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Friday, 30 April 2010

Baked Stuffed Flatbread with Spicy Tomato Sauce & US IPA

This is a recipe inspired by something I once saw Jamie Oliver cook. The idea of rice in a bread may seem like and odd one at first, but it really does work.

To stuff the breads you need a flavoured rice. Heat some olive oil in a pan and add some sliced onions, garlic and peppers. Cover this and leave to sweat down whilst you kick the rice off. When the rice is cooked, drain and leave it to steam itself dry, then stir the onion mix through it. Check the seasoning and add diced tomatoes and a few sultanas.

The sauce starts life in a similar way to the rice. Again sweat down onions and garlic in olive oil, add plenty of ground cumin and then pasata. Stir in sliced chili and lime juice, season and simmer for ten minutes.

The best breads to use are large Moroccan flat breads. These can be difficult to come by, but I've often found them in small Turkish supermarkets. A good alternative would be to use flour tortillas. Spoon a generous portion of the rice onto each bread and roll into a burrito shape. Lay these onto a layer of the sauce in an oven proof dish and then pour the remaining sauce over the top. Cover with torn mozzarella cheese and bake in a hot oven until molten, golden and delicious. Serve with a generous sprinkling of torn up coriander leaves. (This is an essential addition, so don't leave it out thinking its only there as a garnish!)

I paired this with and American IPA (Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA). The metallic, floral coriander plays off the slight herbal, floral quality of the beer and the bitterness in its finish. The slight chili heat is amplified by the hoppiness of the beer and in return the heat picks out the malty backbone in the drink. The beer has a fruity sweetness which is matched by the fruity sweet tomato sauce. Lovely.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Brew Wharf - Tasty

A quick one this, just to acknowledge another good beer coming out of the Brew Wharf under resident brewers Saints and Sinners.

Following Hoptimum, Goldfish Bowl and Field of Dreams is Tasty. A tribute to a tribute beer; based loosely on Mike "Tasty" McDole's Janet's Brown Ale.

Tasty - the beer not the person - is a heavily hopped US style Brown ale. It pours a deep chestnut with a dense creamy head on top. This beer is the Harvey Dent of the beverage world. The nose is dominated by a mass of citrusy US hops, your eyes tell you to expect roasted aroma, but you get orangey chinook leaping from the glass instead. Then it flips over on you and the taste is just choc-full of, well ... chocolate! The hops are there, some roastiness too, but it's all about the deep, rich, velvety chocolate.

It's exceptionally smooth and full in the mouth and then finishes with a real biting bitterness. Fantastically drinkable and refreshingly different. Part of me wants the next release to be a bad beer ... it must be getting boring me banging on about how great these beers have been!

It might be a fluke, but I'm convinced this beer was served warmer than the last one I had at Brew Wharf. The main criticism I've made of Brew Wharf beers is that they're served a bit too cold. Hopefully it wasn't a fluke!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Bread with Spent Beer Yeast


I don't like to throw anything away. When you brew beer you end up with grain, hops and - to a lesser degree - yeast. All three are pretty much useless to you; at least from a brewing perspective.

I've made bread with spent grain before and achieved some half-decent results. Spent yeast and hops, on the other hand, I've never found a use for. Commercially, the yeast trub that settles out after primary fermentation will have fresh wort pitched on to it so that fermentation can begin all over again. Just because a beer has reached final gravity, it doesn't mean that the yeast is dead and unable to ferment any thing else. With this in mind, I carried out an experiment using yeast trub to leaven a loaf of bread.

My last homebrew beer used Safale 04; an English ale yeast strain. When primary fermentation finished, I racked the beer off into a secondary tank so that it could be dry-hopped. I collected the yeast trub from the bottom of the primary tank and stored it in the fridge, in a sterilised jar, until it was needed.


Baking bread is easy. Baking very good bread can actually be quite difficult. For this experiment I used: two parts white flour, one part brown flour, one part yeast trub and some salt. Combine all the ingredients with enough water to make a smooth dough and then knead for roughly ten minutes. Leave the dough to prove until double in size, knock back, shape and leave again. When the loaf is double its original shaped size, bake in a very hot oven for ten minutes, then lower the heat and bake until cooked through.

