London

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…

Fundamentals #43 — Signature Brew Reverb New England IPA

Long before I entered the beer industry, I wanted to be a record producer. A childish pipe dream, perhaps. But still I went to University and took a degree in sound engineering. I was even quite good at it (IMO.) But alas the call of beer led me away from the music career that could have been. Which was probably for the best really.

What studying sound engineering has never taken away from me is how it changed the way I listened to music. I don’t hear songs, I hear individual tracks. Each treated with an array of different tools to make it more pronounced, or softer, or whatever that particular sound dictates. It made me think critically about music in the same way I now think about beer – when I’m writing a review such as this at least.

One of my favourite musical treatments is reverb. The idea behind using reverb is that it creates space in your track. You can do this by recording in a bigger room, or perhaps one with a harder surface such as a bathroom (or castle, as Led Zeppelin did once). Or you can use modern digital or analogue trickery. Reverb is so powerful in that it can turn a dead sound into a lively one simply by placing it in a different sounding room. Or in its extremes, it can create cascades of endless, glorious reflection.

In my opinion, the most expert use of Reverb as a production effect exists on every track of Radiohead’s 1997 opus, OK Computer. Whether a track is drenched in lush echo, or has simply a tight, enlivening vibe, each use of Reverb is perfect. Every sound on that record is in its right place. Much like the hops in Signature Brew’s latest New England IPA, Reverb.

This beer uses deftly applied doses of Mosaic, Enigma and Simcoe hops to created layered yet balanced textures of pine, citrus and tropical fruit. And despite the intensity of this beer’s flavour, one element never dominates the others, making it astonishingly drinkable. It’s a beer to give even the most lauded producers of hazy, yellow beer a run for their money. And, much like Radiohead’s classic LP, it never becomes tiresome. Here is a beer that gets no less captivating with each repeated sip.

[Disclosure: My partner Dianne is the Assistant Manager of Signature Brew’s London Taproom.]

Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for numerous publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. This beer features in our February All Killer No Filler subscription box. Get on board here.

#HBBAdvent Beer 19: Signature Brew x Mogwai Beer Satan (London)

Signature Brew says: Taken at face value, Mogwai Beer Satan is a limited-edition 5.2% ABV New England pale ale brewed in collaboration with Mogwai and East London brewery, Signature Brew. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you'll uncover the brewery's first concept beer, built around the properties of Mogwai's seminal track Mogwai Fear Satan. At a towering 16 minutes long the track sounds vast and complex, but strip it away and you'll find just two chords at its heart. To mirror this, the beer employs simple ingredients which blend to make a flavour bigger than the sum of their parts… with a fittingly long finish. This tropical, hazy IPA is low in bitterness and carries huge, hoppy flavours and aromas of mango, pineapple and white grape. In addition, a small amount of chillies added late in the brewing process brings a subtle heat that gently builds as the song crescendos.

We say: It’s been a big year for Signature Brew, they’ve opened their new taproom in Hackney, continued to collaborate across the music business and put out more hits than a 90s boyband. They also kindly hosted us as we brought Chilli Karaoke north of the river for a night of capsicum-induced pain and performance. Fittingly,, the beer we’ve chosen also highlights all of our passions at HB&B.

Mogwai Beer Satan (a collaboration with Scottish post-rock legends Mogwai) is a NEIPA with chilli, kicking off with juicy tropical vibes before slowly turning up the volume as the heat takes hold - Nathan. HB&B Deptford manager

#HBBAdvent Beer 14: Pressure Drop Breaking Out Of My Tomb Brut IPA (London)

Pressure Drop says: We used Mosaic, Citra and Ekuanot hops in both these IPAs. They can be tasted together and compared or enjoyed on their own. The Brut IPA is about paring back the beer to intensify the flavours of the hops. The beer is bone dry, crisp and light, but with an intense hoppy flavour.

We say: We were stoked to be asked to launch this beer, along with its sibling, Show Of Hands NEIPA, at the shop last month - Pressure Drop’s first ever beer in cans. We wanted a Brut IPA to include in our advent - given this dry, spritzy style has been the hottest trend of 2018 - and Jen fell in love with this beer on opening it, so the decision was made. Cheers guys.

