Leeds Brewery Saison: A beer for beginners?

Thursday, July 28, 2011
Saison is a beer style that I’m not an expert in. I’ve tried a few different ones such as the classic Saison Dupont, the quirky little Saison Silly, Pepe Nero Dark Saison from Goose Island and the UK brewed Saison by the ever reliable DarkStar, but I’m still getting my head around what this beer style is all about. What I’ve drank I’ve largely enjoyed, but much like Olives, Oysters and Espresso, Saison takes some time to win you over – but once it does, you’re in love.

Zak Avery wrote
an interesting blog post recently about Saison - in fact he was responding to Rob from HopZine, who was responding to someone else...which means I’m now partially responding to someone, who was responding to someone else, about them responding to someone else, but lets just put that aside for now.

Essentially Zak was saying how Saison will never become as popular and well known as something like a Citra Hopped Pale as it’s just too complicated, unusual and challenging, and that “Saison is the riesling of the wine world - loved by those in the know and in the trade, but largely ignored by everyone else.” It’s a beer which is loved by connoisseurs, but has an unapproachable sourness, mustiness and herbal quality which is so Alien to most drinkers it acts as a barrier for all but the most well honed palates. Which is why I was more than a little surprised when I heard that Leeds Brewery were producing a summer Saison with fresh Rosemary at their Brewery Tap Microbrewery (it’s upstairs, inside the pub, behind a big glass wall for customers to see on their way back from the loo).

Leeds Brewery make tasty, solid, but fairly unimaginative beers that very much cater for the local market. Their pale ale seems a little toothless compared to the competition, their Best is decent but definitely traditional, and their Midnight Bell Dark Mild is actually rather good. Brewing a Saison seems distinctly out of character, but maybe it’s a good sign of things to come as I’ve also spotted Tweets about a collaboration coffee beer brewed with the help of the truly fantastic Laynes Espresso based right next door to The Brewery Tap.

So finally I get to the beer itself. What was it like? Well, like much of Leeds Brewery’s output it was tasty but totally uninspiring, with very little estery quality and little in the way of that typical Saison mustiness.

There is however a big rosemary aroma on top of biscuity malt, a faint whiff of hops but mostly all you get is a herb garden. The flavour delivers more rosemary, a sweet malt flavour and a twang of yeasty sourness as well as a white pepper and clove bite. It remains refreshing though and the finish is herbal and dry with bitter spicyness from the hops and a strong rosemary aftertaste. It's a decent beer that tastes much bigger than it's 3.5% abv would suggest. That said you could still quaff a fair few of these in one go if it was served with a bit less gas and at a more appropriate temperature, i.e. not freezing cold and fizzy to the point of being foamy.

Also, £3.70 a pint for a 3.5% beer is definitely a touch high, but looking around at the guys in suits drinking their tall thin pints of pricy Leodis lager, I don’t think Leeds will have much trouble on that front.

International IPA Day - Mr Foley's full beer list

Wednesday, July 27, 2011
For the benefit of those who don’t follow me, or pretty much any other beer blogger, on Twitter; I’ll start off by letting you know that there’s a genuinely exciting beery event happening next week called International IPA Day.

Thursday the 4th August is set to be a celebration of the much loved beer style India Pale Ale and its importance in the "Craft Beer Revolution". Started by a handful of bloggers in America it has quickly spread across the beer drinking World, predominantly via the power of social media and without the involvement of the traditional press or any corporate sponsors. Anyone can get involved, and everyone’s invited - A truly grassroots movement.

One of Leeds best pubs,
Mr Foley’s on The Headrow, is getting involved and serving a huge range of IPA’s from keg, cask and bottle to delight the taste buds of Leeds drinkers, as well as some talks from a number of brewers serving beer at the event and two of Leeds finest Beer Bloggers – Zak Avery and Mark Fletcher.
There’s even talk of some curry to go with this historically Anglo-Indian beer-style, which is quite frankly a happy bonus!

If you want to read more about IPA Day then visit the
event page, or search the hash tag #IPADay on Twitter. I’ll be there on the day and Tweeting throughout, so follow me at @EisntCNeil for a live rundown of what’s tasting good.

As you can see from the list below Mr Foley’s have secured some really special beers for the event, lots of exciting new brews such as Summer Wine Brewery '7C's of Rye', Magic Rock Brewery 'Human Cannonball', and Thornbridge Brewery 'RyePA'. A few exclusive beers you won’t find anywhere else such as Brewdog’s 'Hello, My Name Is Ingrid', which was brewed solely for the Swedish Market and Roosters Brewery 'Underdog IPA' which was produced especially for #IPADay at Mr Foley’s. Add to that a dedicated fridge containing 13 different bottled and canned IPA’s from the UK and USA and you’ve got an event with more hops than a bag of bunnies.

