Iago’s Wine Chinuri Skin Contact 2017 (Georgia)

Recently, I happened upon a Twitter thread decrying those who would label orange wine as a “trend”. As Stephen Satterfield of Whetstone Magazine puts it, the style of wine has “been trending in Georgia and Armenia for, like, 8,000 years. We are talking about literally the oldest style of winemaking in the world.”

It’s true that Georgia is home to what’s thought to be the world’s oldest continually active winemaking tradition. It’s also true that orange wines – and Georgian orange wines in particular – have only started appearing on wine shop shelves and restaurant menus relatively recently. For many drinkers, the idea that there’s another vinous option beyond red, white and pink is still somewhat baffling.

It doesn’t help that “orange wine” is a controversial term, not least because many orange wines are closer in colour to gold, copper or coral. As winemaker Iago Bitarishvili notes, the term is particularly misleading in Georgia, as the country also produces orange wines made from, well, oranges. Instead, he prefers “amber wine”, while others might use “skin contact”. What they all describe is a white wine that is made like a red: instead of promptly separating juice from skins, winemakers keep them together during fermentation and into maturation. That period of skin contact can be as a little as days, as long as months. Generally, the results are wines that are deeper in colour than your classic, pale-lemon whites, and richer, often with noticeable tannins and a nutty, oxidated character.

Under his Iago’s Wine label, Bitarishvili produces an organic “orange wine” aged on grape skins, seeds and stems for six months. It undergoes maceration and fermentation in traditional qvevri – amphora-like earthenware vessels that are buried in the ground and cooled by the earth. His vines are some 60 years old and some of the qvevri he employs are a whopping 300 years old.

Chinuri is, in fact, the only grape that Bitarishvili works with on his two-hectare plot. The indigenous varietal (one of 500 unique to Georgia) is commonly found in the Kartli region, where Bitarishvili operates. It is high in acid, late-ripening, a popular candidate for sparkling wines and boasts a distinctive aromatic profile: there is an abundance of pear, a subtle hint of mint leaf and ample minerality. This wine also features a surprising (but not unlikeable) bitterness, akin to orange pith and walnuts.

Serve this wine cool but not excessively chilled – think 13° Celsius or closer to room/cellar temperature than fridge – to flatter its full complexity. Decant it before serving, too: with a little time and oxygen, its elements fuse harmoniously.

Claire’s food pairing: A caramelised pear and goat cheese salad or spiced roast quail

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our beer and food pairing book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, has just won Best Book at the North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards, and is available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Pearl Couscous With Roasted Aubergines & Tomatoes and Donzoko Northern Helles

Like many in the craft beer world, I only discovered the magic of lager in the past few years. For me, first there was Pilsner Urquell straight from the tank, with its trademark butterscotch whiff. Then there was Lost & Grounded’s Keller Pils, which I began drinking with abandon. Now – following offerings from Donzoko, Braybrooke, and other upstarts – I’ve become a true devotee of the crispy boi.

Donzoko’s Northern Helles is the brewery’s flagship, and what a thing of beauty it is. Featuring a delicately sweet grain profile – even a hint of nuttiness – it’s lightly hazy and pours a big, frothy crown of foam. Unlike your classic helles, it’s dry-hopped with Kiwi hops, which lends it a touch more bitterness than you might expect, plus a lightly floral aroma.

It’s the kind of beer I could see stocking in my fridge as a go-to – blissful after work, or shared in the park on warm days, or when settling in to watch the latest hyped prestige TV series. I can also testify it’s excellent at the dinner table – particularly with a dish like this pearl couscous.

Pearl couscous is one of the most-cooked dishes in my repertoire - it’s quick, versatile and distinct from your typical pasta. Here, I dress it up with slow-roasted tomatoes and aubergines, a small mountain of herbs, pine nuts, feta and sumac. During stretches of unexpected autumnal warmth, you can pack it away in a basket and bring it on a picnic and serve it at room temperature as an alternative to pedestrian pasta salad. You also can – and should – eat it when freshly made and still steaming, preferably straight out of the pot and with the assistance of a wooden spoon.

Both the couscous and the beer are matched in intensity and share that pleasingly nutty quality (lightly toast your couscous in oil before boiling is my tip). The beer’s gentle bitterness and carbonation also make it a foil for the olive oil-soaked aubergines and the feta crumbles. If neither party offers fanfare, they’re both emblematic of the importance, and deep satisfaction, of quotidian pleasures.

Pearl Couscous with Roasted Aubergines and Tomatoes
Serves 4-5

For the aubergines:
2 medium aubergines
2–3 teaspoons fine sea salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sumac
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

For the tomatoes:
10 medium, vine-on tomatoes
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
1–2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
15 thyme sprigs

For the couscous:
500g pearl couscous
2–3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional
Fine sea salt, to taste
100g pine nuts
2 lemons
Large handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Large handful fresh mint, roughly chopped
Large handful fresh oregano, roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
200g feta

1. Prep the aubergines 30 minutes before you plan to start cooking. Slice each eggplant thinly and sprinkle generously with sea salt on both sides. Set aside for 30 minutes; they will release a good quantity of liquid.

2. Preheat your oven to 200° Celsius (395° Fahrenheit). Place the aubergine slices between two pieces of kitchen roll and press firmly until as much water is released as possible. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the aubergine slices in a flat layer. Drizzle over the olive oil and season with the sumac and pepper.

3. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Halve your tomatoes and arrange in a single layer, cut-sides up. Drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter over the thyme sprigs.

4. Place both baking sheets in the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes. Halfway through cooking time, rotate the baking sheets; using a pair of tongs, flip the aubergine slices (the tomatoes can remain cut-side up throughout cooking). The aubergines and tomatoes are done when they’re golden brown and very soft. Remove from the oven and set aside.

5. Meanwhile, start cooking the couscous. Add 2–3 tablespoons olive oil to a large saucepan and place over medium-high heat. When hot, add the couscous. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden and lightly toasted. Pour over boiling water and season generously with salt. Cook for roughly 15 minutes, or until al dente. Drain.

6. While the couscous cooks, toast the pine nuts. Place a small frying pan over medium heat and add the pine nuts when hot. Cook, tossing frequently, for approximately 5 minutes, or until golden-brown and fragrant. Remove from the heat and set aside.

7. Return the drained couscous to the pot. Grate over the zest of the 2 lemons; halve and squeeze over the juice. Drizzle over 1–2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the chopped herbs and the black pepper, and stir to evenly combine. Once slightly cooled, crumble over the feta and stir through.

8. Just before serving, transfer the cooked aubergines and tomatoes to the couscous and stir until just mixed through. Serve while still warm or at room temperature.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Beer Miles are changing

beermiles.jpg

One of the most common questions we get asked is "Can I use my online Beer Miles in store?" or vice versa. At long last, we’ve finally found an app that lets us bring our in-store Beer Miles and online rewards loyalty programmes together - hurrah! This new all-inclusive Beer Miles means you can earn the same points and redeem the same rewards whether you're shopping online or in our Peckham and Deptford shops.

What's changing for me in-store?
New Beer Miles will be a bit more sophisticated than the old system. You’ll now get access to all the bonus rewards that online shoppers have been able to enjoy, such as birthday bonuses, extra points for referring friends etc, and we’re also introducing VIP tiers, all of which means you can earn more points - and rewards - more quickly.

