December 10th, 2012Beer and Food
Tradition is a funny thing. It’s the osmosis by which culture ebbs down the generations. It is vital to the survival of so much that we cherish. It’s on one hand the facilitator of those differences between cultures that should be celebrated, yet it can also be the glue of homogeneity when we can’t be bothered to make room for dreaded change.
Take Christmas dinner. It’s the bedrock of Christmas Day, a piece of the jigsaw essential to the survival of festive traditions. But who the hell actually wants to eat Brussels sprouts, regardless of what exotic spices our celebrity chefs enthusiastically season the little buggers with? Would anyone eat turkey if it wasn’t part of the Christmas trimmings?
So when Leigh of Good Stuff fame asked me and a bunch of other beery bloggers what our own personal Christmas dinner would look like I was given the interesting choice of either demolishing a gastronomic Luddite or preserving a vital piece of culinary heritage. I think I might have done a bit of both…
I’ve never cooked Christmas dinner on Christmas Day, but I know for sure I’d have a beer whilst trying (bad idea perhaps, but an open beer is an integral part of my cooking routine). I would probably have started Christmas Day with a coffee stout or a sticky jam cherry beer, so the beer to accompany kitchen time would be something light and local and never too bitter. Saltaire Cascade or Hebden Wheat? Or if back in Oxfordshire, a Hooky Gold picked up direct from the Victorian brewery on Christmas Eve (driving out to the minuscule village of Hook Norton the day before Christmas is a tradition well worth keeping in my eyes)
Prawn cocktail does little for me, and pâté is a tad unadventurous for Christmas dinner. So scallops it is, served relatively plain (fried with a touch of cayenne pepper for those wanting a little kick). Here a big oyster stout like this one by Marston’s might work, or go in the complete opposite direction and pair with something spritzy and barely blonde, which would lift the seafood and temper the pepper (Meantime Pilsner was featured at a previous Beer Writers dinner and is very light). But whilst I love both ideas I’ve got plenty of beer to savour later, so I fancy a dash of fizzy cider to keep my palate fresh. Weston’s is widely available in supermarkets and has enough bite to complement the fiery edge of the seasoned scallops (if cider isn’t your thing combine both – Mikkeller Rice Market is has hints of apples, lemongrass and ginger and might complement scallops seasoned in a Thai style)
I was only kidding about turkey, it’s a must have for Christmas so long as there’s a crispy skin and an orange inside. But my favourite meat at this time of year is a whopping great ham, drizzled in honey and punctured with sharp cloves. I’m stuck between beer choices here but top of the list would be a succulent German hefeweizen (Spaten Franziskaner Hefeweizen was recommended to me as one that is more phenol like (cloves) than esters laden (bananas), but Weihenstephan Hefe Weissbier is much easier to find in the shops). A close second would be a Belgian blonde – Bruges Zot can feel a bit sugary but it’s brilliant with ham, or for something more herbaceous try one of the smorgasbord of Belgian blondes available. With both options think beery mustards – one laced with spices, fruit and malt, the other with caramels, pepper and spice (to upgrade these options further try a deep and dangerous fishermans ale?) If they all sound complex then how about stripping it right back and serving with a mean talking pilsner – something like Pilsner Urquell with enough oomph to wash down the feast. The beers all add to the meal, it’s earthier and more fun than turkey, and as a result requires a different angle on veg – mashed potato, carrot and swede and caramelised beetroot all complement the ham. Or fried sweet potatoes and parsnips in a grill pan with honey for a stickier, toastier alternative.
I’m partial to Christmas pud and Christmas cake, but there’s plenty of time to bring them out through the Christmas break. To finish this personalised Christmas meal I want a bit of wow factor and only one dessert brings lashings of wow plus lots of beer opportunity. Actually it’s a style of dessert, as I’ve tried many variations on a theme which have blown me away. The basic idea is to mix chocolate, ice cream and thick stouts. The best I’ve tried have been towers of chocolate cake or mousse served with a creamy vanilla or Cornish ice cream alongside a big stout. I’ve had chocolate and walnut mouse with Gonzo Imperial Stout (world beating!), Bibinca cake and vanilla ice cream with Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout (innovative), Young’s Double Chocolate Stout with Baked Alaska (strange!) and Old Engine Oil with Cadbury’s flakes drowning in mostly melted creamy Cornish ice cream. Not to mention ice cream floats made from Hooky Double Stout or Dark Island Reserve served with clotted cream on digestive biscuits (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!). This year I’ll be migrating to Leigh’s suggestion of baked vanilla cheesecake with Saltaire Triple Chocoholic though.
