Beer with a porky grin

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I've really got into smoked beers over the last year or so - with my favourite probably being Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche, it's an Oakwood smoked variety meaning the smoke is quite light, but at 8% and with a big malty body it's still a beast of a beer. 

The Thornbridge Beadeca's Well Smoked Porter I tried recently in the excellent York Tap is a very different take on a smoked beer though. Lighter in strength and smokiness, but darker in colour, this is much closer to sessionable and the smokiness blends in with the roasted malt flavour rather than sitting proudly on top of the beer with a porky grin.

It's rich, smokey and ashy yet there's enough lightness to the body and bitterness in the finish to make the whole thing go down so damn easily. It's an interesting, tasty beer, and yet it's also something I could drink a lot of, which in my eyes is a big compliment to the skill of the guys at Thornbridge.

Oh, and just because this is meant to be a beer and food blog. It goes REALLY well with Pork scratchings. 

That counts as a beer and food match, right?

Beer, Bourbon and Burgers at Johnny Fontane's, Leeds

Sunday, April 22, 2012
I'm a big burger fan. I've written about them quite a few times and they're something that I make and eat pretty regularly. 

The thing is though, you'd be surprised how difficult it is to find a decent simple burger. So many so called gastropubs or restaurants get it so wrong, with too much chopped onion, herbs, spices or other junk that just isn't needed inside the pattie. I like my burgers to be good quality meat, a touch of seasoning and not a whole lot else.

With that in mind, when I heard Johnny Fontanes was opening up I was hoping in the back of my mind that finally there'd be a place in Leeds where I could grab a good, simple, tasty burger and have a few beers to boot. Well after being invited down to try their wares at one of their many trial runs (follow them on Twitter and keep an eye out for an invite) I'm happy to report that this is definitely the case. 

It's a proper American Diner that takes the quality of it's food seriously and still manages to be ridiculously good value. A good sized bacon cheeseburger (patties made fresh in house daily and cooked on a real American flat top grill) along with your choice of side, such as fries, cajun fries, chicken wings or homemade onion rings, and a bottle of beer, wine or spirit and mixer will set you back the wallet friendly sum of £9.99

The beer menu is short, sharp and well chosen, and all will go pretty well with most of the food. There's a few working class American suds like Lone Star and Pabst Blue Ribbon (neither great) alongside some American Craft beers; Anchor Steam, Brooklyn Lager and Brown Ale, Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Oh, and Blue Moon, which I'm not a big fan of.

I went for the Bacon Cheesebuger and Cajun Fries and a bottle of Brooklyn Brown Ale. The burger was tender and gnarly with a slightly pink middle and meat which fell away with ease, just like it should. Everything else is just there to support that meat and it did the job perfectly. Good quality bun, crispy, smokey, streaky bacon, and good sticky American cheese. 

The sides are great too. Particularly the cajun fries and onion rings which are both excellent and obviously homemade, with the onion rings having a really good, dark, herby and crunchy coating rather than the generic batter you see so often.

It has to be said that they are still ironing out a few of the creases on the service side of things, and I'm not sure the 'order at the bar' system is my favourite, but on the whole things look to be shaping up nicely. The food came quickly, was exactly as we ordered, and all tasted great, and thats all that really matters.

Oh and their Beers and Bourbons (of which they have some awesome aged varieties) are ALL £2.99, and they even do hard shakes.

I'll be back.

Rogue Dead Guy Ale, or how I came to discover the joy of Maibocks

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
I picked this bottle up from the Ship in a Bottle in Liverpool, it's a new shop linked to the Ship & Mitre bar I talked about on my round up of Liverpool beer bars a while back. It caught my eye because I've tried a few Rogue beers and they've been on the whole pretty decent, and this was one that I'd not tried. Luckily it turned out to be a little cracker.

The label really doesn't give the game away, with no hint as to the style of beer, what the ingredients are, or even an ABV percentage. But a quick Google when I got back to Leeds told me it's a Maibock, so I wasn't going into this completely blind.

Maibock is a Helles style beer that's been brewed to Bock strength but with a much lighter colour. They're usually fairly well hopped which helps to balance out that higher malt bill and stop it being too grainy or sweet. 