Rather than being able to cash in your Beer Miles on every purchase as you currently can choose to, you’ll save up for a wide range of cashback rewards and discounts. The first reward level kicks in at just £50 spent and gives you the equivalent cashback to what you currently earn in-store, and they increase in value from there.

Your current Beer Miles balance will be automatically synced to the new Beer Miles at the exact same level - for instance, if your current Beer Miles balance is £1, this will convert to 50 new Beer Miles. We can tell you at the till how many Beer Miles you have and how far away you are from your next reward; you can also view them by clicking through on your points notification emails and, if you have an online account, you’ll be able to view them at shop.hopburnsblack.co.uk. If you've earned enough for a reward, you can choose whether to redeem it or keep on saving for the next reward.

What's changing for me online?
You'll earn points at the same rate you always have online - 1 point for every £1 spent - and you’ll share the same new range of rewards as our in-store customers. This does mean some of the current online rewards will no longer be available as we bring the two programmes in line with each other, but we'll be introducing a number of new rewards, plus exciting new ways to gain even more rewards with VIP tiers.

You’ll be able to see your balance online at shop.hopburnsblack.co.uk or you can view them by clicking through on your points notification emails. If you've earned enough for a reward, you can choose whether to redeem it or keep on saving for the next reward.

When do the systems change over?
Monday October 14th. Until then, you’re free to cash in your points under the old in-store and/or online systems if you wish, or hold on to them and use them on the new range of rewards.


NEW BEER MILES (kicks in Monday 14th October)

Earn 1 Beer Mile for every pound spent
Earn extra points by completing your profile, referring friends, following us on Twitter and Instagram
Receive 25 bonus points on your birthday

Rewards:
50 points - £1 off your next purchase
200 points - £5 off your next purchase
500 points - 15% discount on any purchase
1000 points - £100 off your next purchase over £250 OR a 30% discount on any purchase

VIP Tiers

DIPA members
Customers who have spent more than £250 in the past 12 months receive special reward offers twice a year, including one-off discount codes and free product offers.

TIPA members
Customers who have spent more than £1000 in the past 12 months receive special reward offers six times a year, including one-off discount codes and free product offers.

If you have any questions, please drop us a line at info@hopburnsblack.co.uk, or talk to a member of the team in store.

Fundamentals #56 — Abbeydale Funk Dungeon Ryes From The Grave

There are several UK breweries for me that – criminally – fly under the radar. Few, perhaps are as overlooked as Sheffield’s Abbeydale Brewery.

Established in 1996 and located just off Abbeydale Road towards the south of the city, this brewery has slowly but steadily built a reputation for solid pale ales such as Heathen and its suppable best bitter, Daily Bread.

But this is beginning to change, thanks largely to the efforts of Jim Rangely, one of their brewers who is somewhat obsessed with all things wild and funky. With his Funk Dungeon project, Jim has gradually began to take Abbeydale in a new direction, releasing beers that are sharpened with Lactobacillus or taken around the back of the goat pen with our good friend, Brettanomyces. If Abbeydale Brewery was a band, Jim is on bass, and he’s only playing slap – Bootsy Collins style.

Ryes from the Grave is one of Funk Dungeon’s first proper releases, ably demonstrating how promising the beers from this project have the potential to be. This blended ale comprises of three beers which have spent around 18 months maturing in a mixture of American and French oak barrels that were formerly used to produce red wine. After blending, they were then refermented with cherries and blackcurrants.

The fruit means that this beer pours a vibrant shade of red, and the taste is rich with tangy cherries and ripe blackcurrant. It’s mouth-puckeringly sharp at first, but after a few sips your palate adjusts and other flavours, such as soft oak and tannin – which mellow the sharpness of the beer a little – come to the fore.

This beer was a real highlight at September’s FunkFest, a showcase of wild and sour beer held at the Abbeydale Brewery, now in its second year. It’s exciting to see this brewery take bold steps in this direction, and in cans too! If they’re not on your radar yet, I’d hope that after trying this beer you’ll be first in line for future releases. Well, behind me, at least.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Be first to read Matt’s columns when you sign up to our All Killer No Filler beer subscription box - along with Claire Bullen’s recipe and pairings, plus in-depth tasting notes, they’re included in every box.

Wine & Food Killers: Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes, Bell Peppers & Balsamic Tomatoes and Jauma Like Raindrops Grenache 2017

There’s a lot you can say about September, and about its obvious superiority to all the other months. August’s blistering heat has been replaced by a subtle crispness in the air. September telegraphs school and new beginnings, and the ambient aroma of freshly sharpened pencils. After summer’s lackadaisical laze, I feel newly sleek, sharp and full of potential. And, as a side benefit, it becomes socially acceptable to turn on the oven again.

After spending the summer eating chilled, blended soups, salads and sushi, rediscovering the oven feels like a revelation: it does all the hard work for you and produces real greatness. Diana Henry, one of my favourite recipe writers, is fully aware of its powers; her newest book, From the Oven to the Table: Simple Dishes that Look After Themselves, is a celebration of the versatile, homey, unpretentious tray-bake dinner.

With this dish, I took the best parts of two recipes she’s recently teased, both of which use the humble chicken thigh as their base. Add a litany of vegetables – potatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic – and some Mediterranean thyme and fennel seeds, plus lemons and a bit of heat in the form of red pepper flakes. To top it all off: tomatoes that are roasted until jammy, doused in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and honey. The resulting dish feels like the epitome of home cooking: hearty and homespun and satisfying on a bone-deep level.

Grenache is a grape that’s often paired with lamb, grouse or other game meat; depending on where it’s from, the sun-loving varietal can itself turn thick and stewed, and taste like cooked-down fruits. But Jauma’s exquisite Like Raindrops, made in Australia’s McLaren Vale region, is Grenache handled with lightness. It pours a glittering, gemstone-red, and while it tastes like snappy cherry, it also features subtle spice qualities, and a lovely, floral note.

This Grenache is light enough to be a natural fit with the chicken; little wonder some winemakers label it “the Pinot Noir of the South”. Together, the two have the soul of a rustic feast, though just enough elevation to feel worthy of a special occasion.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes, Bell Peppers, and Balsamic Tomatoes
Adapted from Diana Henry
Serves 4

For the chicken thighs:
600g new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered or halved, depending on size
6–8 cloves garlic, kept in their peel
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced into wedges
2 bell peppers, seeded and stemmed and sliced into wedges
10–12 thyme sprigs
2 unwaxed lemons
2–3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus additional
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus additional
8 large skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
3–4 tablespoons capers, drained, rinsed, and patted dry

For the balsamic tomatoes:
600g medium tomatoes
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
2–3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2–3 tablespoons honey
Large pinch flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200° Celsius (395° Fahrenheit). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter the potatoes, garlic, onion wedges, bell pepper wedges and thyme sprigs across the tray. Using a microplane, grate the two lemons over the contents of the tray, before halving and squeezing over the juice. Drizzle over the olive oil.

2. Add the fennel seeds and red pepper flakes, and season with the salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss evenly to coat.

3. Place the chicken thighs evenly across the tray. Brush lightly with oil and season both sides with a generous pinch of sea salt, plus freshly ground pepper.

4. Next, line a separate, medium baking tray with parchment paper for the balsamic tomatoes. Halve the tomatoes and arrange cut-side up. Drizzle over the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey, and season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

5. Add both trays to the oven, and roast for 30 minutes. At the 30-minute mark, remove the tomatoes from the oven (they should be lightly charred and very soft) and set aside. Add the capers to the chicken tray and return to the oven for 10–15 minutes more. The dish is ready when the potatoes are fork-tender, the chicken thighs are cooked through, and their skin is golden and crisp.

