New Grove Mauritius Island Oak Aged Rum

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Mauritius has a long history of rum production thanks to the abundance of sugar cane that the island produces - all over the world wherever sugar cane is grown, there's rum, and Mauritius is no different.

As such the supermarkets are full to the brim with local varities ranging from the insanely cheap and a little bit nasty, to the truly delicious. Every time I go to Mauritius I make a point of trying as many as possible, with my favourite of recent years being Green Island Spiced Gold, a lightly spiced golden rum with hints of vanilla thats great on its own or with coke. It costs between £4 and £5 a bottle in Mauritius but between £25 and £30 over here, if you're lucky enough to find some.

This time around though there was a different brand which really caught my eye, mainly because the bottle looked so damned good, New Grove Mauritius Island Oak Aged Rum.

New Grove produce a number of rums but it was the two oak aged dark/golden rums that caught my eye. This time around I picked up the regular Oak aged version, which I believe is aged for 3 years in oak casks, rather than the more fancy 5 year version that is aged in, amongst others, oak casks that have been home to port. My thinking being to try this one and pick up the other next time round if this was any good.

You can see from the photo that the bottle is half empty, which is testament to how tasty this stuff is. Drank neat with just a splash of cold bottled water it's unbelievably moreish and drinkable, with an aroma of juicy plump sultanas, smokey oak, exotic fruit and brown sugar. The taste is more of the same with the smooth brown sugar and sultanas front and centre, backed up by spikes of wood smoke and pepper. It's a very clean, smooth drinking, yet complex rum and not the sugar bomb you might expect.

Really delicious stuff, and something which I think would make a fantastic twist on an "old fashioned", one of my all time favourite cocktails, which is normally made with bourbon or rye whiskey. My thinking is that the fruity sweetness and lightly smokey flavours of this rum would dovetail nicely with the orange peel and bitters of an old fashioned.

I'll give it a go soon and let you know how it turns out. Watch this space.


What are the classic beers everybody should try in 2013?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Having a stash of good beer is one of the perks of being a bit of a beer obsessive. No matter what mood I'm in I'll always have something stowed away at the back of the cupboard ready to be cracked open and enjoyed.

Some beers never fail to satisfy. Cantillon Gueuze with its intense tartness and complexity, Schneider Weisse Meine Hopfenweisse for it's drinkability and depth of flavour, Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout for just being bang on the money in terms of what an imperial stout should be, but also more modern examples like Magic Rock High Wire, Kernel Export India Porter or Buxton Imperial Black for just being fantastic beers and modern classics.

Essentially, beers that are always stunning and that I feel myself needing to have a constant and steady supply of.

But what fits into this category of truly dependable beers will be different for each person I'm sure, so what have I missed out? And what are the beers that you've heard great things about but are yet to try?

Maybe there's a gem that I've missed and which I should be adding to the stash in 2013.


Golden Pints 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Setup by Andy Mogg and Mark Dredge, the Golden Pints is a chance to give a shout out to the beers and breweries that have impressed this year.

These are my personal choices. What are yours?

Best UK Draught Beer
This is a tough, tough category. But the beer I enjoyed the most on draught this year was Hawskead NZPA. Amazing every time I have it.

Honourable mentions: Oakham Scarlet Macaw and Rooster's Londinium.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Buxton Imperial Black. For me it is THE British interpretation of Black IPA, and damned drinkable to boot.

Honourable mentions: Beavertown Smog Rocket and Kernel 1890.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA (USA)

Honourable mentions: La Chouffe IPA (Belgium) and Sixpoint Sweet Action (USA)

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Captain Lawrence Captain’s Resvere Imperial IPA (USA). The freshest, tastiest hop character I experienced in 2012.

Honourable mentions: Lion Stout. More people should love this beer.

Best Overall Beer
The beer which I enjoyed the most this year was the Flying Dodo brewing company (Mauritius) Oktoberfest Marzen. Craft beer on a beautiful tropical Island is hard to beat.

Best Pumpclip or Label
Rogue Voodoo Donut. It's so ugly it's awesome.

Honourable mentions: The other three!

Best UK Brewery
Hawkshead. For consistently producing fantastic beers, time and time again.

Honourable mentions: Summer Wine, Kernel and Magic Rock

Best Overseas Brewery
Sixpoint. Their beers are just so damned drinkable yet bursting with flavour. Love, love, love this brewery.

Pub/Bar of the Year
Friends of Ham, Leeds.

Honourable mention: Rattle 'n' Hum, NYC

Beer Festival of the Year
Didnt go to any!

Supermarket of the Year
None. Morrisons at a push.

Independent Retailer of the Year
Beer Ritz

Online Retailer of the Year

Best Beer Book or Magazine
BEER magazine

Best Beer Blog or Website
The one I consistently look forward to reading is one I bet a lot of you don’t read. It’s a hombrewing blog called Getting Grist, written very matter of factly but with a genuine passion. Strangely addictive and compelling.

Best Beer Twitterer

Best Online Brewery Presence
Hardknott. Dave’s blog is honest, interesting and informative all at the same time. It’s also the only brewery blog which genuinely gives an insight into the inner workings of the business.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Slow cooked BBQ brisket with Schlenkerla Aecht Smoked Doppelbock

In 2013 I’d most like to...
Be working in the beer industry.

Open category – What will be big in 2013?
Sour beer, done properly.


Let me know who I missed and what I got wrong below!


Left Hand Brewery Smoke Jumper Imperial Smoked Porter (8.8% abv)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Smoked beers are something of an acquired taste, particularly those made by the famous German Brewery Schlenkerla, who's output is almost entirely made up of smoked beers (technically their helles lager contains no smoked malt, but as it's brewed on the same kit it still has a smokey edge).

