Fundamentals #28 — Anspach & Hobday & Hawkes The Sour Graff

I’m enjoying watching the gentle loll of the modern cider revolution as it gracefully strides into view of beer lovers. Cider is unquestionably having a bit of a moment of late, and it feels like we’re at the foot of a much bigger mound when it comes to what many consider to be beers sister-beverage. For me, cider is far closer to wine, especially orchard-based, low intervention cider - pulling fruit from local orchards, and allowing it to ferment naturally as it matures into a finished product. In fact I personally feel that much of modern cider forms the perfect bridge between beer and wine.

We’ve got some work to do before cider can get to a point where it’s fussed over like so much modern beer though. One producer attempting this is Hawkes, based on Bermondsey’s Druid Street, amidst the largest feast of brewers within the capital. The fact that the cider maker is now owned by BrewDog might give you some inkling on how close to the beer drinkers table cider is at the moment - and of the cider maker's sizable ambition.

The Sour Graff is a hybrid beverage produced with Hawkes’ Druid Street neighbours Anspach & Hobday. The base beer is a Berliner Weisse, which then sees the addition of Dabinett apple juice prior to fermentation. What I particularly enjoy about this is the seeing the apple varietal get a namecheck, front and centre. In a world where hops are such a strong hook for beer enthusiasts, dangling a carrot… err, apple, like this lends the beer drinker the next rung to swing from.

I was also pleased to find such an approachable beer beneath the cap. Fans of sours will be immediately drawn to its sharp, tart quality. The apple flavour is sweet and fizzy, like a mouthful of sour-apple pop rocks, but the dry finish smoothes this out. If you can overcome the initial sharpness of how sour this beer/cider hybrid is, then you’ll find a beverage that is simple and eminently drinkable - perfect for long summer days.

Behind all of the fun this drink provides, however, is just the faintest hint of farmyard funk. Not enough to challenge, but - for those that find it - enough to perhaps pique an interest in the wider world of cider. In this respect, The Sour Graff is a great introduction to cider for those who have not yet decided if they like it or not.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. If you're quick, you'll be able to find a last bottle of The Sour Graff in store or online.

Our Deptford shop opens this weekend!

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Deptford, we're finally ready for you (almost)! We'll be vacuuming up the dust and throwing open the doors to our Hop Burns & Shack-of-Joy this Saturday at 10am.

Inside, you'll find hundreds of the world's best beers, amazing British ciders, our favourite wines (with a big focus on natural and organic), a carefully chosen selection of small-batch spirits and of course our famous wall of hot sauce.

Initially, as we get up and running, we'll be open five days a week (Wed-Sun) but will extend these hours as soon as we can. In the meantime, here's when you'll be able to visit us:

Wed: 3-8pm  /  Thurs: 3-8pm  /  Fri: 12-9pm  /  Sat: 10am-9pm  /  Sun: 12-6pm

To celebrate our opening, we've got some amazingly handsome and hard-wearing HB&B tote bags to give away to the first 100 customers who spend £20 or more with us.

And a gentle reminder that we are primarily a takeaway bottle shop -  we'll have a couple of benches outside for a little sunshine tipple, but if it's full bar service you're after, you're spoiled for choice with our fantastic neighbours which include Little Nan's, Tap Room SE8, Buster Mantis, Gin & Beer and more. 

Thanks so much for all the support so far, Deptford - we can't wait to see you at the shop :)

Our letter to Beavertown

Today we made one of the most significant decisions in our retail careers in deciding to stop selling Beavertown, a brewery that contributes an enormous share of our revenue, after hearing the news of its sale to Heineken. We will sell through the stock we already have but going forward we will no longer retail Beavertown. We are, frankly, absolutely gutted about this but we feel strongly that we need to be true to our principles and our support of independent beer. Here's our letter to Beavertown in full.

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It's no exaggeration to say we are hugely disappointed by this morning's news. I imagine many of you will be feeling the same way.

Hop Burns & Black is built on the ethos of supporting the independent beer scene - it's at the very core of our reason for being. 

