Veritas - Leeds' very own beer and food Mecca

Monday, November 28, 2011
It’s been far too long since I went to Veritas in Leeds. Not that my absence has been detriment to its success, if my most recent visit was anything to go by. The place was packed.

It was a warm, inviting buzz rather than a rowdy din though, and I felt at ease as soon as I sat down. The service at this place is just one of the things that sets it apart, we took a seat in the dining section and within a few minutes a friendly member of staff was over to take our drinks order. They understand the importance of that first drink, put me at ease with a pint and I’ll happily muse over the menu for a bit without any trouble.

The waitress also new her beers, which is massively important when offering table service - just a few quick questions about what I fancied (dark, strong flavour) and she was recommending an excellent Saltaire Cascadian Black. Fast, friendly, flawless service from staff that were obviously rushed off their feet.

But we were there for the food, and on that front things definitely weren’t let down. We started with some obviously very fresh scallops with chilli, garlic and dressed rocket. Simple, well cooked, delicious.

For the main course I was seduced by the pork, black pudding and apple “Pie of the Day”, whereas Colette went for the deep fried Pollock with Tiger Prawns and Whitebait. The pie was good; nicely slow cooked and full of flavour but the gravy let the side down a bit and was slightly lacking oomph. The accompanying chips were great.

Colette’s seafood dish was the star of the show though. The battered fish and prawns were moist and tender on the inside but crispy on the outside, and the Whitebait was (rightly) unbattered and completely delicious. Salty and full of flavour these things would make the perfect bar snack alongside a pint.

Cheese board for me and some rich and sweet chocolate thing for the missus finished things up nicely. Perfect!

There are far too few places like Veritas. Where you can have a few pints of great beer, delivered by table service alongside a selection of great modern British food. Plus they have a deli inside the pub in case you just want some cheese or snacks to nibble on.

If you haven’t been then there’s never been a better time to give it a try – it’s a perfect place to drink, eat and relax when the weather turns cold.

I've written about Veritas, and a few other beer and food places in Leeds, before here.

Sliders (Mini Beefburgers) 3 ways - paired with Caldera American IPA

Friday, November 25, 2011

I think about food a lot. If I’m not doing something that requires my full attention, then you can pretty much guarantee I’ll be formulating a recipe in my head or thinking about that Thai place I can’t wait to try.

This afternoon I was mostly thinking about burgers. I knew I had some really good butcher's mince in the fridge, some onions and a few of the other bits and pieces needed, but what about the all important toppings? I couldn’t decide.

The combination of my indecisiveness, Colette’s penchant for mini stuff, and spotting a perfect 9 pack of mixed mini bread buns in M&S sealed the deal. I wouldn’t decide, I’d make three different kinds.

The three flavours I decided on were: Fresh Coriander and Jalapeño salsa, Mango Chutney and Blue Cheese, and Classic Cheddar.

All the burgers had a bed of lettuce and just a smidge of mayo: The “Classic Cheddar” also had tomato, sliced red onion, ketchup and mustard.; the “Fresh Coriander and Jalapeño salsa” contained diced tomato, red onion, Jalapeño, garlic, fresh coriander, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar; the “Mango Chutney and Blue Cheese” was simply a generous slab of Stilton with a mango chutney coated top bun.

These three seemed like a good balance as you get one pretty classic burger, one spicy burger, and one rich and weird burger. Lovely stuff.

I wanted a big fruity IPA to go with these burgers. Something that was sweet and fruity enough to handle the mango chutney but also had some bitterness and depth to go with that charred meat - Plus blue cheese and American IPA’s is a match made in heaven - so Caldera IPA from Oregon was the ideal candidate.

It worked a treat. Particularly with the Blue Cheese and Mango Chutney which was far and away the best of the three. It’s just a perfect combination; salty, funky cheese and sweet, fruity chutney atop charred, well seasoned beef. It ticks all the boxes and with the Caldera was probably the best Beer and Food Match I’ve had all year.

Burger tips and other info:

  • I used 700g of mince (mixed with 1 grated red onion, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 beaten egg and plenty of salt and pepper) to make 9 mini burgers. That works out at roughly ½ a pound of meat per person, split between three mini burgers. This amount is perfect for a good sized main meal when served with a big shared bowl of potato wedges.
  • Mould your burgers into lime sized balls and then press your thumb into the centre and squash down. This creates a fat, red blood cell shaped burger. Place these onto an oiled plate and set in the fridge or freezer for at least 15 minutes before cooking. When the burger cooks the dint in the middle will expand creating a perfectly flat top. If you have them flat to begin with then you’ll end up with golf balls after cooking, it’s a neat trick that works a treat.
  • I used butchers mince but fresh ground chuck steak with a bit of fat is even better. There’s loads of recipes online and I’m not pretending the burger recipe here is the best. This post is about the toppings, and the beer match.
  • I cooked my burgers on a really hot griddle pan for 4 mins either side to medium well done.
  • The Mango and Blue Cheese burger was partly inspired by this post from Andy at BeerReviews, and also the great rare beef, Stilton and onion Maramalde sandwich I ate recently in Pickles & Potters of Leeds.