6. Leave to cool for a few minutes before dividing the chicken, vegetables, and any accumulated juices between four plates, plus the balsamic tomatoes; be sure to remove the garlic from their peels. Serve with rustic bread and/or a green side salad, if you wish.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of Jauma Like Raindrops here and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Fundamentals #55 - Weird Beard Mariana Trench Pale Ale

There’s an old adage in beer: “Good things come to those who wait.” Unfortunately said adage is trademarked by the Diageo corporation, so let’s move swiftly on…

It does, however, feel like I’ve been waiting a lifetime for Weird Beard’s signature pale ale, Mariana Trench, to appear in cans. While other breweries have seemingly been desperate to throw their beer into sheaths of aluminium for some time, this West London stalwart has continued to rely on bottles.

There is nothing wrong with bottles of course. In fact, on paper, bottling technology is arguably more reliable than canning. It leaves your beer less susceptible to dissolved oxygen during packaging, which causes the beer to spoil more quickly. However, the undeniable convenience of cans cannot be ignored. They’re lighter, they get cold faster and they’re easier to dispose of. And (if you’re willing to ignore the impact of bauxite mining and its intensive refinement process), they’re supposedly much better for the environment. Plus they look much cooler on Instagram. And everyone knows that if a beer looks cool on Instagram, then it’s worth buying, right?

The good news is that it was definitely worth waiting for this beer to appear in cans. Mariana Trench has long been a favourite beer of mine since it first made an appearance in 2013. It effortlessly combines the citrus punch of North American hops with the earthy, yet tropical zing of New Zealand varieties, somehow producing something greater than the sum of its parts.

These contrasting fruit flavours are tempered thanks to a hint of residual malt sweetness, also allowing a not insignificant amount of bitterness to shine, without ever becoming overbearing. The finish is clean and classically West Coast in style. Something I often find myself longing for these days, and Mariana Trench continues to deliver. Here’s hoping we see lots more Weird Beard beers in cans very soon.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Be first to read Matt’s columns when you sign up to our All Killer No Filler beer subscription box - along with Claire Bullen’s recipe and pairings, plus in-depth tasting notes, they’re included in every box.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Chinese-Spiced Lamb Burgers and Burning Sky Petite Saison

When I lived in New York, I used to go to a local restaurant chain called Xi’an Famous Foods. And when I went to Xi’an Famous Foods, I always ordered the Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger.

Lamb burgers may sound most reminiscent of the Mediterranean, but they’ve long been a staple of central and western Chinese cooking. Typically, when making roujiamo, the lamb (or, frequently, pork) meat is marinated and slow cooked with a range of spices and aromatics before being roughly chopped (instead of minced) and served inside a flatbread called baijimo.

In adapting this recipe, I sought a way to preserve the dish’s flavours and sensibility, but to simplify its preparation. I used lamb mince, for starters, which makes preparing the patties a simple, 15-minute affair. And because baijimo aren’t readily available in London, pita works as an easily sourced alternative.

Unlike many burgers, this one isn’t a hulking behemoth. It’s slender, easily handheld, compact and enjoyable without weighing like a ton of bricks in your belly. It also doesn’t come slathered in various sweet or acidic sauces. Instead, that’s where the beer comes in.

Burning Sky’s fantastic Petite Saison – which, at just 3.5%, is a perfectly sessionable summertime quencher – almost acts like a final, finishing component to this dish. It’s bright and citrusy, just a little bit tart, and spiced with coriander and peppercorns. This mixed-fermentation saison also features a whisper of Brettanomyces (which should become more pronounced over time; this one was only bottled at the end of July) and was aged in white-wine barrels, which gives it enough complexity to match the lamb’s richness and gamey intensity. Together, the two offer an alternative – but no less delicious – way to enjoy a timeless, summertime burger-and-beer combo.

Chinese-Spiced Lamb Burgers
Serves 2

For the patties:
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1 ½ teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
1 ½ teaspoons white peppercorns
250g (½ lb) lamb mince
3–4 garlic cloves, minced
4 spring onions, thinly sliced (white and dark green parts separated)
Small handful coriander, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil

To serve:
2 medium pitas
Small handful coriander, roughly chopped

1. Prepare the patties. Add the cumin seeds, Sichuan peppercorns and white peppercorns to a small, dry frying pan. Place over medium high-heat and toast, tossing frequently, for 2–3 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove from the heat and transfer to a spice grinder. Grind finely.

2. Add the ground spices, lamb, garlic, all of the white parts and half of the dark-green parts of the spring onions, the coriander, soy sauce, rice wine, and sea salt to a large bowl. Mix using your hands until evenly combined. Divide into two patties and pat into shape.

3. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add both oils. Once hot but not smoking, add both lamb patties. Cook for approximately 4–5 minutes on the first side, or until golden-brown; flip and cook for 4–5 minutes on the reverse. Once cooked, remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.

4. Meanwhile, toast the pitas in a toaster until warmed but not brittle. Using a knife (or a pair of kitchen shears), gently cut halfway along the edge of the pita. Open the pocket gently; place one patty in each pita. Top with additional chopped coriander and divide the remaining dark-green spring onions between both. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Fundamentals #54 — Lambiek Fabriek Oude Geuze Brett-Elle

Lazy, late summer Sundays are perfect for enjoying a sour beer or two. There’s something about leaves turning a dark, heavy shade of green and the scent of burning charcoal drifting from garden to garden that tells you it’s time to slow down for a while. Now is the perfect time to take stock of your year so far, before the colder months begin to set in.

Which sour to reach for, though? Do you choose a tart, bittersweet Flanders red or oud bruin? Perhaps you desire a few cans of a modern gose, laden with fruit and refreshing salinity. You might even choose a cider or natural wine that errs on the funkier side of things. For me though, you can’t beat the elegance of an oude geuze.

There is something magical about geuze (or gueuze if written in French instead of Flemish). The way in which it’s made contributes to the power of its spell. It is fermented spontaneously – meaning that fermentation is achieved by inoculating wort with airborne yeast and bacteria – no yeast is pitched (the creation of a sourdough yeast culture would be a good comparison).

The beer is then fermented and matured in oak casks, typically former wine barrels, for up to (and sometimes more than) three years. This unblended beer is called lambic. It becomes geuze when old lambic is blended in bottle with young lambic. The residual sugars in the younger beer will trigger refermentation in bottle creating a lively, champagne-like beer. If the old lambic used is at least three years old, then it is allowed to be called oude geuze. To be called geuze, the beer must also be produced in the Pajottenland, a small area to the southwest of Brussels, along the Zenne Valley. It’s home to many legendary producers, including Boon and 3 Fonteinen. There are newcomers too, however, such as Lambiek Fabriek, which began its own journey into spontaneous fermentation in 2016.

Due to Lambiek Fabriek being far younger than most producers of lambic and geuze (and the relative popularity of rare geuze among hardened beer collectors), coming across its Brett-Elle blend has so far been relatively challenging. You can be thankful, then, that Hop Burns & Black have managed to secure some for you.