The beers are a shock to the senses on the first try, as they taste intensely smokey and quite savoury too, which creates a kind of smokey bacon effect, or as I think is closer to the mark, smoked German sausage.

But as well as beers like the Schlenkerlas which place smoke front and centre, there are lots of brewers both sides of the Atlantic using smoked malt in a more subtle way, adding it to porters or other beers to give an extra dimension to the roasted malt flavours.

I can safely say that at this time of year when the weather is freezing cold and I'm inside defrosting my bones, these are the kinds of beers I'll be reaching for.

And it was as such I found myself cracking open another bottle from my now quickly diminishing New York haul, Left Hand Brewery Smoke Jumper Imperial Smoked Porter. Originally brewed in 2008 to much praise, it beat off the likes of Alaskan Smoked Porter to win at the GABF, Lefthand then didn't brew it again until this year. Apparently bringing it back due to popular demand, which for once I can actually believe having tasted the beer.

This pours a viscous pitch black with an off white frothy, milky head that sticks around. The smell is sweet fresh tobacco, smokey bacon, coffee, a bit of booze and dry stout-like roasted malt. The taste is initially very smokey, with a real sweet and savoury BBQ flavour where sweet malt and smokey bacon bounce off each other and fool your taste buds.

Once your palate adjusts and you push past the smokiness you get some sweet roasted malt and an earthy, spicy bitterness with a nicely balanced, medium bitter finish. As much as its a big flavoursome beer, it's also really well balanced and very drinkable.

Some bombers at this strength I open and struggle through to the end because of their intensity or bitterness, I'm looking at you Stone Imperial Stout, but this is a pleasure to drink from start to finish.


A beer matched Christmas Day Dinner

Saturday, December 08, 2012
Leigh from The Good Stuff got in touch a few weeks ago to say he thought we should pool our efforts and post today on the subject of beer with Christmas dinner. I totally agree that beer is being largely ignored by the mainstream food press and that something should be done about it.

So here we are, my slightly alternative Christmas Day menu and the beers you could drink with it.

Starter: Pan fried scallops with lemon herb butter and rocket

This is a dead easy starter to make as scallops only need one to two minutes cooking either side in a hot pan with a little olive oil. When they're done simply place on a warmed plate to rest before adding a good knob of butter to the pan along with a big squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped parsley. Stir until the butter has melted and browned ever so slightly.

To serve simply place the scallops on a handful of rocket then drizzle with the lemon herb butter.

The beer match: A big posh champagne style bottle of Saison Dupont will impress your guests, especially if you serve it in champagne flutes. The slight acidity cuts through the rich butter and scallops, and the peppery, herbaceous hop flavours in the beer will match amazingly with the herbs and rocket in the dish.

Alternative beer matches: If you can't get a hold of the DuPont then any other saison or even Duvel will work too.

Main course: Pork cheek, cranberry and Stilton pie with fondant potato, buttered kale, and clementine and honey parsnips and carrots

Ok ok it's not turkey, but trust me, these individual pies are so delicious and filled with festive cheer that I promise you nobody will mind in the slightest. This will make enough for two large individual pies but you can simply double or triple the ingredients to serve more people.

In a large oven proof casserole dish brown the cheeks (allow 3 trimmed cheeks per person, each one cut in half) in a little butter and olive oil then remove to a bowl. Add one large finely chopped onion, one large finely chopped carrot and a crushed clove of garlic. Soften for a few minutes then sprinkle with a heaped tablespoon of flour and stir until mixed with the softened veg. Add the cheeks back in along with a tablespoon of cranberry jelly, a big sprig of fresh thyme and enough stock to cover (I actually used one beef and one chicken stock cube). Season, cover, then transfer to the oven and braise for 4 hours at 160*C.

Once cooked simply remove the cheeks from the gravy and put into pie dishes lined with ready rolled all butter shortcuts pastry. Pass the sauce through a sieve, pushing the veg through to a purée with the bottom of a ladle. Then spoon a little of the gravy over the meat and sprinkle with chopped Stilton, cover with pastry and bake for 45minutes at 200*C until crisp, bubbling and brown.

Serve with fondant potato (they're easy and delicious, google em), buttered kale, and parsnips and carrots that have been roasted with clementine juice and zest plus a little runny honey and salt and pepper. Oh and a big gravy boat of that cracking porky gravy!

The beer match: If you're feeling fancy then this is a brilliant dish to go with a fresh bottle of Fuller's Vintage Ale or alternatively it's little (but also fantastic tasting) brother, Fuller's 1845. The funky Stilton and sweet cranberry are crying out for a rich, full flavoured old ale like these Fullers, and the orange marmalade notes in the beer will also pair well with the clementine and honey parsnips and carrots.

It's a knockout match that you've got to give a go. Plus the beers are really easy to get a hold of - 1845 is sold in Tesco's and the Fuller's Vintage Ales are available from big Waitrose stores.

Dessert: Chocolate Truffle Torte

I won't recreate the recipe because it's not mine, it's Delia's, but all I'll say is this is an amazing dessert. Rich, intensely chocolatey and indulgent but not too sweet, I love it.

The beer match: There's too ways you can go with dessert, contrast or compliment. This time around my advice is to contrast because the chocolate tart is just so rich, meaning that the perfect beer to go with this is a Bachhus Belgian cherry kriek. Cherry and chocolate is a match made in heaven and the sweet, slightly sour flavour of this beer just cuts right through the chocolate and accentuates the fruitiness at the same time. It's a knockout match.

You can buy the paper wrapped bottles of bacchus kriek from most of the major supermarkets too so no problems getting hold of the beer.


So there we go, a tasty, exciting Christmas menu paired with some amazing beers that will compliment every course individually.