We appreciate breweries are businesses like any other and often need help to grow and realise their ambitions, but we hoped Beavertown were cut from a different jib to those who just follow the money. Beavertown has been hugely instrumental in developing the UK craft beer scene and to sell to Heineken (no matter what the share) feels, quite frankly, like a slap in the face.

Heineken - like AB InBev - does not have the health of the UK independent beer scene at heart. Dressing up this move as good for the consumer is just spin - in reality this is simply helping Big Beer chip away at the UK independent beer scene. As independent retailers whose business is also at risk from Big Beer's targeting of the industry, we cannot support this.

We have had a long and close relationship with Beavertown - your beers make up more than 8% of our annual beer turnover (second only to Cloudwater), so this is not a decision we have taken lightly. However, as with Brixton after it sold to Heineken, we are prepared to say goodbye. We're sad that we've had to take this decision but nothing is more important to us than our principles.

We will sell through the Beavertown beers we currently have in stock but will not be placing any more orders. 

We want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your fantastic support over the years - Beavertown people are good people and we will very much miss working with you. 

Jen & Glenn @ HB&B

UPDATE: We have also sent a similar email to the Fourpure team following the announcement of their 100% sale to Lion/Kirin. While this news was not at all unexpected, it's still a sad day as we have worked closely with the Fourpure team over the years, sharing many great nights, hangovers and even a collab brew. Our stance remains the same, however - we are here for independent beer.

Fundamentals #27 — Fuerst Wiacek A Quick One IPA

Citra and Mosaic are my homeboys, I like hanging out with them often. I also enjoy it when they’re accompanied by pals like El Dorado, Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin and even Simcoe (although the latter sometimes feels like he may be trying a little too hard to roll with the cool kids these days). They are fundamental to the modern, hoppy, hazy pales I have spent much of my recent time obsessing over.

There’s an argument that a lot these modern beers, with their juice dialled up and the bitterness muted, are very similar in character. On the surface that much is true. But the more I delve into them, the more subtle variances I detect between them. That might be something as simple as a beer's mouthfeel, or how that beer’s specific yeast has added its own character - for better or worse.

Drinking a modern beer hopped with Citra and Mosaic can be as exciting for me as it can be refreshing, because I can still be surprised by how the flavours in that beer present themselves - be they through citrus or tropical fruits, through peach and apricot driven esters or through heady, dank, onion, pine and wild garlic. Yes I like that too.

Fuerst Wiacek - a brewery based out of Berlin, Germany, but currently with no production facility of its own - is a new one to me. The brewery describes its beers as modern and balanced and my first impression of its New England style IPA A Quick One would indicate that this statement holds true.

That depends of course on your definition of balance. If a beer with a fruit basket of tropical notes from papaya to mango to lychee that’s wrapped up in a soft, yet featherlight body with a delicate, dry yet ever-so-slightly bitter finish is your idea of balance, then this beer will almost certainly be right up your avenue.

This is an excellent modern IPA, and an exemplary use of my good friends Citra and Mosaic. I look forward to spending some more time with them should they show up in a Fuerst Wiacek beer once more.

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

Fundamentals #26 — North Brewing Co. Transmission IPA

One of my favourite historic pieces of music television is the clip of Joy Division performing Transmission on BBC2’s Something Else back in 1979. The performance is bookended by an interview with the band’s then manager, Tony Wilson, alongside drummer Stephen Morris. In the clip, Wilson laments how the Manchester-based band’s track doesn’t have a universal appeal, due to it being “unsettling… slightly sinister and gothic”, despite its “hypnotic melody”.

For many beer drinkers, modern beer – in particular the opaquely hazy and enticingly juicy IPAs that have shot to fame over the previous 24 months – may hold similarly unsettling qualities. Who knows what terrors may lie within a beer that will not drop bright?

By rights, with enticing, accessible juicy fruit flavours and little to no bitterness, the modern hazy IPA has all the qualities that should hold universal appeal to all beer drinkers. But the nonconformity of the style gives it that unsettling character, because it doesn’t look like what we’re told beer is supposed to look like. New England IPA is the Joy Division of modern beer, and a keen sign that we’re in the post-punk – or dare I say the post-craft – beer era.

