewing process much better than I ever could, so watch that, then have a read of what I thought of the finished beer.

BrewDog & Three Floyds: Bitch Please from BrewDog on Vimeo.

This a big, thick, full bodied, barley wine and it looks just that in the glass. It's very merky and dense with a definate unfiltered cloudy look to it, very little light gets through but the colour is deep brown with a red tinge at the edges. I'm a big supporter of flavour over crystal clarity, particularly in big beers like this, so if this is the way to get maximum flavour in to the beer I can forgive it being a bit cloudy. Plus it was served by keg so however it looks is pretty much as the brewers wants it, and these are two brewers I think can be trusted.

The smell is amazing. It's hugely sweet smelling with masses of toffee, shortbread, malt chocolate, molasses and treacle. I've had beers before that have claimed to have some whacky ingredients, only to have those flavours or aromas distinctly abscent from the finished product. Bitch Please is definately the other end of the spectrum, everything they've put in, you can clearly recognise.

The overrriding flavour is of sweet, rich, chewy toffee, complex biscuity malt and shortbread, with a slight vanilla note coming from the oak ageing I'd assume, and warmth from the alcohol (10.1%ABV if I remember rightly). A slight chocolate flavour comes in aswell but it's faint and rides alongside the malt more than being a standalone flavour like the toffee and shortbread. You can detect the rum a little as well, but not so much as other Rum Barrel aged beers I've tried, probably because this beer had so much flavour when it went in to the barrel that the Rum adds a hum rather than a wallop of boozy flavour.

Bitch Please is very thick and has a fantastic mouth coating texture that is genuinely a bit chewy, it's a term I hate seeing banded around as it stinks of pretention, but honestly in this case it is extremly apt. Amazingly for a beer of this strength it held a small, tight head right down to the bottom as well which is something I didnt expect. The finish is very long and drying with the hops only really coming through after the beer has left your mouth, which is perfect timing as it cleans your mouth of all that toffee ready for another chew.

It's an amazing achievement, a huge beer designed to be sipped, but that drinks extremely smoothly and easily, with a little alcohol warmth but no burn, and a huge amount of right-on-the-money flavours to pick up on. It's a contender to my long reigning champion " favourite big beer" Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, but luckily Bitch Please goes in a completely different direction in terms of style. A tricky decision well side stepped I'd say.

Back from The Land of Lager

Sunday, March 06, 2011
My week in Austria could never be described as a relaxing holiday; long days of snowboarding over the largest ski area in Europe, and evenings drinking copious quantities of local lager. (We also ate some excellent food provided by our chalet chef from Neilson, who are highly recommended). I'm more tired now then before I left, but wow, what a week. Knocks the socks of any boring old beach holiday if you ask me.

I took the picture to the left at the top of the Hohe Salve mountain near Soll, at 1829m. We had been boarding all day and decided to stop for one beer before the long and fairly difficult home run back into Soll. It's the one beer that stands out for me from the whole holiday - sat atop a mountain surrounded by snow, having a well earned pint with a group of good friends.

One thing which really made that particular bar special as well was the large, slowly rotating outdoor terrace, which means no matter where you sit you'll be unnoticeably transported to a spot with the perfect vista. A clever idea perfectly executed which means theres no need to fight for the seats with the best view, just sit down on the edge of the huge circle and by the time you've finished your beer you'll have been treated to that perfect postcard picture.

Maybe it was the view, the fact I was completely knackered, the company, or the fact someone else bought it... but it was the best beer I tasted all week. Oh and guest what? I forgot to go up to the bar and see what it was, typical.

I was having too much fun to even think about making notes, but like many of the great local lager I drank in Austria I remember it being softly carbonated (the crapper ones being overly fizzy), slightly metallic in a nice way, bright, sharp and very lightly hopped with a crisp refreshing finish. But to be honest, with a view like that who cares?

As fantastic as the week was, I really did miss the flavoursome range of beers we are treated to over here, and an afternoon in Mr Foleys and North Bar yesterday was just what the Doctor ordered. Some great beers, including a cheeky taste of the fantastic Summer Wine Brewery Nerotype straight from the cellar (thanks Dean @mrfoleys) and another beer which was super rare, and involves an innovator of the American Craft beer scene. Watch this space and I'll tell you all about it...