I hope you give it a go, and Merry Christmas!


Hoppy Christmas!

Thursday, December 06, 2012
If that title seems a little bit cliche then don't blame me. It's courtesy of those troublesome Scottish craft beer punks.

With tongue firmly in cheek, Hoppy Christmas is the name BrewDog have given to their 'Christmas Beer'.

It tastes about as Christmassy as pad Thai, which is exactly what they were going for I suspect. This clean and brightly hopped 7.2% Simcoe IPA is the antithesis to the over spiced, festively pumpclipped 'winter warmers' currently clogging up your local cask lines.

Look past the name on the bottle and what you get is a fantastic beer with one of the best aromas I've smelt for a long time. Massively tropical-fruity with loads of tangerine, mango, fresh pine and cut grass.

The flavour is much of the same. Just classic, right on the money, back to their best, BrewDog. Mango, passion fruit, a touch of grapefruit in the finish, yet not overly bitter and hugely drinkable with a great aftertaste of juicy-yet-peppery hops, mango and fresh grass.

You've got to give it to BrewDog, they really know how to get the best out of Simcoe.


Buy some:


Is Scotch Ale the Tikka Massala of the beer world?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012
One of the beers I brought back from America was Oskar Blues Brewery Old Chub Scotch Ale. It's an American take on a traditional Scottish beer style brewed with peat smoke dried malt.

But here's the kicker, no such style ever existed in Scotland. The Americans made it up.

Beer simply wasn't brewed with peated malt in Scotland. The history of Scottish brewing does have some differences with how us English did it, but on the whole they were brewing strong hoppy pale ales to compete with the hoppy Burton Ales (the forerunner of IPA) around the same time as everybody else was, and there is little evidence to suggest they hopped their beers significantly less, or that they ever used peat fire dried malt in brewing beer (only for whiskey).

You could argue that Scottish heavies (or Wee Heavies) are similar to what the Americans call Scotch Ale, but again these contain no peated malt.

The thing is though that the Scotch Ale style (and it is a style, even if a completely modern invention) has been around for long enough in the US now that some people think of it as a true historical style - The same way some people think Tikka Massala is from India, not Birmingham...

The Old Chub Scotch Ale I tried has all the characteristics the yanks like; heavy and sweet, with a big crystal malt aroma and loads of caramel and toffee. The flavour also has the whiskey tinged peat malt character that's expected, plus digestive biscuit and loads of brown sugar.

It's very, 'to style', even if they made it up.

But does that matter?

Jeff Alworth makes a very strong case on Beervana that though the Scotch Ale style may have been born out of ignorance, it is not without worth, if only as an important part of the American craft beer revolution.


Quantum Brewery / Friends of Ham - Smoked Porker (7.3% abv)

Friday, November 30, 2012
Friends of Ham really looks to be going from strength to strength. It's busier every time I go in and appeals to a really diverse crowd of people, which makes it the perfect place to switch people on to good beer - which can only be a good thing. Oh, and now they've even turned their hand to brewing.

Or should I say, they've collaborated with Jay from Quantum Brewery to brew a beer which sounds a bit of a mess on paper but which actually tastes great (if a little mental).

The beer is Smoked Porker, a 7.3% abv porter brewed with smoked malt and peat malt amongst others, plus ground almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg and marshmallows in the mash. The idea being to brew a campfire in a glass which will compliment the savoury smokiness of the various meats served at Friends of Ham. As of last night it was still available on cask and keg at the sensible price of £3 a 2/3, no matter which dispense you opt for - my advice is get in there and try both, I think you'll be surprised how different they taste.

Smoked Porker Cask

The cask version of Smoked Porker has an aroma and flavour which is intensely fruity with loads of sweet, slightly funky red berry. There's also a big savoury smokiness and a fruity, slightly floral finish with hints of fruity espresso, very faint spice and very, very dark chocolate along with a touch of what the Americans call 'band-aid' but Brits call 'medicinal', courtesy of the peat malt.

Smoked Porker Keg

The keg is much smoother and a bit more easy going. No funky fruity esters, a much more refined roasted coffee aroma, and a flavour that is smooth, sweet and classic porter-like with just a whiff of smoke in the finish. It's a class act but I must admit I did quite enjoy the rough edges of the cask version.

The whisky-medicinal character of the peat malt comes through a little as it warms but isn't anywhere near as upfront as the cask version.

Overall it's safe to say I could have drank a lot more of the keg version. One interpretation would be that it was more refined, another would be that it was a little subdued compared to the cask. My advice is to get to Friends of Ham while they've got both (there's only one lot of the cask so be quick) and try them side by side.


To read about the Smoked Porker brew day visit Tyler's blog (the beardy American who works behind the bar). Or click here for Leigh Good Stuff's take on the Smoked Porker launch.


Imperialise This.

Thursday, November 29, 2012
Last night I tried a beer which I’d never drank before, in a style I’ve not seen before, and do you know what? It was excellent.

The beer was an Imperial Brown Ale from Norweigen brewery Nogne O (I’ve given up on proper pronunciation and tend to just say “Nerg-ner Oh” in case you’re wondering). The thing that struck me as so impressive was that it managed to capture all the nutty, rich-yet-refreshing character of a good brown ale and amplify rather than distort it.

I think I was expecting an Imperial Stout that was a bit brown if I’m honest, but that certainly isn’t the case with the Nogne O.

The aroma of coffee and hazelnut is classic Brown Ale and actually not as intense as you might expect. The flavour follows suit but gets a bit more full on. It's like this beer is shouting out all the classic flavours of a Brown Ale through a megaphone.

It's not what I expected. It does have some of the boozy, intensely malty depth you get with an imperial stout, but the malt isn't smokey or roasted tasting, it's biscuity and nutty as a Brown Ale should be. There's also a nice bit of dry, toasty bitterness in the finish which gives the finish a French roast coffee edge.