Mr Foley’s #IPADay - Full Beer List - UPDATED WITH PRICES (Pint/Half)


Magic Rock ‘Human Cannonball’ 9.2% £5.50/£2.75
Summer Wine ‘7C’s of Rye’ 7% £3.20/1.60
Brewdog ‘Hardcore IPA’ 9.2% £5.00/£2.50
Brewdog ‘Hello, My Name Is Ingrid’ 8.5% £5.00/£2.50


Thornbridge ‘Geminus’ 8.5% £3.50/£1.75
Buxton ‘Axe Edge’ 6.8% £3.30/£1.65
Kirkstall ‘Dissolution IPA’ 5% £3.00/£1.50
Roosters ‘Underdog IPA’ 5% £3.00/£1.50
Red Willow ‘Peerless’ 5.2% £3.00/£1.50
Hardknott ‘Code Black’ 5.6% £3.10/£1.55


Odell ‘Myrcenary IPA’ 8.5% £5.50
Odell ‘IPA’ 7% £4.20
Stone ‘Cali-Belgique 2010’ 6.9% £6.00
Victory ‘Hop Devil’ 6.7% £4.00
Victory ‘Hop Wallop’ 8.5% £5.00
Dogfish Head ‘90 Minute IPA’ 9% £6.00
Sierra Nevada ‘Torpedo’ 7.2% £3.80
Maui ‘Big Swell IPA’ £4.30
Goose Island ‘IPA’ 5.9% £3.30
Brewdog AB:06 11.5% £15.00
Brewdog ‘Punk IPA 5.6% £3.40
Brewdog ‘Hardcore IPA’ 9.2% £4.50
Red Willow ‘Ageless Double IPA’ 7.2% £4.00

Foreign/Export Stouts: How Guinness helped create a truly unique style of beer

Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Whilst Arthur Guinness didn’t invent ‘Stout’ he is the brewer that made it famous around the World. Over 200 years ago Guinness produced a number of different stouts, including a version which was specifically designed for foreign export. This stout was brewed strong, with a high ABV (the modern version is 7.5%), and hopped heavily, which helped it survive the long sea journey to foreign countries, much in the same way India Pale Ale (IPA) was.

The beer was originally known as “Foreign Stout” but can now be found branded as “Foreign Extra Stout” or simply
“Guinness FES” for short - not to be confused with “Guinness Special Export Stout” which was produced for the Belgian market much later in 1930.

Surprisingly, for a relatively high ABV, strong, dark beer, this “Foreign Stout” proved so popular in hotter/tropical countries such as Jamaica and Nigeria that breweries were built by Guinness to produce the beer locally alongside the bottles that were being imported. However, the raw ingredients such as barley which are needed to produce Guinness are difficult to grow in these countries and as such a solution was needed. What the Irish brewery did was to produce a wort with barley malt and roasted barley, hop it heavily and then dehydrate the mixture to a syrup ready for export. In the case of the Nigerian version this mixture would then be mixed with a local beer made from Sorghum and fermented at the brewery in Nigeria.

Now I’ll admit this doesn’t sound like the most appealing or natural way to produce a great beer but trust me, something magic happens during the slightly Frankensteinesque brewing process which creates a truly unique and intriguing style of stout.

The Nigerian version of Guinness FES has a really unusual fruity aroma of blackcurrant, strawberry, banana and raisin and a slightly sweeter malt richness with less of a roasted/chocolate character, as well as a satisfying hop bitterness. It also has a slightly lambic sour quality which I’d assume comes from the blending of the older dehydrated beer. It’s a stunning stout which I personally slightly prefer over the version of "Foreign Extra Stout" brewed by Guinness in Ireland. The bottles look almost identical but the Nigerian one has a red ‘Imported’ tab on the front label, and obviously says brewed in Nigeria on the back!

Of course, as with any great beer, "Foreign Extra Stout" inspired other brewers to produce something with similar characteristics, and it is the brewing of these stouts which gave rise to a new beer style in its own right - now referred to simply as “Foreign Stout” or “Export Stout”. The characteristics of
the style are an ABV of around 6-9%, a slightly fruitier, often sweeter flavour, which rides alongside the big flavours of roasted malt and bitter, herbal hops. Despite the historical parallels with Imperial Stouts, “Export Stouts” are very different, often having much less of a chocolate/coffee flavour and in some ways a more challenging, unusually sweet/sour character, which is all of its own.

The thing is, whilst the “Foreign Extra Stout” brewed by these tropical Guinness breweries are arguably the first “Export Stouts” within this style, they aren't necessarily the best, and as I already mentioned there are a number of beers being produced within this style that are well worth your attention. Some of which I’ve actually picked up from African food shops in London, so don’t be afraid to go digging.

Lion Stout from Lion Brewery Ltd in Shri Lanka is my personal favourite. It’s touching the upper limits of the style with an ABV of 8.8% yet is hugely drinkable, and despite a smell which is dominated by milk chocolate it has a characteristic rich raisin and sour plum character in the taste, alongside a huge wallop of roasted, dry yet sweet malty chocolate and a finish of slightly spicy hops. It’s powerful yet approachable and improves massively if drank between cellar and room temperature rather than chilled.

Jamaica Stout from Big City Brewing in, you guessed it, Jamaica, is another great example. At 7.8% this is another one not for gulping, but which displays many of the qualities which makes “Export Stout” so interesting. This beer has a burnt brown sugar and molasses sweetness which gives way to obligatory roasted malt and flavours of savoury celery salt, rich rum soaked raisins, black cherry and a finish of drying hops with a slight burnt wood astringency. This beer was also brewed in the last Wetherspoons Real Ale Festival by Banks under the name 'Big City Stout', at a lower 5% ABV, and was a good beer but a shadow of its former self.

Next up is a beer which I can’t actually decide if I like or not, Dragon Stout. It was originally created by Hargreaves Geddes and Eugene Desnoes in Jamaica in 1918, but as D&G Ltd was bought by Diageo (in order to acquire the Red Stripe brand) it’s now technically made by them, although they maintain the recipe is unchanged. Dragon Stout (7.5%) is a touch too sweet for me although some beer geeks over at RateBeer seem to, well, rate it. It has a dominant sweet mocha flavour with hints of woody underipe mango and banana, and a slight soy sauce savouriness which creeps in when it warms. I’m not particularly a fan but it’s still worth trying.

