Butterbeer

23 12 2010

 I have messed around with the idea of making butterbeer quite a few times in the past, it has always seemed like quite a nice idea for a festive drink, particularly as I have more than a passing interest in historical English foods and beers.

 I have tried out several variations but in the end I settled pretty much on Heston Blumenthal’s recipe from one of his TV shows – Heston’s Christmas Feast if my memory serves.

I have made a couple of tiny little changes to the recipe but they are purely down to personal tastes. For starters Heston recommends using Old Speckled Hen; now whilst I have nothing against Old Speckled Hen I just find that it doesn’t sit right with me for this particular application.

My reasons for this are two-fold; firstly I would rather use something closer to what our Elizabethan ancestors would have had available and secondly and most importantly I don’t think it tastes quite right when mixed with the other ingredients.

Seeing as Heston’s recipe is pretty damn authentic I reckon the clash could come about because the other ingredients were supposed to work with a certain style of beer, I have seen other recipes make the suggestion that Fuller’s London Pride would work well but I am also not convinced that this would be the case, a pale ale just seems far too modern somehow.

Instead I have opted for an old ale, in this particular instance I am going to use Theakstons Old Peculier but feel free to go with whatever you want to use – I have in the past used Greene King Strong Suffolk to good effect.

One quick warning to any parents out there this is NOT a recipe for the drink of the same name in the Harry Potter series, there is very clearly alcohol in this recipe and as such is NOT intended for children to quaff whilst pretending to play quidditch.

That said you could always increase the heat in the early stages in order to cook off most of the alcohol, but where is the fun in that?

Ingredients

3 pints of “old Ale”

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground nutmeg

120g caster sugar

5 egg yolks

20g unsalted butter

Method:

Pour the ale into a saucepan and stir in the ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Gently heat the mixture until it is warm, do not let it boil.

Cream together the egg yolks and caster sugar.

Once the ale is warm, add the egg yolk and sugar mixture, stirring constantly, until the liquid has started to thicken slightly. Be careful not to let the saucepan get too hot or the eggs will scramble.

After 2/3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until it melts. Stir vigorously to make sure it is well incorporated with the other ingredients.

Serve immediately in 1/2 pints, if you want to get a frothy head you might want to use a small capuccino frother

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Shepherd Neame 1698 6.5% strong ale

7 11 2010

 1698 is a strong ale from the Kent based Sheperd Neame Brewery; Sheperd Neame are the UK’s oldest brewery dating back to 1698, although there is some evidence to suggest that it could be far older, possibly dating back to 1525.

My first memories of 1698 are as a 10.5% special released to mark the tri-centenary of Sheperd Neame, it was then re-released as 1698 celebration ale before eventually ending up as regular 1698 about 5 years back.

There is a fairly strong aroma to 1698 in particular I can pick up flowers, wood and alcohol as being the main notes with a biscuity, citrus undertone. It is a really nicely balanced aroma that serves as a nice invitation to dive right in.

The beer pours to a rich clear honey colour with barely a fingers width of off white head that stays reasonably well for the duration of the pint leaving a nice amount of lacing  on the way.

The flavour of 1698 is also nicely balanced, there is a long sweet start that ends in a crisp bitter finish. You can pick up hints of some summer fruits and citrus but mostly you get a nice biscuity maltiness with a touch of caramel and some crisp hops coming through.

If I have one criticism of 1698 it is that I personally feel that it could do with a bit more punch in terms of body particularly as the a.b.v  is quite high.

4.3/5

kent based, uk’s oldest continual brewer, hop fields in kent strong ale, thrice hopped, its generally ok, remember it as a special at 10.5% for the 400 years anniversary





Theakston’s Old Peculier – 5.6% Old Ale

30 09 2010

Theakston’s Old Peculier is one of the most widely recognised real ales out there, not only that but it is also one of the oldest having been brewed since at least 1890 so it genuinely is an old ale!

The eagle eyed amongst you might notice the rather odd spelling of Peculier; well no it isnt a typo or an intentional misspelling it’s a totally different word in and of itself and one just as interesting as the beer it adorns.

The word peculier refers to a parish or place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the crown as opposed to the local diocese.

In the case of Old Peculier Theakstons are making reference to the Peculier of Masham in North Yorkshire where the beer is brewed; the town was declared a peculier after the archbishop of York Minster couldn’t be bothered to make the trip north to oversee it’s affairs.

When poured the beer is thick and viscous with an opaque dark brown colour and a nice frothy head, exactly what springs to mind if someone were to talk about an old ale.

The aroma of the beer is full and hearty, there are rich fruity notes of plum and raisin and a slightly yeasty bready undertone. I have often heard people say that they get a banana like smell off of Old Peculier but I will hand on heart admit to never having noticed it myself, or to at least having not identified it as banana.

Before I start on the taste of OP I am going to go ahead and give a little bit of advice, ideally don’t put this into the fridge at all or if you really must chill this beer then leave it to come to room temperature for a while before you dive in. The flavour really does develop better at a slightly warmer temperature and you will find it a far more enjoyable pint.