Where Brett-Elle may lack the simple elegance of an oude geuze from say, Boon or Tilquin, it makes up for this through sheer punch of flavour. It provides an immediate hit of tart, freshly squeezed lemon juice on the palate. There’s a touch of farmyard to this beer too, as if you’ve been rumbled scrumping lemons from a local farmer, and you’re hiding in a barn, behind a drove of goats. Then, quite suddenly, another snap of pithy lemon and a dry, saline finish snaps you back into the garden. Be careful not to burn those hamburgers as you enjoy this beer.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Be first to read Matt’s columns when you sign up to our All Killer No Filler beer subscription box - along with Claire Bullen’s recipe and pairings, plus in-depth tasting notes, they’re included in every box…

Wine & Food Killers: Thai-Style Steamed Cod and Weingut Brand Riesling vom Berg 2017

Riesling is tragically misunderstood. Drinkers often avoid ordering it, assuming it is always sweet, though there are many delicious, dry Rieslings on the market. The impenetrability of the German-language terminology also doesn’t help (terms like Prädikatswein and Kabinett are far less understood than Brut, say, or Grand Cru).

It’s a shame because Riesling is a special grape indeed. When grown in cool climates and picked ripe, its bright acidity is steely as a blade but lively as electricity; it tends to taste of lime and flint and green apple. When grown in warmer climates or picked overripe, it takes on notes of tropical fruit and peak-summer peaches. (Sweeter Rieslings, especially those made with noble rot, can also be exceptionally delicious, though that’s a conversation for another time.)

Riesling’s vivid acidity and bountiful fruit character make it a natural when paired with South-East Asian fare and other potent, spice-driven dishes. That’s the direction I decided to go in when seeking a match for Weingut Brand’s Riesling vom Berg, which is produced in southwestern Germany’s Pfalz region. As its label suggests, the wine tastes like green and growing things, with an edge of musky melon and resplendent lime and pepper.

And so I found my way to this recipe. Though it’s common in Thai cuisine to steam entire barramundi fish, I simplified the technique by using fillets of cod instead (though you could use sea bass, monkfish – whatever catches your fancy, really). Instead of steaming the fish in a banana leaf, I also went with the French en papillote approach, in which the fillet is sealed with an array of aromatics (in this case, lime slices and lime leaves, plus shallots, ginger, and lemongrass) and cooked in a parcel of parchment paper. After steaming in the oven, it’s topped with a sweet, funky, and lightly spicy sauce, and served alongside sticky rice.

Together, the two are an equally bright paean to summer: vivid with citrus, light and refreshing, both in perfect harmony.

Thai-Style Steamed Cod
Serves 2

For the fish:
8-10 makrut lime leaves
2 limes, thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks (outer layers only)
2 échalion (banana) shallots, peeled and cut into rounds
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and cut into rounds
2 large cod fillets
Flaky sea salt
White pepper

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 échalion (banana) shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks (tender cores only, minced)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, minced
1 bird’s eye chilli, minced
Small handful coriander stems, minced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
60ml freshly squeezed lime juice

To serve:
Sticky rice
Extra lime slices
Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 200° Celsius (395° Fahrenheit). First, prepare the cod parcels. For each fish fillet, you’ll need one large sheet of baking/parchment paper, at least four or five times the size of the fillet. Place the sheet in front of you with the shortest edge facing you and fold the paper in half from the top. Unfold it so you have a crease running through the middle.

2. Just below the crease, arrange a bed of aromatics for the fillet to sit on, just larger than the fish itself. Arrange half of the lime slices and several lime leaves in a flat layer. Remove the tough outer layers of one piece of lemongrass and add to the limes (mince and reserve the tender inner core, which you’ll need later for the sauce). Add half of the shallot and ginger slices.

3. Season your fillet with a pinch of salt and white pepper on both sides, and place on top of the aromatics. Top with a few more lime leaves before sealing: fold over the top of the sheet and create a parcel by folding the outer layers over each other until tightly sealed. Repeat with the second fillet and remaining aromatics.

4. Place the parcels on a baking sheet and add to the oven. Bake for approximately 12–15 minutes, or until cooked through.

5. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Add the vegetable oil to a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots, and cook for 2–3 minutes, or until softened. Add the reserved minced lemongrass as well as the garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander stems. Cook for 2–3 minutes more, or until softened and fragrant.

6. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar, and cook until the sugar is melted and incorporated. Pour in the lime juice and stir for a minute or two more until the sauce is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

7. To serve, scatter a few lime slices across two plates. Remove the fish fillets from the parcels (being careful not to burn yourself when the steam is released) and transfer to the plates with a few shallot rounds; discard the remaining aromatics and parchment paper. Divide the sauce between the two fillets and garnish with the coriander leaves. Serve with sticky rice on the side to help sop up the sauce.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Fundamentals #53 - Augustinerbräu München Lagerbier Hell

“Are you sure?” I ask Hop Burns & Black co-owner Jen Ferguson when she shoves a familiar bottle of one of Bavaria’s very best lagers, Augustiner Helles, into my hand.

The reason for my doubt is because, by and large, the beers I review in this column are completely new to me. Such is the never-ending slew of new releases these days that I’m rarely short of something fresh and exciting to try.

Not this time, however. Today I am reviewing the all-time classic, the stalwart, old man Augustiner. One of the greatest beers on earth. A beer I buy regularly such is both its excellence and its dependability. What this does gift me with is the rare opportunity to ruminate on this particular beer’s greatness. Augustiner Helles is not usually a beer I have to put much thought into enjoying. It’s a beer that fits into almost any occasion, be it a cold bottle in the confines of a darkened London bar, a sundrenched Munich biergarten or, wherever, really. There is rarely a time when this lager is not appropriate.

What is about this beer that gives it such majesty? Why do I find it so appealing, time after time? These are some of the questions whirring through my head as I slowly, yet firmly pour the beer into my glass, ensuring I knock enough carbon dioxide out of suspension to produce the firm head of foam this beer always deserves (trust me, it enhances the hop flavour and aroma.)

But quickly I remember this is not a beer to be analysed or overthought. Sure, I could go into detail about its supple, soft breadiness, and how these delicate malt flavours are balanced by the fresh, herbaceous snap of German noble hops, followed by the tiniest twinge of acidity before a wave of bitterness brings dryness to the back of your palate. But that would do this beer an injustice. Augustiner is not a beer to bear the burden of heavy thought. It’s a beer that commands a lack of thought, as you enjoy long, deep gulps in quick succession… followed by a crack and hiss as you inevitably begin to prise the cap off your next bottle.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Skirt Steak with Avocado Herb Salsa & Toasted Pistachios and Cloudwater Aromas & Flavours IPA

Despite certain connotations with roaring fires and fishbowls of Malbec, steak has always struck me as a summertime food. Picture: blazing-hot barbecues in lush back gardens, slabs of meat sputtering over the coals, savoury smoke curling into the humid evening.

Even if, like me, you’re making do with a cast-iron frying pan on the hob, steak – especially the quicker-cooking cuts – becomes a simple summertime main: just serve yours with a tomato salad or grilled sweet corn. Or, as I’ve done here – inspired by a recent column in the Los Angeles Times – dressed with a bright, zippy salsa.

This salsa – a distant cousin of chimichurri, by way of Mexico – epitomises summer lushness and its varied shades of green. There is vivid parsley and coriander and mint, ombré spring onions and creamy nuggets of avocado, plus lime juice and dusky pistachios. All contrast beautifully with the red at the heart of the steak, both on the plate and on the palate. Rarely has red meat felt lighter, fresher and better suited to mid-summer.

