Spontaneous Combustion Hot Sauce

13 12 2010

I decided to buy an early Christmas present for my uncle who loves chillies and all things chilli related; needless to say he was pleased as punch upon opening the completely over the top packaging and finding a bottle of Spontaneous Combustion Hot Sauce.

So pleased was he with this unexpected gift that he decided to call me up and taste it over the phone, we are a strange strange family. Well I listened to him describe the box and the label to me – they both feature the same set of lips and teeth with a raging inferno on the tongue.

Next up I got to hear him open the seal on the bottle and tell me he was going to have a sniff of it, I heard him take a big big sniff and then proclaim that it smelt vaguely like something Satan had excreted…

Having come this far he couldn’t back out now and decided to try a drop direct onto his tongue, the first thing he said was mmm I can taste fruity peppers and garlic, the next thing he said was OUCH and heard the phone drop whilst he retreated for a stiff drink of milk.

Once he had recovered sufficiently to speak I was informed that too much more of this and he would need to start refrigerating toilet paper.

Boy oh boy did I laugh…

Well that was 3 weeks ago and since that point I have made the arduous journey across the Irish Sea and been to visit said uncle for some much needed R&R. After hearing his amateur dramatics over the phone I had to see for my self just what this bad boy was like….

On looking down the short list of ingredients I see that we are dealing with a predominately Habanero based sauce with some always welcome capsicum extract making an appearance as well, this certainly adds some weight to the advertised Scoville rating of about 400/500,000 – not too shabby.

After having the aroma of this sauce described to me in such a colourful fashion I decided to follow in my uncle’s footsteps and took a honking great snoutfull, you can smell the Habanero, the garlic and a bit of vinegar quite clearly, there is a certain element of heat that you can pick up but nothing to warrant previous histrionics.

Well the time has come to move onto having a taste, now bearing in mind that I heard a grown man reduced to tears I was expecting to have the skin peeled off my face with atomic fury.

I started off by trying a small amount on a teaspoon, much like my uncle I could taste nice fruity habs and some garlic without too much initial heat, after a few seconds I could start to feel some heating coming in and their was a nice kick to it but not really enough to get the blood pumping.

So  I decided to up the ante a little, I made myself one of my favourite treats cheese on toast with chilli sauce, each slice was given a good 7/8 drops of fiery red sauce and I chowed down; the flavour was beautiful, so much so that I will be buying several bottles of this for myself at home. The heat however was still lacklustre, it was there and you could feel it but I just want more bang for my buck.

In terms of an everyday table sauce I think I would be hard pressed to find anything with a better taste; in my opinion this kicks Tabasco straight out of the cupboard and jumps up and down on it in hobnailed boots, it doesn’t just take its place it builds a little fort and sits there looking smug.

Oh and my uncle is a cry baby…

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Fuller’s London Porter 5.4%

5 12 2010

Fairly recently I wrote a review on Fuller’s London Pride (here) today I turn my attention to another beer from the London based brewery; Fuller’s London Porter.

I’m not going to prattle on at length about the history and origins of porter – trust me I can if you want 😉 but it is great to see a London brewery still leads the way in producing what I and many others deem to be the gold standard of porters.

Ok so where to begin, well it pours very dark brown, not black close enough, there is a slight ruby sheen to a pint if held up directly to the light. The head is egg-shell white and settles out at around 2 fingers, the head fades away a fair bit but leaves a load of lacing on the glass.

In terms of aroma you can quite clearly make out roasted malt, some bitter coffee notes and a hint of toffee or caramel, there is also a slight nuttiness and a hint of hops.

Taste is where Fuller’s have really won through on this one; everything you can pick up in the aroma of the porter is present and more.  The deep roasted malts come to the fore along with the coffee note and that toffee/caramel sweetness.

The chocolate from the roasted malt comes through in the after taste but in a subtle way, it is very much a supporting character in this porter as is the slightly nutty taste. There is a hint of fruitiness that you just about pick up in the background as well, if I had to try and pin it down I would go with raisins or sultanas with a tiny hit of vanilla creeping in as well.

All in all you come away with a rich complex taste that for me ticks all the right boxes, it is rich and malty, slightly sweet and fruity with an underlying bitterness that is refreshing and cuts through the richness which otherwise might be a tad cloying.

