Five Points

The Beer Lover’s Table: Macaroni & Cheese and Five Points Old Greg’s Barley Wine

To begin candidly: I haven’t been thinking about food and beer much lately.

We’re living in dark times. Geopolitical darkness, compounded by the literal darkness of November, makes for enveloping gloom. And in the face of relentlessly dark news, daily pleasures can start to feel like frivolous distraction.

But when I began thinking about this month’s column, I realised: if this is a time of darkness, it’s also a time for comfort. It’s a time for carving out spaces of warmth. It’s a time for reminding ourselves of the goodness, the profound goodness, that comes from sharing our lives, our dark evenings, our food, and our beer, with the people we love most in the world. This isn’t the time to give all that up – not even close.

Macaroni & cheese has always been my go-to when comfort is needed. I love the fancy stuff, and I’m not shy about my affection for Kraft’s hyper-processed version either (chalk it up to childhood nostalgia). Mac & cheese really is that most democratic of comfort foods: simple to make, accessible, inexpensive, and nourishing for the spirit, if not quite the body.

This version was made with maximum comfort in mind. As in: three different kinds of cheese, a cheese- and butter-suffused breadcrumb topping, and penne pasta, selected because, as it cooks, it draws the sauce into its very core. It’s baked for almost half an hour, only to emerge from the oven in a state of volcanic bubble. Best of all, this recipe yields an amount that’s just shy of gargantuan. You’re gonna want to share.

The common advice for pairing macaroni & cheese with beer is to reach for an IPA –something with the hops to cut through all that richness, we’re told. But macaroni & cheese of this fortitude deserves a beer with a similar constitution. I didn’t want to temper it, I wanted to pile richness on richness, comfort on comfort.

Old Greg’s Barley Wine, made by The Five Points, was the one for the job. Released just once per year – and 12 months in the making – it’s got all the sweetness, and the deep, plummy flavours, you’d want from the style. And the booze: at 9.5%, it’s capable of drowning at least several sorrows. Its residual bitterness, courtesy of three English hop varieties, also makes it a fair foil for the macaroni & cheese. If there were ever a time to enjoy the two together, it’s now.

Three-Cheese Oven-Baked Macaroni & Cheese
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 6

For the breadcrumb topping:
30g unsalted butter
90g panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
100g sharp cheddar, grated

For the macaroni & cheese:
50g unsalted butter
30g all-purpose flour
700ml whole milk
200ml double cream
150g sharp cheddar, grated
200g cave-aged gruyere, grated
100g taleggio, sliced and rind removed
2 tsp Dijon mustard
¾ tsp grated nutmeg
1½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
500g penne

First, make the breadcrumb topping: melt the unsalted butter in a bowl, and add the panko and grated cheese. Stir until the melted butter is well integrated in the mixture. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Meanwhile, make your cheese sauce: over medium- high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. When the butter has just melted, add in the flour – this is your roux sauce base. Stir constantly for three minutes, or until the roux is slightly golden in colour. In a slow and steady stream, add your milk to the roux, whisking constantly so the mixture doesn’t seize up.

Whisking very frequently, cook until the mixture has come to a boil and thickened considerably. Once it has boiled, turn the heat down to a low simmer. Allow it to simmer for a few more minutes, still whisking frequently. Next, add in your double cream, three cheeses, mustard, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Whisk until the mixture is thick and totally smooth, tasting for seasoning. Remove from heat and set aside; press parchment paper directly onto the surface of the sauce while you wait, so it does not form a skin.

Next, bring a large pot of water to the boil, and salt generously. Add your penne. Cook until al dente (you’ll want to undercook it by a minute or two, as it will continue to cook in the cheese sauce in the oven). Drain and set aside.

Butter a large, deep baking dish. Pour in your cooked penne and then the cheese sauce, mixing carefully until the mixture is combined (it should look extremely saucy – almost soupy – at this point). Top evenly with your panko mixture (depending on how thick you like your breadcrumb topping, you may not use all of it).

Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the panko topping has taken on a burnished, bronze hue, and the cheesy pasta mixture beneath is vigorously bubbling. Dish up as soon as possible, trying not to scald yourself on molten cheese ooze. Share with loved ones. Drink beer. Feel at least a bit better.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And swing over to the shop or the online store to pick up the sensational Five Points Old Greg's Barlery Wine while stocks last.