Red meat always needs a beer of some heft to go with it: lager is refreshing but lacks the requisite body, and pales and session IPAs aren’t quite punchy enough. Instead, your best option is to go with a bold and juicy IPA – like Cloudwater’s Aromas & Flavours, one of the latest in the brewery’s series of double dry-hopped IPAs made with hand-selected hops straight from Yakima, Washington.

Hopped with Citra, as well as Centennial and Chinook, this 6.5% IPA is luscious up front, with a peach-and-nectarine sweetness that eventually lapses into a subtle, resinous bitterness. That bitterness is key in counterbalancing the steak, in cutting through it like a blade, though the ample fruit aromatics are also well matched by the citrus and herbaceousness of the salsa. Overall, the two are perfectly harmonious, and together make a fine candidate for a late dinner out on the porch.

Skirt Steak with Avocado Herb Salsa and Toasted Pistachios
Adapted from the LA Times
Serves 2

For the steak:
2 skirt steaks, approximately 250g each
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper
100g (3 ½ oz) pistachio kernels
2–3 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the salsa:
3–4 garlic cloves
Pinch coarse sea salt
120ml lime juice (from approximately 4-5 limes)
1 bird’s eye chilli, minced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced (dark and light-green parts only)
1 small handful coriander, finely chopped
1 small handful mint, finely chopped
1 small handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 ripe, medium avocado, finely diced
120ml extra virgin olive oil
Pinch caster sugar
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Remove the steaks from the fridge, and season generously with flaky sea salt and black pepper on all sides. Leave to come to room temperature as you do the rest of your prep.

2. Add the pistachios to a small frying pan, and place over medium-high heat. Toast, tossing frequently, for approximately 5–6 minutes, or until the pistachios are golden-brown and fragrant. Remove from the heat. Once cool enough to handle, roughly chop and set aside.

3. Make the salsa. Mince the garlic cloves, then add a pinch of sea salt. Using the flat side of your knife, crush and scrape the garlic against the cutting board. Alternate between chopping and crushing the garlic until you have a paste. Transfer to a medium bowl.

4. Add the lime juice, chilli and spring onions to the bowl with the garlic and leave for five minutes. Add the chopped herbs and the diced avocado, and pour over the olive oil. Stir to mix and add a pinch of sugar. Season to taste, generously, with the salt (begin with 1 teaspoon and increase from there) and the pepper. Set aside.

5. Place a heavy-bottomed frying pan (preferably cast-iron) over high heat and add the vegetable oil. Once very hot, add the steaks. Cook approximately 2 minutes per side for rare/medium-rare (skirt steak is best cooked quickly and not overdone); the steak should be well charred on the outside but still juicy and pink within. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil; allow the steaks to rest for five minutes before carving, with a sharp knife, against the grain.

6. To serve, scatter slices of the steak across two plates. Dollop the salsa over the plates, and finish with the chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

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The Beer Lover's Tokyo Table

We had a great night in furnace conditions at the Kanpai London Sake taproom the other night with our food writer and co-author Claire Bullen and chef Tim Anderson, who took inspiration from Claire’s recipes in our The Beer Lover’s Table cookbook and put his own Tokyo Stories spin on them.

Full report coming soon, but for now, enjoy some of the amazing photos taken by one of our guests, Chris Coulson - check out his wonderful Instagram feed @cwiss.

Fundamentals #52 – DEYA Dust My Broom Pale Ale

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Although my preferred taste for modern IPAs sits firmly in the West Coast camp, I am still a huge fan of the softer, juicier – and of course, hazier – iterations of the style with their origins in the north east of the United States. (Although, those who, like me, remember the days of “London Murky” back in 2012, could argue that their origins are equally rooted in Bermondsey, South London.)

Done well, a New England IPA is a thing of beauty. The mouthfeel should be pillowy and full, while the flavours should be bright and juicy, the tiniest smattering of pale malt making way for bold flavours of stone, citrus and/or tropical fruit. The finish should be dry, with perhaps the merest wisp of bitterness – the latter should never be the hallmark of this particular style, as it would clash with the juicy fruit flavours.

What they should not be is cloying, or laced with such a ferocious amount of hop particles that the beer leaves a burning sensation at the back of the throat. Sadly, many attempts I’ve tried have borne one or both of these characteristics. What I tend to find is that the ones that really capture my imagination (and have me ordering a second glass) are those which are more restrained.

This is probably why I’m such a huge fan of Steady Rolling Man, the core pale ale from Cheltenham’s DEYA Brewing Company. So much so, in fact, that it’s a must order for me whenever I see it on the bar, which, thankfully, is becoming more commonplace. Today, however, I’m faced with a can of something that ups the hop-ante somewhat. Dust My Broom is hazier, juicier and decidedly more intense than Steady.
I know this before I’ve even had a taste, as aromas of mango and orange peel jump from the glass towards my face as if they were a face-hugger from Alien searching for a host.

To taste this is as vibrant and intense as its aromas would suggest. It packs an immense punch of tropical fruit, white peach and a resinous, piney note that reminds me a little of my favoured West Coast IPAs. But this is for the most fleeting of moments, as I’m soon back in juicetown.

I’ve previously griped in this very column about how the sameyness of the New England style can get me down – there are only so many super-hazy, Citra and Mosaic-hopped beers I have time for. However, as similar as this effort from DEYA is to so many of those, I’ve all the time in the world for it, such is this hazy pale’s inherent quality.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Be first to read Matt’s columns when you sign up to our All Killer No Filler beer subscription box - along with Claire Bullen’s recipe and pairings, plus in-depth tasting notes, they’re included in every box…

WINE & FOOD KILLERS: L’Austral Jolie Brise Blanc 2017 and Strawberries & Meringue with Pistachio Gelato, Olive Oil & Sichuan Pepper

This dessert had two inspirations. One was Instagram – specifically, a photo taken at Paris restaurant Cheval d’Or, which showed a scattering of strawberries on a stoneware plate, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with ground Sichuan pepper. It sounds outlandish, but it actually makes sense that Sichuan pepper works with the fruit; strawberries and black pepper are a tried-and-true combination, and Sichuan peppercorns, both tinglingly electric and fruity in flavour, add just that little extra kick.

The other inspiration was my all-time favourite, desert-island dessert, which I had at London’s P Franco a few years back. It was just a pistachio ice cream, but somehow better than every other pistachio ice cream that has ever came before it. It was also drizzled in fine olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

As you have likely gleaned by now, I prefer my desserts with a savoury edge – enough to counterbalance the sweetness and prevent them from being cloying. This dish, with its olive oil and pepper, plus meringue and strawberry and gelato, is the ideal blend of both.

You could very well pair this dessert with a wine with some residual sweetness – in fact, that might be the more popular choice. Me, I quite like this bone-dry pet nat alongside. It has that classic Chenin Blanc nose – mingled notes of pear and apple, honey and lemon – which conjures whispers of sweetness, though on the palate it’s all fizz and zesty acidity. I think this dessert is just savoury enough to support it. Like the pleasingly tart strawberries, this bubbly adds its own refreshing, contrasting piquancy.

Strawberries and Meringue with Pistachio Gelato, Olive Oil & Sichuan Pepper Meringue
Adapted from Delicious
Serves 2

For the meringue:
½ lemon
Three large eggs, room temperature
175g (6oz) caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla-bean paste (or vanilla extract)

For the dessert:
½ tub pistachio gelato (available at specialist retailers and good supermarkets)
200g (7oz) strawberries of various sizes (large ones hulled and halved)
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (the best quality you can get)
½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper (or black pepper)

1. First, make the meringue. Preheat your oven to 120° Celsius. Ensure your large mixing bowl and electric whisk are completely clean (any traces of grease or fat will prevent the meringue from properly forming). Wipe both the bowl and beaters with a lemon half; the acid helps the meringue form and stabilise.

