Tag Archives: ale

Sampling Sambrook’s & Cheese

30 Nov

Sambrook's 1
One thing I love about food is finding out what different flavour combinations people enjoy. It is for this reason that I am particularly interested in food and alcohol pairings.

Recently, the boy and I headed off south of the river to the Sambrook’s brewery to do just this – sample food and beer matches.
As background, Sambrook’s was started in 2008 by Duncan Sambrook, a former accountant for Deloitte who decided to quit the financial world. It became one of the first breweries in (fairly) central London and recently won the coveted award of World’s Best Pale Bitter for its Wandle brand at the World Beer Awards.

The night the boy and I visited was all about celebrating the win for Wandle and recognising some other great beers that took top honors in this year’s awards. It all took place in the brewery’s Boadicea Bar, a newly opened in-brewery bar where patrons can sample some of the great beers being made on the premises. To make things even more appealing, each beer was matched with a different cheese, provided by specialist cheese monger, Hamish Johnston.

Sambrook's 3And this was where things got really interesting as everyone on my table had a different viewpoint of what worked and what didn’t.

On the night, we sampled the Wandle, paired with a Gorwydd Caerphilly; a Weihenstephaner Kristall Weissbier with a Wigmore (from Ann Wigmore); a Thornbridge Raven Black IPA paired with a Stichelton from Joe Schneider; a Keersmaeker Kriek with an Ossau-Iraty; and, a Keersmaeker Gueze with a Lanark Blue from Selina and Andrew Cairns.

Each was distinctly different. I loved the Weissbier – a sparky orange, clove and nut beer – paired with the Wigmore, which was an ewe’s milk cheese that was more delicate than a goat’s cheese but with enough backbone to stand up to the beer. My other powerhouse winner of the night was the Thornbridge Raven Black IPA, which was a soothing dark beer with notes of umami, wood and wet grass. When paired with the fantastic Stichelton, a real sweetness emerged on my palate that heightened the beer even more for me.

But, the other five people at my table all had a different opinion. Some preferred the sharper, acidic-sweet note of the Kriek, and others ate up the Wandle and Caerphilly. The boy loved the Keersmaeker Gueze – a Lambic based beer with soft fleshy fruit and citrus notes – paired with the super-sharp, ammonia laden Lanark Blue. I thought the two together was really off putting (although, I liked each separately).

And so, it just goes to show – the only way to find out if you like something is to try it. So, as always, I encourage you to sit down with a group of friends, grab a few varied pints and some cheeses and see what you like. You never know what pleasures you’ll discover!

Thanks to Sambrook’s Brewery for inviting the boy and I down to try some fantastic drinks. For more information on the brewery and its beers, visit: http://www.sambrooksbrewery.co.uk

A Fem “ale” Society

16 Apr

I’m going to let you in on a secret.



There’s a secret society. Of women. Who love beer!

Its name: Dea Latis.

How cool is that?

Now, I suppose I shouldn’t say it’s a secret society. It’s, well, not. But ever since I saw that Simpson’s episode about a gazillion years ago during which Homer finds out about the Stonecutters, I’ve always wanted to be a part of one.

So, when I found out about Dea Latis, I did a little squeal of excitement.

The group was formed in 2010 and is named after the Celtic goddess of beer and water. Its mission: to bring beer back to women and change their perceptions about the drink.

For someone who spends much of her time trying to goad her girlfriends into trying whisky, this appeals to me ten-fold!

Co-founder Ros Shiel says she got into beer when she took on a PR role at the British Beer & Pub Association and went on a beer appreciation course.

“ It really opened my eyes to the wonderful world of beer – until then I had, like many women, been of the opinion that beer was either brown/flat or yellow/gassy and both were wildly fattening! I remember the IPA was a revelation, and so was the cherry beer with dark chocolate,” she told me.

Dea Latis: a women's only beer drinking society. How cool!

The group now has 60 members, made up of female brewers, pub operators, marketing and PR people, and beer writers and bloggers, amongst others. It aims to put on at least two themed events per year (such as a beer and chocolate matching, which is where I discovered the group) and a talk with a woman in the beer industry. Everything is done on a volunteer basis, on limited funds, so the more people that discover it, the more events will happen.

Ros says she hopes more women will give it a go, but adds it’s hard in a country where much of the beer marketing is targeted at men.“It’s true that beer, in the UK certainly – does have a pretty blokey image: advertising’s all about men watching sport or other male bonding stuff, beer brands all sponsor men’s sports like football/rugby.

“[Also] the pint glass is a big turnoff for a lot of women, so we’re keen to see smaller, more elegant glasses become more widely used and indeed that is starting to happen.”

