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 booking.com).

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