2. Crack the eggs and separate the whites and the yolks (discard the yolks, or save for another project). Add the whites to the bowl, ensuring there are no traces of yolk or shell. Beat on high speed, using your electric whisk, until the whites form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat well in between. Beat for a total of 5-6 minutes, or until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Add the vanilla bean paste and beat until just incorporated.

3. Dollop the meringue on a large baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Using a spatula, spread the meringue into a thin, even layer; it should be no more than half an inch thick.

4. Bake the meringue for approximately 1 ¼ hours, or until it is completely set and no longer tacky, but has not darkened in colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray completely. Once cool, break into jagged, misshapen pieces (you will likely have extra meringue left over; store it in an airtight container and enjoy as a bonus dessert).

5. Arrange the strawberries between two plates or bowls. Add several small scoops of gelato to each serving. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle the berries with the Sichuan pepper. Add several meringue pieces per plate. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound, wine buff and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Why independence matters

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We were privileged to host Cloudwater at the shop this week as part of the brewery’s Indie Retailer Roadshow, stopping in at fabulous beer retailers across the UK as part of a nationwide tour. As well as serving great beers, we also served up impassioned debate with a panel discussion on Why Independence Matters, inviting Gipsy Hill co-founder and passionate indie campaigner Sam McMeekin to participate as well. While it's going to get a whole lot tougher for independent beer businesses, be they breweries like Cloudwater and Gipsy Hill or retailers such as ourselves, it's a challenge we're ready for, a fight we won't back down from and a cause that we'll continue to shout about from the rooftops.

In the nearly five years since we opened our doors, we’ve seen some of our favourite, best selling breweries give in to Big Beer: Camden sold to AB inBev in 2015, Brixton and Beavertown both sold a share to Heineken in 2017 and 2018, and Fourpure sold to Lion/Kirin in 2018, followed by Magic Rock earlier this year.

When Camden sold back in 2015, we had a “suck it and see” approach - we were still a very young business and Camden was one of our best-selling breweries, and the first of the breweries we stocked to sell out on our watch. We decided we would wait until either a) the quality of the beer dropped, b) staff got a raw deal or c) the beer became available at supermarkets for half the price. 

As the weeks went on though, we started rethinking this approach. We started to notice visits from both ABI and Heineken teams (failing terribly to stay undercover) looking at how we do things, taking notes and taking this intel back to their corporate lairs. Their aim was to copy what indies like us do well in order to capture our market share - and ultimately put us out of business. 

Big Beer has been extraordinarily effective in infiltrating the craft scene. ABI bought UK retailer Beerhawk in 2016 and just last week, made two more important moves, purchasing BeerBods, a popular online retailer, as well as the warehouse lease of failed wholesaler the Bottle Shop, as well as appointing its former CEO as head of sales, in an effort to boost its Beerhawk trade arm. These are huge in-roads into both UK beer retail and wholesale, and tilts the playing field even further. Of course, now that ABI also owns Ratebeer, it has access to even better data to understand how to target customers too.

What does independence mean to us as a retailer?

At HB&B, our business is built on independence and supporting independent producers. As an independent, we have the luxury of choosing the people and businesses we want to work with (and those we don’t). The more independent breweries we can work with, the more exciting the beer world is, both for us and our customers. Working with these breweries means we have constant variety on our shelves, and the continual excitement of trying new beers and styles. Indie brewers have the freedom to do something because it's fun and new, rather than the top priority being to deliver value to shareholders. 

Importantly, independent breweries provide a sense of community. Many of us got into this industry for similar reasons - because we love the beer scene and the warm sense of community it offers, where we can mingle with the people who make the beers we love and the people who love drinking them. 

Local independent breweries are especially important to the success of independent bottle shops. These breweries are a hugely important part of what makes the beer community - and the wider community - great. Drinkers enjoy being able to support local by choosing their beers at the bar or to take home from their local bottle shop (four out of five of our best-selling beers over the past 12 months are from SE London breweries) and their beers often offer a great gateway into the wonderful world of craft beer. We don’t want to risk losing these local breweries that have become the hub of their communities because they can't keep up. The infiltration of Big Beer into the craft scene means that smaller breweries will find it harder to compete and may fall by the wayside. 

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Why is Big Beer bad?

Big Beer makes concerted efforts to obtain advantage through wielding its enormous power: infiltrating distribution and retail to skew these channels in favour of their brands, tying up taps and shelf space for ‘faux’ craft and shutting out independently brewed beer; utilising huge marketing budgets and legal teams to lobby for legislation in its favour and to woo media and influencers to try to change public opinion; using enormous economies of scale to drive down the price of craft beer, creating an unfair playing field and making it even harder for small independent brewers to compete.

Big Beer likes to operate in stealth mode - hijacking the goodwill accumulated by independent brewers and retailers and passing off beers as faux-craft or being deliberately ambiguous about ownership to the average drinker (Beerhawk, for example, certainly doesn’t promote its ABI connection on its website).

Another deception is the illusion of choice. You might walk into a Heineken-owned pub and think you have an array of choice from many independent craft breweries on a tap list, but in fact you're likely to be buying from the same huge beer corporation - one which, as Sam explained, is actively shutting out independent breweries by preventing its pubs from making too much profit from non-Heineken lines.

And it’s doing all this on the shoulders of those who created the scene. Paul from Cloudwater compares Big Beer to Kenny G (and at our event made us listen to some too, the scoundrel). Kenny G made a fortune from hijacking the jazz scene with his ersatz jazz - using the hard graft of the creators who built the scene to feather his own nest without paying his dues. Big Beer is Kenny G. 

We want to see the profits from all of the hard graft done by the UK’s craft breweries staying in the community, helping local businesses to thrive. We don’t want to see the funds disappear offshore to huge multinational conglomerates that do not have the health of the local beer scene at heart, whose key objective is to create ever larger dividends for their shareholders and to shut out competitors at any cost. 

It’s clear that independent beer businesses need to get more strategic and work together to have a chance of survival. We need to support the independent eco-system where we can, giving our support to our fellow independent businesses.

For us as a retailer, this choice is a bit more straightforward - we can choose not to stock businesses owned by Big Beer and thus avoid putting money directly into Big Beer’s pockets. For breweries, it’s a bit harder - they have difficult choices to make, particularly with distribution. As Gipsy Hill’s Sam McMeekin pointed out, lack of alternatives and market penetration (as well as the appeal of end-to-end cold-chain distro) means that sometimes there may be no choice but to work with a distributor owned by Big Beer if a brewery wants to survive and thrive. A longer term goal would be to establish distribution through a cooperative independent means - something we hope can become a reality in the not-too-distant future.

“As long as the beer doesn’t change, I don’t care”

We heard this a lot on social media after Beavertown sold to Heineken in 2018. It’s easy, in our little craft bubble, to forget that not everyone shares our staunch view on independence. 

SIBA UK research found that just 2% of people believe craft beer can be made by a multinational global brewer. But Brewers Association research in the US shows that in fact flavour, freshness and aroma are the most important drivers for choosing a beer - provenance doesn’t really come into it. So it seems while there is an expectation that craft beer will be independent, when it comes down to it, for many it’s just not that important a priority. How do we make people care about who’s making their beer?