Co-founder Ros Shiel speaks during the beer & chocolate tasting.

There is also the “beer belly” issue, which means most women shy away from beer because of worries over weight. Ros counters: “Beer has fewer calories than wine, measure for like measure. Drunk in moderation, beer isn’t fattening.”

And while she doesn’t expect the whole industry to change overnight, she’s happy at least putting it out there that women love (or can come to love) all the amazing qualities that beer has to offer.

“I think if we can just get more women to consider drinking beer more often, and get more brewers to consider women in the way they market their beers, we’ll have done what we set out to achieve,” she concludes.

Want to get involved ladies? Memberships cost £40 a year and information can be found here.

Hop Rubbing Extravaganza

2 Mar

As soon as I walked into the room, I could smell them. Sour, pungent, aromatic…the hops’ scent was filling the air to the rafters!

I had been invited to attend a “hop rubbing” event at Shakespeare’s Head just off of Carnaby Street in honour of Marston’s new single hop ale releases but I really had no idea what to expect. It’s not every day someone asks you to come and rub hops with a roomful of people!

The new releases are the latest ale experiment from Marston’s – the brand which owns pubs and breweries countrywide, making drinks such as Pedigree and Burton Bitter.

Photo Credit: Jules Beresford

The Single Hop Ales have been created as a way to see how the various flavours of hops can change an individual beer when every other factor (from the type of yeast used, to the water, brewery and barley) stays the same. Each month in 2012, a new variety is being released. January used a New Zealand hop called Wai-iti, while February’s release was made with Galaxy from Australia. March will showcase the more traditional English East Kent Golding hop.

The idea came because the team at Marston’s was curious to see what would happen if they focused on just one hop at a time. According to one of the speakers, Paul Corbett, the UK has a fairly limited style of hop because people here have always drifted towards the best bitter flavours entwined in the Golding and Fuggle varietals. But, by trying out different hops and highlighting their individual flavours, the team hopes to increase interest in how varying ales can be made from each.

I had little idea about hops before I came to the event. I drink a lot of beer, so know about their production, and my English family come from a big hop growing region in the UK (Herefordshire) but I’d never been quite so up close and personal with them.

But before I continue, I should probably explain a bit more about the humble hop.

Reference has been made to using the plant as far back as the year 622, although the routine use of hops in drinks here in the UK didn’t come about until the 15th century when the British learned brewing techniques from Flanders. By the late 19th century, a massive 72,000 acres of hops were being cultivated to satiate the public’s taste for beer. That has dropped to around 2,500 acres here in England while Germany remains the top grower in the world.

Hops are related to the cannabis plant and grow up to nine feet. There are male and female plants but the cone needed for harvesting is only produced by the female. The cones have lupulin glands, which are sticky and look like pollen, and contain the oils needed for beer production. After they are picked, they are dried and packed into bales for dispatch to breweries to process.

Once at the brewery, a proportion of the hops are added into the kettle, along with the wort (made from the milled barley which has been mashed up with water and strained) and boiled. Depending on the required flavour output, more hops may be added towards the end of boiling (called late hopping) and to the final cask (called dry hopping).

That night, I tried the three latest releases and rubbed a total of six hops.

So what did I find?

The amazing thing was how diversified hops smell. The East Kent Golding, for instance, reminded me of haystacks, grass and hemp, and had a bitter aroma, while the Galaxy had undertones of licorice, pepper and cedar. Marynka (a variety from Poland) had a strange combination of onion, mint and medicine smells, and the German Hallertau Mittelfruh conjured up aromas found in a bubbling pasta sauce: herbs like thyme and oregano.

Photo Credit: Jules Beresford

After all those intense and pungent fragrances, I suppose I was a little disappointed with the flavours that were then to be found in the ales themselves. March’s East Kent Golding was just a regular, classic bitter, and so felt a bit flat in comparison with the fresh hop. But, I did enjoy the January Wai-iti, which mirrored the zingy, bursting citrus notes in both the taste of the beer and smell of the hops.

It’s an interesting experiment all around. Simon Yates, a master brewer with Park Brewery in Wolverhampton, told us they would be keen to play around with only those hops made in England to replicate this experiment with only English varieties. However, that will still be a while off because it takes three to four years for a new hop varietal to be created and tested before finally being used in production.

Nevertheless, if you do get a chance to head to a brewery and rub down some hops, I highly recommend it. Just make sure to take a wet-wipe as they get rather sticky, which is equally unpleasant. And, be prepared to smell hops for many hours afterwards as their crafty essential oils love getting absorbed into the skin.

Marston’s Single Hop Ales are available at Chef & Brewer and Taylor Walker pubs throughout 2012.

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