#HBBAdvent Beer 9: Canopy Amaretti Imperial Stout (London)

Canopy says: Some journeys are longer than others and our Amaretti Imperial Stout is there for the big ones, those hard fought slogs through the mud and dirt. This is a beer to be savoured and to reminisce over in front of a roaring log fire. Warm your toes and your heart; that’s well deserved. Rich and luscious, with hints of vanilla and almond biscuit.

We say: Canopy got its own canning line this year and its crisp Champion Kolsch and crushable Brockwell IPA are mainstays on our shelves, while its limited releases have truly come into their own. The Amaretti Imperial Stout represents the perfect bev to enjoy as the weather turns wintry. With its delectable creaminess and not too sweet amaretto, it fulfills the hankering we all get for dark beers around the advent season - Caleb, HB&B sales assistant, Peckham

#HBBAdvent Beer 2: Hammerton Crunch Peanut Butter Milk Stout (London)

Hammerton says: After three months and 37 experiments, this stout has what we consider to be the perfect ratio of peanut butter, lactose and biscuit. A massive hit of roasted peanuts and biscuit on the nose, followed by a silky-smooth mouthfeel, and a sweet CRUNCH as it goes down.

We say: Hardcore yum factor! This cheeky little milk stout from Islington’s Hammerton Brewery is impossible to keep on the shelf - we’re constantly selling out because it’s just so damn delicious. It even managed to convert our cynical beer writer Matthew Curtis… It’s the perfect Sunday night sipper. Or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…

Fundamentals #35: Hammerton Crunch Peanut Butter Milk Stout

Welcome back, to what is now the award-winning Fundamentals column. The judges at this year’s North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards saw fit to grant us a bronze medal in the Best Beer Review category. Specifically, for my piece on North Transmission, in which I attempted to compare New England IPA to post punk. All in all, it seems that was a successful analogy. Many thanks to the NAGBW for bestowing us with such an honour. Or should that be honor?

Today we’re tackling another emergent beer style that, like NEIPA, generates a serious amount of hyperbole – the Pastry Stout. It’s hard to identify exactly where or when exactly this trend emerged. Surely a stern finger should be wagged in the direction of the UK’s Buxton and Sweden’s Omnipollo, who released the collaborative Yellow Belly in 2014. In the wake of the popularity of this peanut butter and biscuit imperial stout, there have been countless breweries chucking ingredients such as cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate and more into the fermenter. Omnipollo is, in fact, a serial offender within the pastry stout category.

Perhaps though, the net of blame for the emergence of this style could be cast way back to the early 90s, when a young Goose Island released its Bourbon County stout. Now, of course, this liquid is now peddled by the evil, corporate world of Big Beer™ and as such should only be handled in full HazMat gear, while disposing of it carefully. Or, if you don’t have any protective clothing, you can dispose of it by sending to my address, below.

All jokes aside, stout, like many dark beers, struggles to find popularity when it’s out of season, and sells in far smaller quantities than its pale, hoppy brethren. The great thing about these modern pastry stouts is they’ve helped darker beers get a new wave of beer drinkers excited about these styles. Getting more folk into dark beers can only be a good thing.

When it comes to North London’s Hammerton Brewery, I’m a huge fan of the dry, slightly saline Pentonville Oyster Stout. Crunch is essentially the antithesis of this. By using lactose sugars and peanut, this beer tastes a little like a Reese’s cup, only one that’s been blended into a surprisingly drinkable dark beer. And what’s most surprising is that I don’t hate it. In fact, I quite like it, as despite its sweetness it retains that most important of qualities: drinkability.

Essentially, Crunch is pudding in a can. And one that’s worth skipping dessert for.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a Loka Polly Hallertau Blanc IPA in-store or online.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a can of Brattish while you can, in store or online.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We say: LIQUID BOUNTY BAR.

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

The Beer Lover’s Table: Thai Prawns and Pressure Drop’s Wu Gang Chops the Tree

Pairing food with beer is one thing. But cooking with it is something else entirely.