I had a slight concern that the yeast might have died. I kept it in the fridge for about a week before using it and hadn't really given it any time at ambient temperature to warm up. This proved to be completely unfounded. The yeast took off like a rocket, leaving the dough double in size within about twenty minutes. Having shaped it and moved it to a loaf tin, the yeast was working so quickly I could practically see the dough rising before my eyes!

The loaf baked very well indeed and had a nice golden, crispy crust. The texture of the bread was also very good; very light and airy with even distribution of the gas throughout. Unfortunately though, the taste couldn't quite live up to this. If you've ever experienced it, imagine the smell when you peer into a fermenter during primary fermentation. That sweet smell of yeast that's carried to you by over zealous CO2, eager to leave it's birth place and enter the world. That's exactly how the bread tasted. That taste, followed by an incredibly unpleasant metallic bitterness.

So in conclusion, a fun experiment but an end result that wasn't a complete success. I might try this in future with different yeast strains and with different ratios of yeast trub to flour. Anyone else had success doing this?

I know the recipe steps above are vague but this entry is more about the experiment than a walk through on how to bake bread. If anyone wants more detail, and doesn't just automatically look elsewhere, I'll happily post it.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Brew Wharf - Field of Dreams

I'm pretty sure I just missed the special dry-hopped version of Field of Dreams by a single pint! The guy in front of me bought two and then the barman turned the pump clip around. Traumatic.

Anyway, ten minutes later and we're ready to rock with a brand new cask. This is the third beer that Saints and Sinners have produced at the Brew Wharf in London Bridge. First up was Hoptimum; followed by Gold Fish Bowl. (You can read about them here and here).

Field of Dreams was brewed in collaboration with Ben Fields - home brewer and all round nice guy - when Saints and Sinners (S&S) threw the brewery doors open and invited him to brew. From a home brewing background themselves, S&S are becoming incredibly pro-active in narrowing the gap between amateur and professional brewers. Something that's commendable, exciting, valuable and worthy of its own blog all at once. (More of that another time).

The beer. Straight off the bat you can tell this pint is in excellent condition; a creamy white head sits atop a gorgeous copper coloured beer.

For me, the aroma was a little subdued. It is worth noting that I was drinking outside though, so it might be slightly unfair to criticise. On drinking, all is forgiven. It starts with a subtle sweetness, then you get wonderful pithy orange citrus and then a really pronounced cereal-biscuity malt character. The finish is bitter but not massively so, it starts small and then grows on you. In the mouth its smooth, really smooth, it's crisp in the finish and refreshing. This is a fantastic beer, easily my favourite of the three.

I think it's being served too cold though. It was noticeably cold in my hand and it was by no means a warm evening outside. There's a slight haze to it and, as I've said, the aroma does feel a little subdued. Both these things could be down to serving temperature.

As it warmed I noticed the citrus get bigger and the bitterness become more pronounced. A grapefruit-bite came through in the finish and a slight resinous, oily quality was detectable in the mouth. All things that made the overall beer even better.

These trips to Brew Wharf are almost becoming a regular thing now; and long may it continue. I would pick, drink and enjoy this beer every day of the week. Hats off to S&S for sharing the brewery and to Ben for making a great beer.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Single. Circle. Small.

The beer I brewed here has now been in the bottle for two weeks. I've had a sample and I think it still needs some time; the carbonation is there but lacking and the overall taste is slightly young. The hop flavour and aroma is massive, bigger than when it went into the bottle. Despite mashing warm and using some added flaked barley; the beer lacks body and sweetness. It has a slight watery feel in the mouth and the hop flavour does taste somewhat 'stewed'.

I set out to make a drinkable, full flavoured beer at 2.5 per cent. It looks like I've ended up with a drinkable, full flavoured beer at 2.7 per cent. It's not without fault, but it's far from bad. It'll be interesting to see what other people make of this, especially those that've tried the original Nanny State.

As far as the name goes, it's simple really. The beer is based on the small beer style, it was made with a single hop variety and on brew day it was labelled with a circle.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Wetherspoon's Festival - Take 2

Okay, so the first trip to the 'Spoons festival was covered here. Round two comes in the form of four beers I've never had before, two of them being imports and two from the UK. Here are my thoughts:

Goose Island Honker's Ale. A rare breed this in so much as it's an American brewer trying to brew a British beer style. The aroma is amazing, you could smell this beer forever and not get bored of it. It's the hoppy assault of an American Pale Ale but with UK hops. You get grassy, spicy notes in abundance and then a subtle toffee behind that. It's light in the mouth with some gentle sweetness up front, the hops then power through and it's all finished off by a crisp bitterness. Gorgeous. Only criticism being that its a tiny bit thin in the mouth and could perhaps do with a touch more sweetness. Incredibly refreshing and incredibly drinkable.

