Making sense of Gose

Friday, August 26, 2016
It's happened again.

Over ten years ago it happened with imperial stout - at first too heavy, too rich, too full. Then slowly, over the course of a year or so it started to make sense, the smoothness, the depth, the generousness of flavour and body you get in a well-made strong stout. Something clicked.

Then on a trip to Belgium in the first month of 2012 it happened again, as I struggled to get my head around lambic, and in particular gueuze, this sharp, acidic, bracing sourness that seemed so far removed from what I thought of when I thought of beer - particularly when compared to the sweet and spicy nature of so many Belgian beers.

But then, again, there was that distinct clicking noise and lambic shifted in to focus. It's lemon sorbet, it's riesling, it's sharp acidity and background funk and excitement in a way that few other beer styles achieve. Then, once again, I was hooked.

It's been a while since I've had one of these moments of clarity when it comes to beer, but it happened very recently and very suddenly with Gose. The saltiness of it was off-putting - alkaline, minerally and thinly saline like watered down eye drops.

I couldn't ever see myself enjoying it, but I persevered, and slowly like the moment the salty umami twang of a dirty martini becomes something you crave rather than endure - Gose started to make sense.

The subtle background sourness, the subdued, furry peach skin fruit notes, the almost isotonic quality of that subtle salt sprinkle, but mostly, that refreshment. Like nothing else in the beer world, Gose manages to hit every part of your mouth with flavour but be so subtle about it, with such an unbeliavably quenching quality that makes it thoroughly sessionable.

It's delicious, I'm totally hooked, and I never saw it coming.

Spicy pork soft tacos with chilli and tomato salsa, guacamole... the works!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Soft tacos are much smaller than tortillas, about the size of a side plate, and have a slightly firmer texture. They're not something you get a lot of in the UK though Londoners may be a little more familiar as there are a number of great street-food vendors doing interesting Tacos (I also had some good ones in Wahaca recently) at the likes of Street Feast, KERB and Model Market etc.

The two or three bite size of Tacos makes them great group eating, just load up the table with meat, salsa, guacamole, beans, soured cream - whatever you fancy really - and let people help themselves.

The recipe here is for a winning combination of smokey, spicy chipotle marinaded cubes of pork, soft and savoury fried beans and a fresh, vibrant salsa of cherry tomatoes, red onion, garlic, fresh chillies, coriander and lime juice.This time around I made some deliciously mushy 'refried'  beans (a mistranslation of 'refrito' which actually just means fried, not refried) but lightly fried black beans with a bit of garlic and chill work well too and look a bit fancier.

The whole point of tacos is to try different combinations though so if I was cooking for a dinner party I'd have two or three types - perhaps flour dusted, pan fired pieces of white fish, some smoked chicken, spicy pork, slow-braised beef shin... the options are endless really.

As a side note, I picked up my Tacos and Chipotle paste from M&S who have some really interesting Mexican stuff in as part of their summer range. Well worth a look.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

For the pork:

500g pork, 1 cm dice (I used pork fillet but other cuts will work)
1 Tbsp olive oil (or other oil)
2 Tsp Chipotle chilli paste
2 Tsp cumin seeds
Juice half a lime
1 Tsp hot smoked paprika
1 Tsp paprika 
1 Tsp light brown sugar
1 Tsp dried chilli flakes
1 Tsp seasalt
1 Tsp freshly ground black pepper 

For the tomato salsa:

1 pack cherry tomatoes (approx 400g) 
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 Clove garlic, crushed to a paste
1-2 hot red chillies
Handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

For the refried beans:

1 tin pinto beans, drained
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 Tsp pork lard (or bacon fat)
1/2 Tsp ground cumin
1 Clove garlic, crushed to a paste

To serve:

Soft tacos (allow 2-3 per person)
Guacamole (make your own or buy good ready made, chunky guacamole, I got mine from M&S)
Sour cream


Start by mixing all  of the pork marinade ingredients together, combining well, before adding the pork and stirring well until all thre meat is coated. As the cubes are small you don't need to marinade overnight (though it won't hurt), a few hours or even 30 mins will work just fine.

Next make the refried beans by browning the red onion in the pork lad before adding the garlic, cumin and beans and cooking over a medium heat until the beans start to become very soft. Feel free to give them a mash and add a few drips of water to help them become a soft paste. Season well with pepper and add salt as necessary (tinned beans are in brine so taste before adding salt). Once add a consistency you like, cover with a lid and set aside on a very low heat just to keep warm.

Next make your tomato salsa by chopping everything as outlined above and combining together. Save the lime juice until last and squeeze in qaurter by quarter. Depending on your tastes and the acidity of the lime you may need half a lime, three quarters, or the whole lot. Keep tasting and adding is you see fit.

Now make sure your tacos arent stuck together before wrapping them up together in a tinfoil parcel and putting in the oven at 180*C to warm through.

While they're warming fry your pork over a very high heat for about 10 minutes until nicely charred and slightly sticky. Check the seasoning and add more if necessary.

To serve

Forget about the washing up for now and load everything into seperate bowls and layout in the centre of the table along with guacamole, sour cream and plenty of spoons. You may also want a little bowl of chopped coriander, lime wedges and sliced chillies or jalapenos for those who want to add a little extra spice to their tacos.

I also roasted some sweetcorn and sweet potato wedges, which had been dusted with sweet smoked paprika and salt and pepper, to serve alongside the tacos, but honestly a big bowl of nachos would work just as well.