At risk of sounding close-minded, I find that the addition of beer rarely elevates a dish. Apart from a few classics - your Belgian carbonnade, your beef and Guinness stew - beer can be a tough ingredient to wrangle. In most cases, if you want to avoid unpalatable bitterness or peculiar off-flavours, it’s safest to leave it in the glass.

But this Thai prawn dish is an exception - particularly when it’s made with Pressure Drop’s Wu Gang Chops the Tree.

A hefeweisse made with foraged herbs, Wu Gang is a uniquely agreeable brew that Pressure Drop describes as "our most versatile food pairing beer." On the one hand, it’s effervescent, light of body, and low in bitterness, making it perfectly quenching. On the other, its heady aroma combines the banana and clove esters you’d expect from a German-style wheat beer with a compelling herbaceousness that’s all its own. It’s friendly, versatile, as adept at pairing with lamb chops and roast chicken as it is a piquant curry. Me, I especially like it in this Thai-inspired prawn dish.

Simple, refreshing and done in 20 minutes, this is the kind of food to serve in high summer. It nails that classic Thai combo of heat, sweetness, acidity, and salt; serve atop steamed rice to bulk it out, and throw a few slices of avocado on the side to add a bit of richness (this beer tempers fat beautifully). Whatever you do, be sure to keep a few extra bottles of Wu Gang to one side - at just 3.8% percent, it’s as sessionable as they come.

Thai Prawns with Coriander, Lime, and Beer
Serves 2

3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 bird’s eye chillies, roughly chopped
1 tbs palm sugar
1 1/2 tbs fish sauce
Stems from a 30g bunch of coriander
Zest and juice of 2 limes
3/4 tsp flaky sea salt, like Maldon
2 tbs olive oil, divided
2 echalion shallots, thinly sliced
150ml Pressure Drop Wu Gang Chops the Tree
250g deveined, shell-on king prawns

To serve:
½ avocado, thinly sliced
Steamed white rice 1 lime, cut into wedges
Coriander leaves

In the bowl of a food processor, add the garlic, chillies, palm sugar, fish sauce, the stems from your bunch of coriander, the zest and juice of 2 limes, and the sea salt. Blitz for roughly one minute, or until the paste is well combined (note: it will have a relatively thin consistency).

Heat 1 tbs of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Spoon shallots into a bowl and set aside.

Add 1 tbs of olive oil to the frying pan and heat on high heat. Add the prawns and sear on one side for 45 seconds before removing from the heat and adding to another waiting bowl. Prawns are very susceptible to overcooking, so don’t be tempted to cook longer or sear on both sides; instead, they will finish cooking at the very end.

Add your shallots back to the frying pan and heat over medium-high heat. Pour in the Wu Gang. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until the beer has begun to reduce. Add the prepared paste into the beer and mix, cooking for an additional 1-2 minutes, until additionally reduced.

Remove the frying pan from the heat and add the shrimp, tossing lightly until just cooked through. Season to taste with an extra sprinkling of sea salt.

Serve with steamed rice and a few slices of avocado. Slice the third lime into wedges and squeeze a bit more juice over each serving. Top with the coriander leaves.

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. Pick up a bottle or three of Pressure Drop's Wu Gang Chops The Tree in store or at our online shop

The Beer Lover’s Table: Steak with Grapefruit Sauce and Beavertown’s Bloody Ell

There’s a lot of mythology around steak. Perhaps that’s why many home cooks leave it to the professionals, who tend to harp on about wood varieties and have very strict rules about the number of times steak should be flipped. Their fervour may be admirable, but I’m here to tell you: cooking a good, even great, steak at home is dead easy.

Well, mostly. It helps if you get your meat from a quality source - skip the grocery store and head to your local butcher for this one. If you can get a steak that’s dry-aged, which deepens its flavour and increases its tenderness, all the better. It also helps to know your preferred cut. Mine is ribeye, which is marbled with fat and, consequently, irresistible.

