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Thursday, 28 July 2011

Columbus-Brined Onion Sourdough

I've talked of my love for the Columbus hop here. Well, some time has passed since then but I still bloody love them. They've just got this sinister, dark, dank, vegetal thing going on when used in large quantities; I'm convinced that they're the perfect partner for onions and garlic. Onions are bright and acidic and sometimes bitter, they've got that flavour that just hangs around for hours, on your finger tips, on your breath. Onion and columbus should just work together, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.

I've been playing around trying to bring these two flavours together and here's something that worked quite well.

I made a columbus brine by combining about a dozen ground columbus pellets, a generous pinch of salt and a litre or so of water. I then sliced up two smallish onions and soaked them in the brine for two days. The idea here is that the salty water draws out liquid from the onions and replaces it with the brine, leaving you with water that tastes of onion and onion that tastes of hops. Perfect.

Right, so, one of my other big loves is bread - I've been attempting (and failing) to produce the perfect loaf from my sourdough starter for about three years now. But, my thinking was that a slightly sour, wild tasting onion loaf with a columbus edge might just work. My sourdough recipe takes three days to make from beginning to end and involves a whole load of long-winded steps, you could easily just use any old bread recipe and achieve a decent result.

So go ahead and make some bread dough. Separate the onion from the liquid (may I suggest the use of a sieve?) and then very lightly wash any hop material off the onion with cold water. When the dough has gone through its last proving stage and is ready for the oven, simply scatter the onion over the top of the loaf and bake as normal.

What I got looked a little like this:

The combination works superbly. You get that tart, rustic bread with the smack of onion flavour on top and then the leafy, dank columbus and a subtle bitterness. I had the bread warm with a glass of Kernel Columbus Pale Ale, the beer just freshening up the hop flavour, picking it out of the bread and adding a sweetness that helped balance out any bitterness.

I've had some failures when cooking with hops (see here for instance), but whether it be luck or judgment, on this occasion, it came together beautifully.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Kernel Coffee IPA Batch 2

Sometimes you take a notepad because you suspect something interesting might happen, sometimes you save a bottle of beer because you know you want to write about it and then other times you’re taken by surprise and you’re forced to pick up that pen and paper because something’s happened that everybody must hear about!

Routine Sunday afternoon, probably won’t be drinking again now until next weekend, might as well have one more beer, golf is on TV – boring, Kernel Coffee IPA Batch 2 is in the fridge, let’s go for that.

“It pours a copper-flame”, blah, blah, blah; the head is a colour that I don’t care about. A swirl, a sniff, a sip, boom! Wake up call, reach for that pen and paper, this is seriously good. Like, put-down-what-you’re-doing, turn-that-shit-golf-off, full-undivided-attention, good.

The aroma is dominated by coffee. Not freshly brewed coffee or ground coffee beans; it’s like the smell you get when you come back to your cold cafetiere to wash it up. When you tip those used grounds out into the bin and the smell hits you, it’s like that. There’s also chocolate, milk chocolate, lots of milk chocolate, then in the back there’s a sweet, ripe, tropical, fruit character coming from the hops. The coffee is doing enough masking to allow those specific fruits to hide but it reminds me of the smell you get when a fruit bowl has started to turn – that really ripe, fruity aroma you get.

When you drink it you’re immediately struck by how thick, velvety and creamy it is. The hops come forward a bit more and seem tropical, lots of mango in particular. The coffee is still the protagonist, bringing roasty, coffee and milk chocolate notes, it’s like a Solero with chocolate-coffee sauce all over it.

When I drank the first batch of this beer I was amazed at how two-faced it was. It was almost like the hops and the coffee had a fight and moved to opposing ends of the mouthful. This time it’s remarkable for the opposite reason, everything is so well integrated, harmonious and balanced. Those hops and that coffee must’ve settled their differences because, in this beer, they’re best mates.

If you’re lucky enough to find any of this around, buy it, buy as much of it as you can and drink it as quickly as you can.


And to finish, a question: Coffee and IPA sounds like a crazy combination, two things that shouldn’t really work together. But, is the coffee working in this beer like a dark malt would? Does this make the seemingly crazy actually quite logical? If you stained an IPA black with something like Carafa III and used a small amount of chocolate malt to add dark malt character, would you be a million miles off a coffee IPA? Would you be a million miles off a hoppy porter?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Use Your Local

The nice people over at useyourlocal.com asked me to write a few words on a pub topic of my choice. I said yes and wrote about places like Craft Beer Co. You can check it out here.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

An Evening of Swedish Beer

Back at the Beer Bloggers Conference I picked up some rare bottles from Sweden. They’d been sitting in the fridge quite happily, but with the other-half out for the evening and me with nothing much on, I thought I’d grab them out and see what they’re up to.