Finally, as well as the fantastic Nigerian version there are lots of different types of "Guiness Foreign Extra Stout" still being produced all over the World, which have got to be worth a go, including Malta, Jamaica, Mauritius, Belgium, and Canada. The Mauritian version brewed under license by
Phoenix Brewery is next on my list to try, and I’ll report back on what it’s like after my holiday there in September*.


*Serendipitously my girlfriend is half Mauritian and half Irish (that's right, just like the Mauritian Guinness!), and her Mum and sister both work for British Airways - meaning we can get affordable flights to, and accommodation on, what is undeniably a paradise island... which is also home to a beer I’ve been wanting to try... Bonus!

There are undoubtaby "Export Stouts" from Nigeria, Jamaica and all over the tropics and Africa which I haven't mentioned - this is because I havent tried them. If you have please comment below!

It’s not just breweries from Africa and The Tropics that are producing “Export Stout” - craft brewers from thousands of miles away such as
De Dolle Brouwers in Belgium are also giving it a go, although I’d argue these are based more on the Irish version of “Export Stout” designed for foreign markets (as goes for the Belgian version of FES), rather than the hot-weather hybrids mentioned above, which seem to have a completely unique aroma and flavour, which is what I’m attempting to dissect in this post.

Some of the photos are from Beer Advocate, some are mine.

My Antonia Imperial Pilsner (7.5%) by Birra del Borgo / Dogfish Head

Thursday, July 21, 2011
My Antonia is an Imperial Pilsner (7.5%) which was first brewed back in 2008 at the Birra del Borgo brewery in Italy as a collaboration between Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione and Leonardo di Vincenzo from Italian Craft Beer Brewery Birra del Borgo.

Since then both breweries have started brewing this “continually hopped” Imperial Pilsner independently, and I would be interested to see how similar the final beers come out when brewed on different brewery equipment and with a different head brewer at the helm. The original beer was available in 750ml and 330ml bottles (and a very few lucky bars on tap) and I remember reading
a few posts by Zak Avery which mentioned those versions, as well as some other great posts on Birra del Borgo. The bottle I tried was a 330ml version which tasted absolutely fresh as a daisy, which combined with the fact the label was entirely in Italian, leads me to think this was from a new batch produced independently in Italy by Birra del Borgo - although it did still have both breweries logos on the black and yellow label. If someone (maybe you Zak?) knows anymore about the ins and outs of the different batches/versions then please comment below.

So, on to the beer itself.

Imperial Pilsner is a relatively new style and to be perfectly honest, when I bought this beer I had forgotten that it even was an Imperial Pilsner. I actually think this made the experience more enjoyable though as there was a satisfying struggle to deciphering the stylistic clues and citrus hop red herrings that this massively complex beer throws at you.

My Antonia pours a bright golden orange with a touch of haze and a bright, white rocky head. (Sorry about the slightly grainy picture, I was in a relatively dim bar). The hazyness can in part be attributed to the fact I poured the whole bottle into the glass before I realised it was bottle conditioned - that said, there was no sediment or yeast visible in the beer, and I think if I had this beer again I’d do exactly the same thing.

The smell is of this beer is fantastic, one of the freshest smelling bottled beers I’ve had from a bar in a long time. I was chatting to the really knowledgeable and enthusiastic bar manager about this beer and he said they had just got it in that morning and had been blown away by how fresh it tasted, and I’ve got to say he was 100% right.

In the aroma you get loads of sweet tangerine, some grapefruit and a little orange sherbet as well a very slight herbal edge, a bit like parsley. The taste is unbelievably fresh with loads of sweet grapefruit, more orange sherbet and tangerine juice as well as a slighty dry pithyness. The finish does have a touch of that piney, resinous quality which American IPA’s display but then becomes clean and citrusy once more. It’s medium bodied with a nicely lively carbonation and a slightly syrupy consistency. There's a very slight boozyness as it warms but it is well masked by that big fresh grapefruity punch of hops.

It’s a hugely satisfying, and extremely well balanced beer. It tastes like a combination of an unfiltered helles lager and an American IPA, but rather than be overly dry and bitter it manages to remain refreshing and juicy whilst still displaying a huge hop flavour and aroma.

A genuinely unique beer.

NB – I drank My Antonia in the
Stew and Oyster at the end of Call Lane in Leeds. I wrote recently about how they’ve extended their bottled beer range, but from speaking to the bar manager last night it seems my assessment was really just the tip of the iceberg. They really want to be known for their excellent beer selection and he pulled out some other bottles to prove his point; including a 750ml bottle of RePorter and ReAle from Birra Del Borgo, and a bottle of Lion Stout from Shri Lanka. He really knew his stuff and had it not been for a slightly annoyed looking missus sat back at our table I could’ve chatted for much longer about the different beers they were now stocking, or are getting in soon. In essence, this place has continued its ascent up my estimations!

Guest Beers at Primo's: Pepe Nero from Goose Island

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I’ve written about my love for Primo’s Gourmet Hot Dogs before but a recent expansion of their beery horizons has prompted me to post an update.

After a long Twitter exchange over the course of a few weeks Primo’s Gourmet Hot Dogs (situated in Leeds Stunning Corn Exchange) have started working with James Clay, the fantastic beer importers who get some of the best US Craft Beer into the UK year on year. So who better to provide some American Craft Beer to go with Primo’s superior dawgs.