Brains Honest Ale. A subdued aroma that hints at honey and some estery banana fruit. On the palate it starts with a slight sweetness, that fruit comes through, becomes almost soapy and then makes way for a dry bitter finish. There's an unpleasant metallic note that runs through both the aroma and flavour. Not a complete dud, but definitely one I can't see myself rushing back for.

Val-Dieu Abbaye Blonde. An authentic Belgian blonde ale that, at 5.5 per cent, is one of the strongest beers in the festival line up. What is it with CAMRA and beer styles ... this one's in the programme as a "Strong Bitter". The nose is dominated by floral perfume and some honey. On the palate you get boiled sweets, berry fruit and a wheaty-maltiness. Not bad in a third measure but I wouldn't want more than that.

Herold Black Chalice. More CAMRA bizarreness with this one, the pump clip makes a point of stating "Schwarzbier" yet it's in the programme as a stout. Why? Anyway, it pours a deep black colour with a big, creamy head. The mouth feel is really, really smooth. You get some subtle roasty flavour and then a ton of chocolate in the finish. There's enough bready malt there to remind you that this has roots in lager camp, but it does blur the boundaries a bit, delicious nonetheless.

I'm assuming that the programme and tasting notes were put together with the aid of CAMRA. If not, I apologise ... the random categorisation criticism should be aimed at Wetherspoon's.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Rye and Caraway - A beer inspired by a sandwich

My favourite sandwich is a complicated yet classic one. You need plenty of pastrami, sliced gherkins, mustard mayonnaise, emmental cheese and sauerkraut for filling. To force all this between, you need two slices of thickly cut rye bread that's been baked with caraway seeds. New York delis are famous for making sandwiches like this, but closer to home, you can get really good ones at Marks and Spencer.


When I went to Germany last year, I saw that rye and caraway bread is something that's consumed fairly often, and it got me thinking about how the flavour combination could be applied to beer. Beer being liquid bread, rye being an easily obtainable brewing malt and caraway seeds being so aromatic; I think it's a combination waiting to happen.

So, the next beer I brew will be a rye and caraway seed ale. The grist will be simple: eighty per cent marris otter and twenty per cent malted rye, hopefully allowing the rye to shine through and be the dominant malt character. I want the other dominate flavour to come from the caraway seeds, so the hopping will be very limited. Bittering with fuggles to around forty IBU's and then a small late addition of fuggles to give a herbal, spicy, grassy background. Caraway seeds will then go in at flame out and will also be added to the conditioning vessel when primary fermentation is complete. Yeast will come in the form of US05 to make it as neutral as possible, and to keep sediment nice and compact. As far as ABV, I'll pump for something in the range of five to six per cent, meaning an OG of about 1055.

I'll post an update when I get to the brew day, but there you have it; a strong ale with the flavours of rye and caraway seed. Something a bit different and unique, but why not? Enjoy with emmental cheese, pastrami and gherkin.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Apologies To Thornbridge Jaipur

Thornbridge Jaipur is a beer that I've had many times. It's a beer that introduced me to hops and it's something I'd count amongst my staple drinks.

As my passion and thirst for new great beer develops, it's easy to forget those I once loved. When faced with the choice between something new and something I know well; it's often difficult to pick the known over the unknown.

On Easter Sunday I stopped by the Old Thameside Inn for a pint. Choices on hand pull included a couple of Adnams beers, a Green King offering and Jaipur. I asked for a Jaipur and was given the single best pint of it I've ever had. So good in fact that I felt an obligation to write this rambling blog entry about it.

Have a look at the photo to the right. How good does that look! The head was big and white and fluffy. The body was flecked with a light sprtizy carbonation. Citrusy hops fought to jump out of the glass and smash their way to my nose. On drinking I got punchy citrus, exotic fruits and then a crisp bitterness that built just to the point of becoming too much before fading away.

