Fundamentals #21 – Siren Craft Brew Old Fashioned Barleywine

Bourbon truly is a wonderful thing. The legal guidelines a spirit must follow in order to be classed as bourbon are also incredibly strict – as should be the case in the creation of such a venerable beverage. It must be produced within the United States from a grain bill that consists of at least 51% corn. It must be aged in first use, charred oak barrels and it must be distilled to no higher than 80% alcohol, entering the barrel itself at no more than 62.5% alcohol.

As with all whisky – whiskey to our Irish and American friends – the finished product must be at least 40% alcohol by volume. However unlike other whiskies, which must be aged for at least three years and a day to earn that title, bourbon does not need to be aged for any specific length of time to earn its name. Some bourbons on the market can spend as little as three months in barrel, although anything which calls itself “straight” bourbon will have been aged for at least two years.

Like whiskey, bourbon also has a lot in common with beer. Before being distilled, the base liquid is brewed, and malted grains such as wheat, rye and barley augment the remainder of the recipe. This shared ancestry may be why, in part, why many beers fare incredibly well if they are aged in ex-bourbon casks. Enter Old Fashioned, a barleywine from the wizards at Berkshire’s Siren Craft Brewery, which aims to emulate the classic, bourbon-based cocktail.

Sweet notes of vanilla and toasted coconut are immediately apparent on the nose, as the viscous liquid snakes its way into your glass – a wide brimmed brandy-style snifter or a Teku being ideal for this particular style of beer. To taste the beer is very sweet, with flavours of barley sugar and more vanilla present from the outset. This ever-present sweetness is balanced by deep, warming notes of alcohol, with the essence of the bourbon notes imbued into this beer by the barrels it inhabited for 12 months, softening and rounding out the finished product.

If I had to ask one thing of this homage to the Old Fashioned, it would be a whisper more of the promised orange peel. Some extra citrus would really lift this beer to the next level. Despite this, it’s still a stellar effort from the Berkshire brewery. This is a beer to enjoy now, before the days begin to get longer and warmer at the end of the month. Or simply hang on to it until it starts to get colder again, and see what a bit of age might do to this beer.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Treat yourself to a bottle of Siren Old Fashioned in store or online while stocks last.

The Beer Lover's Kitchen: Duck, Blood Orange & Radicchio Salad and 8 Wired Saison Sauvin

Duck salad has long been one of my go-to speedy dinners. Typically, I pair pan-fried duck breast with spinach, caramelised onions, and cherry tomatoes, but it’s an almost infinitely customisable recipe. In this cold-weather iteration, for instance, I opted instead to use vibrant purple radicchio, blood orange segments, balsamic-roasted shallots, and
lemony sorrel (the latter an early signifier of spring). 

What you get is a salad of enormous punch and vigour. The radicchio brings a bass note of bitterness, the blood oranges a dose of acid, the shallots a burnt caramel sweetness and then, of course, the centrepiece duck, crispy of skin and richly gamey. This is no wan, wilting plate of greens, and so it makes sense to pair it with 8 Wired's Saison Sauvin.

This New Zealand saison is a regular in my rotation. Made with, as its name suggests, Nelson Sauvin hops, it's floral and estery on the nose, vinous on the palate and leaves a railing, pithy bitterness in its wake. It’s everything I want from a dinnertime beer: complex enough that you’re tempted to pause after every sip to parse out its tasting notes, but also utterly drinkable. It stands up ably to the salad’s bold flavours, and tastes slightly sweeter besides it.

Just one note of warning: as some industry experts might say, this beer has the potential to be a foamy hello-er, so you may want to open it over the sink and have a glass at the ready!

End-of- Winter Duck, Blood Orange and Radicchio Salad
Serves two

For the salad:
2 duck breasts
Flaky sea salt and black pepper, to taste
4 round shallots
1 Tbs balsamic glaze
100g walnuts
1 head of radicchio
20g sorrel leaves (you can substitute watercress or spinach if preferred)
2 blood oranges

For the dressing:
2 tsp minced ginger
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 Tbs blood orange juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2.5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. First, prep your duck breasts: dry off using paper towels. With a very sharp knife, lightly score the skin in a crosshatch (without slicing into the meat below); this will help the fat under the skin render out during cooking. Season both sides, generously, with sea salt and black pepper, and set aside, allowing to come to
room temperature if fridge-cold.