Everything in Primo’s has a clear yet refined nod towards Americana. Yes they sell hot dogs, but they’re high quality and served in artisan bread. Yes you can have a lager with your dog, but it’s gotta be a Brooklyn not Bud. It’s these little things that set Primo’s apart.

I was pleased to see on my most recent visit that Brooklyn Lager was still in the fridge and I’m told it’s there to stay, which is a smart move as it’s an awesome beer that goes really well with loads of different foods, and especially well with cheesy, spicy hotdogs. They’ve also started selling Dixie Beer from New Orleans, which I must admit is a beer i’ve not tried but a quick Google and a look on Rate Beer tells me that it’s a pale American Lager which is actually pretty good, better than big brewery lagers yet still light, simple and refreshing. Another good choice I’d say. Also on sale will be a ‘Guest Beer’ which will be regularly changing on a roughly monthly basis, although this will of course depend on how quickly the beer sells.

The first guest beer is a good sign of things to come. Pepe Nero is a dark Belgian Saison style beer brewed by Goose Island in Chicago. It’s brewed with a Belgian yeast which gives a distinct peppery aftertaste and roasted malt which produces dark chocolate and light coffee flavours alongside a subtle pepperyness throughout. It’s an interesting beer which I found went really well with Primo’s New Jersey Pastrami Bagel with Mustard. Why not give it a try next time you’re in Leeds City Centre? It’s priced at a really reasonable £3.30 a bottle, which for a Limited Edition 6% imported craft beer is better than you'd find it in most bars.

You can follow Primo’s on Twitter at @gourmethotdogs and visit their website for a full menu and details of their various special offers, including a generous 15% discount for students all year round.

P.s. I’ve also seen some Tweets from Zak regarding Primo’s so I’m pretty sure he’s a fan too!

Yorkshire Tapas: Where to find the best bar snacks in Leeds

Friday, July 15, 2011
Bar snacks have something of an image problem in this country, from slimy pickled eggs to crumbled packets of cheese and onion crisps, most pubs just don't make the effort.

The Spanish have quite literally got it down to a 'T' with Tapas bars, where little plates of simple snacks such as battered calamari, fried chorizo or squares of potato and onion filled frittata are served up alongside local beers, wines or sherries depending on the region. Many bars will specialise in a certain type of tapas and people will do a mini bar-crawl between different ones to get the best of what’s around. But we just don't seem to have a handle on the idea of informal snack eating in quite the same way, for us, it tends to be one or the other.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. There are pubs out there trying a little bit harder, who provide a selection of tasty treats to soak up your pint, and who are slowly winning people over to the idea of grazing rather than fast-and-feasting your way through the day. Leeds has got plenty of places to get a good beer, but the following pubs and bars also give the opportunity for a little snacking with your supping, and all are well worth a try.

The Adelphi
1-3 Hunslet Road, Leeds LS10 1JQ

The Adelphi have a dedicated bar snacks menu that is constantly changing depending on what is fresh, in season, or has taken the chef’s fancy - which in itself tells you that you’re on to a winner. They generally have around ten to fifteen bar snacks available, including things such as deep fried White bait with tartar sauce, Gloucester Old Spot Sausage Rolls with Brown Sauce, pan fried Chorizo with bread and Sweet Potato wedges with Tarragon mayo. All are very reasonably priced from £2 up to about £4.75, but a really nice touch is that you can choose any 3 Bar Snacks for just £10, perfect for sharing between a few people.

Recommended bar snack and beer: Salt & Pepper Squid with Lime Mayo, and a pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House
159 The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS1 5RG

Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House is undoubtedly known best for its beer. They have an unbeatable selection of Cask Ale, a regularly changing range of international craft keg beers, two dedicated BrewDog taps and an excellent bottle fridge. What people don’t know though is that their bar snack nachos and triple cooked chips are some of the best in Leeds, all thanks to new chef Tyler’s hard work behind the scenes. Skin left on, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, nicely golden brown, and served in a bowl with plenty of salt - they’re the perfect partner to your pint.

Recommended bar snack and beer: Bowl of triple cooked chips, and a pint of BrewDog Punk IPA

North Bar
24 New Briggate, Leeds LS1 6NU

For a bar with such an extensive range of awesome beers from Belgium, America, Germany and the UK, this craft beer institution keep things simple when it comes to bar snacks, with meat and cheese platters being the star attraction, along with a selection of delicious pies from local company “i’s Pies”. Voted by The Independent as “The Best Place to Drink Beer in the UK”, the laid back, friendly atmosphere of this place really helps to encourage some informal grazing whilst sampling some of the best, and hardest to find beers around.

Recommended bar snack and beer: Cheese & Bread platter, and a bottle of Rocheforte 8

The Stew & Oyster (aka Calls Landing)
36-38 The Calls, Leeds LS2 7EW

This riverside bar is slowly growing in popularity, and they’re beer garden is in my opinion the best in Leeds. They have recently extended their menu to include some antipasti plates, marinated olives and bruschetta to go along with their stew and oysters, but it’s the beer that has really improved of late. Three cask pumps are available now along with a fantastic range of bottled beers, including some great American Craft such as Flying Dog Pale Ale and plenty of Belgian offerings.

