Cheats Chicken and Butter Bean Stew with Thwaites Indus IPA

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Somedays I'll spend my lunch hour wandering around the market seeing what looks good and come up with something to eat that evening, usually I start with a decent piece of meat or some veg that looked particularly fresh and work from there. Today was not one of those days.

I'm going on holiday this Friday, which combined with the fact I haven't had a day off since last Weekend and have a million and one things to sort out, meant food wasn't really top of the agenda. Thankfully, a short but fruitful trip to the M&S in the train station saved the day with a little pot of casserole base which only needed some chicken, a can of tomatoes and butter beans to make a tasty tea. Perfect.

All you've got to do is fry your chicken (about 3-4 chicken breasts) in some olive oil in an oven proof dish, throw in the whole pot of casserole base and fry for a minute or so to sweeten up that tomato paste a little, then chuck in a tin of tomatoes and a large tin of butter beans including their water. Stir, bring to a simmer, then transfer to a preheated oven and cook for an hour, covered, at about 180C*-190C*

A bottle of Thwaites Indus IPA fitted the beer match bill nicely (and was already in the fridge); a hoppy beer with enough malt character to match with the tomatoes, but also a touch of spiciness from the British IPA hop flavour which works well with the paprika, cayenne and black pepper.

A hunk of crusty bread is all the accompaniment it needed. A bit of a dumb luck match, but one I'll be repeating.

p.s. This is the stuff I used. It's great

Buxton Brewery Tsar Imperial Stout 9.5%

Monday, September 12, 2011
I've been away for the weekend and not had a chance to get this review up, despite it being a top beer that I'm pretty sure should be hitting good beer shops near you very soon. It's a 9.5% Imperial Stout from the consistently good Buxton Brewery, and is something of a shift in focus from a brewery which has made it's name with a range of top quality, traditional British style beers and bottles which really do taste like Cask Ale.

It pours a slick, thick black with a brown bubble head that fades to a thin veil of foam. Absolutely zero light getting through this one. What the hell is it made out of, black hole?

The smell is nicely roasted with a definate rich coffee edge, also a little bit of herbal hop coming through. A faint touch of chocolate but its subtle compared to the roasted coffee aroma. It smells great.

The mouthfeel is the first thing that hits you, this is seriously thick. Then you get lots of nice dry roasted malt flavour, a definate smokeyness and also a bit of dark melted chocolate. This beer also has a really nice dry hop finish which it needs with that big mouthfeel. One thing i've talked about many time before and which I love in imperial stouts is when you get that just-after-an-espresso dry mouth flavour and feeling in the swallow. Basically the hops and dark malts combine to create this great flavour.

It's got a really great balance between dark chocolate and more smokey, dark roasted flavours, all wrapped up in a really big thick body then dried out totally in the finish with the hops that are ever so slightly orangey and spiced. The aftertaste is similar to a really dark high quality chocolate and reminded me a lot of the Maya Gold Orange and spice Chocolate that Green & Blacks make - That kind of bittersweet fruity dryness.

...and do you know what, I almost forgot to talk about this because it goes by compoletely unnoticed. The booze is hidden like a bloody ninja. This doesnt have any alcohol flavour at all. I mean, the beer itself tastes BIG but that booze is masked by a massive amount of roasted malt flavour, and dry hops in the finish, which stop the alcohol coming through.

Take your time with this beer and you'll get a lot out of it. Another swing and a hit from Buxton Brewery!

5 more beers that deserve a repeat visit

Monday, September 05, 2011
I wrote a post recently about beers which I’ve drank plenty of times and always really enjoyed, but never actually blogged about as they’ve been around for a while. I felt it was a gross injustice for those beers to go without coverage as they are great beers which any budding beer geek would do well to give a chance.

The only problem with the post was that it got me thinking about all the beers I’d missed out. The beers which possibly should have been included, but I essentially forgot. So that’s what you’ve got here. This isn’t to say that these beers are less worthy than the first five I talked about, in fact some of them, such as the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, are amongst my favourite beers ever and deserve their place in any beer lovers cupboard.

Budweiser Budvar Dark (Keg, Bottle)

Just in case you didn’t know this already Budweiser Budvar is a completely different beast to that American Beer, and is brewed in the Czech town of Budweis by a completely different brewery i.e. it has nothing to do with the watery yellow crap known as ‘Bud’.

Budvar Dark is, as you might have guessed, a Dark Lager. It’s a relatively modern beer but brewed to be as close as possible to how all Bohemian and Bavarian lagers tasted before bottom fermented golden lager stole the show in the mid nineteenth century. The first time I tried it was on keg at Mylo’s in Leeds (who still have it on the bar to this day) and I loved it straight away. It has all the refreshing qualities of a lager but bags of smoked malt flavour too, its good in the bottle but if you can find it on keg it’s stunning.

Worthington White Shield (Cask, Bottle)

In many ways White Shield is an old fashioned British IPA, as it doesn’t have all the tropical fruit flavour of some of the modern IPA’s such as BrewDog’s Punk or Thornbridges Jaipur, but do you know what? It’s all the better for it.