Thinking it best to start with something subtle and then move onwards, first up I had Sigtuna Brygghus East River Lager. Labelled handsomely in industrial chrome and with a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, it looks great before you even reach for the bottle opener. It’s a Vienna lager and therefore on the darker side of golden. The aroma is big and bold, shouting American hops at the top of its voice. This follows through to citrusy notes in the flavour, backed by caramel and chewy, sweet malt. There’s a slight metallic element to it that distracts and I’d call this an APA (American Pale Ale) if I didn’t know better; very enjoyable all the same.

Game plan incited, we now hit full-on lager craving. Slottskällans Bryggeri St Eriks Pilsner might do the job.

Maybe not. American hops again. Aroma and flavour packed with overripe oranges, blossom and tinned mandarins. There’s a subtle sulphur in the background - flinty, minerally, like concrete when its just started to rain - enough to make me think pilsner, but not enough to compete with those hops. Closer to the beer I was expecting but still some way off; very tasty though.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Up next is St Eriks IPA, and as soon as I take a sip my brain screams EAST COAST. Lots of crystal malt in the flavour profile, tannic, slightly chewy, loads of caramel and toffee. There are hops there too but they seemed muted, fruity but indiscernibly so. The body is very thin and that results in an astringency when combined with the crystal malt. If you’re into East Coast IPAs (think Dogfish Head) then you’ll like this, it’s a personal thing but I just prefer it from the West.

And to round things out with a lovely symmetry, we say “hello best beer of the night” to Sigtuna Brygghus Summer IPA. More of those tinned mandarins, some peaches and some citrus and maybe a little pine in the background too. How this beer is 7.1% I do not know. It romps home with beautiful balance, sweetness up front and then the softest bitterness in the finish that just sweeps everything away. Very well brewed, a really fantastic beer.

Bravo Sweden.

Friday, 8 July 2011

International #IPADay - August 4th

The Beer Wench and Ryan Ross have come together to organise the first ever #IPADay. A web based event designed to give beer lovers around the world an opportunity (an excuse?) to celebrate great beer with like-minded people. The wine world is ahead when it comes to this sort of event, organising things like Chardonnay Day and Cabernet Day like it went out of fashion. Well the 4th of August is about IPA, let's raise a toast to a great beer style and to great beer; organise an IPA tasting at your house, write a blog, record a video or send a tweet. Do what you want, but make sure you involve an IPA and make sure you tell everyone about it!

10 different breweries from around the world are involved and in England we're represented by Summer Wine. They've teamed up with some of the UK's top beer outlets - The Port Street Beer House in Manchester, The Free Trade Inn in Newcastle and The Rake and The Southampton Arms in London - to run #IPADay events, mini festivals, live blogging sessions and tastings.

The official event website is here: www.ipaday.eventbrite.com. Tweeting will be done under the #IPADay hash tag and a thread will be running in the Ratebeer forums.

Let's drink some IPA!

Friday, 1 July 2011

My Brewery Tap

This is a heads up to say that I’ve started writing some content for MyBreweryTap. As I’m sure most readers of this blog will know, one of the guys behind MBT has recently moved into the world of brewing, meaning that time to write blogs and stuff is even more tight. When asked if I’d like to contribute, I jumped at the chance. MBT is a company I really like, they’re all about bringing an ever increasing beer range to people at reasonable prices, the guys behind it are beer lovers like the rest of us and I think I’ve got some cool content ideas to bring to their blog.

By way of disclaimer, I’d like to say from the beginning that I’m in no way part of MBT as a company and I’m not being paid for anything I write for them. I’m doing it for the fun of it and for the chance to write from a different angle; if something they sell is bad then I’ll say so, I’m under no obligation to write specific content and nothing I post will be edited or censored. I’ve written an intro post here and we’re kicking things off with a Drink Along concept that I’ve blogged about here.

beerbirrabier.com is still my main focus and I’ll continue to blog here as much as I ever have. Check out the MBT blog here and (perhaps) add it to your blog lists if you haven’t already. You can add MyBreweryTap on Facebook and on Twitter. It would be great to hear some feedback on what I’m doing over there as well as what’s going on here, so feel free to let me know!

So that’s that; let normal service resume ...