Yep, Christmas dinner has to be finished with cheese. I would bring the board out some time after eating had finished, and when conversation moves rooms the cheese board must follow. It will still be there when we get to our feet for bed. My cheese must haves are simple. Fullers Vintage must be saved and savoured at Christmas with old blue cheese or brie (and it’s widely available from Sainsbury’s every year, or pick up vintages from beer shops or the brewery). Sam Smiths organic raspberry fruit beer to complement Wensleydale with cranberries (the very over-sweet raspberry beer easily overcomes the drier cranberries but their mutual sourness ties them together, read about the Strawberry version here). Harveys Elizabethan Ale – all raisins and wine – is perfect with Camembert (throw brandy soaked raisins in the cheese too just for laughs). And a complete theoretical experiment I’ll be trying this year is Cornish yarg with Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – because the combination of green funky cheese and piney hop joy just has to work! (Don’t forget blackstock, Shropshire and Danish blues either – wonderful cheeses for match all sorts of beers).
So there it is, an alternative Christmas dinner with a whole host of beer possibilities. Some will work, some won’t, the fun is in trying them all! Now I just have to wait for my opportunity to cook this feast one year…
Tags: brooklyn chocolate stout, chocolate dessert, christmas, dessert, ham, hefeweizen, Hook Norton, turkey, vintage ale
As well as Leigh’s Christmas dinner you can also find menus from Phil, Neil, Andy and Rick. We’d love to know if there’s anything you’d like to nick for this year, or anything that you makes your stomach turn? And what else do you do that’s different to the norm?!
February 18th, 2010Pubs & bars
As an adolescent I was lucky enough to have three excellent local pubs, all within 200 yards on the same road. Set back from the road The Horse and Jockey was a lively pub with one bar and a lounge with dart board, pool table and Sky tv. The beer was lager, one or two hand pulls of something like Hooky Bitter and at one point a Chinese takeaway operating in the back room servng takeaways to the hungry inhabitants. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: bakers arms, british pubs, community, Hook Norton, Hooky, horse and jockey, Oxfordshire, pub names, Pubs & bars, the plough
January 14th, 2010Beer Shops
I hadn’t really taken much note of the beer aisle in Morrison’s for a while, writing it off as a bit dull and uninteresting. We’re unusually blessed with Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and ASDA within a 4-minute radius in the car, not to mention Leeds’ finer beery retailers, so I can happily avoid Morrison’s BWS department for months on end.
On Sarah’s request I popped in straight off the bus on Tuesday night for some naan bread and as I headed from checkout to door I couldn’t help but be drawn towards the beer and wines section (our Morrison’s is one of those odd divisive ones with a separate alcohol area fenced off from the main supermarket floor).
First off I was impressed with their range and I was overcome with an urge to try old favourites and classic British beers. Thai green chicken curry was on the menu which called for something a little exotic, plus I needed a pick me up after an arduous day at the office: a refreshing and zingy Golden Champion would do just the trick. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: Badger, castle rock, everards, harvest pale, Hook Norton, Hooky, jw lees, morrisons, offers, supermarket, thwaites, tiger, wainwright
Christmas Beer Gift PacksChristmas is not much more than 24 hours away and you haven’t finished all your shopping. There’s always at least one thing that’s slipped your mind, one extra gift to buy, a mad dash to the shops or the supermarket to ensure you’ve bought enough for that special person. And for the beer lovers in your life? What better than a fancy gift pack of a beer they haven’t tried with a fancy glass. Or even if they have tried it, it’s the thought that counts, eh?! We’ve compiled a selection of some of the Christmas Beer Gift Packs we’ve come across on our travels – some we’ve bought, some we’ve snapped on shop shelves and some have been pointed in our direction by breweries or PR companies. If you need a last minute beery gift some will be easier to find than others. Hopefully there’s a bit of something for a variety of different beer drinkers! Merry Christmas!
WARNING: these gift suggestions are not (I repeat not!) suitable for your beer widow!!! Read the rest of this entry »Tags: beer gift packs, black sheep, broughton, carlow, christmas, Cobra, curry, gifts, hogsback, Hook Norton, Hooky, house of fraser, innis & gunne, john lewis, la trappe, m&s, MileStone, presents, purity, sainsburys, wiliams brothers
I have always said that Old Hooky, probably my favourite beer, reminds me of the fruitcake that my Nan bakes. The dried fruit flavours are noted by Zak Avery in his notes for the recently published top 50 beers as listed by The Independent newspaper. I am not going to regurgitate Zak’s comments but rather identify a food pairing which I have been dying to try for some time now.