It's just bloody delicious.

It got me thinking as to what other beer styles could be “imperialised”, so to speak. Which beer styles would work well in a bigger, stronger, more full-on-flavoured incarnation? (Yes we’re playing a bit fast and loose with the term “Imperial” here. But let’s just assume it means “bigger, stronger version” for the purposes of this discussion.)

This Imperial Brown Ale certainly worked for me, and of course Imperial IPA, Imperial Stout and to a lesser extent Imperial Porter are well established and well loved, but what about an Imperial Best Bitter? Maybe an Imperial Golden Ale? Or even an Imperial Gueuze?

For me the important thing is that the original style’s flavours are maintained but amplified, not completely changed. For example “Colonial Mayhem”, the “Imperial Mild” from the excellent Hardknott brewery, was a great beer that I enjoyed drinking, but for me the style description just didn’t work. There was nothing in there that I could relate back to a mild.

And Yes I know that ‘Mild’ historically means fresh, i.e. not aged, rather than mild in flavour. But in terms of what we now consider to be ‘a mild’ it just didn’t feel like an “Imperialised” version, it tasted unrecognizable as a mild.

I’d love to know what you guys think about this. What styles could handle being “Imperialised”?


American Black IPA head to head - Uinta vs Peak Organic

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
That ever so oxymoronic beer style that we all love to hate, until we taste a good one. Whether the name is daft or not, the fact is that Black IPAs when done right are a great 'style' to drink. Hell call it a hoppy porter if it makes you feel better. Some of 'em taste great.

But are these two up to scratch?

Peak Organic Brewing Company - Hop Noir Black India Pale Ale (8.2%)

As you would hope this pours black, well very, very dark brown when held to the light. The aroma is bitter chocolate, very intense resinous hop oils, and a little overripe banana.

The flavour is really intense with bitter dark chocolate, fruity ristretto, spiced orange, oak aged rum, smokey roasted malt combined with a big bitterness making the aftertaste bone dry.

Despite it only being 8.2% this one is verging on hoppy imperial stout territory. Pretty full on stuff.

Uinta Brewing Co - Dubhe Imperial Black IPA (9.2%)

This is a great looking beer. A big pillowy off white head that sticks around and laces the glass (a feat in itself at this abv) and a thick black body with scarlet tinged edges.

At this strength Black IPAs tend to slip into the hoppy imperial stout mould, as the Peak Organic almost did, but this one manages to bring hops to the fore just enough to keep things on track.

Its got a big fruity aroma of red berry, citrus pith and pine and a flavour which is all at once citrus, cocoa powder, resinous pine, fresh leather, herbal pepperiness (perhaps like fresh oregano) and bitter chocolate.

There's a lot going on but it's much less intense than the Peak Organic, in a good way. The flavours are clearer and it's more of what I would consider a true Black IPA. For the strength it's also unbelievably drinkable.


For me the Uinta just has the edge out of these two.


American IPA head to head - AleSmith vs Captain Lawrence

Sunday, November 25, 2012
I think it's about time I wrote up a few of the bottled beers I've drank since bringing them back from New York.

The big barley wines and imperial stouts have been thrown to the back of the cupboard, but these two hoppy bombers jumped straight to the front of the queue. I've said it before and I'll say it again, drink those hoppy beers fresh people!

Captain Lawrence - Captain's Reserve Imperial IPA 8%

This pours liquid gold with a pure white head. The aroma is unbelievably fresh. Clean, floral and fruity with a citrus fruit bowl of pith sitting alongside clean fresh pine. The flavour is just so clean and fresh that the bitterness goes almost unnoticed on the first taste as a wash of citrus, sweet grapefruit and resinous pine fly past on top perfectly crisp pale malt. It's a masterclass.

The hop aromatics fly through your nasal passage as you swallow and the effect is so dramatic it actually made me sneeze. A happy first!

There's also a great depth of hop flavour thanks to the range of 5 hops used. The bitterness builds up after a few sips and is full and drying in the finish, but it doesn't have a punishing bitterness. It's clean and balanced and moreish.

There's a very, very slight alcohol character if you look for it, but really, I could drink this stuff all day.

AleSmith - IPA 7.25%

This pours a classic pale orange with a bubbly white head. The aroma is of pine, tangerine, citrus cough sweets, just classic American IPA. The taste is more focused on pine than citrus but there's a really juicy, fruity character to this beer too, and a very bitter long finish.

That said I would've liked more depth of flavour. This is very much pine, pepper, bitter. Without any real flavours of the citrus fruit that the aroma hints at. It's very good, but after being a little spoilt by the stunning Captain's Reserve, I have to admit I was just a touch underwhelmed by this one.

It's still an excellent beer, but out of the two I'd go with the Captain Lawrence.



Pig's cheek 'pulled' pork with chipotle BBQ sauce

Thursday, November 22, 2012
Pulled pork is not an easy thing to make. Cook the shoulder too long and it dries out, too short and it won't pull properly to create those textbook long tender slithers of meat. With pork cheeks you admittedly don't get those long slithers, and it can't really be 'pulled' in the same way, but the same end goal is still achieved - beautifully tender, flavoursome pork that's goes perfectly with a sweet, smokey BBQ sauce.

Plus they can be braised for anything between 2 and 6 hours (on different heats) and will come out just fine. Which is why they're perfect for making my version of pulled pork - they take all the risk out of the process.

As a side note, if you've never cooked with pig's cheeks then forget what you think they'll be like. The cheek is not the same thing as the jowl, aka the fleshy, fatty side of a pigs face used to make guanciale. The 'cheek' in most butchers refers to the cheek muscle itself, which once trimmed by the butcher is a small, rotund, fat marbled piece of meat about 4 inches long.