Transmission is also the name of a hazy IPA from Leeds based North Brewing Co. The brewery’s founders Christian Townsley and John Gyngell made their name in the Yorkshire city as the founders of North Bar, which is sometimes referred to as the first craft beer bar in the UK.

North Bar has been a trendmaker and bastion within the Leeds scene since its founding in July 1997. Then, in 2015, Townsley and Gyngell decided to take the next step and launch their brewery under the same moniker. In recent months the brewery has really hit its stride and is producing some stellar beer.

Transmission is an IPA that follows the modern trend of being hazy and juicy. Flavours of mango interweave between sheets of candy sugar, which are all tied together with a subtle dry and bitter snap in the finish, something that should satisfy even the most hardened of purists. Although its appearance and flavour may be unsettling and slightly sinister to those accustomed to the traditional, its accessibility will no doubt welcome an equally high volume of people to the genre.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. We love Transmission so much that it's now a core beer at HB&B. Pick up a can in store or online.

The Beer Lover’s Kitchen: Indian-Spiced Fried Chicken Goujons with Raita and Beavertown X De La Senne Brattish Anglo-Belge Pale Ale

If I could only pick one beer to pair with food for the rest of time, I’d probably go with Brattish – a recent collaboration between Beavertown and Belgium’s De La Senne (and unfortunately for my purposes, only a limited-edition brew).

Billed as an “Anglo-Belge Pale Ale”, this summery beer is all fruity esters on the nose, thanks to its Belgian ale yeast strain. On the palate, it’s still fresh and delicately sweet, but the lingering snap of bitterness makes Brattish exceptionally balanced and versatile. You could serve innumerable dishes with a beer as food-friendly as this one, but I opted for fried chicken goujons. In my opinion, they’re one of the most miraculous things you can cook at home – partly because they’re really just an adultified version of the chicken nuggets you loved so much as a kid, and partly because they’re really, truly not difficult to make.

If you’re the type who quails at the idea of frying anything, know that these are shallow- rather than deep-fried, and cook for just a few minutes: crispy, crunchy, tender, flavourful fried chicken can be yours in no time at all.

To add another dimension, the chicken fillets are also marinated in an Indian-spiced yoghurt mixture, similar to what you’d use if you were making chicken tikka. Serve cooling raita on the side, plus an additional dollop of hot sauce or chutney, if you’d prefer.

Indian-Spiced Fried Chicken Goujons with Raita
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main

For the chicken goujons:
½ cup (130g) Greek yoghurt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, minced
1 green chilli, minced
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
11 oz (320g) mini chicken breast fillets
½ cup (70g) flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup (70g) panko
2 cups (500ml) vegetable oil

For the raita:
¾ cup (200g) Greek yoghurt
1 small handful mint leaves, finely chopped
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
½ teaspoon coriander
1 small clove garlic, crushed

1. Begin marinating the chicken several hours before you plan to cook. In a medium- sized bowl, add the yoghurt, garlic, ginger, chilli, spices and ½ teaspoon sea salt. Stir well to mix. Add the chicken fillets and mix with a spoon or your hands to ensure they’re well coated. Cover and leave to marinate for at least two hours, or up to overnight.

2. Prepare the raita. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside.

3. When the chicken is done marinating, remove from the fridge. Prepare your batter assembly line. Fill one bowl with flour and the remaining ½ teaspoon of sea salt, whisking to combine. Fill the second bowl with the beaten eggs and the third bowl with the panko crumbs, and set out a large plate at the end. Remove one fillet from the yoghurt, shaking off any excess marinade, and dip into the flour. Toss and flip to evenly coat, and shake off any excess. Quickly dredge the fillet in the egg mixture, coating on both sides, and let any excess egg drip off. Finally, place it in the bowl with the panko crumbs and toss until well coated. Place the battered fillet on the plate and repeat with the rest.

