Red Hop Ales - The New Black (IPA)?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Well hopped, slightly US inspired red ales seem to be becoming more and more popular with UK breweries.

Examples are already out there; I wrote recently about Rapture from Magic Rock, and of course BrewDog's 5am Saint has always been a great beer (although technically it's an 'iconoclastic amber ale' but lets not split hairs...) even Hardknott's Infra Red could probably be cited as a current example, plus there's Rouge Hop from the ever reliable Summer Wine Brewery. Red ales as a style just have a fantastic depth of malt flavour that balances out heavy hopping really well, and you end up with a really tasty beer.

Perhaps Red is the new Black (IPA)? Maybe not, but I could definately see Red Hop Ales, or Hoppy Red Rye Ales, becoming something more and more breweries have a go at, because they are just so damn tasty.

In fact, it's quickly becoming a style that I actively seek out, to the point where if I had the choice between an IPA or a hoppy Red Ale from the same decent brewery I'd most likely choose the latter. Which, for a hop-head like me, is a dynamic shift.

A beer which I tried recently just about fits itself into this category, with a well-judged level of hopping riding on top of a complex red malt body, I'm talking about
Williams Bros Cock o' the Walk Scottish Red Ale.

Cock o' the walk pours a bright clear red colour, pure scarlet infact, which you can't really see from my picture. Low carbonation with a small head that receeded to a thin ring, that said the carbonation in the body is perfectly fine. Light, dry, citrus hops and a little wheat biscuit in the aroma, a hint of sweet berry fruit syrup as well.

The flavour is faint dark berry fruit, plenty of sweet malt, with a nice complexity of different malt flavours including a dry biscuit note. Then comes a nice dryness in the finish from the citrussy hops.

It's a really nice, well balanced beer with a hugely complex and satisfying array of malt flavours, and just enough hops to keep everything in check. The only thing I would say is it might actually benefit from being served on cask to give it a bit of extra mouthfeel, which was possibly the only thing lacking from the bottle version.

Also, it's definately a British style red ale rather than a super hopped US inspired version, but it still has enough juicy hop character to keep it firmly in the modern style 'red ale' category.

Modern ERA as opposed to ARA perhaps?

You can buy Williams Brothers Beers online via their online shop, or at MyBreweryTap.

Thanks to Williams Brothers for sending this through for review.

Why we've fallen in love with American Craft Beer

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
American craft beer is great. Not only has it inspired breweries like BrewDog, Thornbridge, Magic Rock, The Kernel, DarkStar, Marble and Summer Wine to push the boundaries of 'British Beer', but it's also vastly improved the bottled beer selection that's on offer over here. I mean sure we aren't drinking it quite as fresh as our trans-atlantic cousins, but damn those hops still taste good!

There was a great article on The Guardian website recently about American craft beer making inroads over here and for once i've been forced to agree with a national about beer; it is getting wider availability in the UK. A recent trip to The Stew & Oyster cemented my feeling that normal pubs and bars in the UK are starting to broaden their bottled beer horizens, and the perfect way to do that is with some tasty American craft beer. If we can get more pubs with good British cask beer on the bar, bottled US craft beer in the fridge, and maybe even some UK or US craft keg available too I'll be a very happy bunny.

So on to the beer that got me thinking about the US craft invasion, and how it's inspired and pushed forward breweries in the UK, Victory Hop Devil.

Victory Hop Devil is a great example of why I fell in love with American beer. It's the antithesis to boring beer. Bright, brash, bold, super hoppy, tasty and damn drinkable. It even looks a bit gaudy. I love it.

The beer pours a rich amber orange, very clear and clean but with a fairly thick hop haze and an ever so slight tinge of red, like someone's pippetted a single drop of cherry juice into the glass. The aroma is a mix of sharp citrus marmalade and pine resin, with a faint touch of caramel sweetness.

The flavour is initially slightly sweet and fruity with hints of orange and underripe mango, before it becomes extremely dry and bitter with a spicy, stinging attack of orange pith dryness, resinous pine and just masses of complex hop bitterness, in the finish there's also a faint edge of sweet Cointreau booze from the medium-high (in US terms) 6.7% ABV.

The hop flavour of this beer is the star of the show, and there's a nice balance between orange peel, grapefruit and loads of pine that combine to create a huge onslaught of complex bitterness. Its got that classic American IPA flavour, more resinous than floral, with a herbacious spiciness rather than the um bongo fruityness that hop forward British IPA's like Punk display. Maybe it's the fact these hops have had chance to settle but you get a lot more spicy, resinous hop flavour and bitterness than you do fruitiness and aroma with these American craft beers.