Slice your shallots in half, length-wise, and peel. Place cut-sides up on a lined baking sheet and drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until softened, fragrant, and starting to caramelise.

Meanwhile, in a small, dry frying pan, toast the walnuts over medium-high heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until darkened and fragrant. Set aside and allow to cool. Roughly chop.

Next, prepare the radicchio and blood oranges. Remove any wilty outer leaves from the radicchio, core it, and then roughly chop it into large pieces. Then, supreme your blood oranges: cut off the ends and then slice off the peel and all of the white pith in long strips. Next, carefully slice out each segment, leaving behind any of the tough membrane. If
you're not familiar with the technique, this is a good visual demonstration.

Now, it's time to prepare the duck. Heat a medium, heavy-bottomed frying pan over high heat until hot. Add the duck breasts skin-side down and cook for approximately 6 minutes; you don't need to add any oil as the fat will render out. As the fat renders, keep a small bowl and a spoon at hand, and spoon out the excess (you can save this for later—it's brilliant on roast potatoes). Check how the skin is doing; once it's deep golden and crisp, flip the breasts over, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 5-10 minutes. 

As the duck rests, prepare the dressing: add the ginger, vinegar, blood orange juice, mustard, and olive oil to a small bowl and whisk. Season to taste with salt and pepper and whisk again.

To serve, slice the duck thinly. On your plates, arrange the radicchio and sorrel. Top with the blood orange segments and walnuts; roughly separate the shallots and scatter across the salad. Arrange your duck slices over the top, and then pour over the dressing. Season to taste with a bit more salt and pepper.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a bottle of 8 Wired Saison Sauvin in store or online.

Fundamentals #20 – Small Beer

I like alcohol. Or, more pertinently I like the way it makes all the complexities in beer imbued by malt, hops, yeast, water and whatever else interact with my taste buds. The weight with which it presses flavour onto my palate is fundamental to my beer experience. This is why most of my favourite beers are IPAs in the 7% ABV range. This is my wheelhouse in which I will forever turn.

I also like the way alcohol makes me feel – it’s kind of taboo to say such a thing in beer writing, which is a shame. But this is how things are. Of course, I recommend drinking in moderation and always within your limits. But I also think it’s nice to occasionally get a three-pint buzz on. Responsibly. Always responsibly.

Of course, not everyone enjoys getting a light buzz on and there are situations where a lower alcohol alternative might be preferable for example a working lunch, or a prospective evening of operating heavy machinery. People are also being a great deal more mindful regarding their alcohol intake these days.

As a result, we’re witnessing an increase in the number of low or alcohol-free beer alternatives hit the market. Amongst these are breweries that are concentrating solely on producing lower alcohol alternatives.

The problem, however, with most no or low alcohol beers, is that they’re a bit shit. Too often I find them to be thin, insipid and lifeless interpretations of proper beer, which is why today’s beers from new London outfit Small Beer – based in London’s beating beer heart of Bermondsey – took me somewhat by surprise.

The Lager, at 2.1% poured with a tantalisingly pleasing amount of foam, giving way to snappy hop and bready malt aromas. Sure, it wasn’t quite as meaty on the palate as a pilsner at 5%, but the flavour was there and I could’ve certainly done with another bottle considering the speed at which I inhaled it. Next up was the Dark Lager at just 1%, which impressed me just as much. Plenty of robust chocolate and roasted coffee notes shored up the lack of body, making for another surprisingly satisfying beer.

I may not personally be quite converted to the trend for lower or zero alcohol beers just yet, but these impressed and I’d certainly recommend them if you’re looking for lower alcohol alternatives.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up some Small Beer in store or online.

The Beer Lover's Kitchen: Persimmon, Prosciutto & Burrata Toast with Track Brewing Sonoma Pale Ale

We tend to think of citrus - palm-sized clementines, sweet tangerines, piquant blood oranges - as winter's bounty. But too often we overlook the persimmon. Similar in size and hue to an orange, persimmons are honeyed and decadent, jammy with sugar when at their peak stage of ripeness. The ancient Greeks thought of them as the food of the gods,
and little wonder why.