In addition to the fruit flavours, which are deep and rich rather than sharp and citrusy, there is a mild spiciness that brings a little warmth to the back of your mouth when drinking. These are the reasons why it reminds me of the fruitcake that my Nan has been feeding me on Saturday afternoons for as long as I can remember.I have categorised this post under beer recipes because I think that this is a delicious beer/food pairing although I am not publishing the fruitcake recipe just now. Firstly because I need my Nan’s permission but also because it takes quite a bit of time to bake.
My recommendation would be to nip out to a good cake shop (there’s a great stand on Morley Market selling cakes and jams, presumably there’s one in Leeds City market too) and pick up a nice rich fruitcake. Buy a few bottles of Old Hooky and keep them somewhere cool but not cold (I leave my beers for the week ahead by our back door and they are always ready at the drop of a hat). You will then have a perfectly paired slice of cake and drop of ale to serve to any unexpected yuletide visitors.Tags: Fruitcake, Fruity, Hook Norton, My Nan, Old Hooky, Rich, Spicy, Xmas, Zac Avery
Andy over at Beerreviews.co.uk just posted the first review of the test #beerswap parcel that we exchanged a little while back. In it I packed four fine Oxfordshire (ish) ales including the fantastic Hooky Gold from Hook Norton Brewery.
I didn’t think anything of the Hooky Gold at the time, even admiring it’s shiny green label.
Until last night, when Alan popped over and we were chatting about the blog. We looked over at the original Hooky bottles that used to make up this our blog header, and noticed something odd – there was no Hooky Gold.
But of course there is! Hooky Gold was always in a red label with gold writing. Now the label is green!
When did this occur? How did we not notice?! We don’t mind Hooky, we like the green label, but when and why was it changed?!?!
Does anybody know?Tags: Beer Reviews, Beer Swap, Hook Norton, Hook Norton Brewery, Hooky, hooky gold
November 23rd, 2009Comment
This weekend we replaced the header image on the blog, and with some sadness said goodbye to the Hook Norton bottles that have been the face of Real Ale Reviews since it’s inception.
A few people have asked us over the last few months if we were sponsored by Hook Norton or were we promoting them.
The answer is no, but I’ll be the first to admit that Real Ale Reviews will happily sing the praises of our local Oxfordshire brewery.
Alan and I started this site whilst sipping Old Hooky, we’ve shared evenings playing pool and drinking Hooky Bitter in the brewery’s own pubs, and have many years ago toured the old Victorian steam brewery as part of a school trip. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: bottle tops, Hook Norton, Hooky, independence
November 19th, 2009Uncategorized
This weekend’s return of the Premiership following the latest round of international fixtures would seem to make a good time to announce the winner of the Real Ale Reviews Fantasy Football for October. Once again Stuart Young has topped the monthly table, so a bottle of fine ale is heading your way…again! Charlie Upton has received his bottle of Hook Norton Haymaker for taking the September crown and Stu has very kindly provided a review of the beer he won in August, a St Austell Tribute.
The table for October is below and there are two game weeks left for November so still time to overturn Stu who is once again in the mix and fast becoming the most hated man at Real Ale Reviews HQ!!! Jim Oliver is rumoured to be considering sacrificing points to replenish an injury struck midfield while Jimmy Boardley needs to hope for a few more months like he is having so far in November if that title isn’t going to drown him like a millstone around the neck.
Oh and Charlie, make hay and get that Hooky reviewed!
# Team Manager GW TOT 1 Stu’s Skillz School Stuart Young 58 215 2 World In Motion Joe Mewis 48 209 4 Hunslet Hawks Andrew Clarkson 55 205 Read the rest of this entry »
October 23rd, 2009Beer Recipes
As I was back down in Oxfordshire last week visiting my parents I decided to take a trip over to Hook Norton to pick up some ales. Tuesday was a crisp, sunny morning and I felt invigorated flying down the country roads with my sunglasses and coat on, the window open and the Kings of Leon blasting out of the Megane’s old stereo. I’m pretty sure I looked like a prick but I didn’t care.
Before I’d even arrived at the brewery I’d decided that I was going to spend the afternoon working on ‘Beer-ising’ a recipe that I’d had in mind for a couple of months. I knew the type of beer, well stout to be precise, that I needed and knew that Hooky Double Stout would be just the ticket.