No More Heroes XXIII – The Five Points Brewing Company Pale Ale

We started No More Heroes in an effort to champion beers we considered to be underrated. Over the months since it started we may have strayed from that ethos a little, as some of the beers we’ve reviewed are ones that often receive critical acclaim. It would be small minded of us to take any of the credit for that, of course.

This week's beer, Pale Ale from Hackney’s The Five Points, is perhaps one that doesn’t get the credit it deserves, despite being one that sits and sells happily on taps and shelves all over London be it from cask, keg, bottle or can.

“Normcore” is the phrase used by The Five Points Marketing Manager, Doreen Joy Barber, when she describes how some people view their brewery. Instead of working on a myriad of expressive beer styles like many of its peers, The Five Points have focused on producing a solid, reliable and consistent core range.

But I think there’s more to it than just that. The magic of Five Points’ beers is not just that they taste great, but they do so while allowing you to switch off and enjoy. They can be uncomplicated and drinkable like the Pale Ale or brand new Pils or deep and complex like their American style IPA, Hook Island Red or London Smoke.

The Five Points manage to straddle the slowly widening gap between the UK’s traditional beer culture and its bleeding edge of craft beer. This makes them an important brewery because not only does it make them a gateway to more interesting beer styles but it also gives both the craft and traditional worlds something to enjoy. Few other breweries manage to share this common ground.

Music Pairing: Steely Dan – Do It Again (1973)
Steely Dan gets a pick here because, like Five Points Pale, ‘Do It Again’ manages to effortlessly straddle the line between skillful musicianship and seriously easy drinking. It’s also the perfect vibe for these hazy summer evenings, as the cool breeze and shorter nights of autumn gradually still roll in.

We’ll be back with our next No More Heroes Live Event at Hop Burns &; Black on Thursday September 29th. We’re excited to be hosting James Kemp from Manchester’s Marble Brewery and spinning a whole host of Manchester tunes. Full event and ticket info is coming soon, so stick it in your diaries now.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. And why not get Five Points Pale Ale delivered to your door via our online shop?

The Beer Lover’s Table: Chicken Tinga Tacos and Five Points London Smoke

A well-made taco has it all: spice, citrus, salt, sloppiness. Like all the best summertime foods – ice cream cones, burgers – tacos, when enjoyed correctly, dribble their juices all the way down your forearms. They’re best eaten in copious quantities, in the sunshine, and with several beers on the side.

But pay attention to the beer you’ve chosen to go with. I’ve read guides that recommend pairings for “tacos” as a general category, but that makes about as much sense as looking for a beer to go with “pasta". Fried fish tacos are going to require a different beer than porky cochinita pibil or unctuous beef barbacoa.

Tempting as it is to turn The Beer Lover’s Table solely into a taco-pairing column, if I’m picking favourites, my champion taco is chicken tinga. The chicken is slow-cooked until shredded, and served in a fiery, smoky chipotle sauce. Then it’s loaded up with about a gazillion toppings – fresh cheese, coriander, lime, salsa verde, pickled onion – until the tortilla strains to contain it all.

Given that chicken tinga is a flavour bomb of a taco, it needs a beer that can match (and temper) some of its spicy intensity. You’ll want to avoid anything too hoppy or effervescent, as those will sharpen the chilli heat; likewise, anything too demure will be overwhelmed by the taco TKO.

In the end, I went for a bottle of Five Points London Smoke. Though, at 7.8%, it’s quite boozy for a spicy food pairing, it’s all about the mouthfeel with this one – velvety and tongue-coating, this full-bodied beer sweeps away any lingering chilli. And its light smokiness plays wonderfully off the chipotle, which has a kindled flavour of its own. It may not be Mexican lager, but hey – who ever said you couldn’t drink imperial porter in the sunshine?

Chicken Tinga Tacos
Adapted from Serious Eats
Makes 13 tacos (if you’re lucky)

For the filling:
2-3 tbs olive oil
1kg skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
1 390g carton chopped tomatoes in juice
100g chopped chipotle peppers in adobo
20ml chicken broth
2 bay leaves
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To serve:
1 13-pack 15-cm soft corn tortillas
2 avocados, sliced (optional)
Feta, crumbled
Quick pickled red onion (see note)
Coriander, roughly chopped
Salsa verde

(Note: to quick-pickle your onion, place half a very thinly sliced red onion in a small bowl and cover with 2-3 tbs red wine vinegar. Let sit for 15-20 minutes before draining off the vinegar.)