Camden Brewery Beers: Lager and Wheat

Thursday, November 24, 2011
The train back home from the most recent Twissup in Newcastle was a sight to behold. Too many bloggers for a confined space, drinking big bottles of expensive beer (there was even some Racer 5 knocking around) and talking about whether Whisky ageing is overrated. I don’t think the rest of train knew what the hell was going on.

In the midst of the madness
Dredge was giving out some samples from Camden Brewery (who he’s started working with for the day job). He said something along the lines of, “I like your blog, have these!”, a compliment and beer? What a charmer.

I decided to drink the first of the beers alongside a homemade Thai Red Curry the other night and it turned out to be a great match.

Camden Lager

A background sweetness, slightly malty, with a herbal hop bite and that slightly minerally, almost metallic background flavour you get with some lagers and pilsners.

It certainly acts as a quencher with the thai red curry but doesn't turn to water in the face of big flavour like a lesser lager might. It holds it's own. Which is in itself is an achievement.

It’s drinkable, quenching and refreshing like lager should be, but with enough flavour to keep things interested, a very nice beer all in all.

Camden Wheat Beer

The Wheat I drank on it's own. The aroma is light, just a bit yeasty and dry, in a slightly ashy way almost. There's also a very faint aroma of sweet butter there too.

The flavour delivers on the aroma but there's also loads and loads of mushy banana. It's not as orangey as some wheat beers but there is a tinge of citrus in the aftertaste. Another really tasty beer, with much more banana flavour than a lot of other Wheat beers I've tried.

Read more about Camden Brewery here:

Merry Drunkmess!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I buy a fair few beers from Beer Ritz in Leeds, and on a recent trip spent about half an hour chatting to the ever knowledgable Ghostie about the beers they had in. I was on the look out for winter warmers to sustain me through the Christmas period (or at least the next few weeks), beers that would sit happily at the back of the cupboard and be used to warm you up on an evening.

This beer definitely fits that bill, and at 11.2% is pretty full on in terms of alcohol, although to be fair, they do warn you. It's called Insanely Bad Elf Imperial Red Ale.

This beer smells of boiling candy sugar and booze, with just a hint of orangey lemon hops.

The taste is initially very sweet but then becomes hot with alcohol and bitter with stewed orange hops. It's properly full on, hot (in a boozy way), very sweet and yet very satisfying. I know it gets said a lot, but this is properly a winter warmer.

It's like a big hot boozy punch in the face from Santa.

Merry drunkmess!

Sorachi Ace Hopped Imperial Brown IPA - Sound fun?

Friday, November 18, 2011
You might remember I wrote about a beer I brewed with Dean from Mr Foley's. This post isn't about that beer. It's about a beer Dean brewed then asked me to make the label for. I'm writing about it because it's great, and I want to heap some pressure on him to a) make it again and b) make a professional brewery have a go at a similar beer.

It's a Sorachi Ace Hopped Imperial Brown IPA, around 7.6% ABV, and it rocks.

When I tasted this at Deans, it blew me away. A genuinely crazy mix of funky fermented orange and dark chocolate, with a whiff of coconut and Cointreau in the aroma. Easy drinking for the strength, but with good body, yet big and bitter in this finish. I thought it was one of the best black IPA's I'd ever had.

The beer I'm drinking now isn't quite the same. For a start the yeast that fizzes up through the neck (after 5 or so seconds of wasted beer I decided to risk it and get a bottle on the end of the fizz) has changed the colour from black to the labels promised brown. The aroma isn't as sharp and there is a definate, well, yeastyness.

But do you know what? It's still a good beer.

The furious secondary fermentation means that there's so much carbonation in the beer that the Yeast and sediment mixes into the beer and really changes the flavour. I've got nothing against yeast in my beer if it's meant to be there, but this isn't a wheat beer, and the yeast subtracts rather than adds.

It's a shame, but I tell you what, this beer needs to be brewed again, with a few tweaks, and it will blow you away. Even as it is (and I'm told a few bottles aren't over lively so if you've got hold of a bottle you may be lucky) it's a fantastic beer.
I've got one bottle left. Do you think it'll get more less furiously fizzy over time?