In terms of mouthfeel there is only really one word to describe this porter: smooth. In face we are going beyond smooth we are talking baby’s bottoms or the finest velvet gliding across your tongue  – ok well maybe not baby’s bottoms but you get the picture.

A lot of people far more worthy than I have waxed lyrical about Fuller’s London Porter and have even gone so far as to vote it the World’s best porter on several occasions. I don’t often like to follow crowds or ride along with popular opinion but on this occasion I can’t really disagree with any degree of conviction.

There might be better porters out there but if there are I certainly haven’t found them.

5/5





Greene King Harvest Ale

24 11 2010

Harvest ale was one of several seasonal ales released by Greene King.

I say was as unfortunately Harvest Ale is now “retired” and is increasingly difficult to find.

The aroma is rather pleasant with predominately malty tones and a hint of dried fruit creeping in.

In terms of appearance Harvest pours to a very dark brown – imagine coca cola almost with a thin beige head which lasts reasonably well.

Harvest is quite sweet but it isn’t sickly there is a nice dark malty taste with elements of raisins and a nice hint of red berries which carries through to the finish adding a slight element of sharpness which helps to cut through the sweetness.

Considering that Harvest is a mere 3% ABV it is surprising that there is as much body as there is, it is nicely rounded  with a fairly soft carbonation.

All in all I always found Harvest Ale to be a really good example of a brown ale and thought it was a damn shame when GK decided to retire it, especially when you compare it to some of their recent offerings!

4.2/5





Greene King Hop (formerly The Beer To Dine For)

22 11 2010

 So we meet again Mr Bland….

 I was working at Greene King when The Beer to Dine For officially launched, unofficially it was the launch of butt plug beer but we wont go into that here…

Whatever it was called one thing is for certain it is still kicking around today, now under the interesting name “Greene King Hop”. The premise behind beer to dine for was that it would be the perfect accompaniment to food and would help win people over to real beer, particularly women.

The reality was a little different:

It looks fairly good, both in the bottle and when poured, having a nice clear honey gold colour with a fairly small head that quickly dissipates to nothing; I can well imagine it being poured into fancy glasses at some dinner party in suburbia and  fitting in well amongst the Blossom Hill and Jacob’s Creek.

The worry started to set in when I realised that there is no aroma, not just that it is faint but that there is quite literally nothing at all, not good.

The worrying lack of anything continues when you take a sip the best thing I can say about GK Hop/Beer to Dine for is that it is bland.  There isn’t really anything about it that jumps out and grabs your attention. There is some sweetness there and a slight amount of bitterness but being brutally honest there isn’t really much more flavour then you would find in Carlsberg or any other mass-produced lager.

Now correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the whole point of proper beer to steer people away from tasteless crap and onto something with a bit more going for it? Well you will never achieve that goal if the alternative is just as bland and unassuming.

The finish isn’t really anything you would be impressed by either it is thin and just helps contribute to the fact that this might as well be a bottle of fizzy syrup that has been allowed to go a bit skunky.

Oh yes did I mention the fact that due to the naff clear glass bottle 4 out of the 7 I tried had a nice skunky essence to them, just what I would want with my coq au vin!

I don’t go in for the idea of slagging off Greene King because they keep buying up smaller brewers but at the same time they really should know better than to put their name to this muck. It is marginally better with food but that is only because it is bland and inoffensive and doesn’t detract from what you are eating.

1/5





An update on my homebrewing project

28 10 2010

 As regular readers will know my most recent homebrew was a traditional IPA, well it now a little over a month since it was bottled so I decided to give it a try and see how it is getting on.

 There is a fair amount of carbonation, certainly enough for my tastes. The beer pours to a very pleasant light amber with a decent sized head that lasts well throughout drinking with a fair bit of lacing.

 There is a decent aroma developing with hops, a slight hint of citrus and a rich maltiness being the predominant notes.

 For me the look and smell of my homebrew are important but the key is very definately how it tastes. Well I can officially say that this IPA is a winner as far as I’m concerned.

There is a good level of bitterness to the beer offset with a nice caramel like sweetness from the malt, I was really pleased as a lto of homebrews that I have sampled before have had an almost cider like quality to them coupled with a rather unpleasant sweetness.