We believe greater awareness is the first step - helping drinkers realise what’s at risk if we lose our independents and, importantly, reinforcing all the good things that the independent beer scene contributes.

I (Jen) remember when I first came to the UK in 2000 - the beer scene was nothing like what it is today. With the reins of the industry held by just a handful of companies, choice at the taps was limited, and by god was it dreary. After a few years’ break from the UK (enjoying the healthy craft beer scene in New Zealand), I returned in 2012 to find a vibrant, exciting land of beer choices - driven entirely by these new start-up breweries who were able to forge their own paths, take risk and provide drinkers with fun and excitement, community and choice.

We don’t want to go back to those grim old days where all the power resides in the hands of a few. Variety is the spice of life, and never more so than in the beer world. Independents have made the scene we love what it is, and they need to be able to continue to keep doing so. That’s why we need your support.

PS - Big thanks to Chris Coulson @cwiss for taking some great photos of the night. Find more of his amazing work on Instagram.

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The Beer Lover’s Table: Peanut Noodles With Fried Halloumi and Polly’s Brew Co Simcoe Mosaic IPA

Getting a takeaway is usually better in theory than in practice. There is the excitement of ordering too much food and planning a carefree night in front of Netflix; there is the anticipation of waiting for your flat’s buzzer to trill. But then: those spring rolls or onion bhajis, which sounded so enticing on Deliveroo, arrive over-steamed and limp in their plastic, or woefully under-seasoned, or swimming in grease. They just don’t quite hit the spot.

Perhaps that’s why the “takeout-style” genre of cooking has been so appealing to me – lately, I’ve craved quick-and-ready comfort with a hint of forbidden pleasure. Food is still best when it doesn’t have a commute, when you can scoop it from the frying pan straight into your bowl. And so I’ve found myself making these simple, satisfying, irresistible peanut noodles of late.

On the one hand, they’re infinitely riffable: I use cubes of fried halloumi here as the protein, though you could just as easily go with chicken (or tempeh, if you’re a vegan – don’t forget to swap the fish sauce for soy sauce in that case). On the other hand, this simple peanut sauce hits all the right points – salt and chilli heat, acid and sweetness. It’s worth holding onto and to make every time a dipping sauce is required.

There are numerous beers that would work brilliantly with this dish – you could make a strong case for pilsner, or lobby for saison. But in this case, I love the way Polly’s Brew Co.’s Simcoe Mosaic IPA flatters its flavour profile.

Polly’s Brew Co – formerly known as Loka Polly – has only been around since last year, but it’s already turning out some of the most delicious hoppy styles I’ve had in recent months. This IPA is no different: luscious, pillowy and potent, its savoury edge picks up the dish’s umami funk, its balanced bitterness cuts through the richness of the sauce, and its sweetness offers the equivalent of a few slices of finishing mango.

Overall, the two are the ideal makings of your next Netflix binge session. Sure, cooking at home means you’ve got a few extra dishes to do, and a bit of chopping. But the end results make the process worthwhile.

Peanut Noodles with Fried Halloumi
Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest
Serves 4-5

For the peanut sauce:
150g smooth peanut butter
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ tablespoon sambal oelek
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons hot water

For the noodles:
250g (9oz) halloumi, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large carrot, grated
100g (3 ½oz) spring onions, finely chopped, white and green parts separated
250g (9oz) bean sprouts
400g (14oz) pad Thai-style rice noodles
Large handful roasted, unsalted peanuts
Large handful Thai basil
Large handful coriander

1. First, make the peanut sauce. Add all ingredients, barring the hot water, into a medium- sized bowl, and whisk until combined. Slowly drizzle in the hot water, whisking constantly, until the sauce is pourable but still relatively thick. Set aside.

2. Fry the halloumi. Place a large, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. When hot, add the halloumi cubes. Cook for 5–6 minutes, turning frequently, or until golden-brown all over. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the frying pan.

3. Add the remaining tablespoons of both oils to the pan and place over high heat. Add the grated carrot, spring onions (white parts only), and the bean sprouts. Cook, tossing frequently, for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant, hot, but still crisp. Turn off the heat and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of salted water. Add the rice noodles and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain.

5. Add the cooked vegetables, the halloumi, and the peanut sauce to the drained noodles, and, using tongs, toss until evenly combined and coated. Divide between pasta bowls and finish with the peanuts, Thai basil, coriander and the reserved spring onion greens. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB &B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Fundamentals #51 - 8 Wired iStout Affogato Imperial Stout

I remember the good old days, when beers were beers. I’m talking about 2012 of course, and trying iStout – the revered imperial stout from New Zealand’s 8 Wired – in a quaint Shoreditch bar that is now part of a large chain owned by a well-known Scottish multinational brewery. This was an imperial stout of stature. One that roared with malty molasses and rambunctiously bitter hops. It may have been very expensive at the time, but shared among friends it was a real treat.

We’ve always been lucky to have a small shipment of 8 Wired beers arrive in the UK every so often, all the way from Warkworth, an hour or so’s drive north of Auckland. That’s a very long way for beer to travel. 8 Wired’s hoppy IPAs, such as Hopwired, don’t fare too badly considering the 11,426 mile trip, but its sours and big stouts are not as troubled by this hardship, and so they continue to shine, endearing this brewery to many of us in the process.

I have always admired Kiwi brewers – they live in a country that grows some of the most sensational hop varieties in the world. Adding to this, cities like Auckland and Wellington have embraced them, the latter being one of my favourite beer locales in the world.

However, it’s a challenging market, mostly due to the fact that it’s quite small. At less than 5 million people, New Zealand’s entire population is almost half the size of London alone, so exporting makes sense, despite the distance. In this respect we’re fortunate to see some excellent Kiwi beer in the UK.

I’m equally fortunate today to be reviewing an updated version of 8 Wired’s iStout, this Affogato version with coffee, vanilla and milk sugar lactose. Now, I’m not a huge pastry stout fan – there are some very good examples of the style out there, but they aren’t typically for me. However, after one short sip (immediately leading to a second, deeper gulp), I was relieved to see that this version of iStout has maintained the same rambunctiousness as its predecessor.

Yes, there’s a little caramel sweetness, but this is almost instantly swept aside by an intense hit of espresso – and I’m talking Italian dark roast here, not your delicate third wave gear. This beer has no time for subtlety or nuance, this is an imperial stout just like imperial stouts used to be, albeit one that briefly lulls you into a false sense of security before coming at your palate like a wrecking ball. In a really, really good way.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Pick up a can of 8 Wired iStout Affogato online or in-store while stocks last, and be first to read Matt’s columns when you sign up to our All Killer No Filler beer subscription box - along with Claire Bullen’s recipe and pairings, plus in-depth tasting notes, they’re included in every box…

Wine & Food Killers: Tomato Tarts with Tarragon Pesto and Goat Cheese with Patrick Sullivan Jumpin’ Juice Sunset

If you had synesthesia and tasted your wines as colours, Sauvignon Blanc would be inescapably green. Though the varietal picks up vibrancy and passion fruit characteristics in warmer climates, at its heart it retains a cool herbaceousness. It can be green like gooseberries and limes, like budding blossoms, like puckeringly pre-ripe fruit.