It's not a new beer (brewed since 1999), but it's one that most British beer drinkers won't have tried, and as an inroad to big American IPA's it's not a bad place to start. Available from Beer Ritz in Leeds (if your quick), and often from the online retailers such as AlesByMail, MyBreweryTap and BeerMerchants.

Give it a try, and long may the invasion continue!

The best beer garden in Leeds just got better

Monday, June 27, 2011
Leeds has a distinct lack of nice beer gardens in the City Centre. Headingley has The Oak, which is huge and has a friendly, frivolous atmosphere and a few standard ales on, but Leeds centre is a bit lacking. There's always Millenium Square, but on a sunny day Wetherspoons is always rammed full of idiots and All Bar One is fine if you want to please a mixed group, with some people wanting cocktails and things like that, but not really a 'beer garden'.

So what are your options? Well
The Adelphi gets the sun for a good proportion of the day on it's ad-hoc beer terrace out front, but with cars whizzing past a few metres away it's hardly idyllic, even if the beer selection is usually very good. There's always The Cross Keys and The Midnight Bell but they are a bit enclosed, which is great for sun bathing but not so good for leisurely drinking, and the view certainly leaves something to be desired.

So, where then?

The place you should be heading when the sun is shining in Leeds City Centre and you want a decent beer is The Stew & Oyster, aka The Calls Landing. The small yet perfectly formed outdoor area overlooks the river and on a sunny day like Saturday is simply stunning, with a light wind blowing through the terraced seating area and couples and groups sharing food and drinks merrily it feels like being on the River in France or Spain, certainly not West Yorkshire.

One niggle that I mentioned about the
Stew & Oyster previously was that their cask beer selection can be a touch samey, and was often served a touch too cold. Well I'm pleased to say my visit on Saturday has well and truly put these worries to bed.

The house ale has changed from the slightly dull Theakstons bitter to a new 3.9% 'Stew & Oyster' pale ale brewed by Ossett Brewery, which will be permanently available alongside one or two other beers from local breweries. On this occasion the other cask beer on offer was a 4.5%
'White Rose Wheat', also from Ossett. I went for the house ale and found it to be a solid, citrus hopped session pale with a really refreshing dry finish, and served at a perfect cool-but-not-cold temperature. An ideal beer garden beer!

The bottled beer selection has also gone up a notch. In addition to the staples such as Duvel and Brooklyn Lager that they've always had, some new beers were now in stock such as Anchor Summer Ale, Goose Island IPA and loads more American craft brews.

The food menu has also been extended with bruschetta and anti-pasti plates added for some summer freshness, alongside the excellent oysters and consistently delicious stews (I had the beef chilli with roast peppers and chunky smoked bacon on Saturday and it was as good as ever). They don't do a great deal, but what they do, they do extremely well. Simple, tasty, reasonably priced food that goes perfetcly with the excellent drinks menu.

The service at The Stew & Oyster has always been good, but what I thought was particularly refreshing on this occasion was that as soon as we sat down outside a barman came over and asked if we'd like to order some drinks - we aksed what cask beer was on and ordered appropriately with no money changing hands, and as our glasses emptied we were politely asked if we would like anything else. An hour or so later, and after a few drinks and a bite to eat, we asked for the bill which arrived promptly, paid and was on our way in a matter of minutes without the need to even step inside the building. Continental style relaxed-yet-efficient table service, in a UK beer garden. How many places have you been to recently with service like that?

As I looked around at the group of girls carefully pouring Anchor beers and chatting over a plate of shared anti-pasti, the young lads laughing over pints of pale ale and the old couple smiling to each other whilst carefully sipping their glasses of Bacchus Cherry Kriek, I thought how there's no place I'd rather be on a sunny day.

Good beer, good food, friends, conversation and sunshine. A perfect combination in a perfect setting.


Tasted and tested: The Magic Rock beers

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Last night was the official launch of Magic Rock Brewing at The Grove in Huddersfield, and what a night it was.

Most breweries do a 'soft launch'; with their new beers slowly making it into different pubs and beer bars as they begin to spread the word, and build up a loyal following over a few months or even years. Magic Rock on the other hand took a leaf out of the BrewDog book of Marketing, and decided to kickoff the brewery with a wollop rather than a whisper, inviting anyone and everyone to come and try their brand new beers fresh from their fledging brewery. The potential pitfall of this strategy of course is that once you've got everybody's attention you run the risk of the beers not living up to the expectation, in other words, not fulfilling your own hype.