So, after picking up a few bottles and a quick tour of the museum (see picture…well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area), I headed home to the kitchen (well – my parents kitchen, and I already had this in mind for and excuse if it went wrong). The following is what I came up with…
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 x Chicken Breast
4 x Bacon Rashers
A Generous handful of Grated Cheddar Cheese
(For the BBQ sauce)
1 Tblsp Olive Oil
4 x Garlic Cloves (Crushed)
3 x Tblsp Tomato Puree
2 x Heaped Teaspoon of Mustard Powder
4 x Tblsp Soy Sauce
2 x Tblsp White Wine Vinegar
Ground Black Pepper
¼ Pint Hook Norton Double Stout
Heat the Olive Oil in a small saucepan and gently fry the crushed Garlic for a couple of minutes. Once the garlic is soft, add the tomato puree and mustard powder, stirring constantly to avoid the puree burning on the bottom of the pan. Next, one at a time, throw in the soy sauce, white wine vinegar and Molasses, You can slam them all in at once if you want but I find it easier to add each one, give it a good stir and move onto the next. The mixture should thicken with the Molasses and, when it returns to a good temperature, will bubble a bit like lava. Don’t have it too hot or it will go everywhere (as a guide I can usually dip my finger in mine to see how the flavour is coming along).
Next add the Worcester and Tobasco Sauces, Black Pepper and Chilli Flakes to taste. Obviously this will depend how spicy you want the sauce and I recommend that you add them a little at a time, employing some finger dipping to taste as you go and adding more if you think it’s required, don’t forget your Mum’s old saying…’you can add more, but you can’t take any out..’. Finally add the stout (again tastes will differ so add it a bit at a time, also the amount of stout will dictate how thick and sweet the sauce is so, if you don’t want it too runny, don’t add too much). You now have the Stout BBQ sauce that will form the basis of the dish and the hard bit is over.
In a shallow, heavy based pan cook the 2 chicken breasts, brushing them occasionally with the BBQ sauce. If you have had time beforehand you can marinate them in the fridge but this isn’t essential. Once the chicken has cooked through place it in a deep ovenproof dish, cover with the BBQ Sauce and stick in an over that’s been preheated to 180 degrees. In the same pan as you’ve cooked the chicken fry 4 rashers of bacon until they are quite crispy, place these over the top of the chicken and leave in the oven for a further 20 minutes. Finally remove from the oven, throw the grated cheese on top and place under a hot grill until the cheese has melted golden.
I served mine with homemade potato wedges and peas, I think it would go easily as well with salad and chips. Oh, and of course a bottle of Hooky Stout!!!
May 19th, 2009Real Ale
Hook Norton Brewery’s Old Hooky – 4,6%abv
Following on from last night’s review of Hook Norton Brewery I thought it important to get a review of one of their beers up as soon as possible. Old Hooky is the flagship of Hook Norton Brewery around the country being widely available in many supermarkets as well as most good wine/beer merchants. The very bottle I am drinking was sourced in Morley from ASDA and was on their 3 bottles for £4.00 mix and match deal.
As an aside me and the monkey boy, when we first moved to Morley, experimented with buying every bottle of Old Hooky on the shelf in ASDA whenever we went. Within a month we had a range of five different Hook Norton beers available (More than most shops in Oxfordshire) right here in Yorkshire. Unfortunately the levels of consumption required to continue this selection proved unsustainable.
Right – back to the beer. Old Hooky is not the light, paler type of ale that I typically favour but is one of the beers that I drink most often. This is largely because it’s the most widely available offering from my favourite brewery, but also because it’s a bit of an anomaly in that it’s full bodied, darker flavoured and yet not at all heavy.
Hook Norton advertises this as a ‘fruity’ beer and it is, but not in the light citrus way I think of when I hear that phrase. It comes across dark and fruity like my Nan’s Christmas cake, reminding me of treacle rather than golden syrup, yet slips down just as easy as summer or pale ales. I would recommend trying this beer with a nice steak or a beef stew as it has the body to compete with the meat but will not fill you up and leave you embarrassed with half a plateful of leftovers.
I give this beer to a great many friends as a taster from home and it is always well received with many friends asking me to bring other Hooky varieties up for them to try. For this reason, and because of it’s wide availability and low price in ASDA, I have to rate this as one of the best beers available in Britain today.Tags: 4-5% ABV, ASDA, fruit cake, full bodied, Hook Norton, Hooky, Morley, Oxfordshire