That said let me get on to how it is to drink; it is a good bit thicker then a lot of commercial beers but I find that just reinforces the Old Ale feeling for me. It is a fairly sweet with a nice plummy taste coming through this is perfectly balanced with a good solid bitterness and a nice amount of hoppiness that stops it from ever tasting too rich or cloying, you can also pick up the alcohol, not enough to be unpleasant but just enough to keep things dry and slightly spicy.

You can pick up lots of dark maltiness and fruit along with a hint of coffee and molasses, this is truly a complex beer and not something to try out on your unsuspecting guests who have only ever had a mass produced lager before.

I have been a big fan of Old Peculier ever since I first tried it many years ago, I think that it is a perfect example of what real ale is all about, flavourful, unique, slightly challenging and yet still incredibly accessible.

5/5





Greene King Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale

30 04 2010

Strong Suffolk is one of the many  offerings from thriving Bury St Edmunds based brewers, Greene King.

At 6% it is the strongest of the beers in their range and as the label states it is a vintage ale (old ale).

Here is how Greene King describe Strong Suffolk:

A blend of two ales: Old 5X , which is brewed to the maximum strength possible (around 12% abv) and left to mature in 100-barrel oak vats for a minimum of two years, and BPA, a dark, full-bodied freshly brewed beer which is added just before bottling. The result is a unique beer – strong (6% abv), dark, fruity, oaky and very, very special.”

The fact that this is a blend of what by themselves are both very fine beers should really start to set the scene that this really is a top notch drink.

Due to the size of Greene King it is quite easy to find Strong Suffolk available as a bottled  beer in any number of supermarkets and off licenses throughout the UK and abroad, however if you are lucky enough to find it on draught than that is even more of a treat.

I had previously never seen Strong Suffolk on tap outside of  Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding area (for a while I worked at the Greene King brewery in the town) However I have recently seen it on the ramp at a couple of Wetherspoons in London and Oxford; Wetherspoons always seem to have a large offering of Greene King beers with the usual culprits of Abbot Ale and IPA near enough always in residence.

&The bottle features the instantly recognisable  Greene King Logo reminding us that they have been in the business of making beer since way back in 1799, the main image is of one the aforementioned oak vats being paid a visit by the brewmaster. 

You can also find the vintage of the beer on the label, in this particular case a 2001 When poured it is a very clear dark brown colour with a slightly reddish tint to it, there isn’t really much of a head and it is only very very lightly carbonated so in that regards is very much like a traditional draught beer.

The first thing you will notice from this beer is that there isn’t really much of an aroma to it but the flavour is certainly there! It is a very fruity yet savoury beer with flavours of oak, malt, old sherry, banana and an almost leathery taste, the flavours develop as you are drinking it and there is a strong bitter /  sweet taste with the bitterness proving to be very refreshing and remaining for quite a while afterwards

This is a beer that really packs a punch, both in terms of flavour and strength, at 6.0% A.B.V you wouldn’t want to have too many in one sitting! It is big and full bodied and goes really well with food, particularly traditional hearty British favourites such as a good strong cheddar or some nice roast beef.

Overall there is nothing disappointing about a pint of Strong Suffolk and it is a rewarding beer that will become a firm favourite.





Brakspear Triple

29 04 2010

As it is a first I decided to kick things off with one of my absolute favourites, Brakspear Triple.

Brakspear Triple

This is a superb beer from Oxford based brewer Brakspear who survive today as part of Marstons. Triple is only available as a bottle conditioned beer, however this helps rather than hinders this particular gem. Brakspear describe this beer as being for the ultimate connoisseur and they aren’t lying! Each bottle is individually numbered and if like me you have no life you can go to the Brakspear website and see when your beer was brewed. It takes it name from the fact that is a triple fermented beer and is also triple hopped. Basically this means that the beer itself undergoes 3 separate fermentations, twice during the double-drop fermentation used at the brewery and once more in the bottle. Hops are added three times during the brewing process and this along with the choice of malts; Crystal, Black and Maris Otter pale, mean that there is a really good balance between the beer being aromatic and bitter and also gives a real richness. This isn’t a beer that you would be quaffing as part of a session, firstly it is to my mind a little bit too good to be thrown back and needs to be savoured and enjoyed. Secondly this beer is strong, we are talking 7.2% ABV! Taken by itself this figure might not mean much but to put it into context Brakspear’s regular on tap bitter is 3.4% on draught. It is a serious beer. It is a wonderful reddish/amber coloured beer with a small cream coloured head that collapses to be even smaller. I prefer to try and get all the sediment into the glass when I have a bottle conditioned beer as I find you get far more flavour, if you don’t want bits in the glass you can just be more careful when you pour The smell of beer is very strong and pungent with a malty and almost biscuity smell, not unpleasant at all, in fact very inviting. Brakspear Triple is an absolute delight to drink; it very full bodied with no real wateriness, it is slightly sweet but not cloyingly so and there is a nice bitter aftertaste but again not too much.It is very warming and yet for such a strong beer it has a surprising delicacy about it that makes it very easy to drink. I find Brakspear Triple to be a beer that can be enjoyed more or less anytime, I have drunk it as winter warmer after a long cold day at work, but equally I have enjoyed in the garden in the middle of summer with a nice ploughmans 4.8 / 5








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