However I'm very pleased to announce that this wasn't the case in any way, shape or form when it comes to Magic Rock. These beers deliver.

The place was absolutely packed and there was a genuine buzz in the air, with a heady mix of beer geeks, bloggers, brewers, beery Biebers (see @GroveBri's twitter for clues) and slightly bewildered old regulars, all mixing together happily and discussing, assessing and most importantly enjoying the fantastic range of beers from Magic Rock.

I did what everybody did for my first pint and went for the session strength
"Curious" Pale Ale 3.9% - which was so good the first cask went in 30 minutes and at one point there was a 12 pint queue.

"Curious" has that quenching, juicy-yet-bitter citrus hop flavour that great session strength pales like Hawkshead's Windermere Pale or Ilkley Mary Jane achieve, along with just a hint of sweetness and a finish which is bitter yet balanced, making it very drinkable. I spoke to Rich from Magic Rock briefly at the event and remember saying to him that I could see this beer selling like crazy. With a mix of drinkability, flavour and relatively low ABV it's exactly what most cask drinkers are looking for in a beer.

Next up was the beer I'd been looking forward to most, the
"Rapture" Red Hop Ale 4.6%. The taste definately lived up to my hopes and this was by far my favourite beer of the night, and the beer I chose to buy a second pint of when I only had time for one more before my train back to Leeds. Which in itself says a lot.

"Rapture" hits you with a big juicy smack of fruity orange peel hops, which combine with a stewed fruit, raisin and mixed berry malt body to create a hugely satisfying beer. It's also got a very slight chocolate note - that fruity, juicy flavour you sometimes get with really high quality, 70+ cocoa dark chocolate. For me the berry pushes through stronger than the chocolate though, and combined with the strong hop profile makes Rapture remind me a little of BrewDog's 5am Saint, which I hope the Magic Rock guys will take as the compliment it's intended.

My third beer of the evening was the "High Wire" West Coast Pale Ale 5.5%. If "Curious" is the beer that regular cask drinkers will lap up then "High Wire" is definately the beer bar staple, where the regulars won't touch anything under 5% ABV this is going to be a winner.

"High Wire" was the one beer that wasn't quite what I expected. Slightly lighter and more balanced than I thought, making it hugely drinkable. I think I was expecting a sort of mini AIPA, but actually this is a true West Coast Pale, with mango and a touch of passionfruit hop flavour sitting atop a lightly bitter body and just a hint of crisp malt, it finishes bitter and clean, and is another great beer.

Last, but by no means least, was a half of the
"Cannonball" IPA 7.4%. Unlike the other three beers this one was, in my opinion quite rightly, being served on key keg with an added spritz of carbonation and an ever so sligthly cooler serving temp. It was initially pouring a bit frothy, which someone mentioned to me could be down to the fact that the key keg hadn't been racked upside down. I've got no idea if this is correct or not, so don't shoot the messenger if it's way off the mark.

By the time I bought my half the beer was pouring perfectly, obviously just some first night jitters, and my doubts were pushed aside after the first sniff. Wow that's a good smelling beer! It's got a sweetly floral, fruity aroma from the dry hopping, with tropical mango, orange pith, passionfruit (Nelson Sauvin?), lime citrus and a little pine resin all coming through, even before you take a sip. The taste is a continuation of the smell, but there's also a slightly unexpected amount of sweetness that acts well to balance out the onslaught of bitterness that your palate is bracing itself for. It's a very rich beer, with a definate slickness to the mouthfeel similar to something like Sierra Nevada's Torpedo IPA, which again highlights the amount US Craft beer has to play in the flavour of Magic Rock's brews.

So there you have it, four great beers from a brand spanking new brewery, how often can you say that?

I'll hopefully be getting my hands on some of Magic Rock's bottled beers soon too and will let you know what they are like compared to their cask and keg cousins, so keep your eyes peeled.

On a final point, we all commented on how much we liked the branding, particularly the frankly beautiful pumpclips, and it's reassuring to find out for myself that the beers match up to the hype. No amount of eye catching branding or social media marketing (both of which are good things for a brewery to do) will cover up bad beer, and I couldn't be happier to say that this is one brewery that have the full package, and certainly can't be accused of style over substance. The fact is, their just lucky enough to have both.