Once you’ve got all that sorted, you need only a few tools to reach perfection: generous amounts of sea salt and black pepper, a hot frying pan, tongs, and a kitchen timer. The latter is important; ribeye takes only a couple of minutes to cook per side, so it’s best not to let it linger.

As a lover of blood oranges and a regular IPA drinker, I always look forward to Beavertown’s springtime Bloody Ell release. But for pairing purposes, this beer offers a bit of a conundrum. While Bloody Ell is made in the midst of blood orange season, those ruby beauties have all but disappeared from shelves by the time it’s available.

Luckily, grapefruit makes a fair substitute. Here, the ribeye is accompanied by a sunset-hued sauce bright with grapefruit juice but balanced with savoury shallots. I call this dish not-quite salad because the steak is still the centrepiece, but springtime greenery in the form of sorrel is also a worthy addition. If you’ve never had it, sorrel is worth seeking out: when bitten, it bursts with lemony sharpness. Top it all off with toasted Marcona almonds and frizzled shallots that crackle between the teeth, and you’ve got a steak the pros would approve of.

Steak Not-Quite Salad with Sorrel, Grapefruit Sauce, and Frizzled Shallots
Serves 2

Frizzled shallots:
3 large echalion shallots
¼ tsp salt, plus additional for seasoning
1.5 tbs all-purpose flour
250ml vegetable oil

Peel and slice the shallots finely. Add to a bowl with the salt and flour and toss to coat. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over high heat until very hot, about 5 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you throw in a single piece and it starts sizzling rapidly. Add in half the shallots and cook, stirring with a slotted spoon or pair of tongs until well browned and crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oil quickly and drain on a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkling over with a little more salt. Repeat with the second batch of shallots. Set aside.

Grapefruit sauce:
330ml ruby red grapefruit juice, divided
100g caster sugar
1 large echalion shallot, minced
2 tbs sherry vinegar (preferably Valdespino)
125g butter, cubed
Sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

In a small saucepan, add 230ml grapefruit juice and the sugar. Heat over high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture has reduced to a thick syrup that coats the back of the spoon, approximately 10-15 minutes.

In a second small saucepan, add the minced shallot, vinegar, and the remaining 100ml of grapefruit juice. Heat over high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture reduces to about 3 tbs worth, approximately 10 minutes.

When the grapefruit, shallot, and vinegar mixture has sufficiently reduced, begin to add the butter. Whisking constantly, add one cube at a time, allowing each to almost completely melt before adding the next. When all the butter has been added and the sauce appears thick and lighter in colour, drizzle in your grapefruit syrup slowly, whisking constantly. Once all the syrup has been added, continue to whisk and season with freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt. Strain the sauce into a bowl through a sieve. Set aside.

Steak and to serve:
75g blanched Marcona almonds
2 ribeye steaks
Sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
25g butter
Large handful sorrel (if you can’t find sorrel, substitute rocket or watercress)

Allow the steak to come to room temperature. Season both sides generously with sea salt and black pepper. In a small frying pan over medium-high heat, toast the Marcona almonds until they’re golden-brown, approximately 7-10 minutes. Set aside.

Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over high heat until hot. Add the butter and melt. Add the steaks. For medium rare (recommended), cook on the first side for 2 minutes and 30 seconds before flipping and cooking on the reverse for approximately 2 more minutes. Remove from the pan and allow the steaks to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

To serve, put down a generous dollop of grapefruit sauce on each place (and do a swirl with the back of a spoon if you’re feeling fancy). Divide the steak and the sorrel leaves between both plates. Top both steaks with the frizzled shallots and toasted almonds. Go to town.

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. Pick up some Beavertown Bloody Ell while stocks last in store or at our online shop

Fundamentals #1 – Redchurch Urban Farmhouse On Skins: Plums

Welcome to the first instalment of Fundamentals – a bi-weekly deep dive into the story of the ingredients behind our favourite beers. Writing about why we like a particular beer is fun, but here we’re taking an opportunity to go beyond that and hopefully learn something new about our favourite tasty beverages.