I came up with this recipe when seeking a use for almost-but-not-quite-ripe persimmons (when fully ready, they redden, turn heavy with juice, and look almost bruised). I used hachiya persimmons, which are tall and heart-shaped, where fuyu persimmons are squatter and more tomato-like; hachiyas also happen to be astringently tannic when unripe. To guarantee their sweetness, I sliced the fruit thinly and fried it lightly in butter, until the former caramelised and the latter browned.

Though this dish feints towards warmer weather, with its caprese-esque pairing of basil and burrata, the brown-butter fried persimmon, Prosciutto and brown sugar-candied walnuts confirm its wintry origins. I love it for its ease, for its quick dose of February sun, and for the fact that it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Just as this toast is an anytime dish, so Track's Sonoma Pale Ale is an anytime beer. At just 3.8% ABV, it's sessionable and refreshing, though its hop bill makes for an herbaceous, grassy complexity, with a bit of citrus on the nose. It's one guaranteed food-friendly beer, and pairs seamlessly here.

Persimmon, Prosciutto & Burrata Toast
Serves 2

100g walnuts, roughly chopped
50g unsalted butter, divided
30g light brown sugar
1 almost-ripe hachiya persimmon
1 small lobe of burrata
2 large slices good sourdough bread
4 slices Prosciutto di Parma
Basil, to garnish
Freshly ground black pepper, to garnish

First, make your candied walnuts. Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat and add the walnuts, 20g of butter, and the sugar all at once. Stir constantly with a spatula; the sugar and butter will soon melt. Cook for five minutes, stirring continuously, until the nuts have turned golden, the mixture has darkened,and it smells like toasty toffee. Take off the heat and pour the nuts onto a pan lined with parchment paper. Spread evenly in a single layer so they don't harden into big clumps. (Note: You'll likely have some leftover walnuts, which is a very good thing - they are an excellent snack.)

Next, use a paring knife to remove the top of the persimmon. Slice the fruit thinly, into roughly quarter-inch slices. Heat the remaining 30g of butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. As soon as the butter has melted, add the persimmon slices in a single layer. Cook approximately 2-3 minutes per side. When finished, they should be softened, lightly caramelised, and the butter should have turned nut-brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Slice two thick pieces of sourdough, and toast until golden. Top each piece with a generous glop of burrata, spreading it to the edges. Sprinkle the candied walnuts across both pieces, and top with the persimmon slices. Arrange the prosciutto around the fruit, and drizzle extra brown butter from the pan across both slices. Finish with a few bright basil leaves and a twist or two of black pepper.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a bottle of Track Sonoma in store or online. This Saturday 24 Feb, come meet the Track team in store from 2-4pm.

Fundamentals #19 – Burnt Mill Ties That Bine DIPA

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have been drinking a generous share of Burnt Mill’s excellent beers lately.

At only nine months old Burnt Mill has already become one of the UK’s most talked about breweries and with good reason – it’s come out of the gate with a selection of well defined, hop forward offerings, as well as a cracking imperial stout and a mouth puckering pineapple gose. It should come as no surprise, then, that it was named as the best new English brewery  in the annual RateBeer awards last month.

Burnt Mill’s rapid rise to prominence represents a couple of important shifts in the brewing industry as I see it. First it shows that craft beers early adopters – the enthusiasts – still constantly crave the new. This can be frustrating when all you crave in beer is consistency and familiarity, but finding a balance between this and the hype is the catalyst, creating the energy that keeps beer ticking along. You might say it’s fundamental to the continued development of a maturing industry.

The other shift is that the rapid rise in popularity of breweries like Burnt Mill, along with luminaries including Verdant and DEYA, demonstrates the importance of producing quality beer from day one.

With more than 2,000 breweries in the UK market, there is no longer room for excuses (not that there ever was, brewers). There is no longer time to muddle around for a year or more getting things right. The consumer has moved too far to tolerate the below-average. It’s a market that demands the excellent and the exceptional, all of the time – reasons I think why Burnt Mill has thrived, thus far (hey, no pressure folks.)