4. When all the fillets are battered, add the vegetable oil to a large frying pan, preferably cast iron, and place over high heat. Heat for 5-7 minutes, or until the oil temperature reaches 180°C/350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Carefully add half of the chicken fillets; they should sizzle rapidly. Cook, rotating and flipping the pieces with tongs frequently, for 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken is crisp and deep golden-brown. You can check that the chicken is cooked through by removing one fillet and slicing into it; the meat inside should be opaque, tender, and flaky.

5. When the chicken is cooked through, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Repeat with the second batch.

6. Serve the chicken while it’s still warm, alongside the raita and additional hot sauce or chutney, if you prefer.

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 Brattish while you can, in store or online.

Fundamentals #25 — Cloudwater DIPA V3 2018 & V3.1

Time can be good for IPAs. I’m not talking about cellaring your freshest beers and letting them fade away like a forgotten 90’s pop star - this is not how you make good barleywine. I’m talking about what a brewery can learn once it has had time to experiment and glean a little maturity. With experience and a combination of technological and creative know-how comes great beer. With the re-release of its V3 Double IPA and coincidental launch of an up-to-date V3.1, Manchester’s Cloudwater has done just that.

I remember when I went to the London launch of Cloudwater beers back in 2015, but I don’t remember the pales and IPAs I drank that day. Instead I remember a tasty bergamot hopfenweisse along with some soft and luxurious low-strength beers served from cask. But as pleasant as these beers were at the time, they were not to be a marker of this breweries bright future. Its foray into intensely hopped beers, inspired by the brightest starlets of the American scene such as The Veil, Treehouse and Trillium, would eventually fulfil that role.

Cloudwater’s evolving DIPA series would catapult the brewery into the light fantastic, seeing it claim accolades on both sides of the pond. And yet, none of the 13 beers in this range would showcase potent hop characteristics in the same way as the trend-breaking beers that would follow. Sure, it proved to be a worthy experiment. It helped the brewery figure out what its equipment was capable of, and what its fans wanted more of. But these beers are now a world away from the weekly-released DDH treats we’ve come to expect. So when I see folks pine for these one-off experiments, I find myself asking why that is.

This fresh release of V3 is an interesting experience, but for me this beer doesn’t represent where this brewery is at in 2018. It has that characteristic softness that is so strongly representative of what a Cloudwater beer is to me, along with flavours of ripe melon and a little honey. However the back end of V3 is one of cloying sweetness and some hot alcohol—not the bright burst of hop intensity I’ve come to expect.

V3.1 contains three times the dry hop addition as the revivified edition of V3. You could call it triple dry hopped with its 24 grams per litre to the meagre 8 grams in the older recipe. But this is the kind of beer we have now become accustomed to from Cloudwater. It’s not TDH, its perfectly normal. The newer recipe is far hazier than the previous one, but the aroma and flavour is also dramatically more intense. While its appearance is cloudy, soft, tropical notes of papaya and lychee provide the brightness, with the intensity turned up to its maximum.

This is the kind of beer I want from Cloudwater, a beer that demonstrates maturity and nuance in the same beat as it does vibrancy and intensity. I hope those nostalgic for the older version got what they wanted out of this release, but as far as I’m concerned I hope Cloudwater keep learning, keep evolving, and keep developing these righteously juicy beers.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up both V3 cans while you still, erm, can, in store or online.

HB&B is coming to Deptford!

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We are delighted to announce that we've located the perfect site for our second outlet - and it's in sunny Deptford.

HB&B Deptford - or 'Hop Burns & Shack' as we like to call it - is a small but perfectly formed version of the branch you know and love in Peckham. It's located directly outside Deptford Station (next to the old KicksLove shop, just down from Mouse Tail Coffee and Forest, and within spitting distance of the legendary Little Nan's). This means it's perfectly placed for Deptford and New Cross folks to stop in on their way home, and it's just one stop from London Bridge so we'll get to see much more of our north-of-the-river friends - no excuses now, guys.

If you've been following our journey, you'll know we've been looking for a new site for a while - over the years we've suffered our fair share of bad luck and also the curse of being extremely picky.