Visit Magic Rock's website here for the latest information on where to buy their beers, although an obvious place to start is of course

Magic Rock Brewing launch at The Grove, Huddersfield

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
This is just a quick reminder to anybody living near Huddersfield that the launch night for Magic Rock Brewing happens this evening at The Grove; it's the first place you'll be able to try their brand spanking new brews before the bottles even hit the shelves.

On the bar tonight there will be: Curious 3.9% “Original Pale Ale”, Rapture 4.6% “Red Hop Ale” and High Wire 5.5% “West Coast Pale Ale” on cask, as well as the formiddable 7.4% IPA Cannonball available on keg.

The Grove is a fantastic pub even on a normal night and well worth a visit, with an umbelievably good range of ever changing beers, a well stocked craft beer bottle fridge, and surprisingly cheap prices for what you're getting. It's just a cracking pub.

Magic Rock Brewing are for me a really exciting new company because they brew unashamedly brash beers inspired by the US craft beer scene. The range looks fantastic - hop forward and jam packed full of flavour with some interesting styles such as the aforementioned Rapture Red Hop Ale I featured in my
Ten Great Beers from West Yorkshire piece on The Culture Vulture.

Of course the proof of the beer is in the drinking, so why not take this opportunity to try them for yourself? Plus, I'll be there so come over and say hi!

Grilled meats and uncomplicated beer

Monday, June 20, 2011
Sometimes it's nice to get back to basics. Food made using high quality ingredients, cooked simply but with care, and washed down with tasty uncomplicated beer, it's the reason we all love BBQ's and it's exactly the reason I love Cirrik in Richmond.

Cirrik is a Turkish grill and meze restaurant, where the fare consists of various types of rustic spicy stews and a huge selection of charcoal grilled meats such as succulent lamb koftes, which are lightly spiced, still slightly pink, and specked with mint, or charred chicken shish kebabs served with a squeeze of lemon. It's food that's big on flavour and low on pretense.

You can have any type of beer you want, as long as it's a Turkish Efes. Which is just fine with me, Efes is a perfectly decent pale lager ('Pilsen' on the bottle, but to be honest lager is a better descriptor) that does it's job of washing down the meal well and actually has a fairly malty body and an edge of hop bitterness to keep things interesting enough. It won't bowl you over, but it's still better than a lot of macro lagers. Most importantly it reminds me of holidaying in Turkey, eating charcoal wraps on the beach and trying to persuade myself that a bottle of water would serve me a better than a beer. Leigh did a post a while ago about Mythos, and how it reminds him of holidays in Greece, and I'd say Efes and Cirrik have exactly the same effect on me.

There was five of us eating so we ordered a few different starters and a mixed meze to share, with the grilled fresh sardines being my favourite of the lot. Very carefully cooked, with crispy skin and really soft well cooked meat that was lightly seasoned and served with a lemon wedge. It was perfect and I could've eaten a dozen of them. The other dishes were also really good and the cold mezze, which came with some Turkish flat breads too, was great for using as a sauce platter with the other dishes. We kept it in the middle of the table and dipped into it during our mains as well.

And what a main it was. I went for the frankly huge mixed grill dish which consists of a large skewer of lamb shish, chicken shish, lamb kofte, chicken kofte, and a spiced lamb chop. The lamb was the highlight in all it's forms, with a shish that was slightly pink and lightly spiced, meltingly tender and utterly delicious. As well as that the kofte is one of the best I've ever had, not overcooked and again slightly pink in the centre, it was full of flavour and rightfully minty with lots of fresh herb running right through the meat. The lamb chop was huge, thick, and delicious, and the chicken in both its forms was smoky, charred, yet beautifully juicy and tender - a hard thing to achieve. Served with a refreshing vinegary salad and plain rice it was fantastic. Simple food like this has nowhere to hide; if any element is below par it stands out like a sore thumb, but thankfully this meal was nothing but thumbs up. Highly reccomended.

Cirrik isn't cheap, my main was £15, but it is delicious and all the meat is really good quality. If you have a Taste Card you get 50% off all food making it really reasonable, which is what we did (you can get a months trial for free here by simply giving them your name and address, no card details involved). I also had some 'good beer' elsewhere over the course of the weekend, not to mention some pretty shocking beer as well... but more on that later I think.

Pan fried thyme chicken with baked mushroom risotto - matched with Saison Dupont

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I love risotto. There's something hugely satisfying about the creamy, soothing oozyness of it that just screams out comfort food. My favourite has got to be mushroom risotto, and thankfully it's the flavour most likely to be found on a restaurant's menu for the simple reason that it's a classic combo that's hard to beat.