Maibocks are traditionally brewed to fill the void between the darker, stronger beers of winter and the lighter lagers (in colour and strength) of Summer. Hence the name, which literally translates as 'May Bock'. So maybe I drank this a few weeks early, but hey ho. 

It's not got a great deal of aroma but there's a faint fruityness and a bit of sweet grain that comes through.

The flavour is nicely bittersweet with a toasted, grainy malt backbone and only slightly dry fruity hop flavours. The hops sit muted in the background next to toasted brown bread and a bit of brown sugar. It's not overly sweet though and the texture is slick but not thick, adding to its quaffability.

Obviously I took the time to pull out a few flavours but really, that's missing the point. It's not a beer that demands your attention. It's just really drinkable, tasty and satisfying. A great beer all round.

Definitely a style I'll be seeking out again.

Sliders again! 3 More variations I think you'll enjoy

Saturday, April 14, 2012
Sliders, or mini beefburgers, are great as you can play around with the toppings and have a few different flavour combinations in one meal. The last time I wrote about sliders I went for Fresh Coriander and Jalapeño salsa, Mango Chutney and Blue Cheese, and Classic Cheddar. They were all great but the Mango Chutney and Stilton was by far the best.

This time around I went for Cheddar and Chipotle, (Homemade) Sweet Chilli Chutney and Stilton, and Dill Pickle and English Mustard.

The idea for the Cheddar and Chipotle were the Enchiladas I made recently, and it worked really well. The rich melted cheddar being nicely offset by hot, smokey slightly vinegary Chipotle Tabasco. The Sweet Chilli Chutney and Stilton was a variation of my old favourite mentioned above, but not quite as good. The ginger and garlic in the chutney just didn't sit too well with the Stilton I'm afraid. 

The idea for the Dill Pickle and English Mustard came from my favourite sandwich. A hot salt beef bagel with Dill Pickle and almost too much nose tingling English mustard, from the frankly legendary Beigel Bake on Brick Lane, London. If you've never been then go NOW. It's open 24 hours a day so even if you're reading this at 5am, it's open.

This last slider was my favourite of the bunch. So simple and yet super satisfying with vinegary, herby, crunchy pickle, smokey charred meat and tangy, fiery English mustard all bouncing off each other like a three way car park brawl. I loved it.

I went for a Kona Brewing Co Fire Rock 'Hawaiian' Pale Ale with these three sliders, and whilst it was decent it was a little lacking in hops to hold its own against such big flavours. The Caldera IPA I recommended last time is still my pick, particularly as a pairing to the Mango Chutney and Stilton.

The fun thing about sliders is that you can try a mental combination without ruining your whole meal. It isn't the end of the world if one doesn't come out great, and you can always have a few safe options in there just in case. 

Experiment. Have fun with it. What's the worst that can happen?

Pork, Pepper & Chipotle Enchiladas with Lime Chilli Salad and Oakham Citra

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good  Mexican food, as with most of my favourite cuisine, is a balancing act of rich, hot, sour, and salty flavours. Enchiladas are a personal favourite but you have got to have something crunchy, fresh, punchy and vibrant to contrast all that richly spicy tomato sauce, succulent meat and bubbling cheese.

In this recipe that contrast is provided by two things: Firstly, the citrussy sweet hoppyness of the excellent Oakham Citra, and secondly a sort of lime and chilli laced coleslaw scrawled in my recipe notebook as 'Mexican Salad'.

I make my enchiladas with whatever pork is available (and adjust the initial bubbling time to suit) along with kidney beans, peppers and onions, but you could just as easily use chicken or beef and add or subtract whatever veg you fancy. The only bit which needs measurements is the Mexican red sauce used to bind the whole thing together, and to top the bubbling tray of rolled up tortilla parcels. The below will make enough sauce to make enough enchiladas to fill a large lasagne dish (which will serve 4 hungry people).

Enchilada Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 White onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 Cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 Fresh Red Chilli (finely chopped)
  • 1 Tin chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml water
  • 1 Tsp Tomato puree
  • 3 Tsp Chipotle Tabasco
  • 1/2 Tsp Sweet Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tsp (regular) Paprika
  • 1 Tsp Chilli powder
  • 2 Tsp Ground Cumin

How to make it!