Our love for South East London is loud and proud, so we've always thought Deptford would be our next move. We've been stomping up and down Deptford High Street for ages, fuelled by amazing bagels from The Waiting Room and moral support from those lovely lads at Villages. We love this place - we love its strong sense of community and its support for independent business, and it helps that it's developing a pretty cool food and drink scene too.

So yeah. We have the keys and now the hard work begins - converting a weird little railway arch into a TARDIS of awesomeness. Opening date is still TBC but it'll be sometime in June - the sooner the better. Deptford, we are SO excited to be in you.

See you soon...

Why we've gone cash-free (for a month at least)

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During May, we won't be accepting cash payments (so please ensure you have a card with you for in-store payments). We're doing this for a month's trial, with a view to making it permanent if the trial proves successful.

Why do we want to go cash-free? There are several reasons.

More than 95% of you already pay by card or online - Those of you who do pay in cash are usually carrying a card as back-up, so we hope any inconvenience caused will be minimal. 

Added security - It's a fact that businesses that don't carry cash are less likely to be a target of crime in store, not to mention a reduced risk of theft if we don't have to haul cash to the bank. We're all for making ourselves and our staff safer.

Damn banks keep closing their branches - This means we have to travel further to get to a branch to deposit our cash takings, and when we get there we have to wait longer as everyone who used to visit those other branches is having to come to the same branch. We want those hours back!

Less time cashing up, more time to spend on important things - Counting the float at the start and end of the day is a time-consuming chore we'd prefer not to have to do. We have much more exciting stuff we'd rather be focusing on to make our service to you even better.

So apologies for any hassle caused. We're keen to hear your feedback - good and bad - as the month progresses and in turn we'll let you know how the trial has gone at the end of May and if we'll make it a permanent thing or not. Thanks for understanding :)

Fundamentals #24 — Pressure Drop x Lost & Grounded How We Roll Belgian Chocolate Stout

Every few months I try to slow down a little and take stock of where the beer industry is right now, and how far it’s come in the past few years. Its booming evolution still shows no sign of slowing down. And just thinking about this point alone can be exhausting - especially when, like me, you’re embroiled in the whirlwind that is Beer Twitter™. However, when you put your phone down, and open a bottle of beer from one of the UK’s finest small breweries, suddenly that whirlwind stops spinning and the beer world seems to slow down - for a while at least.

Over the past year or two, I’ve noticed how far the overall quality of British beer has improved, especially from breweries which emerged within the last few years. Modern breweries are learning to invest in process, equipment, sensory training and quality control to ensure the beer in your glass is tasting better than ever before. At more than 2,000, the UK now has more breweries than anywhere else in the world bar our friends in the United States, who boast more than 6,000.

Numbers alone don’t make up a great beer culture though. In order for the UK to continue to stand up and be counted as one of the world’s most important brewing nations, quality needs to keep improving, which from what I can see is happening all around us.

Two breweries leading the charge in this respect are Bristol’s Lost and Grounded and North London’s Pressure Drop. The former launched in summer 2016, boasting an impressive German-made brewhouse that allowed the brewery exacting control over the beers it produces, be it a modern IPA or German-inspired Pilsner. The latter started its journey in Hackney in 2012, eventually expanding to its current Tottenham home in 2017. Each makes excellent beers in their own right, so you know that any collaboration between them will likely tickle your fancy.

How We Roll - a Belgian Chocolate Stout - certainly tickled mine. The beer’s relative Belgian-ness is very understated, only really evident via its voracious carbonation and exceedingly dry finish, both of which seemingly serve to enhance both the beer's chocolate flavour and its overall drinkability. This beer also skillfully avoids being too astringent, dialling the roasted quality of the stout back to let the milk chocolate flavour really shine.

How We Roll is one of those beers that comes along once in a while that I expect to be good, but is so good that it almost takes me by surprise. It shouldn’t though - instead, like many beers, it should stand up as an example of how high the quality of many brewers’ output in the UK has become. Here’s to enjoying many more beers like this one.

