Porter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a bottle of our Elusive collab Aztec Challenge while you can.

#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

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

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

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

Fundamentals #15: Wiper and True Plum Pudding Porter

Finally, it’s December. It’s time to do away with restraint and to banish sensibly measured portions. The season of indulgence is here. Stock your larders with mince pies and hefty slabs of stollen – not forgetting the brandy cream of course – and make sure there’s a few measures of pâté in the fridge just in case. It’s time to build up that all-important layer of winter blubber to make these colder months vaguely bearable. See you in January, toes.

It’s also the perfect time to break out some stronger, darker and more decadent beers. If you’re anything like me you’ll have a habit of accumulating imperial stouts and barleywines without even realising it, then forgetting about these and buying more. The great thing about many spiced Christmas beers is that they tend to age rather well, so forgetting them is not too much of a worry.

Bristol’s Wiper and True has been knocking it out of the park this year. From its Kaleidoscope Pale to its Milk Shake Milk Stout to its sublimely delicious Ambers. It’s no surprise then that its seasonal Plum Pudding Porter is a Christmas cracker.

The foundations of this beer are everything you’d expect in a great porter. There’s a hint of sweet tobacco smoke and leather on the nose, which are a precursor to notes of bitter dark chocolate that lead to a palate-cleansingly bitter finish. There’s more though - this is a Christmas beer after all, so indulgence is fundamental to its existence.

Additions of dried fruit, cinnamon and lemon zest complete the recipe, adding notes of stewed figs, winter spice and hints of lemon in the bitter finish to the already heady mélange of flavours. Drink immediately and pair with a mince pie or two, or stash it away for next year - as I said earlier, spiced beers always have a habit of evolving and improving with a little age on them.

Whenever you choose to open it though, you can be certain that it will enhance your Christmas spirit a hundredfold.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a bottle of Wiper and True Plum Pudding Porter in store or online.

Fundamentals #2 – The Kernel India Double Porter Citra Ella

When it comes to darker beers such as stout or porter, it would be obvious to focus on the ingredient that almost always provides them with most of their flavour: malt. This India Double Porter from South London’s The Kernel is no exception. Its malt profile of bitter dark chocolate and stone fruit laden roasted coffee is most certainly the most prominent element of this particular beer.

However, this is The Kernel we’re talking about here and in a typical break from the traditions that inspired this beer, it has been hopped with two pungent new world hop varieties. North American Citra hops add layers of grapefruit aroma and an oily, almost resinous mouth feel. This bombastic hop has a story of its own to tell one day but today we’re going to focus on the other hop named on this beers label, the Australian Ella variety.

Ella’s development began as early as 2001 (it takes a minimum of 3-5 years before a hop variety is ready for commercial cultivation) and after positive results it was fast-tracked for production trials in 2007. Ella was made commercially available to brewers in 2011 when it was released under the name “Stella”. It should come as no surprise that after legal pressure from AB-InBev - the largest brewing company in the world and brewers of the popular Stella Artois - that Hop Products Australia, who developed this hop, were forced to change its name in 2012. Henceforth it became simply known as Ella. 

Ella was developed by crossing the Australian Galaxy variety, known for its juicy, tropical fruit character, with Spalt – one of the four original European noble hops along with Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, Tettnang and Saaz. Noble hops are known for their “green” herbaceous character and they provide a spicy finish, not unlike white pepper.

Ella has a floral quality not dissimilar to something like lavender while also maintaining that edge of spice inherited from its noble parentage. The effect is that is rounds out the more boisterous qualities from the Citra, adding an almost parma violet note to the mix.

This is a big porter with a ton of flavour, yet it retains its drinkability in a way that’s unmistakably Kernel.

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.

To learn more about the joys of hops, make sure you get a ticket to our upcoming event Fundamentals Live #1: Hops on April 27th. You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog Total Ales, Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. And pick up a bottle of the Kernel India Double Porter in store or online now.

No More Heroes XXX – Titanic Plum Porter

No, this isn’t an article about a substandard action movie starring Vin Diesel, it’s the 30th edition of No More Heroes! It’s also our second Christmas edition, although I’m going to spare you from an attempt to repeat the Paul McCartney infused heroics of last year.

In fact after the hell-ride that has been 2016, I’m going to spare you from any frivolity whatsoever and get on with reviewing this week's beer, Titanic’s Plum Porter. We’re fond of championing breweries we see as new and exciting here at Hop Burns & Black and that’s because these breweries are exciting. However we’re guilty of not paying our dues to more established breweries such as Titanic, which laid its roots in Burslem, Stoke-on- Trent, back in 1985.

Plum Porter has rightly won a string of CAMRA gold medals but this is not a beer that’s just for traditionalists. For me there’s plenty going on in this beer that should satisfy even the most hardened beer geeks. For starters it’s easy drinking, despite being a robust 4.9% porter, with East Kent Goldings hops adding a herbaceous bitter note to the finish that soon has you reaching for another sip.

The real highlight of this beer, though, is the rounded tartness provided by the plum flavouring. It’s not a sticky, cloying sweetness that bites so many other flavoured beers in the arse. This is a more akin to the bittersweet flavour that you get when you suck the last chunk of fruit from a plum stone. The way it lingers makes it ideal with mellower cheeses such as Wensleydale or mature Cheddar. Something about this beer just feels cosy, which makes it a perfect beer to snuggle up with on the sofa this Christmas. The addition of a well-stocked cheese plate is mandatory.

Music Pairing: Eels - Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas
“Baby Jesus, Born to Rock!” At least so says Mark Oliver “E” Everett in what is my favourite Christmas banger of all time. It also helps that Eels are one of my favourite bands, of course. This Christmas it’s time to put all the weird shit that 2016 has thrown at us to one side, for a little while at least. So settle in with loved ones and a metric shit-ton of great booze and let's enjoy ourselves. We’re going to need a period of brief respite before 2017 inevitably gets even weirder. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everybody!

Find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total AlesGood Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. You can find Titanic's sumptuous Plum Porter in store or at our online shop to get it delivered to your door.

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).