As I mentioned. The beer is all Deans handy work, but the label, I did that. What do you reckon?

The best Cask beer in the UK?

Friday, November 11, 2011
I’m trying to get out of the habit of just writing about new beers, and in that vain, I want to talk about a beer that every time I drink it I’m blown away. Get this beer in good condition, and at the right temp, and it is damned near the best pint of Cask Ale you’ll ever drink.

I suppose that’s an unusual statement in the context of this beer, because this certainly isn’t traditional “Cask Ale” in many ways. You couldn’t call it a demonstration of British Brewing’s famous balance, and it’s a style of beer that is anything but well established in the grand scheme of things. Some would argue the beer style hasn’t even got the right name. But that’s all irrelevant.

Because when it comes down to it, “Cask” is just a method of serving beer, and it undeniably gives beer a certain mouthfeel and flavour of it’s own, often accentuating sweetness and bringing out some subtleties that keg’s cooling might gloss over, and when a beer is good on Cask it is really, really good.

The beer is Proper Job Black IPA by St Austell.

The flavour of this beer is stunning. On the first sip you could easily mistake this for a regular pale IPA, with the wafts of bitter citrus and dry, herbaceous, almost woody English hop character.

In the second sip you get a different beer. The hops are there again but they swim around with a deep, smooth mocha chocolate and just the tiniest hint of spiced orange in the finish. In the after taste, providing you don't take another quick sip (which is hard to resist) you get a little grapefruit as your mouth dries and a lasting but not harsh bitterness.

Ultimately though it all rolls together as one big, bitter yet soft, citrus yet chocolate, juxtaposition of a beer, and it's as goddamn near as good a pint of cask beer as you'll ever drink.

The point of this post is to get it on Cask, but if you can't wait, you can also buy Proper Black in bottles, and they are also pretty damn good.

Try here:

Lancashire Lamb Hotpot with Pedigree Pale Ale

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

If you’ve never made a Hotpot at home then you are depriving yourself of one of the best one pot dinners the British Isles has ever given birth to. It’s just got everything; crispy butterglazed potato, succulent slow cooked lamb, sweet stewed veg (in my version) and a richly flavoured stew-like gravy which spreads across your plate like a lava of Lancashire loveliness.

I add beer to my version (who’d have guessed) but make sure you go for something fairly light, with a nice clean malty flavour like you get with pale English Brown Bitters. Personally I think Marstons Pedigree is the perfect choice. A stronger beer such as a stout or porter would just completely drown out the delicate flavour of the lamb and herbs, and anything too hoppy won’t cook out well at all.

I’ll also warn the purists that this is my version of a Hotpot, it’s not meant to be rigorously traditional or definitive, it’s meant to be tasty. Hence the addition of the Pale Ale, Root Veg, and Fish Sauce which adds an extra layer of savouriness and seasoning but not a hint of fishiness to the flavoursome sauce.

To make this you’ll need:

  • 600g of Stewing Lamb (Neck end or shoulder)
  • 400ml of Pedigree Pale Ale (and more for drinking)
  • 300ml Water
  • 2 Onions (One sliced, one roughly chopped)
  • Roughly 6 Large sliced Potatoes (I like to use red ones)
  • 1 Large Parsnip (Chopped)
  • 1 Large Carrot (Chopped)
  • 1 Clove Garlic (Chopped)
  • Sprig of Fresh Rosemary (Leaves only, chopped)
  • Sprig of Fresh Thyme (Leaves Only)
  • 1 Chicken Stock Cube (I use Knorr)
  • 1 Beef Stock Cube (I use Oxo)
  • 2 Tsp Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce
  • 1 Tsp Fish Sauce
  • Butter, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper

How to make my Lancashire Lamb Hotpot with Pedigreee Pale Ale

  • In a large oven proof casserole dish (a 22cm cast iron Le Creuset is always my weapon of choice) sear the diced Lamb in a large knob of butter and a good glug of olive oil on a medium-high heat. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan and transfer to a separate large bowl once well browned.

  • Throw in the onions, parsnip and carrot and fry until lightly browned then add the garlic and herbs and fry for another few minutes.

  • Add a heaped tablespoon of plain flour to the veg and stir well to coat, before deglazing the pan with the water, scraping any sticky bits from the bottom. Let it boil down a little then add the beer and crumble in the two stock cubes, season well with salt and pepper, and simmer on a low heat while you slice the potatoes. (Which by the way I never bother peeling, life’s too short and it helps them hold together.)