To make my pig's cheek 'pulled' pork I'll be calling upon the same smokey BBQ sauce I used with brisket previously. It's my go to barbecue sauce recipe because it satisfies the taste buds on so many levels, with brown sugar, smoked chipotle peppers, rich tomato and cider vinegar all coming together to create a sum much greater than its parts.

It's dead easy to make. Firstly brown whatever meat you're using in a large oven proof dish (my trusty cast iron pot comes in handy once again), remove the meat then soften one large onion and five crushed garlic cloves. Next simply add all of the other ingredients (ingredients list at the bottom) including your meat, bring to the boil then cover and transfer to the oven to cook low and slow. I went for 4 hours at 160*C, but if you're in a rush 2 hours at 180-190*C will work fine too.

Once tender remove the meat to a plate to rest. At this point you can add more sugar or seasoning to suit your tastes and either use a hand blender to create a smooth, silky BBQ sauce, or leave it a bit more chunky.

To serve simply squash the pork cheeks with a fork until broken up into a rough chop, then whack into a sour dough or ciabatta bun and spoon over loads of the sweet, smokey, spicy sauce.

To go with BBQ food you want something a little bit smokey, so a porter will always work well, particularly as this dish has a spicy tomato base which always seems to work well with roast malt. I went for an Uncommon Brewery Baltic Porter, its brewed with star anise and licourice root which gives the finished beer a savoury note which is closer to caramelised meat or even marmite than chewy sweets, and which worked great with the spicing in the food.

Whilst it does have some brown sugar flavours (again a nice match with the food) and a little sweetness to it the hopping is aggressive too, which very much helps to keep things in check and means that overall it is a wonderfully well balanced brew.

All in all, a brilliant beer match with this cracker of a pork sandwich.

Chipotle BBQ sauce ingredients:

  • Olive oil (for frying the onion)
  • 1 Onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 Tin of water
  • 5 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 2 Dried smoked Chipotle peppers (rehydrated in a little hot water then sliced)
  • 70g dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Worcester sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato purée
  • Salt & pepper


Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Imperial Oatmeal Stout (9% abv)

Monday, November 19, 2012
I had lots of other blog posts in my drafts folder ready to go, but this one has jumped ahead of the lot. Why? Because there's still some of this beer kicking around the UK, it isn't going to be around for long, and you've got to try it. Friends of Ham in Leeds might still have some (that's where I drank it), and I imagine the usual retailers will have some too.

I've drank Sierra Nevada Beer Camp beers before and they've been on the whole very good, and some have been excellent. They tend to be a bit whackier than you'd expect from Sierra Nevada (who tend to make extremely drinkable, consistent, but on the whole 'safe' beers), as the recipe comes from a collection of people involved in the Beer Camp. Put enough brewers and beer geeks in a room together and I doubt a 5% pale ale will be what they come up with.

So on to this Imperial Oatmeal Stout. The first thing you notice is how good this looks on the pour. Pitch black, oozy and thick with a tight mocha head and what looks to be nice low carbonation.

The aroma is big fruity, sweet mocha with jabs of boozy red berry and even a little cream. Cranachan in a glass. The flavour is cherry liqueur, oats and yoghurt, slightly sour berry and fruity espresso, but also a classically thick and creamy dry stout flavour and a luscious mouthfeel from the oat. The finish is all dark chocolate and full bitterness with a peppery hop character that's almost smokey but justs stop short.

This is brilliant stuff, go get some.


Sixpoint Brewery Part Two: Resin and Righteous

Friday, November 16, 2012
So now for the big hitters from Sixpoint, one of which I never actually had the chance to try whilst out in New York.

But let's start with the beer I did drink in New York, a lot. It's a great beer that's got loads going on but still manages to be relatively balanced and drinkable, and which was, to my massive surprise, available by the poolside at our hotel in Manhattan (swanky hotel bagged for a steal from

Righteous Ale - Rye Ale

I've heard this referred to as a Rye IPA by some beer geeks but that moniker doesn't really sit well with me (or the brewery by the looks of it) as it's a much more complex beer than that. It's closer to a slightly lighter (in body and intensity not hop character) Stone Arrogant Bastard than anything else. Which in itself is a massive compliment.

The Aroma is sweet with citrusy hops vying for attention alongside spicy brown bread, burnt sugar, and even a touch of fruity espresso coffee.

The flavour is a great. It's just got everything. Red hard candy sweetness before a heavy hit of hops, then an earthy spicy brown bread flavour from that big dose of rye - and yet the finish is clean, dry, and citrus bitter. As you acclimatise to the beer you get sparks of citrus peel, spiced orange, and fresh spruce.

It's a beer which takes you all over the place in terms of flavour and then comes right back round to the centre: At once bittersweet, clean and dry.

Sixpoint Resin - Imperial/Double IPA

The daddy of the range and the beer style upon which every American craft brewer likes to flex their hop shovelling muscles. Sixpoint's take on an Imperial/Double American IPA weighs in at a now par for the course 9.1%, a very respectable IBU of 103, and is sensibly served in a slightly smaller, slender 12oz can.

This pours a very similar bright orange to the Bengali, but is perhaps just a shade darker. The aroma surprised me. It's a big hit of mango and orange rather than the pine resin I was expecting. Though after a few swirls some fresh pine does waft through.

The flavour is resinous (as the name rather than the aroma suggests) with oily bitter citrus hops, but is certainly not as punishing as I was expecting. Perhaps the can is a touch too cold having come straight from the fridge...

....and then....

Those hops start to hit you. Once the first few swallows of those lupulin luvvlies fill all the gaps in your mouth and your palate realises whats going on you really get a full on hop hit.