Recommended bar snack and beer: Half a dozen oysters, and a pint of the Ossett Brewery “Stew & Oyster” Pale Ale

43 Great George Street, Leeds LS1 3BB

Veritas is at something of an unfair advantage in the bar snacks department as it has a full blown Deli housed right inside the bar selling cheeses, meats, and pies as well as pastries and cakes which can either be eaten inside the bar or taken away. On the bar snacks menu you’ll find an array of cheese, meat and fish platters with things like mackerel pate and smoked chicken alongside local charcuterie and specialties. You can pick a pre-designed platter or build your own, picking whatever looks good on that particular day, and enjoy with a pint of beer from the excellent selection of cask, keg, and bottles.

Recommended bar snack and beer: Homemade hazelnut brownie, and a bottle of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Photo credit: Stew & Oyster Website

Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale - paired with baked chicken, chorizo, garlic & potato

Thursday, July 14, 2011
Last night I made one of my favourite one dish meals: Baked chicken legs with chorizo, garlic, onion and potatoes. It’s big flavoured, gutsy food that is massively flavoursome yet unbelievable easy to make; simply mix all the ingredients together (see recipe below) and whack in the oven for an hour.

To go with the strong flavours of chorizo, garlic and roasted herbed chicken I needed a suitably strong flavoured beer, something with enough spicy hop character to cut through the richly flavoured oil but also a good malty, sweet base that would work with the rich spiciness of the Chorizo.

Luckily I checked the beer cupboard before I started cooking and put my chosen big bottle in the fridge to chill for an hour or so: Arrogant Bastard Ale by Stone Brewing Company (7.2% ABV).

As the name suggests, Arrogant Bastard Ale is not a beer to be taken lightly. American craft beers are renowned for being big and flavoursome with heavy levels of hopping, but Stone are particularly known for producing some of the most assertive beers available, which in US terms is pretty damn aggressive.

It pours a thick, rich, scarlet red with a tight white head, that stuck around. Perfect carbonation, not too heavy, not too light. Spot on.

This beer smells wonderful, with a really powerful pine resin and slightly herbal hop aroma, as well as a background of rich, malty alcohol warmth and boiled candy sweetness. It smells to me very much like a heavily hopped barley wine, perhaps slightly reminiscent of something like Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. But what about the taste?

It's massive, seriously huge. There's too much going on in the first sip to work out what kind of beer this is and I just got a load of malt sweetness initially. On the second sip my palate had just about calmed down and I get that same hard boiled candy sweetness and dark brown sugar before a slight orange liqueur boozyness kicks in and then very bitter orange peel and pine hops, along with a slightly sweet but burnt tropical fruit twang, a bit like rum flambéed pineapple.

The brown sugar sweetness of the malt and spicy, slightly fruity hops pair amazingly well with the rich, spicy, charred chorizo, which dominates the flavour of the dish - Its red, richly flavoured oil seeping out and combining with the chicken juices to impregnate everything in the dish with a deeply satisfying savoury spiciness.

A key thing is that despite the caramel matlyness of the body this beer finishes dry with just a hint of residual sweetness, which makes it very moreish. The depth of flavour in the beer is a perfect partner to the richness of the meal. A match made in heaven, from a beer not to be messed with.

To make the Chicken with chorizo:
(Feeds 2)
  • 2 large chicken legs (or 2 drumsticks and 2 thighs)
  • 2 Thumb sized pieces of semi soft chorizo, cut into inch sized chunks
  • 4-6 Medium sized waxy potatoes cut into wedges (or however many you want/can fit in the dish)
  • 1 large onion cut into large chunks
  • 4 Cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of dried Oregano (or other dried herbs such as Thyme
  • Salt and pepper

Note on ingredients:
I was really hungry so used three chicken legs (two for me), but generally I’d allow 1 large leg per person. I served this with seasoned, buttered kale as it’s what I had in the fridge but a crisp green salad is probably even better. It’s important you use a waxy potato (I used red skinned ones), or even some larger new potatoes, as they hold their shape better during cooking. To make this for more people simply scale up the dish, allowing per person: 1 Chicken leg, 1 thumb sized piece of semi-soft chorizo, ½ onion, 2 cloves garlic, roughly 2-3 potatoes, and remember to use a bigger dish or two dishes so the ingredients bake and not stew.


Couldn’t be simpler! Pour some olive oil into the bottom of a lasagne dish and add the potatoes, season, and toss to coat. Then dotted in between the potatoes add the chicken (skin side up), garlic, onion, chorizo, sprinkle with the oregano and a little more salt and plenty of pepper, add a final drizzle of olive oil. It might look a little cramped at this stage but everything will shrink a little as it cooks, and as long as everything is roughly in a single layer you’re fine.
Next simply chuck the lot into a preheated oven at 220*C for 50-60 minutes, taking out and tossing the ingredients round about half way through.

Spoon the richly flavoured oil from the bottom of the dish over the meats and potatoes, and serve with a simple crisp green salad and a large glass of Stone Arrogant Basterd Ale. You could use big red wine glasses and share a large bottle between a few people if making this for guests; it’s a great way to get new people into good beer!

Is BrewDog’s share offer taking us for Punks?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
So they've done it again, those troublesome BrewPunks are offering Craft beer lovers the chance to buy a part of BrewDog.

This time round it's cheaper, a more affordable £95 being the minimum investment compared to £230 last time.

But is the offer a worthwhile one? Or are they talking their way into a windfall of free investment, and taking us all for no good Punks?

Well first of all, let's be clear, BrewDog have made a point of saying this is not just a financial investment opportunity. They're asking you to buy into the BrewDog ethos, to be a part of their 'Craft Revolution' and bring good beer to the masses. It’s a chance to be a part of something big from the beginning, and whilst it remains to be seen whether there are enough hops on Earth to sustain BrewDogs plans for World domination, no one can accuse them of not thinking big.