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over high heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. In two batches, add the thighs, skin-down, and cook for six minutes, or until well-browned. Flip and cook for three minutes more until browned; remove from pot and set aside.

Next, add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, approximately five minutes. Add oregano and cumin and cook for a minute until fragrant; add the chopped tomatoes and chipotles in adobo and stir until combined. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool briefly; transfer to a blender and blend until the sauce is smooth and light orange in colour.

Return the blended sauce to the pan and add bay leaves and chicken broth, stirring to combine. Place all the chicken thighs into the pan and squidge them down until they’re as fully immersed as possible in the sauce. Heat on high until the mixture begins to bubble before lowering to a simmer and covering the pot. Cook, for approximately 45 minutes, or until the chicken is very tender and on the verge of shredding, removing the lid and stirring occasionally as you go.

Take the pot off the heat and transfer the chicken thighs to a cutting board, leaving to cool for 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and shred the chicken with your hands. Return the shredded chicken to the sauce and stir, cooking over low heat for another 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture has really come together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, first place your tortillas in a dry frying pan over high heat, and cook for approximately one minute per side. Place a generous dollop of chicken in the middle of each tortilla.

Top with a spoonful of salsa verde, coriander, avocado (if using), crumbled feta, and a good squeeze of lime juice. Proceed to attack.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And why not grab the Five Points beer and the chipotle peppers at our online shop?

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 14: Five Points London Smoke Imperial Smoked Porter, 7.8% (London)

Each night, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Five Points says: "Originally brewed for #Collabfest14 with Brewdog Shoreditch under the name Smoke & Mirrors, London Smoke is a semi-seasonal Imperial Porter brewed with smoked barley and wheat malts. This is a distinctive, lightly smoked beer with rich flavours of dark chocolate, tobacco and hints of campfire.."

We say: We wanted to include a smoked beer in our advent calendar line-up and London Smoke, from Hackney's Five Points Brewing, was the perfect choice. This is a silky, fruity porter with hints of coffee and liquorice as well as chocolate. It has a touch of the bonfire but it doesn't smoke you out. Fantastic with food - try it with cheese or a mint dessert (trust us on this one).

New stuff in store, 9 October

Every week (ish) we write this post, yet we never fail to get indescribably excited by the things we list within. This week is no exception. Hold on to your hats...

  • Beavertown heralds the return of their annual pumpkin beer, Stingy Jack. It's stingy by name but also by nature - we've got extremely limited stocks of this, so it's a one-can limit, alas. One can! We know. Sorry about that.
  • Five Points London Smoke is back on the shelf - we love this beer. It's a great food match or just enjoy its smoky goodness on its own. We've also restocked on Five Points Pale cans - get in quick.
  • Two newbies are in from Weird Beard - their Tsujigiri Yuzu IPA was such a hit on flagon-fill that we've brought it back in bottles, as well as the new India Brown Ale, No More Bright Ideas.
  • We're delighted to have two new lines from Buxton (though before you get your hopes up, sadly they're not the elusive Yellow Belly Sundae or the Rainbow collab with Arizona Wilderness...) No complaints with what we have managed to get our hands on though - the always-amazing Axe Edge English IPA and Wyoming Sheep Ranch DIPA. Boom!
  • Two more new Wiper & True beers extend the range on shelf to no fewer than six brews from this excellent Bristol brewery. Amber Ale: In The Pines is a richly malty red with a distinct piney finish; Family Tree is an IPA that's rating off the scale, bringing together the earthiness of Nugget hops with the pine burst that is Simcoe and Mosaic, a mix of both.
  • Two new ones from the brewery we fall more in love with every week, Arbor. Choose from the easy-drinking American amber ale Red Henry or flagon-fill favourite Beech Blonde, in addition to the other Arbors already on shelf - Oz Bomb, Why Kick A Moo Cow and Yakima Baby.
  • And we've saved the best for last - the best flagon-fill line-up we've seen in ages. Seriously, go check it out. Wylam Jakehead IPA is back. We've got a new Burning Sky - Saison Provision Reserve aged on gooseberries. Tuatara Sauvinova has been flying off the shelves in 330ml bottle - don't miss it in large-format. And we've still got two Yeastie Boys kegs in the cellar - the brewery we love so much we bought (shares in) the company. Fill yer boots!