I wrote a post a week or so ago about Cask Ale Week. Part of me wishes I'd had this pint before writing that. Not only the best pint of Jaipur I think I've ever had, also the best pint of Cask Ale I've had for quite some time. On Easter Sunday I fell back in love with Jaipur, next time you go to pick something new over an old favourite ... maybe give it a second thought.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Williams Brothers Fraoch - Guest Review

I've just written a guest beer review for "Lost In The Beer Aisle". It's a look at Williams Brothers Fraoch, a heather ale based on a sixteenth Century Gaelic recipe. You can check it out here.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Wetherspoon's Festival - Take 1

Wetherspoon's twice-annual Real Ale Festival gets underway today. It's a great way to try a few cask ales from breweries that you might otherwise not come across. I won't go into any more detail because, frankly, I'm only stating the obvious!

I'm quite lucky - I'm sure some will disagree with that - to have a 'Spoons on my doorstep, so I plan to call in for a few thirds over the next two and a bit weeks. As I try beers, I'll keep a brief record in blog form. I know many beer bloggers will be doing the same, so it'll be interesting to see what we all manage to find and what we make of the beers we try.

Tonight there were only two festival beers on. First up was Maui Coconut Porter, a five per cent beer that's brewed with toasted Coconut. It pours a deep ebony colour and has a sweet nose of coconut, dusty wood and very slight smoke. On the palate there's toasted coconut, some sweetness up front, vanilla, dark chocolate and then a finish that's slightly tangy and that builds in bitterness. The body is full and smooth. Very nice indeed. Maybe - through hype - I was slightly underwhelmed, but very enjoyable nonetheless.

Continuing the theme of imported beer, next up was Zululand Zulu Blonde. On the nose I got noble hops first then a building plastic note that reminded me of foam backed flip-flops. That sounds incredibly pretentious, but I can't think of a better way to describe it. Upon tasting you get a full honey-sweetness and a slightly boozy fruitiness. The finish comes in the form of a subtle, crisp bitterness. Not bad - might be better served colder and from a keg.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Brew Wharf - Goldfish Bowl

Yesterday I wrote about Hoptimum, today it's Goldfish Bowl. Goldfish Bowl is the second offering from Saints & Sinners Beer Co; brewing out of Brew Wharf in London Bridge. An impromptu trip there after work, for a quick half, has inspired me to throw a few thoughts together in the form of a blog entry.

The beer is described as "an amber hued German and English malt base beer, hopped with Magnum, Amarillo and Williamette hops for a warm honey and fruit aroma".

It pours a straw colour with a lace of bubbles atop. The aroma is hoppy and bold. You get a wave of citrus fruits with the suggestion of honey sweetness behind. I distinctly picked out Amarillo hops, giving the suggestion of orange and tangerine.

On the palate there's a slight lack of sweetness at first, replaced by punchy citrus hops. This moves on to biscuity malt and then dry, crisp bitterness that steadily builds to the point of becoming quite big.

Like Hoptimum, it's a good, full flavoured, incredibly drinkable beer. The glass I had was slightly too cold and lacking in condition though. To be critical, I'd say the very light body means an almost slightly stewed hop flavour at times, and that it lacks some sweetness up front. At 3.8%, it's a beer I would happily drink multiple pints of. I think overall I prefer Hoptimum, but this is still a worthy addition to the roster. Looking forward to the next entry.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Brew Wharf Hoptimum

A quick blog entry about a beer that I've enjoyed a couple of times now. Saints & Sinners Beer Co - attempting to restore some sense of prestige and worth to the facility - have brewed Hoptimum at the Brew Wharf in London Bridge.

The beer is a 5.2 per cent pale ale flavoured with all American hops. A week or so ago I tried it at an event to celebrate the tapping of the first cask, and this weekend just passed I had it again at the Planet Thanet Beer Festival.

Hoptimum pours a light golden colour with a thin lacing of white head. The body is light with minimal carbonation. On the nose you get a punch of citrus with a floral note chasing behind.

On the palate that floral citrus comes through, building to a crisp, dry bitterness. The combination of this with the light body makes for a very refreshing and incredibly drinkable beer.

Minor criticism would be that, at over 5 per cent, the body does leave you a touch wanting. Whilst the dryness of the finish is nice, a touch more sweetness could give better overall balance. This is nit-picking though. A very enjoyable beer, made doubly impressive by the fact that it's the first time the brewer and brewery have come together. I'm looking forward to future brews and I'm glad there's a reason to visit Brew Wharf again.