Wednesday 30 December 2009

DUCK! I'm Throwing Some Beery Cheer Out There

Afternoon all, hope your Christmas festivities were all you hoped they would be, our ale-roast duck was marvellous - the very simple recipe is below as I think it's also eminently suitable for a bit of New Year's Day comfort food as it can be prepared the day before and served with a potato dauphinoise and curly kale.

Anyway, if you're looking for some beer inspiration over the New Year celebrations then let me first recommend a couple of belter session brews from Lancaster Brewery.

Whilst I've known one of the owners of the brewery, the super-cheery Matt Jackson, for a while as he has the most excellent Sun Inn in Lancaster, I've only tried a couple of his beers on cask and really liked them but I often think the mark of the technical consistency of a small brewery is how well their products translate to bottle - and as he kindly dropped off some Christmas pressies to the father-in-laws pub for the family I've finally got to try a couple.

The Lancaster Blonde is the lightest drinking of the bunch but is a deceptive 4.1% clean, light, lemony and bright but with just enough body to let it stand up to Winter drinking.

But it's the Amber that really blew me away, it's a mere 3.7% and punches well above its weight - it's frankly like watching one of those wiry South American boxers winning a bout in the heavyweight category. Deliciously aromatic, with a great deep spice and crushed nettle on the nose, it follows through to a gingery chocolate flavour and a satisfyingly clean bitter finish and lingering mineral freshness.

We were also lucky enough to have a pin of the special Rederrer, which is very reminiscent of Golden Pride for me, rich, cherry and very luscious - but I'm not sure of its availibility as yet as I'm not particularly keen to harass people for small bits of info like that at this time of year, whether old mates or not! I will let you know though and if you see it, grab a half and savour as it's pretty poky stuff!

Anyway, whatever you end up doing - as usual I have no clue and no immediate plans - have a very beery New Year and may 2010 bring you happiness, health & a wealth of great drinking.

Ale Roast Duck - serves 3-4
One large duck
One bottle of inexpensive smokey beer (whether Rauchbier or something like Okells Aile)
One can of Mackeson Stout
One tbsp soft brown sugar
One each of onion, carrot, garlic clove (latter choped horizontally in half)
Two celery sticks
GOOD chicken stock (can't stress the importance of this enough - cubes just don't cut it)

  1. Pre-heat oven to highest heat
  2. Boil your kettle full of water
  3. Pierce the duck skin all over
  4. Warm the two beers in a pan and add the sugar
  5. Put your duck on a trivet and put it in the sink and pour the kettle of water over it
  6. Roughly chop the onion, celery and carrot in the base of the pan and then put the duck on this and pour the beer/sugar over it so that it part fills the tray but coats the duck
  7. After 20 minutes turn the oven down to 170 fan, add about 250ml of stock to the tray and turn your duck every half hour for three or so hours or until the leg bone is literally falling away and you've got crisp skin
  8. Take out of oven and remove from pan (DON'T THROW THE JUICES AWAY!) and leave to rest
  9. Put juices from resting back in pan, and put the duck in the fridge
  10. Warm up your roasting pan on the hob and add the rest of the chicken stock and scrape the bits off the bottom, sieve into another pan, press hard on the veg to extract all flavour before discarding, and then simmer until reduced to a gravy consistency, put in a jug and put in the freezer overnight
  11. On the day you want it, heat oven to 180 and put duck in for 40 minutes or so, rest in a warm place for 20 minutes
  12. Whilst duck is resting take your gravy out of the freezer, lift off the glorious layer of duck fat and retain for roast potatoes (or use on the day if you're having them instead of dauphinoise) and warm your gravy back up
  13. Serve with whatever you want and enjoy!
Beer Suggestion - there is very little fat left in this dish as it's pretty much all slow-roasted out but something with a good bitter end or lemon sharpness is perfect to counteract the richness, the aforementioned Lancaster Blonde, an Aspall Premier Cru, Dark Star Sunburst or an old classic like Summer Lightning would all go nicely. ADDENDUM: other beers I just thought of - Harviestoun B&T, Brasserie de la Senne's Taras Boulba or Goose Island IPA.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Festive Foodie Fun

Good afternoon all!

Well, as we all wait for that snow to fall let me just give you something to look forward to, my festive food & beer tasting at Borough on Sunday.

Rather than rushing around a dull supermarket, the market is open on Sunday so why not enjoy some artisan food & drink charms and then wind-down with one of my tasting sessions.

An absolute bargain at just £25, for beers like Gale's Prize Old Ale '07 Vintage, Fuller's 2009 Vintage, Bateman's Rosey Nosey, O, Ho, Ho from Otley and a special Santa surprise of very rare proportions!

These will be matched with such delights as Mrs King's award-winning pies, cheese from Neal's Yard, some superb smoked salmon and seriously indulgent choccy delights - all sourced from the market.

So, if you fancy coming along then you can get tickets at the Rake or the Utobeer stand on Borough Market, or if you email with a phone number we'll call for a card payment.


