Monday 28 March 2011

Goose Hooked, Not Cooked

I couldn't resist putting the Goose Island head on the AB eagle though!
I know there's a lot of consternation out there, in beer land, about the announcement that Goose Island has been bought by ABInBev but I spoke with brewmaster Greg Hall this morning (Chicago time) and, whilst I can't tell you all here as I've written a piece for the Morning Advertiser on the deal, I can make clear a couple of things that I hope will put some of your minds at ease.

First, Greg Hall is stepping down but is going on to look at different challenges outside beer, which he's going to chat to me in about a month or so BUT he insists that the brands, range, production methods, barrel-ageing programme and new product development will remain untouched and will flourish in the care of former Deschutes head brewer Brett Porter.

The AB suits will not be swarming into Chicago, and nor will they be handling any marketing, new product development or anything else of that ilk - there will be one line of reporting and that's John Hall, founder of Goose Island, who will report directly to the AB president in St Louis David Peacock - that's the only place where the two businesses will 'touch' on a day-to-day business. Goose Island will remain in Chicago.

Also the much-needed $1.3m that's being invested immediately will be great for all of us who love these beers and lament their lack of availability at times! If you've ever been to the Fulton Street Brewery in Chicago you'll know just how at capacity they are, they brew round the clock seven days a week for goodness sake! And that's just to keep up with demand now!

Finally, and most importantly, AB didn't get to be this big by being stupid - they know that by purchasing a multi award-winning craft brewer and giving it the capital to expand will give it more kudos and allow it to tap into more consumers that its own 'faux-craft' beer ever could.

And let's not forget we've already seen exactly the same move in the UK with Molson Coors and Sharp's...

Yes, we all have to watch this space, yes I'm a bit nervous too - especially given the Belgian arm of the business's awesome capability to bugger up craft brands - but we shall just have to trust that the Hall family didn't bust their asses to build this business only to see it dismantled.

And, also this move creates more jobs in Chicago, which if you've ever been to this lovely, but troubled, city you'll know is sorely needed.

Monday 21 March 2011

Some Like It Hop!

As you can see, it's one for the hopheads!
Following up on a twonversation the other day, or maybe it's a convertitter, I just wanted to throw a little bit of advice out there for all you hopheads - if you like it hop then drink it young! 

The person I was chatting with had been deeply disappointed with some Three Floyds beers because they had a) come from the States in unknown shipping conditions and b) were well past their sell-by date and so had lost so much of their huge floral/citrus/bitter excitement.

Neither of these things was the brewery's fault, as they don't have an official export deal with the UK I'm aware of, but it's something for all your Humulus lupulus addicts out there to think on!

And whilst I've got you hopheads on board, I should tell you that I had the great privilege the other evening to drink a Sierra Nevada Hoptimum, which you should start seeing at various places around the UK soon including, I believe, the White Horse's Over the Hop Festival on over May Bank Holiday weekend - and I'm sure the Rake/Utobeer, Cask & the Euston Tap will probably have some too!

Onto the beer itself, it has a lovely pink grapefruit & peach nose, a rich burnt caramel middle on the palate and the bitterness at the end is like an under-ripe apricot, which mellows into a slightly soy-like satisfyingly rich finish.

And for those of you who care about such things, the bitterness is just on the cusp of being wrong, which makes it utterly, deliciously, right! And it was awesome with my really quite spicy beef curry too.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Eat Your Greens

As St Patrick's Day is impending, I thought something green would be a good idea! And as I'm sure you're all sick of being told where to drink proper stout, or even crappy mass-produced freezing cold nitrogenated rubbish, I thought I'd go a different route.

This was inspired by a column by the lovely Oliver Thring in the Guardian's Word of Mouth column, I adore Oliver's stuff, it always makes me think about creating a dish with his subject of the week.

There was further inspiration from a recipe of Nigel Slater's I saw not so long ago combined with a conversation with my mum about chorizo the other day.

Phew! So many muses, so little time!

Anyway, this requires a little bit of wheat beer, I'm thinking more along the lines of a German Kristall or Belgian rather than a Hefeweizen, I think the latter would be too much, and I've made some suggestions below anyway.

This is very obviously not a complicated dish, and you can vary it with the seasons, maybe substitute the kale for asparagus and cook the dish with a saison a bit later in the year, or use Jerusalem artichokes and a a mild when they are in season, use Tolouse sausage, savoy cabbage (which is very similar to the French chou vert frisé) and a biere de garde for a twist.

It's a one-pan dish so washing-up is kept to a minimum and I'm pretty sure I don't need to advise you what to do with the rest of the beer that doesn't go into the cooking process - cheers!

Chorizo, Curly Kale & Potatoes
Cooking chorizo (I do like the ease and availability of the Unearthed ones in Waitrose 1 pack = two people for this recipe, but any spicy sausage would be good)
4-6 decent-sized new potatoes, boiled, cooled & sliced (you could also always use some of those lovely jarred white Spanish beans instead, just don't brown them!)
Curly kale (or any dark green cabbage like Savoy or Cavolo Nero)
Pine nuts
1-2 clovs of garlic - finely chopped
1 medium-large red onion - finely diced
Knob of butter
Wheat beer (Blanche de Bruxelles, Okell's MacLir, St Austell Clouded Yellow, Schneider Kristall)
Olive oil

Heat pan (with a lid for later) until just beginning to smoke, add splash of olive oil wait a few seconds for that to heat up then add chorizo, turn down to medium heat, cook for two-three minutes.

Add potato slices and sprinkle a little black pepper over top, leave slices alone, do not turn until they've gone golden brown on bottom - wash your kale even if it says pre-washed! It never is properly!

Carefully flip all your potato slices and introduce finely diced onion, cook for a minute then add finely chopped garlic.

Immediately after garlic sprinkle pine nuts in, then after 30 seconds add your knob of butter and then add the kale and a small splash of wheat beer to the pan.

Turn heat down low, pop the lid on and leave to wilt kale for 5-7 minutes.

Check for seasoning (I think liberal amounts of black pepper always needed, salt depends on your sausage's salt levels), squeeze lemon juice over top - serve with some crusty bread to mop up those beery/buttery/paprika-y juices!