The fundamentals of beer are anything that makes up the sum of a beer’s parts. Water, barley, wheat, oats, sugars, yeast, bacteria and even adjuncts such as fruit or maize are all fundamental parts of what make up our favourite beers and I’m looking forward to discovering more about them and how they contribute towards what we actually taste.

Our first beer in this series is from Redchurch Brewery’s all-new Urban Farmhouse project and the talented brewer behind it, James Rylance. James first revealed the plans to transform the Bethnal Green brewery’s original facility into a sour production brewery when we spoke on the Good Beer Hunting podcast late last year. That project is now beginning to bear fruit and On Skins: Plums in the perfect example of the innovative beers that Rylance and his team will be producing.

The plums used in this tart and spritely sour beer were sourced from the National Orchard Collection in Brogdale, Kent. Rylance picked the heritage variety used in this beer from a choice of more than 700 due to the higher acidity and tannins, giving the beer more flavour post fermentation. Before adding them to the beer, Rylance macerated the plums entirely by foot, just as a winemaker would do in France.

“The techniques of foot maceration I learnt from my time making wine in Burgundy with Andrew Nielsen of Le Grappin,” Rylance says. “After pressing the fruit we put the skins, flesh, stones, stems, the whole lot into the fermenter and let the must begin to ferment.”

The beer was then soured with the Urban Farmhouse’s house strain of Lactobacillus – a lactic acid producing bacteria, which introduces a lemon juice tinged acidity to the beer. It was then aged for four months before finally being released.

On Skins: Plums pours a sparkling shade of mauve with the relatively high acidity killing the beer's head pretty quickly. The first sip is intensely acidic, but as the palate adjusts to this the tannic, stone fruit notes from the plums come to the fore.

There’s something comforting about this beer for me, a reminder of picking still warm, sweet plums straight from the tree in the late summer months. It’s a beer I’d go back to often. And if this is a sign of things to come from Redchurch in the future, then we’ve a great deal to look forward to.

You can read more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total AlesGood Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Make sure you get the chance to try Redchurch's On Skins: Plums while strictly limited stocks last. You can find it in store at HB&B or head online to get it delivered to your door.

#HBBAdvent Beer 18: Panhead Black Top Oat Stout (New Zealand) / Weird Beard Black Christmas Cranberry Stout (London)

Such was the demand for this year's #HBBAdvent calendar that we completely failed to anticipate demand - three cases of Panhead Black Top Oat Stout was nowhere near enough! Thus, quite a few of you will find Weird Beard Black Christmas in your box - an enviable substitute.

Panhead Custom Ales says: As self-confessed bogans we have a natural attraction to black, preferably matte, so Blacktop Oatmeal is close to our hearts. The key to creating a silky death metal monster like this is the caramelised Golden Naked Oats we’ve built it around. Sophisticates will detect the chocolate and coffee notes of creamy tiramisu. The rest of us will note that it matches our jeans.

Weird Beard says: A festive stout with subtle roast character that plays well with fruity and slightly tart notes from the cranberry. Sorachi Ace hops, which there are plenty of in this beer, gives hints of vanilla and coconut.

We say: Two beers, two of our favourite breweries. We wanted to go to the dark side for the Sunday before Christmas (nothing sinister, just that the last few advent beers were pales so it was time for some stouty goodness). One beer channels the spirit of the Antipodean Westie (aka the hard rock-loving, car-obsessed bogan of Kiwi lore), the other channels the spirit of West London. Both perfect for Sunday night sipping. - Jen

Each night, we'll reveal the day's hand-picked beer from our Big Beery Advent Calendar. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter or Instagram (#HBBAdvent). Find Weird Beard Black Christmas and the Panhead range (exclusive to HB&B) in store or via our online shop while stocks last.

#HBBAdvent Beer 17: Redchurch Bethnal Pale Ale (London)

Redchurch says: Big bold and surprising This is our interpretation of the classic pale ale. You’ll sense fresh fruit flavours with a rich caramel smoothness and a lasting bitterness on the finish. Brewed using the very best Maris Otter pale malt and an adventurous blend of American and New Zealand sourced hops. 

