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.