This brings me to the Suffolk brewery’s first Double IPA, Ties That Bine, a gratuitously hopped beer produced in collaboration with hop supplier Simply Hops and yeast supplier Lallemand. The deeply golden beer reeks of sticky marmalade and freshly zested orange with plenty of melon, peach and apricot joining these aromas. It’s thick and resinous on the palate, with all those hop oils, residual sugars and plenty of weighty alcohol pressing waves of citrus and stone fruit onto your tongue.

On its surface is a West Coast IPA that could stand toe to toe with some of San Diego’s best. But there’s a little more to it than that, with Lallemand’s New England yeast strain adding stone fruit complexity to the mix. It’s a beer that’s as easy to throw back carelessly as it is to sit and muse over into the small hours. However you choose to enjoy it though, it’s likely your experience will be anything less than an immensely positive one.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a can of Burnt Mill Ties That Bine DIPA while you can.

Our January All Killer No Filler Sub Club box revealed

If you're at a loss for what to get that special someone for Valentine's Day (or maybe you still need to drop some hints for what you'd like), then problem solved. Our All Killer No Filler box is hands down the best monthly beer subscription box out there. No boasting, that's just a fact.

We've got a handful of memberships left for February. Sign up to get on board before Wednesday and we'll send you a card to include with your Valentine's Day festivities, with the box itself en route by the end of the week. Last month's selection is revealed below and this month's box is one of our favourite selections yet - 12 super-fresh, super-delicious, super-must-have brews from 12 superstar breweries.

Membership has its privileges, one of them being that whoever receives this box for Valentine's will love you forever. 

(Want more? Here are our September, October, November and December boxes. See what we mean?)

The Beer Lover’s Kitchen: Mushroom Polenta And Burnt Mill Steel Cut Gluten Free Oat Pale Ale

From New York bagels to char-dappled Neapolitan pizzas to, duh, beer, my relationship with bread and grain-based products remains one of the longest and happiest of my life. You can trust me, then, when I say that you don’t have to be gluten-free to appreciate Burnt Mill’s Steel Cut Oat Pale Ale.

Made with oats, buckwheat, maize and sorghum, and then dry-hopped, this beer is an astonishingly good gluten-free rendition - so good, in fact, that I’d bet many blind tasters wouldn’t notice the difference. Given that Burnt Mill’s talented Head Brewer Sophie de Ronde is herself gluten-intolerant, you can understand the brewery’s motivation to pull off this feat. Bright with hop aromatics and laced with bitterness, Steel Cut is refreshing, food-friendly and - all things considered - remarkably complex.

A plateful of gluten-free comfort food is a fitting accompaniment to this beer. I love polenta for its optics - it looks like spilled sunshine on the plate - its ease and its sheer versatility. Top it with browned mushrooms (which pick up on the Steel Cut’s subtle, savoury edge), curls of Beaufort (an Alpine cheese that should appeal to fans of Gruyère), a sprinkling of thyme and a soft-boiled duck egg, its yolk like molten copper.

You don’t have to be a coeliac to appreciate a dish like this - but if you are, it’s hard to find more satisfying stuff to help ward off the winter blues.

Mushroom Polenta with Beaufort and Duck Eggs
Loosely adapted from a recipe by Ottolenghi
Serves 3-4

550ml chicken or vegetable broth
80g instant polenta (check packaging to ensure it’s been processed at a gluten-free facility)
90g unsalted butter, divided
40g shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
500g mixed mushrooms (chanterelles, chestnuts, shitakes, etc)
2 small cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 tsp roughly chopped thyme leaves, plus additional for garnishing
40g Beaufort, thinly sliced
3-4 duck eggs (depending on number of servings; allocate one per person)

First, prep the polenta. Heat the broth in a medium saucepan until just boiling. Add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking continuously, to prevent it from clumping. Stir frequently until the mixture thickens, roughly 3-5 minutes. I prefer a more porridgey consistency; if you do too, add several more tablespoons of broth until the mixture is slightly looser. Add 30g of the butter and the Parmigiano, stirring well to combine, and season to taste with sea salt. Cover and set aside.