Patrick Sullivan’s Jumpin’ Juice Sunset isn’t green, though it is made from 80% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Instead, true to name, it’s the beguiling pinky-orange of late summer evenings (Sunset is also made with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon). But it is still unmistakably lush and fecund and almost dewy, likely distinct from any other rosé you’ve ever tried. It smells exactly like your hands after you’ve harvested tomatoes from their vines, and it tastes like a green bell pepper that’s just been washed in cold tap water, plus a zing of sweet, red fruit. Somehow, in the glass, it’s as crunchy as a cucumber.

For a wine this full of just-sprouted life, I wanted a dish that felt similarly fresh and well suited to endless summer days. Sunset’s tomato-vine aroma conjured images of tomato tarts for me – preferably ones that also featured leafy herbs, and perhaps a squeeze of citrus.

And so this recipe came to be. As is appropriate for garden parties and picnics, it takes roughly 20 minutes to prep, and cooks just as quickly. Frozen puff pastry is its secret, and a shameless one; be sure to pick the ripest tomatoes you can, and you’re most of the way there. I finish the sliced tomatoes with big round scoops of goat cheese (roll rather than crumble it, to make moreish dollops that resist full-on melting in the oven), plus a tarragon- and lime-based pesto, which mimics the wine’s brightness. In short, these tarts are worth turning on your oven for, even in the height of summer – and they’re just the right accompaniment to this extraordinary bottle.

Tomato Tarts with Tarragon Pesto and Goat Cheese
Serves 2 as a main and 4 as a starter

For the tarragon pesto:
50g fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 pinch sugar
Flaky sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the tarts:
375g ready-rolled puff pastry (defrosted if frozen)
4 medium tomatoes (preferably heirloom varieties)
125g soft goat cheese
Flaky sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons honey
Small handful basil leaves, torn

1. First, make the tarragon pesto. Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 210° Celsius. Lightly flour your counter and unroll the puff pastry. Delicately cut the sheet in half, into two rough squares. Using a butter knife, score a 1-inch margin around the edges of each, being careful not to slice all the way through the pastry. Lightly pierce the middle portion of each piece of dough all over with a fork, which will prevent it from rising (don’t pierce the outside edges, as you want those to rise). Carefully transfer both squares of pastry to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, ensuring they don’t touch; separate across two baking sheets if they don’t fit.

3. Spoon the pesto onto each square, spreading across an even layer within the scored margins. Thinly slice the tomatoes using a serrated knife, and arrange in an overlapping manner within the square. Season with flaky sea salt and black pepper to taste.

4. Using a small spoon, scoop the goat cheese into spheres, and place evenly on top of the tomatoes (rolling the cheese into larger pieces ensures the dollops won’t melt too much in the oven, and will brown appealingly on top). Drizzle the olive oil and honey over the tomatoes, avoiding the edges, if possible.

5. Bake the tarts for approximately 15–20 minutes, rotating tray(s) halfway through. The tarts are done when their edges are fully puffed up and golden-brown on top, when the tomatoes look cooked, and when the cheese is just starting to brown on top. Leave to cool for several minutes. Before serving, garnish with the torn basil leaves.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of Patrick Sullivan Jumpin’ Juice Sunset here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Fundamentals #50 – Pressure Drop A Million Filaments Sour Fruited IPA

As I type, it is June 12th. Outside, the rain is endless in its relentlessness. I have switched the heating on. This time last year we were basking in weeks of seemingly unstoppable summer heat. It would appear that we may be waiting a while for a season of similar magnitude.

However, while it may be dreich outside, my glass is filled to the brim with the all the radiance of what, supposedly, should be our warmest season: A Million Filaments, a sour IPA infused with blackberry, blackcurrant and lactose (it says milk sugar on the label but for the purposes of this review I shall call it by its true name) from Pressure Drop.

The sour, fruited IPA – often infused with lactose to balance acidity with sweetness – is the flavour of the month among the breweries who spend a lot of time on the internet. The style’s progenitor is arguably Hudson Valley Brewery, named after the valley in which its hometown of Beacon, in upper New York state, resides. Hudson Valley has taken the milkshake IPA concept pioneered by Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands, and twisted it in its own image, by adding fruit and the souring bacteria lactobacillus.

Despite these myriad layers, the sour IPA is not a beer of complexity. Instead it is a beer of joyfulness and gluggability – as is blissfully evident when you pour a can of A Million Filaments into a glass. Much like this review, it positively radiates with purpleness. It may be cold and miserable outside but I feel like I’m receiving warmth from the colour of this beer alone.

On tasting, there’s quite a lot of flavour to tie together, initially it’s soft and pillowy, not unlike a New England-style IPA. The fruit comes next, waves of sweet blackberry and tart blackcurrant, neatly tied together with a hit of sugary sweetness from the lactose – sorry, milk sugar – which make it taste like eating a cake. Finally, your palate is met with a short, sharp, prick of acidity, instantly dispelling the sweetness and priming you for another sip. It’s a weird trip, but somehow it just works.

Honestly, being relatively new to the style I wasn’t sure I would actually like it. But if you put your biases in your pocket and just accept this style of beer for what it is – a shit ton of fun – then, like me, you’ll find it highly enjoyable too.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Pick up a can of Pressure Drop’s A MIllion Filaments online or in-store. and be first to read Matt’s columns when you sign up to our All Killer No Filler beer subscription box - along with Claire Bullen’s recipe and pairings, plus in-depth tasting notes, they’re included in every box…

Natural Wine Killers: Kindeli Tinto 2018 (New Zealand)

New Zealand as a country certainly knows its way around a high-quality beverage. That’s particularly true in and around Nelson, located at the northern tip of the South Island, where many of the country’s grapes and hops are grown. It’s no accident that that’s also where winemaker Alex Craighead has staked his claim.

Alongside his partner Josefina Venturino, Craighead founded two labels – DON Wines and Kindeli Wines – in Martinborough in 2014. Now based in Nelson’s Moutere Valley, most of the fruit used in his Kindeli range is organically and locally grown on parcels of land that he either owns or leases. Craighead has also partnered with Wellington brewery Garage Project on its beer-wine hybrids.

Craighead uses only indigenous yeasts, and every bottle is unfined and unfiltered, and made without added sulphur. Since its founding, Kindeli has become a darling of the international natty-wine scene: its distinctive (and occasionally controversial) labels, complete with topless foxes, are a fixture on Instagram, and industry figures like Marissa Ross are often seen chugging straight from their bottles. (In a recent piece in Bon Appétit, she describes Kindeli’s wines as “incredible blends from New Zealand [that] were the most staggeringly aromatic and cohesive wines I had all year.”)

Kindeli’s Tinto is the kind of red that’s ideal in the summer months, and that could even do with a bit of chill on it, particularly on hot days. Tinto is made primarily with Pinot Noir grapes, and displays classic, moderate-climate characteristics of red cherry and forest floor and a touch of mushroom. Give it a swirl and a few moments in the glass to encourage its fruit to open up. The wine also features a small quantity of Syrah grapes (as well as an even smaller quantity of Pinot Gris). Their thick skins add some tannic structure and a plummy hue to the wine, plus an extra degree of richness.

Tinto is also made using carbonic maceration, during which whole clusters of grapes are allowed to ferment in a sealed, anaerobic environment before being crushed. The technique is particularly associated with the Beaujolais region, and gives the resulting wine a slight candied, juicy-fruit fragrance and character. Altogether, you’ve got a bottle that’s tremendously drinkable but worth thinking about, too.

Claire’s food pairing: Slow-roasted salmon with fresh herbs and lemon, or barbecued quail with a hoisin-based marinade

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of KIndeli Tinto here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.