The thing that puts some people off cooking risotto themselves though is all that stirring, waiting for ladle after ladle of hot stock to be absorbed by the rice as it becomes increasingly creamy over the course of 20-30 minutes. This recipe does away with that all together, and yet the results are fantastic.

Served with a sliced pan fried chicken breast finished with butter and thyme, and a garnish of dressed rocket, it's a satisfying and impressive meal that is really easy to make.

To make this you'll need
(Serves 2 with leftover risotto for lunch!)
  • 300g of risotto rice (Arborio)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 700ml hot chicken stock
  • 25g butter
  • 100g fresh chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • Roughly 10g of dried porcini mushrooms (steeped in hot water for at least 10 mins then squeezed out)
  • 50g Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 25g butter
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Rocket

How to make the dish
  • Soften the chopped onion in a little olive oil and the first 25g butter
  • Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute
  • Add the fresh mushrooms and the drained dried mushrooms (DO NOT throw away the water from the dried mushrooms) fry for a few minutes until lightly coloured
  • Pour in the rice and stir until coated in the butter, garlic, onion and mushroom. Toast the rice in the pan for a minute until the husks turn slightly translucent and begin to crack.
  • Pour in 700ml of stock (Use the mushroom water and combine with homemade stock or a decent chicken stock cube and water. The total amount of liquid needs to be 700ml exactly though)
  • Stir and make sure no rice is stuck to the pan.
  • Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook in a preheated oven at 200*C for 20 minutes.
  • Once the risotto has been in for about 10 minutes start cooking the chicken.
  • Season the chicken with salt an pepper and cook in a fry pan with a little olive oil onamedium heat. Roughly 8-10minutes.
  • When the chicken is cooked add a good knob of the butter to thepan and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Let the butter bubble and spoon the herby butter over the chicken until it starts to turn brown. Slide the pan off the heat and leave to rest while you finish the risotto.
  • Remove the risotto from the oven and (providing it is cooked to your liking) add a good knob of butter and 50g of freshly grated parmesan and stir to combine.
To serve

Spoon the risotto into the centre of large plates or wide pasta dishes and top with the chicken breast (sliced thickly on a diagonal - it makes it easier to eat), then spoon over the chicken's resting juices and thyme butter and top with a small amount of rocket dressed with a little oil and vinegar.

Beer match

To go with this I chose Saison Dupont. It's a classic saison that has a herbal, aromatic, savoury edge that matches well with the thyme and mushrooms, but it also has plenty of bitterness and a citrussy hop flavour which, combined with a high level of carbonation, helps to cut through the creaminess of the risotto and the richness of the herb butter and golden pan fried chicken. In other words, I think it works really well.

To be fair, saison and mushroom risotto is a pretty classic combo so this one was pretty much a no-brainer. I'd urge you to give it a go, and of course let me know what you think.

Hangover Breakfasts: Soft Cure Chorizo and Grana Padano Omelette

Monday, June 13, 2011

I was lured into a fall sense of security by Brooklyn Lager on Saturday night. It's balance and drinkability doing little to quell the onslaught of ABV's that were flooding my system, and which in hindsight did much to contribute to my fragility on Sunday morning.

Feeling a little green in the cheeks I decided a hangover busting mix of salt and protein was just what the doctor ordered, all washed down by a pint pot sized mug of tea of course. My weapon of choice was a favourite of mine - the Chorizo omelette.

To make this you need three medium-large free range eggs (yes it does matter, free range taste better and cost about 20p more for a box of six, don't be tight) one thumb sized piece of soft cooking Chorizo, a dash of milk, salt, pepper and parsley.

I buy nearly all of my cured meat from a butchers in Halifax Market (I live in Leeds, work in Halifax) who have a fantastic range of imported produce at frankly obscenely cheap prices. Seriously, £1.69 per 100g of Parma Ham!? It's also delicious to boot, which helps.

This recipe works best with the short, soft chorizo that is designed to be cooked with rather than the harder, stronger tasting version which is more common. If you look at the photo you can see the soft type is top left in short beads whereas the harder version is at the bottom. The soft version is cheaper but thats because it's not as dry, so you use it in cooking a bit like a normal pork sausage.