Next, prepare the mushrooms. Take a cast-iron or other heavy bottomed pan and heat on high until very hot. Add 30g of the butter and, as soon as it melts, add half of the mushrooms and the garlic. Try not to agitate them too much, as you want them to get golden and caramelised. Cook for several minutes, tossing occasionally; remove from heat and scatter over the thyme leaves. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Repeat with the second batch of mushrooms and the remaining butter.

Finally, prepare the duck eggs. Bring a small pot of water to the boil and cook the duck eggs for six and a half minutes, or until perfectly soft-boiled. Remove from the pot and place in a bowl full of ice water for 30 seconds. Carefully peel and slice in half.

Ladle the polenta onto each plate and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with the slices of Beaufort, extra thyme leaves, and the duck eggs. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a can of Burnt Mill Gluten Free Pale Ale while you still can.

Fundamentals #18 – Amundsen Bryggeri Dessert In A Can Pecan & Maple Pie Imperial Stout

“Check out the discus of my meniscus.” That’s what I’d probably say if I posted a picture of this beer to Instagram. That’s what all the kids are saying these days, right?

I’ll freely admit the pastry stout phenomenon has passed me by. Call me old fashioned but my favourite beers are, in general, ones that taste like beer – like malt, hops, yeast and water. I enjoy it when brewers experiment with ingredients such as fruit, spices or coffee. But I often struggle with beers that taste more like pudding (hence the term “pastry stout” for those who might not have come across it before) than they do beer. I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, though.

What I admire about this beer is that it makes no bones about what it is. It’s literally called “Dessert In A Can”. The label notes ask why would you bother going to the length of pairing a beer with dessert when you can simply drink a beer that tastes like it. Basically, Amundsen is saying this is the beer equivalent to Head & Shoulders. Why take two into the shower? Etc.

While this beer wasn’t really my thing, I found myself discovering a soft spot for it as I enjoyed it late one Sunday evening. That might have had something to do with the face-warmingly large 11.5% ABV, undetectable behind the layers and layers of sweetness that this beer possesses. It pours like oil into the glass, rising to the rim and providing a perfect, oubliette dark silhouette in the glass. Ideal for sharing with your friends on your preferred social media platform.

Dessert In A Can’s aroma is a little like a fresh-out-the-oven crème brulée. To taste, it’s a little like drinking a homemade blend of condensed milk, maple syrup and treacle, with the sticky body coating your palate just like the aforementioned would. It’s a beer that makes no bones about what it is though, and the sweet of tooth would surely demolish a beer like this. For me, a chaser of bourbon provided the cut of alcohol I felt it needed to machete its way through all that cloying sugar, however.

It’s definitely a beer worth trying though, because is a really fun beer. You could say it puts the “fun” in “fundamental”.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a can of Amundsen's Dessert In A Can series here.

Fundamentals #17 – Lervig X Boneyard West Coast Dank IPA

My first experience of Oregon’s Boneyard Beer was one of those coincidental beer moments that flicked on a light inside my head.

As a brewery it’s known these days for stunning takes on the IPA style, pouring them at events such as the Mikkeller Beer Celebration in Copenhagen and at London’s Beavertown Extravaganza. I was completely unaware of Boneyard, however, when I was naively strolling the aisles of the 2013 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado.

An advertised Triple IPA, named Notorius3, drew me to the brewery’s stand. Unlike the stands for nearby breweries such as Russian River and Dogfish Head, there was no line, so I was soon handing over my tasting glass for my statutory 1oz pour. It was an IPA as good as I have ever tasted – not to say it was better than anything I had tasted before, but the flavours were so precise and well defined I immediately knew this was a brewery that could make IPA better than most. It wasn’t long before they became known outside of their own state for doing just that.

And so we come to this beer, West Coast Dank. Boneyard headed to Norway to collaborate with Lervig for this one, the latter brewery known, among other things, for its excellent recent takes on the hazy, juicy New England style IPA.

However, you won’t find either of those qualities here. In fact, you can detect the sweet snap of crystal malt as soon as you pour it. There’s plenty of dank pine forest and grapefruit pith on the nose too, smoothing out that sweetness. 