It smacks you round the chops with a bag of fresh hops, then smashes a bottle of hop oil over your head releasing grapefruit, spruce, mint, tangerine, mango, and of course pine resin.

In other words, I'm glad a bought more than one. This little bugger gives a few light jabs to lull you into a false sense of security then knocks you out with a big right hook from nowhere.


Click here to read my thoughts on Bengali, Sweet Action and Brownstone from Sixpoint.








Sixpoint Brewery Part One: Brownstone, Sweet Action, Bengali Tiger

Monday, November 12, 2012
Before my trip to New York there was one brewery who's beers I was looking forward to trying more than any others, Sixpoint.

This little craft beer company, brewing out of the hipster strewn streets of Brooklyn, have achieved nothing but high praise from anybody I've spoken to who've tried the beers.

I also like the fact that they only do cans. A) because hoppy beers stay fresh and brightly hoppy for longer in a can than a bottle (no light), B) because cans are much mor environmentally sustainable than glass, and C) because at least in America where they are properly established, cans tend to be cheaper than a bottle of the same size.

Sixpoint beer was widely available throughout Manhattan as well as Brooklyn when we were there. In fact, the only craft beer available in our West Village hotel was Sixpoint Righteous Ale, and whilst $9 a 16oz (equivalent to 500ml) can isn't exactly cheap it looked like a bargain next to a bottle of Budweiser at $8.

Luckily Sixpoint cans were very well priced in the beer shops I visited (most under $3 a large can) so I stocked up my suitcase before comings home (plus cans are lighter and aren't going to smash in my bag). I brought back at least one of each from they're core range. Here's what I thought of the first three:

Sixpoint Brownstone - American Brown Ale

I think I was expecting a hoppy amber ale but this is definitely an American style brown ale. The aroma is light but there's a malt sweetness with an underlying toasted, very nearly roadted edge. The flavour is initially all malt and biscuit dryness before a slowly bittering finish.

The bitterness in the finish is like over toasted nuts with just a smidge of tobacco. A really drinkable beer thanks to the light sweetness in the body and that fully bitter, precisely clean finish, with no lingering sugar from the initial flavour.

Sixpoint Sweet Action - Cream Ale

This beer smells great. But it isn't the hops doing most of the work, it's that big sweetly malty body that gives off a huge waft of caramel and butterscotch which dominate the aroma, with just a little spicy orange flickering through in the background.

The flavour is really, really balanced between sweet caramel malt and clean fruity bitterness. It is initially sweet before the hops kick in and clean up the party with a satisfying dryness. Spicy hops throw a bit of white pepper into the mix at the very end but the overall impression is beautifully bittersweet. A balanced American beer!

Sixpoint Bengali Tiger - IPA

This pours a luminous bright orange, a perfect American IPA colour. It has a great fresh citrus hop aroma of orange, lemon pith, grapefruit, sweet tangerines, as well as just a tiny bit of bubblegum and white pepper.

The flavour is more of the same; I.e. lots and lots of citrus. Only very lightly sweet, with a big citrus fruit centre and a pithy, puckering finish. The aftertaste is bone dry sherry and grapefruit.



So far so good I'd say.



Art! Music! Beer! At Dock Street Market tonight

Thursday, November 01, 2012
A friend of mine is hosting an art exhibition (but not in the traditional stuffy sense) at Dock Street Market on Dock St in Leeds at 7pm tonight, it looks to be a great event and it won't cost you a penny to get in.

Dock St has great beer too (usual suspects include BrewDog and Anchor beers on tap plus a very well stocked fridge), so looks like a fun event, with lots of up and coming artists' work for sale.

My mate's work is a mix of pop, street and comic art (he designed the poster above too) but has a very British feel to it with newspaper cuttings and typography being a recurring theme too. Most importantly they look cool. Go buy some before they cost double.

Follow TONE on twitter at @RSDcollective


Stone 16th Anniversary Imperial IPA

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Even for American's, Greg Koch and the huge team at Stone Brewing Co. make seriously full on, uncompromising beers. It's what they're known for and something which they have valiantly held onto despite increased competition from around the US.

So with their 16th Anniversary beer you'd assume they'd go big, and on paper they did, producing a big American Double IPA at 10% abv and 85 IBU, but this Stone also has a lightness of touch that is rarely strived for and even less often achieved by a beer of this heft. There's just loads going on and not all of it is whacking you over the head as many Stone beers do, you actually have to look for it this time.

The aroma is big sweet hard candy barley wine, candy sugar and citrusy lemon balm (I later found out there is Lemon verbena in the brew).

The flavour is much cleaner and zestier than I expected. It's sweet, smooth and resinous with a fully bitter yet not punishing finish. Lots of pine resin, bitter orange, grapefruit jam, a touch of floral lychee and a peppery bitterness in the aftertaste.

I was expecting a sucker punch, as is the Stone mould, but this is much sneaker than that. You could easily drink a few halfs. I imagine as it warms that abv will make itself ever more known, but I can't leave the glass alone long enough to give it a chance and my half is gone in a matter of minutes. It also has to be said that serving this cold on keg is the only way to go, it'd be marmalade on cask and the bottles just don't seem to get over to us fast enough to be fresh.


A stunningly balanced beer, from Stone!?


Normal service resumed!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Thanks to my iPad being on the fritz I've not been able to blog at all for a week or so, but it looks to be back in working order now after a bit of faffing around (which I won't go into). Anyway, proper blog posts to come shortly on:

  • Thai shrimp fried rice and sticky pork
  • Stone's 16th anniversary beer
  • Art, Beer, Music (all in one place

Lambic, international beer bar - Port Louis, Mauritius

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Owned and run by the same guys that set up the excellent Flying Dodo Brewing Company, Lambic is an international beer bar built inside a traditional Colonial style house, right in the centre of Mauritius' bustling capital city of Port Louis.