To make the omelette
  • Pre-heat the grill to high
  • Slice one thumb sized soft Chorizo sausage into thick slices, then in half again to create half moon shapes, fry on a medium heat in a little olive oil until crisp (use a small to medium sized non-stick frying pan). Drain a little of the excess oil but leave enough to thinly cover the bottom of the pan as this will help the omelette from sticking, plus it's full of flavour.
  • Whisk your room temperature eggs (don't keep your eggs in the fridge!) with a dash of milk, season with pepper only, then pour into the pan.
  • Allow the eggs to set slightly for about 30 seconds then begin to push the edges into the centre until there's no more liquid running into the gaps but the top is still very runny.
  • Grate a small amount of Grana Padano cheese (Parmesan would also work) onto the top while its still wet.
  • Place under the hot grill until the Omelette starts to Souffle up and and the cheese melts. It won't take long so keep an eye on it.
  • Slide it out of the pan and fold on to a warm plate, season to taste (remember that the cheese and Chorizo are both salty) then sprinkle a small bunch of chopped Parsley over the top and serve.

Notes on this recipe:

The Parsley might seem like a poncy addition but trust me it's not, it really adds freshness to the dish and compliments the spice of the chorizo perfectly - in a dish with so few ingredients it's a vital component. Also, as you may have noticed this is a simplified version of a Souffle Omelette, in that the omelette is finished under the grill and allowed to fluff up. The traditional way to cook a normal three egg omelette is with the centre still slightly runny but this is designed as a hangover dish, and lets be honest, who can face runny uncooked egg on a hangover? Grana Padano and Parmesan are both mature hard cheeses so you don't need much to get good flavour, and they are used more as seasoning than an ingredient in this dish - i.e. don't overdo it with the cheese!

I'm hoping to run 'Hangover Breakfasts' as a sort of mini-series of blog posts, so keep your eyes peeled for future installments if you like the look of this, and as ever please comment if you give the recipe a go and let me know what you thought!

The Results: Does a beer glass really affect flavour?

Friday, June 10, 2011
I ran a poll last week about whether the glass a beer is served in really affects its flavour or aroma, or both. I purposefully didn't say what I thought as I didn't want to lead people into voting in a certain way. The results, as you can see on the left, were really interesting.

Not one person voted for "No. I don't mind what glass is used" when asked the question "Does the glass a beer is served in affect its flavour?" This surprised me, but also bolstered my faith in the readers of this blog as a discerning bunch!

Also interesting is that there is an even split between the two answers: "Yes. It affects its aroma." and "Yes. It affects its flavour and aroma."

With the answer "No. But I prefer a nice glass." Coming close behind. I asked people to put the psychological effects of the glass aside for the survey, but this answer was there for people who thought the only effect of a glass on the drinking experience is psychological.

Firstly, this reinforced my view that many people don't think that a fancy glass affects the beer at all, but appreciate the psychological affect a visually appealing glass has on your overall experience of the beer. Branding of course ties into this, and psychologically I prefer drinking a pint of Punk IPA from a branded BrewDog straight sided pint glass rather than a normal, old style nonic pint glass, even though in terms of affect on the beer they are pretty much equal.

So on to the important question, which of the answers would I have given? Well first of all, I'm not claiming to be the expert here, or to give a completely difinitive answer. This is very much a discussion and if you agree, or don't, please comment below. That said, I would have voted for "Yes. It affects its flavour and aroma." But I also think that the people who answered "Yes. It affects its aroma." were, strictly speaking also correct. But I'll get to why in a bit, first lets look at what the glass shape physically does to the beer.

I believe the shape of a glass mainly affects the beer in two ways: It dictates how the head on the beer forms, and it controls how much of the volatile compounds in the beer escape in the form of aroma.

The glass shape can affect how the beers head is formed in a number of ways, take for for example the well known dumpy tulip Duvel glass pictured left: The extreme tulip shape first pushes the bubbles in the head together, forcing any large bubbles to burst but smaller bubbles to pack tighter together, giving a smooth tight head. The shape then opens back up at the top giving the head something to 'sit' on top of, helping the head to stick around.

This is important as the head itself releases a lot of the aroma, which makes sense when you think about the increased surface area that the frothy head has compared to the flat surface of beer itself. It's mostly the hop aromas that come through in the head but often the head tastes dry and hoppy in itself, showing a beer with a head does taste different to one without (Lets not get into a debate over sparklers, i.e. the north/South divide here!)