For the most part they have so far realised their ambitions, and their growth has been nothing short of meteoric, from lowly upstarts in 2007, to becoming the largest Independent brewer in Scotland and arguably the biggest name in the UK Craft beer scene in 2011. BrewDog have certainly made their mark.

So what do BrewDog say you’ll get for your money?
  • Benefit financially from our future growth through dividends and also an increase in the value of your shareholding.
  • Lifetime discounts in all our bars and on our online shop at www.brewdog.com
  • Exclusive first options on all our special and limited edition releases.
  • Being able to attend our (soon to be legendary) AGM
  • Being able to participate in brewing our annual "By Shareholders, For Shareholders" Beer.
  • Having your say in how the company is run and vote on key decisions online.
  • Your own BrewDog ID Card (for claiming your discounts)
  • A welcome pack with some killer, shareholder only BrewDog merchandise.
  • Literally become richer with every BrewDog beer you drink.

I think for some people the freebies and benefits outlined above would be enough to warrant the money, and for others it’ll definitely sweeten the deal. But putting that aside, is 'Equity for Punks' simply a shrewd marketing move and a way to drum up free cash, or a genuine investment opportunity?

Well, I'd argue it's both. The campaign itself shows BrewDog's talent for marketing and publicity, they've got the UK Press to listen, and I'm not just talking about bloggers: The Scottish Herald, The Scotsman and The Morning Advertiser are all giving coverage, and I've also been told that The Times City column talked about the venture as being worth a punt, although I've not got a copy myself so this may be hearsay. I can guarantee that over the next few days more well known News outlets will pick up on the story, and although everybody that hears about this is unlikely to invest, you can bet it’ll help sell some beer.

BrewDog are very good at marketing themselves, sometimes they rub people the wrong way but no one can argue that their methods work, and I genuinely believe that this is one of their main strengths. They market themselves in the same way as the best Craft Brewers in the US do; big, bolshie and brash. But it works.

However the problem with shouting for attention is that once you’ve got it you have even more to prove, and this really is the most important thing to remember: BrewDog make fantastic beer. Take their flagship Punk IPA, which is still one of my favourite beers. It's truly, unbelievable brilliant. Massively tasty, extremely hoppy, yet still hugely drinkable, and not actually overly challenging. It's the beer I give to friends who only drink lager, the perfect gateway beer, and yet manages to have enough going on to remain interesting. That in itself is no small feat.

If BrewDog continue to brew excellent beer whilst growing as they have done, then you should make your money back and more, but that is missing the point. If you believe in what BrewDog are doing, and believe that they are genuinely in it for the love of beer and not simply financial gain then you should invest. If you think the numbers don’t add up and it’s not a ‘good investment’ then you shouldn’t. The decision is up to you, and BrewDog have been extremely open and honest about what they are offering, and what they’re not.

...and in case you’re wondering, I fall into the first category. I genuinely believe in what BrewDog are doing, I want to be a part of their growth and I want to see BrewDog reach more drinkers and bring good beer to the masses.

What kind of Punk that makes me remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure, its going to be a fun ride.

Good people drink good beer

Monday, July 11, 2011
There’s a great passage in the book High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (great book, later made into an average film with John Cusack) which talks about how the things we like in many ways define who we are. It’s argued that a person’s taste in movies, music, sports, etc all shape what kind of a person we are, and ultimately matter more than what we are really like as a person. Or, perhaps more accurately, that a person’s tastes directly affect their personality. The saying goes ‘It’s what you like, not what you’re like, that really matters’ and it’s something which instantly struck a chord with me.

Just think about how music can effect a person’s younger years, from little things like a choice of pub or club to much bigger decisions like a choice of partner, your taste in music had the power to affect both.

I thought about this for the first time in a long time this weekend, after reading a quote from another excellent, although very different, writer. The starkly simple quote from Hunter S. Thompson can be seen on the branded glassware of Flying Dog brewery, who’s bottles are adorned with images and a logo designed by the very same artist who did the cover art for “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. Although if you want a book by Hunter S. to read with a beer I’d recommend The Rum Diaries, it’s a book riddled with sweaty bars and beautiful beaches that inspires a thirst like nothing else I’ve read.

“Good people drink good beer.” Hunter S. Thompson

I think i’ve got to agree. Since starting this blog I’ve been introduced in person to more like-minded people than I ever expected. Like a second batch of University years I’ve been thrown into a living, breathing, squabbling microcosm of beer geeks and bloggers that just happen to be some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

As well as the people, the search itself for good beer has led me to some of the best food I’ve ever had, and in many cases it’s happened the other way round - A pilgrimage to Borough Market a few years ago is a perfect example, where a plate of perfect oysters from Wright Brothers was accompanied by my first taste of a Meantime Stout.

Life’s far too short to settle for anything other than brilliant. It’s why good beer does matter, it’s why choosing to eat well matters, and it’s why travelling matters. Who you are is effected by what you like because our experiences are important, they impact massively on how much you enjoy life and in some ways make you who you are.

So don’t settle for anything other than brilliant, because as far as I can see, good people really do drink good beer.