The Beer Lover’s Kitchen: Pork Kofta Kebabs with Labneh & Rocket and Reutberger Josefi Bock

The arrival of spring means rain showers and growing things, but in beer circles, it also means bock. German bockbiers—which you’ll recognise because their labels are almost always festooned with prancing goats—are traditionally released in the spring after having been brewed and lagered during the cold winter months.

Many beer drinkers are probably familiar with rich, malty doppelbocks, but helles bocks (also known as heller bocks or maibocks) are also worth your while. Reasonably strong but paler in colour than your average doppelbock, these beers are less malt-driven and have a stronger hop presence than their darker cousins.

Brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast, Reutberger’s example of the style is a tawny-hued lager with brilliant clarity. It brings mellow sweetness rather than lingering bitterness—its finish is all toffee and caramel, courtesy of its 50-50 split of light and dark malts.

As with most malt-led German beers, Josefi Bock loves pork. I toyed for a while with pairing it with various braised recipes before settling on something quicker and—while still hearty—slightly fresher. Very much a riff on a classic kofta kebab, this recipe both subs pork for the more traditional lamb and adds a rogue element in the form of an
apricot glaze. Rather than being oversweet, the glaze adds fruitiness and complexity that marry well with the pork while picking up the toffee notes in the beer beautifully.

To tie it all together, I added labneh (Greek yoghurt’s tangy, cheese-like cousin), fruity Aleppo pepper flakes, peppery rocket and fresh mint. Throw the lot together on whatever flatbread you fancy, and wrap it up in foil: this isn’t one for the forks and knives.

Pork Kofta Kebabs with Labneh and Rocket
Serves 4

For the pork koftas:
8 metal or bamboo skewers
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
750g 20% minced pork
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sumac
2 large echalion shallots, finely chopped
1.5 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the apricot glaze:
2.5 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon soy sauce

To serve:
4 large, round flatbreads of your choice (pita, naan, etc.)
Approximately 350g labneh (substitute Greek yoghurt if unavailable)
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Several handfuls rocket
Large bunch mint
1 lemon
Aleppo chilli flakes

1. First, make the koftas. If using bamboo skewers, submerge in water and leave to soak. In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, roughly grind the fennel and coriander seeds. Add to a large bowl with the minced pork and the rest of your spices, the shallots, salt and pepper. Work through with your hands until evenly mixed. If you want to check
the seasoning, place a teaspoon-sized amount of the pork mix on a plate and microwave for 20 seconds. Taste and adjust accordingly. Place the pork mix in the fridge and leave to chill for 1 hour. 

2. Remove the skewers from the water and pat to dry. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top of it. Wet a paper towel with vegetable oil and grease the wire rack, so the koftas won’t stick.

3. Remove the pork mixture from the fridge and divide it into two. Set one half aside and divide the other into four even portions. Take one portion and pat it until it’s slightly flattened and rectangular. Place a skewer in the middle and shape the meat around it. Gently roll and compress the meat with your hands until it is a roughly 7–8-inch log, with the skewer running evenly through the length of it. Place on the wire rack-fitted baking sheet. Repeat with the three other portions, and then with the remaining half of the pork. Place the whole tray of koftas in the fridge and leave to chill for roughly 45 minutes.

4. Heat the grill/broiler on your oven to medium-high. Place the kofta tray in for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the tops have darkened in colour. Remove and flip the skewers over and return to the grill/broiler and cook for 5-7 minutes more.

5. As the koftas are cooking, make your apricot glaze. Add all five ingredients to a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook down for 2-3 more minutes, or until the glaze is syrupy and very thick. Remove from the heat and pour into a small bowl or ramekin.

6. Once the koftas have darkened on both sides, remove from the oven. Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze on one side of the koftas and return to the grill for 2-3 minutes, or until they’re starting to look browned and caramelised. Flip the skewers, brush with the rest of the glaze, and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

7. Just before serving, heat the flatbreads in the grill/broiler for 1 minute per side until warmed through (you may need to do this in several batches). Arrange each flatbread over a sheet of foil. Dollop a good amount of labneh or yoghurt in the centre of each flatbread and swipe into a long vertical stripe. Season the labneh with flaky salt and a
generous pinch of Aleppo chilli flakes. Top with a good handful of rocket and roughly torn mint leaves. Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and then arrange two koftas on top. Season the meat with additional Aleppo chilli flakes. Carefully fold over both sides of the flatbread to cover the filling and tightly wrap with the foil, folding up the foil at the base
to prevent any leaks. 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 bottle of Reutberger Josefi Bock while you can.