West Coast Dank effortlessly leads you from notes of sugary malt loaf to flavours of citrus undercut by richly resinous pine. It’s rounded out by a characteristically dry and bitter finish, belying the beer’s 7.1% ABV and leading you straight into your next sip.

Each gulp of this beer, from the first to the last, took me right back to that beer festival in 2013. In a moment it reminded me of all the different spectrums of flavour that IPA can inhabit, whether that be dank, juicy, bitter or whatever. And these are the kind of moments that are fundamental to our beer experience.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a can of West Coast Dank in store or online.

#HBBAdvent Beer 24: Northern Monk Black Forest Strannik Imperial Stout (Leeds)

Northern Monk says: So nice, we literally double mashed twice. We're bringing another favourite from last year in the form of the delightfully decadent Black Forest Strannik. An Imperial Russian Stout with added cherries.

We say: We wanted something really special to finish off the advent calendar, and what better than this ridiculously sumptuous imperial stout. Rich, boozy and exploding with dark fruitiness, we couldn't think of a better beer to sit back with on Christmas Eve - so that's what we're going to do. Merry Christmas, everyone - thanks for coming along on our advent ride and for all your support in 2017. - All of us here at HB&B

#HBBAdvent Beer 23: Beavertown x Cigar City Paleo Pinhead Porter (North London)

Beavertown says: This rich and coconutty porter is a collab with our friends from CIgar City Brewing. Paleo Pinhead gives you a rich and creamy mouth feel with intense coconut aromas. Upfront sweetness gives way to gentle vanilla flavours balanced out by a roasty cacao finish.


We sell more Beavertown than any other brewery, so there was no question that they wouldn't be a star of this year's Big Beery Advent Calendar. At just the right time, this delectable confection came along. We drank, we loved, we ordered large. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do. - Jen

#HBBAdvent Beer 22: Lervig Tasty Juice APA (Norway)

Lervig says: We did it, After we all travelled to Boston we came back inspired to finally jump on the juicy band wagon. Funny thing when we first saw one we gasped, and asked if the keg was okay... Then we realised this is the juice! The biggest issues for these beers are they have to be sold fast! Drank immediately. The freshness is what its all about. Unless you are working at a brewery you can see what a hoppy IPA tastes like straight out of the fermentation tank. Don't buy this beer unless you plan to drink it very soon! We canned it to help preserve its hoppy quality better...

We say: The brewers in Norway definitely know how to make a good beer, whether it is an imperial stout, sour or this great example of a DDH Citra IPA. If tasty is the word you use to describe this beer then you’re absolutely spot on. Oh, and the name kind of gives it away too… For me, this has been one of the most consistent juicy hop-bombs this year and my fridge has become well acquainted with it. - Joris

Our December All Killer No Filler box revealed

We've still got a couple of All Killer No Filler beer subscription boxes left for you to pick up before Christmas (or get it delivered in time for NYE). If you've been wavering, check out what's in this month's box to get you excited (SPOILER ALERT). What a way to end the year!



#HBBAdvent Beer 21: Two Roads Tanker Truck Sour Series - Plum Gose (US)

Two Roads says: Classic Gose sour/salty interplay with the unmistakable character of tart Italian plums (prunus cocomilia). Pinkish in color and decidedly refreshing.

We say: Plum Pudding last night, Plum Gose today - we be all about the plums. Tis the season... 

This is a well-seasoned gose (love that salt) that pours a beautiful purple. We've enjoyed all of the Two Roads releases we've had in this year, so this plummy number is a very worthy inclusion to the box. Consider it a tasty wee spritzer as we gear up for the home run to Christmas... - Jen

The Beer Lover’s Kitchen: Dark Chocolate Blueberry Truffles & Brick Brewery x Hop Burns & Black Black Blueberry & Vanilla Stout

As I write this, it's lightly snowing. For the first time in nearly five years, London has softened, stilled. There are many productive ways to spend such a rare, wintry Sunday; for my money, preparing chocolate truffles has to be one of the best.

Making ganache - the truffles’ base - is a sensory thing, almost overwhelmingly so. It’s good to do when everything else is cold and quiet, and the process can hold all of your focus - not because it’s especially difficult, but because it is enormously pleasurable.