Sierra Nevada 'Best of Beer Camp' Double IPA

Friday, July 08, 2011
Sierra Nevada’s ‘Beer Camp’ sounds like a seriously cool thing to be a part of. Basically it’s a Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket type experience - but for American beer geeks. People submit video entries explaining why they should win a ticket to Beer Camp and Sierra Nevada select a lucky few, who then go along to the brewery (based in Chico California) for a few days, and see the ins and outs of what makes great craft beer. But that’s not the best bit. Winners also get the chance to help formulate a new beer, and in a "no-holds-barred, bare-knuckle battle of wits" a new beer is decided upon amongst the participants of ‘Beer Camp’.

The resulting
‘Best of Beer Camp’ beers are fairly rare even in the US, but in the UK are almost impossible to come by, with only ten kegs of the three beers produced making it across the pond. The three Beer Camp beers hitting the UK this year are: Juniper Black Ale 8%, Double IPA 8.5% and California Common 6.5%.

Luckily for beer lovers in Leeds, Mr Foleys has got a hold of one of each. The Juniper Black Ale was the first beer up and it came and went before I had a chance to try it (although
Leigh and Ghostie both loved it), so I made a point of making sure I tried the next beer to hit the bar – the Double IPA.

Sierra Nevada ‘Best of Beer Camp’ Double IPA

The aroma is soft pine and pink grapefruit, very clean, vividly bright orange colour, with a tight, thin white head.

The flavour is absolutely huge with an instant hit of super bitter hops, which give you loads of bitter orange, pink grapefruit and a hefty whack of pine resin. There's a nice marmalade sweetness in the middle then the finish is dry and harsh (but not in a bad way) with more pine, and an almost tongue stripping final hop bitterness. The mouthfeel is light but slick from the high amount of hop oils in the brew, it tastes and feels jam packed full of American hops.

It hides it's hefty 8.5% ABV pretty well but in the aftertaste there is a definite boozy quality, a bit like Cointreau, but it's a pleasant mellow alcohol hum rather than a big boozy kick .

This is a seriously full on, dry, bitter, yet just sweet enough, true American Double IPA. What an absolute gem of a beer for Mr. foleys to get in, and one which I’m so happy I got a chance to try.

The Double IPA was almost finished when I tried it last night so unless you get there super quick after work tonight you might not get a chance to give it a go, but if it’s finished then be sure to try the California Common, I’m sure it’ll be another must-try beer.

p.s. 'California Common' is a 'Steam beer', the most famous of which is Anchor Steam. A bit like a lager but brewed at a temperature more akin to ale brewing, these beers have a fruity character that lagers dont really get. The name comes from the fact when tapped the kegs gave off 'steam' from very high levels of carbonation. However because Anchor have copyright on the term 'Steam Beer' the term 'California Common' has been adopted by other breweries which produce the style.

Pam's Corned Beef Hash with BrewDog Alice Porter

Thursday, July 07, 2011
Corned beef hash has had something of a Gastro Pub revival in recent years, where perfectly round patties of corned beef and potato are lightly browned in butter, and served with a poached egg and chef prepared brown sauce. It's something I personally prefer to eat as a late breakfast or lunchtime meal but I’ve also had a really nice one from Sam’s Chop House in Leeds, which you can order as a starter or main, which is a really nice touch.

The dish I’m talking about today though is nothing like that. This corned beef hash is the way my mum (Pam) always used to make it, and it’s the way I still make it today because it’s relatively quick, very simple and tastes much more than the sum of its parts. I’ve seen it called ‘Cowboy Pie’ elsewhere as it is made with baked beans, but corned beef hash is what Pam calls it, and that’s what I’m sticking with.

To make this simple dish you’ll need
(Serves 4)

1 Large can of corned beef (around 340g, cut into approx 1 inch cubes)
1 large or two medium onions (sliced)
1 Tin of baked beans (I like Branston - much better than Heinz)
Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce

Approx 1kg of Maris Piper potatoes (peeled and cut into evenly sized chunks)
A little milk (Approx 100ml)
A good sized knob of butter (be brave!)
Lots of salt and pepper

How to make Pam’s Corned Beef Hash

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the potatoes, boil until soft but not overdone. It’s better to have a slightly lumpy mash rather than a watery mash as it gets cooked again in the oven anyway. Whilst the potatoes are boiling prepare the corned beef base.

Gently fry the onion with a good glug of olive oil in a non stick pan until softened but not caramelised, they should still have a little substance to them.

Push the onions to one side of the pan and turn up the heat a little, then, adding a little more oil if necessary, add the corned beef to the pan and leave for a minute until it crisps up before moving around. Once crisped on one side add a good few splashes of Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce, and toss everything in the pan to combine. Tip all of this into a medium sized lasagne dish and spread out evenly, making sure you scrape in any crispy bits from the bottom of the pan.

Next tip a whole tin of baked beans and their juice evenly over the corned beef and onion mixture. This sounds a little weird but as the dish cooks all the juice and corned beef combine to create a moist, salty, slightly tomato sweet, meaty base that goes great with the creamy mash on top.

Finish the mash by draining the potatoes in a colander and leaving to steam dry for a minute or so while you warm the milk and butter in a pan with lots of salt and black pepper. Add the potatoes and mash as you like them, adjusting seasoning to taste. Spread the mash on top of the corned beef mixture and rough up with a fork to help create as much crispy top as possible.

Place in a red hot oven then immediately turn it down to around 220*C, which is still pretty hot, for around 15-20 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the top is crispy and lightly brown, and the base mixture is bubbling up in places. Leave to cool for a few minutes before dishing up and serve with a big dollop of good, spicy brown sauce. Perfect!