In terms of beer it's hard to reccomend anything other than a simple, well made lager, perhaps something such as Coniston Brewing Co Thurstein Pilsner, BrewDog This.Is.Lager, or Tiny Rebel Bo'Ho  - although if you're feeling a little braver then Magic Rock Brewing Co's excellent Salty Kiss (a Gooseberry infused, salty Gose) is pretty on-the-money too.

Interview on Share Radio: Why we need to seperate independent craft breweries

Friday, August 12, 2016

As part of my day job working as the press guy for SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, I was asked to talk on Share Radio (a national DAB station focussing on business news) about the new initiative we launched at the Great British Beer Festival this week.

You can read more at but essentially it is about promoting genuinely independent craft brewers in the UK who are: Under 200,000hl (current upper limit), free of any larger brewing interest, abiding by SIBA's manual of Good Brewing Practice.

As with anything this big I'm sure there'll be plenty of people for and against this, but I personally think it is a huge step in the right direction. I'm sharing this interview as whilst I am of course speaking on behalf of SIBA in it (and this blog is absolutely my own views and not those of SIBA) what I say is also what I personally think.

It's important that beer from relatively small independent craft breweries are highlighted as such and that beers produced by, or now owned by, global brewers should not be passed off as independent products.

As I repeat a few times in the interview, it's not about shaming the better beers being produced by big brewers, it's about provenance, honesty and transparity in the beer world and ensuring if a drinker believes they are buying a craft beer from a genuine independent brewery, then that is exactly what they get.

p.s. I also did an interview with Matt Curtis of Total Ales during the trade session of GBBF so keep an eye out for his thoughts - interested to hear what he thinks.

Slow-Cooked Beef Short-Rib Beer Bourguignon

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

This is a plum of a dish. Simple and relatively foolproof, yet hugely flavoursome and if presented a little better than I did, quite impressive on the plate.

The star of the dish is beef short rib. A great hunking, marbled piece of brisket-like meat strapped to gravy-friendly beef bones that add a great smack of umami to the finish dish - something boosted even further by the tomato puree and chestnut mushrooms in the recipe.

I got my short-ribs from Waitrose, but before you wince at the thought of Waitrose meat prices, four large short ribs cost me around a tenner and will feed four people. Great value and probably even cheaper from your local butcher.

On a rainy summer night of the sort we've become accustomed to recently I like to have this with a big pile of buttered savoy cabbage and a few chunks of good baguette, but come colder months I'd be reaching for the velvety mashed potatoes.

Of course this dish is a beery riff on that classic french brasserie dish of boeuf bourguignon, but make sure you opt for a beer that lends itself to the long slow cooking and balanced flavours. Something malty, with a hint of sweetness and little in the way of hops is best. I like a baby-barleywine like Fullers 1845 or Scotch Ale such as Oskar Blues Old Chub, but anything browny-red, sweet and malty will work.

For me, porters and stouts have no place in this dish as it will come out more steak and ale pie than Bourguignon. But hey, if you're cooking, use what you like!

Ingredients (serves 4

4 large beef short-ribs
500ml beer (approx, see above for style)
1 large onion, chopped
3 clovers garlic, finely chopped
3 teaspoons tomato puree
500g chestnut mushrooms, small left whole larger cut in half
750ml beef stock (approx)
Tablespoon plain flour
2 bay leaves
Large sprig of thyme
Salt and pepper
Olive oil


Start by coating the bottom of a heavy (ideally cast iron) casserole dish with olive oil, adding a large knob of butter and heating on medium-high until the butter foams but doesnt brown. Once the butter foams immediately add two of the short-ribs and brown well on all sides, making sure the butter doesn't go too dark. Remove the short-ribs to a plate and repeat with the final two. Once browned, remove to the plate with the first two.

Next add the chopped onion and cook on a slightly lower heat until they start to caramelise (5 mins), then add the tomato puree and mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes, before sprinkling in the flour and stirring until well coated. Next add the beer, stock, garlic, herbs, and short ribs along with any resting juices - before seasoning well with salt and pepper.

The meat should be just covered by liquid so feel free to add a little extra stock or water if necessary.

Place in a pre-heated oven at 160*C and cook for three and a half to four hours. I usually check after about two hours and if it's looking dry I add a touch more water or stock. On top of that initial cooking time I like to give it a final half an hour with the lid off to thicken up the sauce, with the added benefit being the mushrooms and beef will taste even better if they've had an edge being licked by dry heat.

If after this final half an hour the sauce is still a little thin for your tastes then remove the meat to a warm plate and reduce the sauce a little on the hob (but don't over thicken the sauce, this isn't steak and kidney pudding). Season to taste after you've done your reducing to avoid the risk of over-seasoning the sauce.

To serve 

The big, bulky, slightly gelatinous beef ribs are rich and filling so I like to serve them simply with buttered, peppered savoy cabbage and a bowl of sliced baguette for mopping up the sauce at the end, but if your guests are extra hungry then creamy mash is a winner too.

In terms of beer matching keep things simple and opt for a glass of the same beer you used during cooking - you can't really go wrong.

A delicious, simple, umami-bomb that I guarantee you'll make over and over again.

(Oh, and apologies for the rubbish picture, it tastes better than it looks!)


You may have noticed I've had a bit of a break from blogging recently, in fact, my last post was the very end of last year. Not really as a result of any grand decision or great falling out of love with the medium, just for that most uninteresting reason - lack of time, or should I say perceived lack of it.

Those of you who know me well will know I now work for SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, a fantastic job all told and something I'm hugely enjoying. With that comes welcome and whole-hearted comitment though and as such, I've been rather busy.

I hope to be posting on here more regularly, particularly as I've given the page a little spruce up and a more modern, minimal design.