We say: Bethnal Pale is a wonderful well rounded London pale ale with soft fruity notes. A true pleasure to return to again and again. Sometimes the best beer is right under your nose. - Glenn

Each night, we'll reveal the day's hand-picked beer from our Big Beery Advent Calendar. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter or Instagram (#HBBAdvent). Find Redchurch Bethnal Pale Ale in store or via our online shop.

#HBBAdvent Beer 14: Kew Brewery Pagoda Pale Ale #5 (London)

Kew Brewery says: A numbered series of pale ales celebrating different English hops each time. Brewed using broadly the same full-bodied pale malt base each time, with small tweaks at the brewer’s whim, our Pagoda Pale series aims to show what English hops can really do! Pagoda #5 is brewed with new ‘tropical fruit’ hop Olicana, and just a little UK-grown Chinook for bittering. Expect lots of mango, grapefruit and passionfruit flavours and aroma.

We say: All of Kew's beers, but especially this one, really demonstrate the potential of "unfashionable" English hops. Brewer David Scott is as passionate about the environment as he is about great beer, so all of Kew's malts and hops are grown in England to reduce "food miles" (as well as because they taste great). David often gets his hands on new and experimental hops that no one else is showcasing, and in doing so gives them a fantastic platform from which to shine. A boring English pale this is most definitely not. - Glenn

Each night, we'll reveal the day's hand-picked beer from our Big Beery Advent Calendar. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter or Instagram (#HBBAdvent). Find Kew Pagoda Pale Ale #5 in store or via our online shop.

#HBBAdvent Beer 12: Brixton Atlantic APA

Brixton Brewery says: Brixton’s famous street market winds down Atlantic Road, brimming with exotic wares. Bold aromas and flavours compete for passing attention, a bit like our Atlantic APA. A deluge of aroma hops after the boil and generous dry hopping deliver a juicy tropical flavour. Extra Pale malt keeps it crisp and lets the hops rule.

We say: Brixton Brewery has really hit its stride of late and probably doesn't get the attention it deserves. This is by far my favourite London pale ale - a hoppy, punchy, bright beer with masses of citrus and fruit flavours and aromas from the dry hopping. It's refreshing and really well balanced. - Laura

Each night, we'll reveal the day's hand-picked beer from our Big Beery Advent Calendar. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter or Instagram (#HBBAdvent). Find Brixton Atlantic APA in store or via our online shop.

No More Heroes XXVI – Big Smoke Brew Co. Underworld Milk Stout

I must admit that, although I try to champion dark beers year-round, this year my efforts have been a little lacklustre. The problem I have is that there are just so many good pale and golden beers in circulation, that over the warmer months anything darker than a reddish-shade of amber hasn’t got much of a look in. This needs to change.

And so I find myself with a bottle of Underworld Milk Stout from Big Smoke Brew Co., who brew at The Antelope in Surbiton, Surrey. Like dark beer, I’ve not really given Big Smoke a great deal of attention since their launch in 2014 and I’m regretting that while I’m a couple of sips into Underworld, their milk stout.

I already felt enamored with this beer before I’d even cracked the cap. I’m a sucker for great branding and this is great branding. It’s distinctive, thoughtful, engaging and tells me everything I need to know about this beer. But does the quality of the package reflect the product within?

The pour and appearance is everything you’d expect from a milk stout. This dark brown beer has a pleasing translucency. It shines russet red around the edges when held up to some light and the off-white head is tight and creamy. Both of these factors indicate that I shouldn’t expect a beer that’s too heavy, and that’s exactly what I find in my glass.

To taste it has all the roasted coffee and bitter dark chocolate notes I look for in a stout, without ever being too complex. The finish is nice and dry with a slight herbaceous, bitter note from the hops. My only complaint is that if you’re going to chuck lactose in a stout then make sure that sweetness comes through. In this beer it’s a little too muted for my personal tastes, but as a stout, milk or otherwise, Underworld really shines.