With a high perimeter wall (obviously an orginal feature of the building) and only a small chalkboard giving a hint as to what lays inside, you could easily miss Lambic. But step inside that exterior wall and you're rewarded for your bravery with the sight of a beautifully well maintained original Colonial house (Colette's great uncle remembers the rich family who used to live there).

The interior is wall to wall beer bottles, as this place is a beer shop as well as a bar. International beers bottles line the walls on shelves and four large fridges hold enough selection for any beer lover to sink their teeth into, and trust me, in Mauritius, you'll want your beer from the fridge.

I ordered the house draft beer (they also had a guest pump with London Pride on it, but what's the point of having that), the same delicious Marzen style Octoberfest beer I'd enjoyed over at the Dodo. It was as good as ever, biscuity, bittersweet, refreshing yet complex.

A stunning beer to drink in the sunshine, which was mercifully broken up by the large trees shading the outside beer garden.

Lambic is your best bet for good bottled beer in Mauritius, particularly for those staying in the capital as its easily in walking distance of the main waterside marina. If you're looking for a cracking draft selection then The Flying Dodo is your best port of call.

Either way, if your in Mauritius, you should really visit both.

Lambic - 4 Rue St Georges, Port Louise, Mauritius - Tel 212 6011 

Craft beer in Mauritius! Flying Dodo Brewing Company

Tuesday, October 09, 2012
I've written about Mauritian food before so I wont go into how good the gateaux piment, alouda, mine frit or boulette were (really very damn good), but what I will repeat is that if you get a chance to visit Mauritius then please get out of your bloody hotel and explore a little. The street food is delicious, unique, exciting, cheap and easy to find.

On the drinks side of things Mauritian Rum is fantastic (particularly the spiced or oak aged varieties from Green Island and New Grove) but up until recently I had resigned myself to the fact that it's a bit of a good beer desert. But all that has changed. Craft beer now has a foot hold in Mauritius, and it looks to be here to stay.

The Flying Dodo Brewing Company is a new venture by the owners of Port Louis' international beer bar "Lambic" (more on that in another post) located next to the newly built Mall of Mauritius (aka Bagatelle), near to the town of Moka. It's a great looking bar/restaurant with the feel of an American brewpub and a Modern Mauritian food menu to complement the on-site brewed beers.

I tried a few beers before Colette joined me for dinner (having that shopping centre next door is a stroke of genius). To my massive disappointment the 9% coffee infused imperial stout had run out, but there was still plenty more to go at, with the beers well chosen to suit the hot climate and all served by keg (but unfiltered and hazy as explained in the menu).

I started with a glass of Marzen which was a cracking little beer, very much to style and in fantastic condition. Lightly hoppy in the finish with a big cereal malt body and clean flavours throughout. A good start.

I then opted for a tasting tray of 3 beers.

The cascade blonde lager is very crisp and dry with a nice clean finish. Very drinkable and very refreshing, as a lager should be, but a big jump up from your average Mauritian lager thanks in no small part to the cascade dry hopping.

Next up was the weisse type 1, which is, as you would hope, dominated by banana and orange in the aroma. The flavour is peppery and orangey with a very subtle yeast tang. It's delicious yet not overly heavy and again very drinkable.

Finally the Oktoberfest beer, apparently brewed to the same recipe as the breweries in Munich use for the festival. This was the beer I was most looking forward to trying, and which turned out be my favourite.

This beer has a great biscuity flavour that is nicely balanced between bitter and sweet in the finish. Great balance and very clean. It had loads going on and wasn't easy drinking in the bland sense but moreish in the very best sense, I.e. this tastes so good I want to drink a lot of it.

It also went amazingly well with the Pistachio stuffed gateaux piment (a sort of deep fried lentil and chilli cake). With the food bringing out the nuttiness of the beer, which, in turn, cleansed the palate of the deeply savoury salty gateaux piment.

For a brewery as new as this, and in a climate like Mauritius has, three fault free, clean tasting beers is an accomplishment in itself, but these were also full of flavour, to style, and a pleasure to drink. As for the choice available (three pale beers) I think playing to the local market and climate is a good way to go when starting out.

That said, I'd love to see these guys really flex their brewing muscles and brew a big hoppy pale ale or IPA - oh and get that imperial stout back on!


We also ate a very, very good ribeye steak, some delicious octopus snack type things and the missus had a cracking glass of South African red. So the place has plenty more to offer than just beer.

First picture courtesy of


Pan fried prawns and Picante Yorkshire chorizo

Thursday, September 20, 2012
I've been eating a lot of chorizo lately, namely Yorkshire Chorizo, and cracking stuff it is too. You can currently get a hold of two varieties, original and picante, the former being high quality fatty cuts of pork and seasonings including loads of smoked paprika that is cured and air dried, the picante is the same but with added cayenne for heat and spice.

The picante is my pick of the two for cooking with as the added seasoning seems to help maintain a strong chorizo flavour once cooked - the original is the better of the two uncooked though, sliced and eaten alongside a beer. (Both can be eaten uncooked safely though).

One of the easiest and most satisfying ways to use chorizo is with prawns in this classic tapas style dish.

Simply pour a glug of olive oil into a large non stick pan and add as much sliced or chopped chorizo as you fancy. Cook on a low heat to allow the red tinted fat time to render out, then crank up the heat and throw in some raw peeled prawns and a good twist of black pepper and a little salt. Stir fry for a minute or so until the prawns are cooked and coated in chorizoey goodness.

While the prawns are cooking drizzle some sliced bread (I like sourdough but ciabatta or even French stick will work fine) with a little olive oil then griddle until lightly charred.