  • Tip the veg and liquid into the large bowl with the meat and combine well.

  • To assemble the hotpot use a slotted spoon to lift half the meat and veg into the bottom of the pan, leaving the liquid in the bowl.

  • Next add a double layer of sliced potatoes, then the rest of the meat and veg on top of that.

  • Then pour over the liquid until it is just below the top of the meat and veg mixture before topping with a layer of sliced potatoes (If you have any liquid left keep this for extra gravy). Season well with salt and pepper, cover with a tight fitting lid and place in a preheated oven at 170-180*C for 1hr30mins.

  • After the slow cook remove the lid, add some knobs of butter to the top of the hotpot and return to the oven uncovered for another 30 minutes until the top is golden and slightly crisp like the photo at the top. (You may need to crank the oven up for the last 5-10 min.


with buttered green veg (I like kale) and a large glass of beer for everybody that’s eating.

The beer adds a lot to this one pot wonder but because of the use of the relatively lightly flavoured Pedigree Pale Ale it doesn’t come out like a bastardised steak and ale pie - for which a darker, stronger beer would be better suited – and doesn’t have an overpowering ale flavour to it.

Serving the beer alongside is an obvious but perfect match, i

t’s got a malty body but isn’t too sweet and with a lightly hoppy finish it awakens your palate ready for the slightly sweet/savouriness of the hotpot.

I'd be the first to admit that this hotpot with a glass of Pedigree is beer and food matching for dummies, but damn it tastes good.

Collaboration Brew with Blue Suede Brews: Introducing Red Eye Rye

Monday, November 07, 2011

So Sunday was the day that has been postponed, rearranged, cancelled, and finally, well, finalised more times than I can even remember – my brew day with Dean from Mr Foleys in Leeds. Or should I say, Blue Suede Brews.

We decided on the beer months and months ago, a well hopped Red Rye Ale not dissimilar to something like Founders Reds Rye P.A. around the same time in June I wrote this actually: Red Hop Ales the New Black IPA?

The idea behind going for the Rye was to give an added depth of flavour and a biscuity, slightly spicy malt flavour to balance out those big hops.

The recipe was kicked back and forth between me and Dean - essentially an amalgamation of a few different recommendations from brewing buddies, homebrew websites, and some last minute tweaking and tinkering from Dean who ultimately decided on the ratios we used. Oh and we threw in some Galaxy hops at the 11th hour because they smelt so damn good. But that’s what homebrewings all about isn’t it.

The ingredients were as follows:

Malts: Maris otter, Crystal, Cara Red, Rye

Bittering Hops: Riwaka

Aroma Hops: Amarillo and Galaxy

Dry Hopping Hops: Amarillo

Yeast: US 05

It came out a really nice deep, medium dark red/amber, but that could all change with fermentation, and secondary fermentation in the bottle. What looks dark now may well drop out to be a much more crystal red, only time will tell.

Once I know, you’ll know.

p.s. Here's a sneak peak of the spiral label artwork I designed for the beer, tested on an empty bottle, it's called Red Eye Rye....

The Dark Art of getting a Stout just right

Thursday, November 03, 2011
There doesn’t seem to have been quite the giddy anticipation in the run up to Stout Day that #IPADay caused, but nevertheless, today is Stout Day and I want to get behind it by talking about a great Stout I drank recently from one of the UK’s most exciting new breweries.

Dark Arts, from the unstoppable Magic Rock Brewing.

I want to talk about this beer because it's a great example of one of my favourite kinds of beer, a perfectly executed Dry Stout. I did see rumblings from some bloggers (was it you
Ghosty?) saying it should be International Imperial Stout Day - an homage to the over the top beer geek favourite - but I'd have to disagree.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Imperial Stouts, but a medium strength normal stout that is big on mouthfeel, flavour, and balance is perhaps an even more difficult undertaking. Particularly from a bottle like the beer here, where the thickness of Cask serving cant hide a lack of body.

First off, Dark Arts gets the mouthfeel spot on, Medium-thick but not syrupy or overly creamy. My first thought flavourwise was genuinely “that is what a stout should taste like”. Very roasted, quite dry, almost burnt in it's smokiness and only just kept in check by some bitter, dry hops in the finish. It is very familiar tasting, in many ways - It's a proper, full on, dry stout.

Once it warms up you get a bit of tobacco smoke, burnt bitter sugar, ashy chocolate and just a tiny bit of mild liquorice. It's just a very, very well crafted beer that at 6% just about sneaks into the winter warmer bracket but doesn't enter the 'this will hurt in the morning' ABV range of impy stouts.

Genuinely loved it.