Fundamentals #23 — Black Iris Let The Juice Loose NEIPA

People say you can have too much of a good thing. That less is, in fact, more. Undoubtedly, there are many walks of life where this is true. Say for example if you spend less time working on that Excel spreadsheet or playing badminton, then you can spend more time down the pub, enjoying great beer. Or perhaps in the construction of a great pilsner, where the subtlety of pale malt playfully mingles with the nuance of noble hops, leading to a finished product that is perhaps greater than the sum of its parts.

Life would be boring if all we did was drink pilsner though, and badminton is a really fun way to get some exercise. When it comes to IPA, or at least IPA as we known it in the context of modern beer, you can’t have too much of a good thing. For IPA, more is more. That’s why it’s been the driving force of modern beer ever since folks like San Francisco’s Liberty Brewing decided to brew a rambunctiously bitter beer called Liberty Ale way back in 1975.

IPA is the carte blanche that brewers have used to define themselves, and in turn the industry they operate in, since the year dot. It can be bitter, it can be juicy, it can be sweet, it can be savoury, it can be dank as all hell. It can even be dark, (unless you are a Cascadian Dark Ale purist, hello to you). We can safely say that IPA as we know it now is fundamental to how we experience and enjoy beer in the modern age.

Let the Juice Loose is a New England style IPA from Nottingham’s Black Iris Brewery. Looking at how many of us enjoy our IPA in the modern beer age, this is a fantastic expression. Pouring distinctly hazy to the point of being (quite satisfyingly) turbid, your senses will almost immediately be piqued with aromas of mango, papaya and kumquat. Let the Juice Loose continues to purvey its tropical dance party of flavour when it hits your palate, with those fruit notes leading to a finish which is part dry, and part lingering stone fruit, as a hint of yeast esters give you the nod it’s time for another sip.

The hazy, juicy, New England IPA won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a fantastic gateway to those new to the style that may have previously been put off by lots of bitterness. Personally, I find that when this style is done well, it’s the kind of beer I want to drink all of the time. Except for those times I want a pilsner. Because sometimes less is more and sometimes more is more. Just like brewing, in fact.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up one of the last cans of Let The Juice Loose while you still can, in store or online.

A year of All Killer No Filler

Today marks one whole year since we launched our #HBBSubClub All Killer No Filler beer subscription boxes. Whoop!

We're not going to be bashful - these are, hands down, the best subscription boxes out there. Tell us we're wrong!

We have so much fun each month choosing our favourite beers to include in the selection, then whisking them up to our fantastic beer and food writers, Matthew Curtis and Claire Bullen, to create their magic with brews news you can use - Claire's wonderful beer and food pairings and recipes and Matt's Fundamentals columns.

If you're not on board yet, we've got a couple of places available for the April box. Whet your appetite by seeing what the last two months' boxes have included and head here to get on board.

The Beer Lover’s Kitchen: Chinese-Caribbean Wings and Elusive x Hop Burns & Black Aztec Challenge Smoked Chilli Porter

Wings are, in many ways, the perfect food. Crispy and juicy when done right, they offer the messy, almost carnal satisfaction of eating with your hands, of failing to care that your face is smeared with sauce and grease. Not a pretty experience, and all the better for it.

Much as I love classic Buffalo wings, I wanted to serve a different iteration alongside Elusive Brewing and Hop Burns & Black’s collaboration smoked porter, Aztec Challenge. Brewed with smoked cherry wood malt, pequin chiles, and scotch bonnet peppers, its kindled heat is tempered by a rich, almost sticky sweetness.

These wings respond in turn. Their sauce riffs on a Sam Sifton recipe for baked Trini-Chinese chicken, and combines Caribbean flavours - potent scotch bonnet hot sauce, the brightness of lime juice - with Chinese ingredients like oyster sauce, soya sauce, and anise-scented five-spice powder.