* this post is for my beer tasting business*

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Totally Off Topic

I'm sorry to do this to you but has anyone else seen this appalling travesty from Joss Stone? Apparently it was directed by her brother!

I can only assume that he's a 15-year-old media studies student with various unfortunate conditions that prevent him from having a) any sense of artistic merit b) to get a wardrobe that wasn't last used by various bad 80s acts and c) to realise that the song is a boring, faux-soul dirge in the first place and will hopefully never even cross the airwaves!!!

First time I've ever felt sorry for a record company, allegedly EMI tried to bury this so deep they hit molten lava!

Monday 14 December 2009

M-Otley Brew

Oh how I wish I could take credit for that headline but it was the name Glyn Roberts, manager of the Rake, christened a collaborative brew he did with Welsh beer wizards, Otley, which he will be pulling the first pint of in half an hour (it's now 15.30pm).

It's a BIIIIIIIGGGG IPA apparently, so I look forward to trying it a bit later - see you there if you fancy it.

The Rake, 14 Winchester Walk, London, SE1 9AG - nearest tube/train London Bridge.

M-Otley Brew, 7.5%ABV
Rich peachy/pineapple/pear nose leads through to an almost fruit cocktail flavour up front that then transmogrifies into dark chocolate and then liquorice - very moorish, very drinkable, very dangerous! Well done all.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

99 Beer Followers on the Wall

Just a random post to say I've got 99 followers on this blog - who's going to be 100?!

I may send them a bottle of special beer, now there's a shameless bit of bribery, should I censor censure myself given my previous comments about ethics?!

Discuss... : )

Beer & Chocolate Matches

Here's something fun that I did the other week at Bibulous (a new consumer show at Vinopolis), beer & chocolate matches.

I had a few beers to choose from and a very short time in which to knock this together after the organisers mentioned that there were some demo theatre gaps, so I just did three and they, overall, got a good to great reception.

In first place came Left Hand Ginger JuJu matched with Belgian milk chocolate truffles.

In second was He'Brew Origin Pomegranate Beer with dark chocolate-covered cranberries (my personal favourite).

And in third, but not in a bad way, was BrewDog Punk IPA with white chocolate.

All in all it was a fun demo to do, it got a lot of people thinking about chocolate in a totally different way and I'm looking forward to doing some more - if anyone would like to see a specific beer & chocolate matching event drop me a comment and I'll see what I can rustle up!

BTW - it wasn't just chocolate, it was M&S chocolate (all right, give me a break, it was the only place open within walking distance!!!)

Back with a Budget Bang

Well, I apologise for being missing, I'm not going to lie I've been alternately busy and utterly uninspired - but I've decided to give myself a boot up the bum and am going to pay a lot more attention to my blog.

I'm kicking off my reinvigorated campaign of rants with the Budget - what a surprise, no reprieve on beer duty.

There were a couple of measures that may help the industry overall but the kick in the teeth of VAT returning to its 17.5% state and no breaks on beer duty means it's going to be yet another expensive year for the beer industry and pub trade.

Here are some stark facts for you; the Government currently makes five times more profit than brewers or pubs from beer, according to a report from Oxford Economics. What this means in real terms is that the total UK beer market generates £19bn, from which the Government takes 84%, which amounts to £8.6bn total tax and profit generated by beer sales for the coffers.

Seems a little unequal right? But if only we had trade & industry bodies that were designed to represent the interests of beer makers, purveyors and drinkers to do this something about this gross imbalance - oh, wait! We do!

But do you know what? There's just too bloody many of them and they all seem far more interested in protecting their own corners, running each other down and infighting than they do actually securing a better deal for all those involved.

As Pete Brown, in his acceptance speech for Beer Writer of the Year (congrats matey), so eloquently put it, this internicine war has to stop.

We now have, to the best of my knowledge (and I'm sure I've missed a few): the British Beer & Pub Association, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, the British Institute of Innkeeping, Society of Independent Brewers, Fair Pint, the National Association of Licensed House Managers, the GMB, Campaign for Real Ale, Justice for Licensees, Independent Family Brewers of Britain, the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group (and the cider one) and a handful of smaller campaigning groups.

And all of them have roughly the same aims - to deliver a fairer structure to all levels of the British brewing and pub system and gain a better deal for the average drinker, yet they are consistently failing to do so!

I firmly believe that (as I think the above list illustrates) there are too many voices with too many agendas and that will merely give any administration a way to wriggle out of making any changes other than those it wishes to make - because that many voices will always offer the opportunity to twist any given argument to the administration's own end.

There's a lack of focus; if only these bodies could agree to get together on three issues a year to co-campaign on and invest in then I firmly believe that we would begin to see a genuine difference in the attitude of the Government towards the pub & brewing sectors.

Now I'm not saying that I've got all the answers here, I don't, but what I do believe is that a focused and adult approach to working together by all these groups is the only answer.

If the wine and whisky lobbies can do it, why can't we?