You snap shards of chocolate and then watch them collapse into velvet darkness. Every spatula swirl sends up perfume. You mix the melted chocolate with warm cream and let the mixture gloss and chill until it's firm enough to work with (maybe you even squidge the bowl directly into a bit of slushy snow outside so it sets more quickly). Then you scoop out teaspoons of the set ganache and roll it into spheres, quickly, between your warming palms. To finish, you can dust your proto-truffles with cocoa powder, or dip them into a bath of melted chocolate to coat - or you can use both methods, as I did.

These truffles were inspired by Black: one of three fantastic collaboration beers made in honour of Hop Burns & Black’s third birthday. This one, brewed with Peckham's Brick Brewery, is a beautiful, inky stout. Additions of blueberry, vanilla, and lactose have all added to its dessert-like profile, though its roasty, bitter finish makes it moreish rather than cloying. To match it, the truffles are infused with blueberry jam, a dash of cinnamon and vanilla.

This recipe makes enough truffles so that you might make gifts of them and still have a plate left to yourself. I’d recommend ferrying it to the cosiest corner of your flat, cracking open a fresh can of Black and watching the snow come down.

Dark Chocolate Blueberry Truffles, Two Ways
Makes approximately 25 truffles

For the ganache:
150g blueberry jam (I used Bonne Maman Wild Blueberry Conserve)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
250g high-quality 70% dark chocolate (I used Lindt)
250ml double cream
50g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

For the truffles:
150g high-quality 70% dark chocolate
50g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

First, place the blueberry jam in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until it is warm and mostly liquid. Add the cinnamon and stir well to combine. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 seconds; blend, using an immersion blender or a regular blender, to break down any whole berries in the jam. Set aside.

In a saucepan, add the double cream and the light brown sugar and warm over medium-high heat. Stir well to combine and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Boil for approximately one minute, stirring frequently so it doesn't scorch on the bottom. Remove from heat and let stand for one minute. Add the vanilla bean paste and stir to combine.

In a large, heatproof bowl, break up the dark chocolate into small pieces. Pour over the double cream and the liquefied blueberry jam (note: you may need to return the jam to the stove on low heat for a minute so that it's pourable, as it will quickly solidify). Stir well until the chocolate is all melted. Whisk to remove any lumps. Cover and chill for at least two hours, or until the ganache has set.

Once the ganache is firm enough to work with, start to roll your truffles. With a teaspoon, scoop out a small amount of ganache and delicately and quickly roll between your palms until it forms an even sphere. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and repeat. You'll want to do this as quickly as possible so the ganache doesn't soften too much; it may start melting in your hands, in which case you should pause to wash and dry them well. 

Once the ganache balls have all been rolled, cover loosely with cling-film and chill again
for another 30 minutes to help set.

Now, you’re ready to finish preparing your truffles. To make the truffles that are coated in a dark chocolate shell, you'll need a thermometer to ensure the melted chocolate is properly tempered (otherwise, it will turn blotchy or chalky as it cools). First, prepare a double boiler: heat a saucepan of water until simmering and place a second bowl on top of the pan (it should fit neatly, so there are no gaps, but its bottom should not touch the water). 

Add two-thirds of your chocolate and stir constantly until it's completely melted. Remove the bowl from the pot of water. Add the rest of the chocolate and stir until melted. Check the melted chocolate from time to time with a thermometer; you want to let it cool until it reaches 31-32 degrees C (88-90 degrees F)—mine took approximately 10 minutes to drop to the right temperature. Once it is at temperature, add one ganache ball and toss quickly with a fork until evenly coated in chocolate; remove to a plate lined with parchment paper. Repeat until roughly half of your truffles have been coated with chocolate (if the temperature of the melted chocolate drops too much, you may need to quickly reheat it).

Leave your truffles to set for 10-15 minutes. 

To make the truffles that are coated in cocoa powder, put the cocoa powder and cinnamon in a small bowl. With a fork, add one ganache ball at a time, tossing lightly, until evenly coated in the cocoa powder mixture. Set aside, shaking off any excess, and repeat until all have been coated. If you want to use one method over the other, simply double the quantity of the chocolate or the cocoa powder and cinnamon, respectively.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a can or two of Brick x HB&B Black while you still can.