To serve tip the lot into little tapas dishes (or any small bowls) so that the oil reserves at the bottom for dipping and serve with piles of bread and a big green salad.

Beer-wise, something sweet but hoppy is the way to go. An American red ale or something like Magic Rock Rapture or BrewDog 5am Saint would work great great.


You can buy Yorkshire Chorizo online here:


Summer Wine Half Wit

Thursday, September 13, 2012
Lets just get something out of the way straight off the bat. Summer Wine make puckeringly bitter beers, it's their trade mark and personally I love 'em. If you don't like bitter beers then you probably won't like a lot of Summer Wines beers.

This beer is no different, but it's also one of the most elegant beers I've drank from Summer Wine. Yes it's bitter, but it's also got a real depth of hop flavour and a great interplay between sweet malt, citrussy hops and funky yeast character. Magic Rock's Clown Juice is an obvious comparison, but for me, Half Wit is by far the better beer.

The aroma is yeasty orange, boiled sweets, and a touch of sweet pine. The flavour has that signature bitterness with just enough sweetness to calm your tongue down, before a final onslaught of orangey, citrusy hops and a little bit of barnyard funk which sticks on the tongue in the finish.

There's a truckload of hop character in this beer. A good minute after I've swallowed I can push my tongue against the roof of my mouth and the bitterness returns.

It's got a funky yeast character but it doesn't taste anything close to a wit, more like a Belgian yeast IPA, but do you know what? I don't care. Its a fruity, resinous pine and citrus hop hit with an edge of Belgian yeast. The bitterness will kick your arse but if you like big hop flavour and lots of bitterness, you'll love this.

I want more.


Peter's since 1969 and Breukelen Bier Merchants - Brooklyn, #NewYork

Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Deciding to spend our last two days in Brooklyn was one of the best moves we made, the only problem was that we liked it so much we wished we had longer. That said, we got there before lunch the first day and didn't need to leave until late the next, so managed to squeeze in some excellent food and beer in a short space of time.

Our first day in Brooklyn was the one bad weather day whilst we were in New York (the photo here was taken on the second), with some seriously torrential rain threatening to ruin the party. Luckily it was still pretty warm and there's lots of great places to duck into for refuge, just like the place we ate a late lunch, Peter's Since 1969.

Peter's is a Southern home style restaurant that's all about comfort food made well and served in a relaxing environment. Their menu consists of specialities such as rotisserie chicken alongside more American staples like meat loaf and collared greens. We went on the recommendation of the house and opted for the meat loaf lunch special, which came with two sides (we went with mash and collared greens), creamy sauce, gravy, corn bread, and a soup or salad for around $7. Stunningly good value, delicious and filling food to boot. Perfect wet weather fare.

They also have a few decent beers on tap, I think I drank a Brooklyn seasonal of some sort, again for a good price of under $5, but to be honest I was concentrating on the food.

After an afternoon spent perusing vintage shops trying to find a decent leather wallet which fits British notes (me) and some denim jean shorts (the missus, I swear) a beer was very much on my mind. Breukelen Bier Merchants was the next port of call, firstly because I wanted to see if there were any interesting bottles I'd missed that I wanted to buy to take home, but secondly because their happy hour runs 4-7 and offers every draft beer at $3 a pint. That's very, very cheap.

Plus they don't fuss over abvs: Any beer, any strength, one pint, $3. Would this ever happen in the UK? I doubt it.

I jumped straight in at the deep end with Firestone Black Rye IPA at 8% abv. Did I mention it was $3 a pint?

This was a great black IPA with sweet ripe mango and light cocoa in the aroma, fruity and lush in the initial taste before a flood of dark malt and then a long bitterly resinous finish. Lovely stuff and very drinkable for 8% too.

I did have a few more beers but we had got chatting to some locals and I stopped paying attention to the beer too much, though I remember all but one beer being excellent (the American Wit wasn't great if I remember rightly).

Breukelen Bier Merchants is a great place to hang out and we ended up staying for the majority of happy hour, which still left us enough of the evening to get around some more places which I'll be writing about in my next post.

Oh and my post on Brooklyn Brewery is still to come too.


Captain Lawrence Brewing Company - Captain's Reserve Imperial India Pale Ale

Thursday, August 30, 2012
As you might imagine, I brought back quite a haul of beer from #NewYork. The combination of more availability, cheaper prices and very generous customs allowances was a triple threat that made my suitcase very, very heavy for the way home.

I brought back a range of styles from Barley Wines to Ameican Porters, but it's the pale, hoppy beers that were quickly crammed into my fridge in order to preserve that fresh hop character, with this, Captain Lawrence Captain's Reserve Imperial IPA (8% abv not stated in the bottle), being the first to make it into a glass - and what a beer to start with.

This pours a perfect liquid gold with a pure white head. The aroma is unbelievably fresh - Clean, floral and fruity with a citrus fruit bowl of pith sitting alongside pure fresh pine.

The flavour is just so clean and fresh the bitterness goes almost unnoticed on the first taste as a wash of citrus, sweet grapefruit and resinous pine fly past atop a magic carpet of perfectly crisp pale malt. It's a masterclass.

In fact aroma bursts out so readily that as you swallow the hop aromatics rush up through your nasal passage and the effect is so dramatic that it actually made me sneeze. A happy first!

There's a great depth of hop flavour too thanks to the range of 5 hops used, and the bitterness which is subtle at first builds up after a few sips to become full and drying in the finish. That said, it certainly doesn't have a punishing bitterness like some American IPA's, and is clean (there's that word again), balanced and moreished.

I could drink this stuff all day. What a beer.


I bought the majority of my beers from Good Beer in the East Village, a fantastic bottle shop come beer cafe.