New stuff in store: 27 August

The final Bank Holiday of the summer is upon us and we've stocked up to ensure you can celebrate it in style. As well as restocking all your favourites, here's what's new in this week:

  • Five Points Pale and IPA - now in CANS! (Due in Friday.)
  • Also new in cans (pint-sized - literally), Evil Twin's Citra Sunshine Slacker, a glorious session IPA fresh off the boat. 
  • From Evil Twin's evil twin, we've got Mikkeller's Hop On Drinkin' Berliner - perfect if the sun makes an appearance this long weekend.
  • If it doesn't, and you fancy something darker, we welcome back Harbour's delectable Chocolate & Vanilla Imperial Stout. We loved this beer so much last time we had it in - be quick to ensure we don't drink it all...
  • On the D/IPA front, Kernel launches its brand new Double IPA, Double Mosaic (9.3% and jammed full of citrus, you know you want it) and Pressure Drop's mighty Bosko IPA is back.

Don't forget to check the flagon-fill page too - some beautiful beers await, including a Magic Rock session and London Beer Lab's exceptional Black IPA. As with all Bank Holiday weekends, we'll be open on Monday to ensure you can get the beers in for one last hurrah before returning to the grindstone. See you soon and have a great one.

Dads = sorted

In case you missed our Fathers' Day guide a couple of newsletters' ago, here it is again in all its glory. (And feel free to buy Mum a few brews too.)

HB&B gift boxes Our popular 3- and 6-bottle gift boxes are pretty much tailor-made for dads (and anyone else). You can either choose your own selection of beers or take the easy route and opt for one we prepared earlier. Our Gipsy Hill and Brick Brewery 3-packs are always best-sellers, or keep it local with a South-East London 6-pack. Or why not give Dad the double whammy - swap out one of the beers for one of our 100+ hot sauces and turn a Hop Box into a Hot Box? 

Make Your Own Beer Cookies The ultimate DIY kit for dads who love baking - and it's even better for dads who hate it. This awesome kit comes with everything you need to make tasty biscuits that are actually MADE OF BEER. Simply pour the enclosed bottle of Five Points' glorious Railway Porter over the cookie mix and stick it in the oven. Yes, it is that simple. We're hoping these kits will arrive before this weekend, but will happily take reservations if they don't make it in time. You know you need this in your life.

I like big beers and I cannot lie That's right - big beautiful bottles of beer. Celebrate his glory with His Majesty, a Belgian-style strong golden ale from Yeastie Boys. Get fruity with Founders' Blushing Monk, packed with an insanely huge amount of raspberries. If he's on the sour side, suck up a Rueuze from The Bruery, an exquisite sour blonde ale from the US of A. Lastly, the world's greatest gift for a beer-lovin', chilli-lovin' chap - our Rogue Sriracha bundle: a 750ml bottle of Rogue's Hot Sriracha Stout and the original Huy Fong Sriracha Hot Sauce for just £16.50 (a saving of £2 on what you'd pay if you bought them separately).

Finally - don't forget about beautiful beer glassware and our own HB&B vouchers. See you down t'shop soon...

No hops, no backstage pass


On Wednesday 25th March, we kick off our Top of the Hops Brewer Showcase series. These are regular 'meet the brewer' events with an HB&B difference - bringing together two of our greatest loves, we're asking our favourite breweries to bring along not just their best brews but also their favourite brew-tunes.

The first brewery to accept the challenge is one of our favourite new breweries, SE17's own Orbit Beers, born from a love of travel, music and beer (sound familiar?).

Mario, Robert and Robbie will be bringing the fruits of their 'hi-fidelity brewing' to HB&B, soundtracked by their quintessential brewhouse tunes, including but not limited to the Velvet Underground & Nico, Neu!, Throwing Muses and more... You'll get to meet the brewers, taste their beers and hear their favourite music (which you'll also be able to buy on vintage vinyl).

It's free to come along and while you don't need to book, for this first event, if you book a place you'll also get 10% off purchases on the night. Reserve your spot here

Upcoming showcases feature Gipsy Hill Brewing (Wed 15th April), Anspach & Hobday (Wed 29th April) and Five Points Brewing (Wed 13th May), with many more to be announced.