 

Music Pairing: Millionaire – Body Experience Revue
A good Milk Stout is all about the balance between the sweetness from the lactose and the robustness of roasted malt but still having the drinkability that comes with being a sub 5% beer. This track from Millionaire, a band fronted by Belgian wunderkind Tim Vanhamel, formerly of Deus, has similar qualities. Sure its got some searingly heavy guitars, but without the carefully thought out synth lines and Prince-tight rhythm section it would all feel a little flabby. The combination of this criminally underrated tracks tight beats and loose riffs is ideal listening, as we officially enter stout-season.

As always, you can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at the excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Find Big Smoke Underworld Milk Stout in store or at our online shop to get it delivered to your door.

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?

Hop Burns & Bottle Share: Tim Anderson

Every two months (ish), we invite our favourite beery people to join us for a glorious thing we call Hop Burns & Bottle Share. As well as our guests bringing along the beers they've been saving up to drink in the company of other brew enthusiasts, we ask a celebrated beer-ophile to select a handful of the beers that have changed their lives or thrilled their tastebuds.

Last night it was the turn of Tim Anderson, founder of Nanban, winner of Masterchef UK and passionate lover of beer. Tim's reverence for beer is well known - he was working behind the bar at the Euston Tap when Masterchef propelled him to fame and has since gone on to collaborate with his favourite breweries to concoct a range of fantastic (in all senses of the word) beers, several of which we tasted last night.

Tim began the night, unusually, with a 9% imperial stout, North Coast's Old Rasputin, the beer that kickstarted Tim's beery journey. From there we explored some of Tim's collaborations, starting with the brand new Market Saison, a delectably light hibiscus and green tea saison brewed with Tim's SW9 neighbours, Brixton Brewery.

Revealing his love of design and comics, Tim told us the story of his cartoon creation Sally Squirrel, initially Girl Reporter in an earlier collab, now Teen Detective in his collaboration with Weird Beard, a chokeberry miso walnut and sake yeast porter.

Next up, the iconic Pressure Drop Nanban Kanpai, a wheat IPA with yuzu, orange and grapefruit, and a staple beer at Tim's Brixton restaurant, before Tim wheeled out the big guns with Yadokai.

Yadokai is a four-way collaboration between Tim, Wild Beer, the Hanging Bat and Blackfriars Restaurant in Edinburgh - a sake-inspired yuzu, sea buckthorn and seaweed ale, it's not for the faint hearted. It's fair to say we weren't great fans of this when it first came out last year; however this year's batch went through a period of pediococcus infection in the bottle and has come out the other side triumphant and tasting better than ever. Compared to white port or a delicate sherry, this has to be tasted to be believed. To do so, you'll need to get to Nanban in Brixton - Tim recommends it as a digestif at the end of your meal. 

We're so grateful to Tim for taking the time out to come and hang with us for the night, share his stories and his wonderful beers. Cheers sir! You can get Tim's selection (no Yadokai, sorry) at our online shop or in store while stocks last.

Here's what our guests brought to the party. The next event is scheduled for September and will feature one of Bristol's most exciting new brewers... Details announced soon.

Hop Burns & Bottle Share shares:

  • Fantome Forest Ghost (Padraig)
  • Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon Imperial Stout (Kai)
  • Against The Grain Little Did We Know Sage Smoked Saison (Kat)
  • Westbrook Mexican Cake (Jamie)
  • Darkk Star Imperial Stout (Jez)
  • Brussels Beer Project Smells Like Hop Spirit (Emma)
  • Struisse Reserva Bourbon Barrel Aged Rye Quad (Emma)
  • Brewdog Born to Die 18.06.2016 (Benjamin)
  • Double Ass homebrew (Kiran & Phil)
  • Chilli Stout homebrew (Kiran & Phil)
  • Mikkeller Brodie's Big Mofo Stout (Kai)
  • Wylam All Gone South (Malee)
  • Siren BA Life is A Peach (Malee)
  • Siren Hillbilly Wine (Malee)
  • Brussels Beer Project Brusseleir Zwet IPA (Jez)
  • Yo-Ho Tokyo Black (Robert)
  • Hitachino Dai Dai (Robert)
  • Hitachino Espresso Stout (Robert)
  • Coedo Shikkoku (Peter)
  • Coedo Beniaka (Peter)