This is a time capsule of beer, and perfectly highlights what traditional, but really good, British IPA’s should be. In some ways similar to Meantime IPA, White Shield has complex, slightly spicy hop flavour balanced by biscuity malt and a really satisfying dry finish. It’s a classic for a reason and a beer that everybody should try.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (Bottle)

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout was the first big Imperial Stout I ever tried and is still one of my favourite beers of all time. The interesting thing is that despite the name this beer doesn’t actually have any real chocolate in it, and isn’t overly sweet; they achieve the distinct dark chocolate flavour through the use of a variety of specially roasted malts and a three stage mash, which gives the beer this deep, rich, chocolatey roasted flavour. Despite being over 10% abv this beer is always a pleasure and never a chore, and is shockingly balanced, approachable and drinkable.
If you’ve never tried it then you are in for a serious treat.

Harviestoun Schiehallion (Cask, Keg, Bottle)

The first time I tried Schiehallion in the bottle I liked it, but wasn’t blown away. I think I had it straight from the fridge and the ‘lager’ label on the front had me not expecting too much. Then I tried it on cask and I loved it. It was served cool but not cold and had a dry almost grapefruity citrus hop character alongside that classic crisp malt lager flavour – it was stunning. Since then I’ve actually gone back to the bottle and enjoyed it even more as the things that I had noticed when drinking it on cask seemed clearer, and I was confident enough in the beer to drink it at slightly warmer than fridge temp.

Despite being brewed with lager yeast its flavour profile sits somewhere between lager and pale ale when you have it on cask - a fantastically refreshing beer that’s really drinkable yet has bags of flavour.

Hardcore IPA (Keg, Bottle)

I mentioned Zeitgeist in my previous post and this is another BrewDog beer that I drink pretty often and always enjoy, it just seemed a bit fanboy to put BrewDog in the list twice even though I drink their beer a hell of a lot.

Get it fresh enough and Hardcore IPA has a really nice juicy tangerine aroma and flavour alongside that big resinous bitter American hop character. Dry yet quite sweet, with a subtle underlying malt that is obliterated by grapefruit, lemon peel, bitter citrus, and an almost gin like herbal and pine quality it's almost overly aromatic and challenging, but if you are looking for an Imperial IPA that is truly in the American style then this is one of the easiest to get a hold of in the UK - and still tastes as good now as the day it hit the market.

The virtues of Food and Beer matching - Converting non-believers

Friday, September 02, 2011
There’s been some great stuff written recently by bloggers such as Pete Brown and Mark Dredge about food and beer matching, and even some articles by The Guardian and The Independent which were aiming to attract new people to drink good beer – all of which is heartening for me, as food and beer is what this blog is really all about. Very rarely I’ll write just about food, fairly regularly I’ll write just about beer, but as often as humanly possible I’ll talk about the two together.

As Leigh from
The Good Stuff recently wrote, Food and Beer matching doesn’t have to be poncey or complicated, it’s just about enjoying good quality produce rather than putting up with the same old crap. If you’re a foodie, then why limit yourself to matching food with wine? It’d be like only cooking French food for the rest of your life. Sure, you’d eat well but you’d be missing out on a world of exotic flavours.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some wine and food matches which even I admit can’t be beat – try a charred medium-rare Ribeye steak with a glass of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and you’ll see what I mean - but there are so many other foods out there which pair amazingly well with beer.

Now I realise that I may be preaching to the converted here and that most readers of this blog will be beer lovers and likely have some level of interest in beer and food matching, but I can also bet that you’ve all got friends or family out there who you haven’t yet persuaded to the virtues of good beer. Either those who see beer as a quick thirst quencher and not something to be enjoyed with dinner, or those who simply say they don’t like the stuff, all of them might be missing out, and it’s your job to show them!

One of the main barriers to serving beer with food amongst friends or family is that a litter of beer bottles around the table isn’t as elegant as a single bottle of wine in the centre, shared amongst the lot of you. It might sound simple, but a great way to get around this is to buy bigger, stronger bottles of beer and share them amongst your friends. A 75cl bottle of beer, especially in a corked and caged bottle, has all the elegance of a bottle of wine and even a little of the theatre of a bottle of Champagne. And whilst it might sound a bit counterintuitive to be focussing on aesthetics when trying to convert people to the virtues of good beer that has great flavour, remember that image is important, and getting that beer onto the dinner table is the first hurdle that needs to be overcome.

I wrote previously about matching Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale with Chicken and Chorizo, and as starting points for beer and food pairing go, it’s pretty ideal. Get some friends round, buy a big bottle of the Stone beer, serve up this super simple dish and share out the beer into large red wine glasses. Stand back and watch the non-believers be converted. (Zak is also a fan of this combo, and wrote about it here.)

Dessert is also a great place to get beer into a meal - a rich chocolate fondant with either a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout or a fruity raspberry Lambic will flip most people’s idea of beer on it’s head, but also delight their tastebuds. There are even some beers out there being brewed specifically to pair with chocolate, as discussed by a new but knowledgable Blogger over at
‘Broadford Brewery’.

In an effort to further bridge the gap between really good food and really good beer, I’m going to be doing a collaborative blog post with a London based Chef (and old friend), who blogs about the food he cooks at home here: - His most recent post on sweetcorn Risotto with bacon flavoured pop-corn looks absolutely belting, but all the recipes on there are great and it’s well worth a look.

Can’t wait to see what dish he comes up with for me to pair a beer to, my only request was that it was a gutsy dish with bold flavours - That way I can choose a big, tasty beer. Can’t wait to see how this exciting collab turns out, so watch this space.

Long live food and beer!

Place to buy big bottles of beer:
Beer Ritz, Leeds
Utobeer, Borough Market
The Bottle, York
(Sainsbury's also sell the 75cl bottles of Meantime)