The wings themselves, made using J. Kenji López-Alt’s tried-and- true double-fry method, are shatteringly crisp underneath that slick of sauce. Sweet, spicy, and umami-laced, they’re just what this beer deserves.

Chinese-Caribbean Wings
Serves two as an appetiser, one as a main

For the wings:
1.5 litres rapeseed oil
500g chicken wings, the juiciest and fattest you can find, cut into flats and drumettes (tips removed)

For the sauce:
10g butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, minced
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
3 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs dark brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbs soya sauce
2 tsp scotch bonnet-based hot sauce (try Dalston Chillis' version)
1 spring onion, white parts discarded, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

You’ll be frying the wings twice; for the first fry, add the oil and prepared wings to a deep, heavy-bottomed pan and place over medium-high heat. Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature; you’ll want to raise the heat to between 107-121 degrees C. Cook the wings, stirring and flipping occasionally, until tender and just cooked through, but not golden on the outside, roughly 15-20 minutes.

Remove with tongs or a spider-style strainer to a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack and lined with paper towels. Let rest an hour at room temperature or covered in the fridge overnight.

When ready to do your second fry, heat the oil to 205 degrees C and remove your chicken from the fridge. While it’s heating up, prep the sauce: place a small saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the garlic and ginger and stir frequently until the raw flavour and aroma has dissipated and the mixture is starting to brown, 3-5 minutes. Next, add the five-spice powder and stir quickly to toast before adding the oyster sauce, dark brown sugar, lime juice, soya sauce, and hot sauce. Turn heat to low and cook until just warmed through, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Once the oil is at temperature, carefully add the chicken pieces with tongs to avoid splattering. Stir to make sure they’re not sticking to each other or the bottom of the pot. Cook, keeping the oil temperature ideally between 190-200 degrees (it will drop when the wings are added) for roughly 10 minutes, or until the wings are crispy and golden. Remove from the oil to the wire rack and let rest for a moment.

Pour your sauce into a large bowl and add the wings. Toss well until all pieces are well coated. Serve in a bowl, topped with sliced spring onion and toasted sesame seeds.

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 our Elusive collab Aztec Challenge while you can.

Fundamentals #22 – Brick Brewery Kerala Stout

I love a good curry. The way the blend of spices mingle with the char of meat cooked in a Tandoori oven makes it one of my all time favourite dishes. These same ingredients in a beer? Not so much. At least that’s what I thought until I tried Kerala Stout, from Peckham’s Brick Brewery.

Brick has always been one of those London breweries that has so often flown under my radar. This might be something to do with me being a staunch North Londoner, seldom coming out of my quiet slice of urban suburbia, especially to venture south of the river (except to see my good pals at Hop Burns & Black of course). More’s the pity though, as South London has so much to offer. Not least pubs like Stormbird, The Old Nun’s Head and not forgetting Brick Brewery’s own taproom under the arches at Peckham Rye station. As a beer enthusiast you deserve giving yourself a chance to break habit once in a while, so do yourself a favour and head south once in a while.

Back to Kerala Stout then, which infuses a typically dry, dark and roasted stout with a mélange of spices and flavourings. These include cumin, cardamom, curry leaves, chillies and cinnamon. That level of spicing may sound a little overwhelming – but just like in a great curry the brewers at Brick have found a way to get these spices working together in harmony.

These flavours were a little muted when I first sipped at the beer, having just pulled the can from the fridge. Once the beer had been given a few minutes in the glass to warm, however, it really opened up. Notes of cumin and cardamom come to the fore, mingling with the cinnamon and sweetness from the darker malts to find balance, even adding a touch of what tastes like toasted coconut to the palate. At the finish is a gloriously satisfying touch of chilli burn – just the right amount so as not to overwhelm the beer.

This beer is great on its own but perhaps unsurprisingly, it really comes alive when paired with a similarly spiced dish. This is definitely a beer worth heading to South London for – don’t forget to pick up a curry while you’re there.

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

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.