The beer match

Now the all important question, what beer to go with this? Well I decided on
BrewDog’s fantastic Alice Porter. This medium-heavy bodied, big flavoured stout-like porter can handle the gutsy flavours easily - and the beers smoky berry sweetness pairs perfectly with the salty, meaty, sweet, and lightly charred, corned beef hash.

The aroma of this beer is pretty light but there’s a hint of sweet espresso coffee and also a sort of blueberry fruitiness. The taste is thicker than you might expect, with a nice medium carbonation, perfect for the style.

The taste is lovely, a really great tasting, balanced beer. It's got a classic porter roasted flavour but also a slight burnt caramel edge which leads into filter coffee and dark chocolate, then there's a sort of blueberry flavour and a boiled American hard candy sweetness (think blackcurrant Jolly Ranchers) which comes in at the end. The rich roasted malt and berrylike hop flavour work well to balance things out though, leaving the finish medium dry and clean.

This is a balanced, massively tasty beer that I could drink again and again, not the crazy experimental brew which some people might expect from a
BrewDog Limited Edition - and I have to say that for me, it’s all the more exciting for it. A great addition to their range, and one which I think could prove really popular with those with more ‘traditional’ tastebuds.

I was inspired by Mark’s post on the perfect beer for Sausage, Chips and Beans to find a match for one of my all-time favourite comfort food dishes, corned beef hash. It’s a classic homefood favourite that my Londoner girlfriend hadn’t tried until moving up North but now she loves. So if you’re reading this, London based beer and food lovers, give it a go!
Also thanks to james from
BrewDog for the beer.

Leeds Beer Festivals in July - North Bar and The Hop

Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Just a quick reminder that North Bar's American Beer festival in Leeds is already underway. This yearly festival starts on the 4th of July (American Independence Day, of course) and runs until the 15th. Expect a wide range of American Craft Beer on tap aswell as fridges full of cans and bottles from the good ol' US of A.

North have been frontrunners in bringing American Craft beer to West Yorkshire drinkers and their range at the American Beer festival is always a thing to behold. Fans of bold, hoppy, high abv craft beers need to hot-tail it down there asap.

Also in July, The Hop on Granary Wharf are holding a Summer Beer Festival over one weekend from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th July. With a special festival bar being put in place upstairs this cask only festival looks set to be a good one, with a genuinely huge range of cask beers in an array of styles, and the promise of new beers from new breweries, this looks set to be worth a look.

If the sun is shining then all the better, as you can grab a pint and sit outside in their large terraced area, smack bang in the middle of the rather nice Granary Wharf canalside area. What a perfect way to spend a weekend afternoon.

The Kernel Brewery - hitting home run, after home run

Friday, July 01, 2011
There are a lot of things I like about Kernel. I like that they are a genuinely tiny artisan craft brewer, I like that their bottles look put together by hand and that there is a distinct lack of branding (or very clever minimalistic/naturalistic branding perhaps), and I like that they seem to just produce a beer then sell it, with little fanfare and generally in small batches.

But all of that is completely trivial compared to what the beer inside the bottle tastes like, and the thing about Kernel is that, on top of the aforementioned merits, the beer inside the bottle is consistently, almost unexplainably brilliant. The Kernel beers I've tried, such as their awesome Black IPA, have ranged from very good to jesus-christ-I-want-to-drink-this-forever amazing.

At the end of a recent weekend trip to London I was in The Euston Tap having a few drinks before getting my train back to Leeds and wanted a bottle to take and drink on my way home, something Imperial Stout-like, a sipper for the long journey. I didn't fancy spending a small fortune on a big beer from America so the ever helpful barman reccommended the Kernel Export Porter, which he told me weighed in at 8.5% although on closer inspection it was actually 6.5%, but that doesn't really matter.

Now, I've Googled Kernel Export India Porter and I can only find mention of a 5.7% version, whereas the one I tried stated an abv of 6.5%, which because of Kernels habit of brewing different batches and versions of beers I'm going to assume is correct. Not sure whether it's still available or not, but I'm sure if they've got another 'Export India Porter' available it will also be great, so give that a try.

NB - 'Export India Porter' might sound like a weird beer style but actually Porter was being exported to India from Britain around the same time we were sending over super-hopped pale ales (not yet called 'India Pale Ales') for the famously thirsty British Raj. Pete Brown's book 'Hops and Glory' has loads of great info about this and is a genuinely interesting and exciting read, part travel book, part historical beer quest, and interspersed with warm humour, if you're interested in beer then it's a book you have to read.

Kernel Export India Porter 6.5%

This pours more like a stout than a porter, with a thick looking body and tight off white head. There's a big fruity aroma of stewed orange and citrus, with a faint background milk chocolate.

In the taste there's a definate chocolate-orange flavour fom the combination of juicy, fruity, dry hops and sweet chocolate malt. A little light smokiness and roasted malt, no coffee as such but there's a roasted richness in the background which does hint towards it. Also a light herbyness, almost like mint.

The mouthfeel is actually not too full bodied, with a fairly light mouthfeel which suits it's porter title, and as is the norm for Kernel there's perfect, mouth filling, soft carbonation.

There's a nice balance between sweet, savoury, juicy, bitter, which creates a really nourishing tasting beer. It tastes good for you somehow, with a lovely freshness.

Another home run from Kernel. These guys have seriously raised the bar.

p.s. YES that is a plastic cup, I know I know, after the hoo hah I made about
drinking from the right glass, but I was on the train and needs must I'm afraid.