As I mentioned, the glass shape can also effect how much of the volatile compounds in the beer escape as aroma. A wide brimmed glass allows more surface area for the beers aroma to escape, and something like a snifter glass (like a big brandy glass) allows you to swirl the beer to release more of the aroma. It has also been argued that a brandy snifter allows the volatile compounds to escape the beer but then 'traps them' inside the brim which is relatively narrow compared to the main body of the glass. Although I have to say I'm dubious that this is possible. Anyone got a suggestion on this?

Ok, so you may be thinking now that the glass just affects how the head is formed and how much aroma is released from the beer, and doesn't affect flavour at all, right?

Well, in my opinion, no. Because flavour and aroma are so intrinsically linked that it is impossible to seperate the two when drinking. (Which is why I earlier mentioned that I think both answers 1 and 2 are strictly speaking correct.) Try drinking a beer with a peg on your nose and tell me what it tastes like. Not alot right?

What I'm getting at is that as well as smelling the beer before you sip it, the aroma affects how the beer tastes during your sip. The aroma comes in as you breathe, and even circulates through your nasal cavity from the inside as you swallow. The aroma is hugely important to the overall flavour of your beer, and thats why serving your beer in the right glass which will showcase it's flavour is much more than simply branding, or a psycholigcal benefit. It's the way that brewers deliver their vision of what their beer should taste like.

So please, respect the glass people!

I've tried to keep this as readable and "un-sciencey" as possible, but please if you have any further info feel free to comment below and add to the discussion.

Buxton Brewery: Axe Edge and English Pale Ale

Wednesday, June 08, 2011
I attended a 'Buxton takeover' at North Bar in Leeds recently and got the chance to try four of their beers on cask in one evening, a rare treat in itself, but the thing I enjoyed most about the event was the chance to chat with some guys from the brewery and hear the passion they've got for what they do. These guys know their stuff, and are trying to make the best beer they can, which is a recipe for great beer if ever I heard one.

I also got the chance to pick up some bottles from the brewery. So first up from this brewery are a pair of very different bottle conditioned pales: An English hopped pale ale and an internationally hopped IPA.

The English Pale Ale from Buxton pours a slightly hazy Amber orange with a bubbly White head that laces the glass and clings around. The carbonation is very soft, the closest thing to cask you'll get in a bottled beer. Really mouth filling and lushly thick like a good hand pulled cask beer. In fact this beer has a very cask ale feel to it in general, which I mean as a great compliment, as it definitely suits the style and completely sidesteps the boringness of some British style pales.

The aroma is soft but the closest thing I can get is orange caramel wafers, not overly fruity, just a faint dry orangyness. The flavour is much stronger, with sweet orange and a little bit of herbaceous/orange wheat character initially then comes a big waft of really complex hop character, mixed citrus peel and a huge dryness which is floral and spicy like fresh oregano, as well as grapefruit pith and a very slight limoncello alcohol flavour right at the end. There's al
so a slightly odd smoky note but it disappears when you look for it, it's both there and not there - like Schrodinger's cat. This beer was brewed as a showcase for English hops and it achieves its aim perfectly.

It's a very complicated beer but also very drinkable, one you can pay attention to and enjoy exploring or simply sit back and enjoy.

This pours a thick, hazy deep orange colour, with a small head that dissipates to a thick ring but sticks around.

This smells massively fruity with a big aroma of grapefruit and sweet orange, really inviting. The flavour is a nice balance of sweetness and tartness, with orange and grapefruit flavour following through from the aroma plus a touch of lime and a faint dry oatmeal biscuit note. It becomes even more dry as you swallow but its not that huge crippling dryness that some double IPAs display.

All in all it remains pretty balanced for the style. There's a slight alcohol slickness to the mouthfeel and a definate warmth but no burn or harshness and unless you look for it the ABV is hidden well. It's a lovely double IPA thats really drinkable and super tasty, what more could you want?

Buxton beers do something very difficult. They are both complex and hugely drinkable. You can concentrate and enjoy the depth of flavour, or simply sit back, drink them and enjoy. Which is exactly what I'll be doing with the next bottle of either of these little lovelies.

Leigh at Good Stuff, Zak from Are You Tasting The Pith? and Reluctant Scooper also really liked the Buxton beers they tried and all are well worth a read.

I was kindly passed a few bottles by the guys at Buxton during the North Bar event, but you can buy their beers from a number of places around the country, some of which are listed here:

If you live in Leeds then Beer Ritz have Buxton beers in stock too.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas

Monday, June 06, 2011
Jerk chicken with rice and peas is one of my favourite dishes full stop. The combination of spicy, salty, herby jerk chicken with coconutty Jamaican rice and peas is a match made in heaven, and something which is ridiculously easy to make at home.