Directions couldn't be easier. Fry your onion until soft, add the garlic, fresh chilli, and tomato puree and fry for a few more mins before adding all the other ingredients and simmering on a low heat uncovered for 20-30mins until thick rich and spicy. I usually give mine a blend or mash with a potato masher to ensure the sauce is smooth and thick rather than lumpy.

Season to taste before tipping around 2/3 over your stir fried meat and veg along with a good handful of strong cheddar, then spoon into corn tortillas and roll into enchiladas, arrange in a lasagne dish before topping with the remaining sauce and some more cheese. 

To serve

I serve my enchiladas with a sour and spicy salad of carrot, white cabbage, red onion and coriander dressed in loads of lime juice, chilli and a drizzle of olive oil. Hot, zesty and crunchy it is a great counterpoint to the rich cheesy enchiladas.

Oh and a nice big glass of Oakham Citra too! Lemon, mango and passionfruit with a light body and a hint of sweetness it works amazingly well with the salad and acts as a contrast and cleanser to the enchiladas.


Sam Smith’s and Greene King are hiding the good stuff in Beverley

Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Sam Smith’s and Greene King do make some good beers, the problem is that the vast majority of their pubs don’t seem to sell the good stuff. In the case of Greene King your options are generally their seemingly hopless IPA, Ruddles, or Abbott Ale. None of which are particularly bad beers, but definitely not something I’d ever seek out.

When it comes to Sam Smith’s pubs the owners seem intent on reducing the drinker’s options in a similar way, and over the last few years have really streamlined the offerings in most pubs to be Old Brewery Cask Bitter (dull as sin), Nitro keg ‘Best’ or Taddy Lager. If you’re lucky they’ll have the Extra Stout on, which is actually a pretty decent, roasty dry nitro stout, but again nothing to write home about.
So it was really refreshing to walk into a Sam Smith’s Pub in Beverley and see that they had the full hand pump range on plus a fully stocked fridge of bottled wares, and then right around the corner walk into a different pub and find one of the only Greene King beers I’ve heard consistently good things about.
In the Sam Smith’s pub were the usual staples (Old Brewery, Best, Taddy Lager, Alpine Lager, Extra Stout) but also a few of the better beers which seem to be less and less common in their pubs, i.e. the Wheat Beer, Pure Brewed Lager, and both the Light and Dark Milds.
The Wheat beer is my pick of the draft bunch - Slightly orangey, clean and fruity with loads of clove and a really refreshing fairly dry finish. The Milds aren’t amazing but perfectly decent, if a little flattened flavourwise by the keg dispense.
In the fridges was my drink of choice though, the Taddy Porter. It’s a beer I’ve written about before, a workmanlike classic British Porter that’s light enough to drink a few of but big enough in flavour to satisfy, a real classic of the style in my opinion.
If Sam Smith’s consistently had their better draft beers on offer and a well stocked fridge I’d drink in their pubs far more often, as it stands, I hardly ever do. Surely others feel the same?
Oh yeah, Green King.
I found their Mild.
The Greene King XX Mild, which weighs in at a super featherweight 3% ABV, is a beer which I’ve always wanted to try. The main reason being that I’ve not really drank a good beer from Greene King, but have heard that this mysterious and shy little mild (good luck trying to find it) is something of a forgotten classic, and actually a cracking little beer.
There’s something satisfying about the subtlety of Mild that I really enjoy, where generally it takes at least a full pint to decide if it’s any good. Then the flavour builds up over a couple pints and little hints of chocolate, fruit, or floral notes which you didn’t notice at first start to become really pronounced.
Personally I do prefer Dark Milds and this one from Greene King really didn’t disappoint. Balanced, roasted, slightly sweet but really refreshing at the same time, it’s properly quaffable yet flavoursome and subtle at the same time. It might make you work hard to find it, but it’s worth it when you do.

P.S. I wasn’t the one choosing the pubs, so you’ll have to find them yourself I’m afraid. But Beverley really isn’t a very big place, and I’m pretty sure there’s only one Sam Smith’s pub for starters.