If I compare this IPA with a commercially brewed version I would certainly take this over something like the ubiquitous Greene King offering and not only because this is tipping the scales at a little over 6% (6.2% as close as I can measure it)

I can’t wait until my next scheduled tasting at the end of November 🙂





Hot Smoked Chipotle Oil…More like fail sauce

14 07 2010

Anyone that has read any of my recipes or listened to me wax lyrical about various different hot sauces etc will know that I have a little bit of an obsession with chillies  and all things hot and spicy.

As such you can imagine my interest when I saw bottles of Hot Smoked Chipotle Oil on special offer at the local supermarket (a Lidl for anyone that cares!)

I’m not normally an impulse buyer but in this case it had two very strong selling points

a. it was a chilli oil

 b. it was cheap (€1.49 to be exact)

So I picked up a bottle and said to my girlfriend that if I liked the oil I would be back for more (you can never have too much chilli oil after all)

Well it was vile.

I’m not over reacting when I say that it just simply was one of the worst things I have ever tasted.

For starters there was no heat at all, we are talking a big fat 0 on the scoville scale – not a good start for a chilli oil. To test the fact that there was no kick to the oil I called my girlfriend into the kitchen and insisted that she try some of the oil on  a little bit of bread.

Now my partner can’t handle any heat at all in foods and is somewhat wary of things that I get her to taste (it has something to do with some Naga chillies that she didn’t appreciate) but even she remarked that there was no heat at all and this is from a woman who finds black pepper to be practically atomic!

Next there was the actual taste of the oil; not only was there no heat there was no taste of chillies. I know some people who don’t like chillies will tell you that none of them have any taste, well they do, especially something like a chipotle which should have a nice fruity smokey taste to it.

The only taste that this oil had was a vague burnt taste, certainly not smokey more like the taste you get in the back of your throat when someone is burning something they shouldn’t like plastic bags or tyres…not what you want to put on your food.

I think possibly the worst thing about it though was the sheer greasiness of it, I realise it sounds nuts describing an oil as being oily or greasy but it was! The oil they had used was sunflower oil and it just felt really really greasy.

I make chilli oils myself as they are something that I like to use to give a bit of oomph or sneak in some illicit chilli flavour  but I always use a good olive oil for mine and I can really see why now.

Luckily though Lidl did manage to redeem themselves by having the Nando’s Piri Piri sauce in stock at roughly the same price…





Maldon Oyster Stout

5 05 2010

In this second part of my Farmer’s Ales double header I am going to take a look at their Maldon Oyster Stout.

This is one of Farmer’s Ales “Occasional Beers”; on their website they state that these are what many breweries would refer to as their “seasonal ales” however as they are never quite sure when they will brew them they thought that occasional was a better title to bestow.

The particular occasion that this stout is brewed for is of course the Maldon oyster festival which takes place each September, whilst I didn’t visit the festival I was lucky enough to sample a bottle of the oyster stout at the Hyde Hall RHS gardens.

I must admit to being very pleasantly surprised with this particular beer; you can still find many “oyster stouts” on offer however an awful lot of them no longer contain any oysters at all.

Luckily this isn’t the case here, if you look down the list of ingredients for this beer you will find Maldon oysters from the River Blackwater nestling amongst the malt and hops. The addition of the oysters adds a savoury depth of flavour and just the smallest hint of saltiness which works perfectly well.

When poured the stout has a lovely deep dark brown colour to it and has a smallish beige coloured head that lasts for the duration of the beer.

It is a wonderfully smooth stout with a real hit of flavour, there are deep chocolate and coffee tones that work brillantly alongside the slightly savoury salty note from the oysters. There is a lovely long finish to stout with the coffee note really coming through towards the end.

I will be honest I am sometimes a little underwhelmed with some stouts, they often tend to be  too heavy with no real delicacy of flavour to them or if not you come across some slightly odd flavours that that occasionally you really wish you had never tasted.

Maldon Oyster Stout is one of the exceptions to this rule, it is light enough to drink a session beer and packs a real whallop in the flavour department.

If you find yourself in Essex and looking for a pint give it a go you wont be dissapointed.

4.8/5








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