Most people have tried jerk chicken or something similar, but for those who haven't had rice and peas before I'll tell you what it isn't. It isn't a boring mix of plain rice and green peas; it's a marriage of garlic, onion, herbs, seasoning, coconut milk, basmati rice and mixed beans that is far more than simply an accompanyment to the chicken - it's a joy in itself and something to be respected.

With that out of the way, on to the recipe.

To make this you'll need:
(Serves 4 hungry people)

Jerk Chicken
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 scotch bonnet chilli finely chopped (take out the seeds and white pith if you want less heat)
  • 1 Thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 Small bunch fresh thyme (about two tsp) leaves only
  • 1 tsp freshly ground rock salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 100ml white wine vinegar
  • 100ml dark soy sauce
  • Grated rind and juice 1 lime
  • 2 tsp Jamaican Hot Pepper Sauce (such as Encona)
  • 2 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 4-6 chicken legs (Thigh and drumstick together)
Rice and peas
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 300ml basmati rice
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 400ml water (use the empty coconut milk can)
  • 400g can of Jamaican beans and peas, drained
  • Small bunch fresh thyme (about two tsp) leaves only
  • 1 Scotch Bonnet whole (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve
  • Green salad, coleslaw, extra hot pepper sauce
A Note on ingredients:

Most supermarkets have a 'World Foods' section where you can find all the ingredients you'll need. Buy the cheapest jamaican coconut milk they have (it's going to be absorbed anyway so 'thick and creamy coconut cream' is a waste), and use jamaican mixed peas and beans rather than just kidney beans if possible. If you can't be bothered making the jerk seasoning then I can recommend the 'Tropical' Jerk Seasoning - combined with a bit of olive oil, soy sauce and lime juice it does a pretty good job. Just don't add any salt as it's pretty salty already.


  1. Gently fry the onion and ginger in a good glug of olive until soft, then add the garlic and chilli fry for another minute.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about half. Leave aside to cool slightly
  3. Make some slices into the chickens flesh and then place into a large zip seal bag. Pour in the cooled jerk marinade, seal, then move the chicken around until well coated and put in the fridge to marinade (overnight is best, but for an absolute minimum of 30 minutes)
  4. After marinading pour the whole lot into a large lasagne dish and turn so the chicken is skin side up. Cook in a preheated oven at 200*c for about 40 minutes or until cooked through.
  5. While the chicken is cooking prepare the ingredients for the rice and peas.
  6. Gently fry the onion in a good glug of vegetable oil until soft, then add the crushed garlic and fry for another minute.
  7. Add the basmati rice and stir around in the pan until coated in the oil, onions and garlic.
  8. Shake the coconut milk can, then pour into the rice pan.
  9. Refill the empty coconut milk can with water and pour over the rice.
  10. Add the drained peas & beans, fresh thyme, plenty of salt and pepper, and the whole scotch bonnet if using (I don't use it as Colette prefers the rice mild, but it is more traditional to leave it in. Just DO NOT chop it!)
  11. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer with a lid on for 20-25 minutes or until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed and the rice is cooked. Season to taste before serving.
  12. Serve with a fresh green salad, coleslaw, and a bottle of hot sauce for any chilli heads who may be dining.
This tastes fantastic cooked in the oven but is also a perfect BBQ dish, with the smoke adding to the intense flavour of the chicken. Plus the rice and peas will stay warm for ages with the lid on, and tastes nearly as good served cold!

My ideal choice of beer to match with this would be something like a Boch, in fact the Anchor
Bock would be perfect if served nice and cool, but I didn't have one in the fridge when the food was ready so another Anchor beer, Liberty Ale, stepped in instead. A pretty good match it was too.

Anchor Liberty Ale is a dry hopped beer made with top fermenting ale yeast, resulting in a fantastic balance between a base of clean malt and really nice floral hops. It's very aromatic tasting with slight herbal flavours at the end where it becomes dry with floral, perfumed hops. This works well with the Thyme used in the chicken and rice, but the beers clean flavour and champagne like carbonation also help to cut through the richness of the dish. That said, it's not over the top and is hugely drinkable with a definite English sense of balance to it. Who said American beers were one dimensional?

Overall this is a balanced, refreshing beer that you could drink loads of, and one which would pair well with a mulitude of spiced, barbecue style dishes including this jerk chicken.