#HBBAdvent Beer 20: Wiper & True Plum Pudding Porter (Bristol)

Wiper & True says: Rich, dark malts brewed with the addition of dried fruits, cinnamon and lemon zest. Caramelised sugar and winter fruit flavours combine to a toasted finish

We say: We could rave about this beer because it's LUSH. But instead we'll simply direct you to Matt Curtis's Fundamentals review for this very site, as he says it best. Cheers!

#HBBAdvent Beer 19: Kew Snowdrop Winter Ale (West London)


Kew says: The 2017 version of our winter ale, Snowdrop, is a brand new recipe. Brewed with sweet, dark crystal and chocolate malts, it has a smooth, satisfying mouthfeel thanks to the addition of some malted oats, and a hint of festive ‘spice’ from some crystal rye malt. No 'seasonal' gimmicks in this one, it's just a lovely winter beer to keep you warm in the coldest months of the year.

We say: Kew founder Dave celebrates the best of British ingredients in his beers, which have helped open many drinkers' eyes to the underrated joy of English hops. In this case, however, it's the malt that comes to the fore in a beautiful beer that reminds us of our favourite cask milds. Super smooth and creamy, this is a true Tuesday night treat. - Glenn

#HBBAdvent Beer 18: Elusive Brewing Overdrive APA Lap 5 (Wokingham)


Elusive says: American Pale Ale hopped with Simcoe then dry-hopped with Amarillo.

We say: Elusive founder Andy Parker's fame preceded him - by the time we first met, in the very early days of the shop, we already knew of his prowess as probably the finest home brewer out there, and definitely the nicest guy in beer.

Since then, we've loved watching Andy realise his dream of owning a brewery and go from strength to strength. He's continued to produce incredible beers - we've been fortunate to brew three collabs with him ourselves (you#ll find some of our most recent collab, Down in Mexigose, on the shelf and we're delighted that our smoked chilli porter Aztec Challenge will be making a return sometime soon). In the meantime, enjoy this cheeky little American Pale Ale on a Monday night. - Jen


#HBBAdvent Beer 17: Wild Beer Rooting Around - Autumn (Somerset)

Wild Beer says: Rooting Around - Autumn seeks to harness the flavour of Autumn with the use of a fig tree. Toasty, roasted and nutty malt flavours perfectly capture the darker nights and crisp chill in the air. Fig fruits work perfectly with this malty backbone however toasted fig leaves are the star ingredient here. They impart a lightly toasted coconut character which marries with the fig fruits and contrasts the tannic bite of the fig wood.

We say: If you, by some odd chance, happen to have Tom Waits’ Hard Ground poetry book, this is the time to get it out. The combination of poems of dismay and Michael O’Brian’s desolate photographs pair well with this easy-drinking brown ale. Having arrived home completely drenched by the December rain, the bleak portraits of often overlooked Americans put my situation in perspective. The message in the poems about the hard ground many struggling Americans have to journey, like this beer, doesn’t have to be shocking to be delightful.

Although it almost seems absurd to draw an analogy between a beer and the dreary photographs and poems in Hard Ground, the brown ale style can easily be overlooked. In a time where the craze for hop-bombs and chocolate-pie-stouts appears neverending, there is often no place for a light brown ale like this. Nevertheless, we have selected you a fitting autumn edition brown ale with figs, and it’s a damn tasty one as well. - Joris

#HBBAdvent Beer 16: Howling Hops IPA NZ Special (East London)

Howling Hops says: Packed with Riwaka, Motueka and Kohatu hops from New Zealand.

We say: Webster's dictionary describes New Zealand as: "The jewel in the Australasian crown." This is the Dame Kiri Te Kanawa of IPAs (Google her, she's qual), the kind of beer you'd like to drink when you're out clubbing with the new Kiwi Prime Minister.

In a dystopian world over-run by New England haze, one beer stands up and says "To hell with you, 2017 - I am fresh, and I am bitter." A sentiment that gains increasing momentum as 2017 nears its end. - Lewis