Monday, 31 January 2011

Seaweed Beer - Tonnerre de Brest

Up until recently I’d heard about Seaweed Skin treatments (not that I have had one) and even Edible seaweed but Seaweed beer hmm! So when I saw this bottle the Inspector Clouseau in me had to investigate so I invested in  a bottle.

A while back on a trip to France for a trade fair I had sampled Seaweed and from what I remember it was fried and then seasoned with a little herbs, quite nice actually never had green crisps before. Thinking about it that’s what my local Chinese has on its menu.

Seaweed I’m told is a super food healthy good source of B-vitamins and can be eaten raw or cooked a few call it a sea vegetable, it may be new to western cultures but the Japanese and Chinese have been eating it as a delicacy since ancient times. Another thing I found out Seaweed is high in Protein I always wondered from where veggies managed get Protein!

Tonnerre de Brest is a 6.5% Organic ale, pours an Amber colour with a small white head. You can defiantly pick up the smells of the seas, reminds me of the smell of Leigh on Sea when I was there with my family few months back. You pick up fruit and spice notes quite sweet but then there is something vinegary (seaweed maybe) not in a bad way. A very unusual beer bit thin bodied but I'm gonna say it ‘its drinkable’

My ratings:

Tonnerre de Brest 6.5% ABV – 4/10

I was going to point you to the website but it would not open and according to its one of the 100 best herded/spiced beers in the world!!! Where have I been living all this time hmm……


Sunday, 23 January 2011

Brodies's Organic East London Gold

I am a fan of Organic beers even Organic foods and it's great to see the efforts what these producers, brewers are doing and their approach in helping to deliver sustainable solutions towards a low-carbon future. I don't look at Organic as a fad and I'm sure these brewers don't either as most of them brew very good non-Organic beers too, so they are not trying to ram just 'organic' down our throats, it's a choice.

I truly believe Organic is great for your well-being and as much as it is for the environment, plus it's kind to animals and wildlife. Our Organic farms are havens for wildlife and provide homes for bees, birds and butterflies to name a few so can you imagine what harm these synthetic growth promoters (fertilisers) and  pesticides are doing. Just one example in the last two years; there has been a massive worldwide drop in bee numbers. If bees were to be wiped out the result could be very dire as so much of the human food supplies depend on bee pollination and yes this is all caused by the insecticides, fertilisers currently being used in non-organic agriculture.

Organic foods are grown/produced without the use of any fertilizers or pesticides. It is in a way going back to ancestral ways of farming. Organically grown foods have to be certified by third-party certifying agencies before being labeled “organic.” These foods have to adhere to stringent standards laid down by government agencies, like the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), UK Soil Association, Europe’s EU-Eco Regulation and so on. A farm has to farm “organically” for three years before its produce can be certified as “organic”. Until then its produce is labelled “in conversion”.

East London's Brodie's Brewery, which I discovered last year and to my joy is only 4 miles if that from my house, are one of a small but increasing group of new London breweries popping up recently and I'm very happy this one is in my manor. Started up only in June 2008 when owners Jamie and Lizzie Brodie took over an abandoned brewery in Leyton and at my last count currently have 21 different beers on I call that good going. My current favourite UK brewed Organic beers are the selections from Black Isle breweryStroud Brewery and Daas from Belgium, all bottle conditioned beers and available at all good beer retailers not just Organic food retailers.

Brodie's Organic offering is called the East London Gold it's a 3.5% ABV bottle conditioned ale, pours pale golden colour with a good head, pleasant sweet floral hops and a dry bitter ending and you know what the 3.5% ABV makes it very suppable. The labels state each bottle is filled, sealed and labeled by the brewer himself, I bet he must be a very busy man.

My ratings:

Brodie's Organic East London Gold 3.5% ABV – 6/10

One of several places you can enjoy Brodie's beers is at King William IV which is right next door to the brewery 816A High Road Leyton, London, E10 6AE, it's a proper East End boozer with beer at £1.99 a pint it's definitely my kind of place.


Thursday, 20 January 2011

Thomas Hardy's Ale 1991 Vintage

Thomas Hardy Ales need no introduction a part of British brewing history, bottle conditioned beers brewed back then by Eldridge Pope until recently by O'Hanlon's. Sadly O'Hanlon's have now stopped brewing Thomas Hardy's Ale so for those of you that are not familiar here is a good link to go by.

Whilst searching on Ebay for Volvo P1800s parts (renovation job) i thought I'd type in beer and see what comes up, well quite interestingly from bottles of Watneys Royal Celebration Ale 1981 brewed for The Prince of Wales & Lady Diana's wedding too bottles of beers from the Truman Brewery and a Courage Imperial Russian Stout 1993 which I quickly added all to my basket.

There was one chap who was selling a selection of 80 bottles dating back from 1970, a mixture of beers commemorating something or the other and included two bottles of 1991 Thomas Hardy ale. With 5 days for the auction to finish and the current bid at £9, I clicked watch and monitored the bid for a few days, on the 5th day with 5 mins to go to my surprise (shock) the last bid was still at £9. My bid of £10 was accepted and a few days later i was off up the M1 to Royston to collect my beers.

I pulled up at a farm and was greeted by a middle-aged gentleman, nice bloke told me the beers belonged to his step father and he found them whist emptying his late mothers house. I actually felt bad that I paid him only a tenner but he was happy to be shot of them and was surprised someone had actually bought them......I said no more.

Both bottles now 20 years old so you can imagine I was a bit worried about cracking one open and seeing if they would still be worth drinking so I Tweeted the question and a well-known beer blogger Andy Mogg tweeted back saying 'they should be great' so I proceeded to see if they would blow my mind.

Poured a Deep Amber color say a Mahogany, as you would expect for a beer of this age it was flat no life in it at all in terms of carbonation. The nose had strong hints of caramel, dark sweet fruits, brown sugar, oak, molasses even. The flavours, I believe, had become more complex over the years and hence also the strong alcohol presence, it definitely felt more than the 12% ABV stated on the bottle. A thick sweet syrupy texture on the tongue that which I enjoyed immensely till the last drop of this 180 ml bottle.

My ratings:

Thomas Hardy's Ale 12% ABV – 8/10

A truly great beer which I am so delighted I opened and now understand why this was one of Britain's best beers for so so long, people next time your buying stuff on that auction site and you look up beers you know you'll will be bidding against me  :)


Thursday, 13 January 2011

L'Abbaye des Saveurs

I took a trip over to France late last week, I was planning to go before Christmas but due to the crazy snow I thought best not get stuck on the Eurostar  for umpteen hours so rescheduled. A really good friend of mine lives about 30 mins drive from Lille into Belgium, quite an eccentric chap and bit of a Lord of the Manor type. We took a drive around his estate before lunch taking in the views of his 100 acres of land, he regularly organises hunts in this fields (not my cup of tea) but recently he has set aside a large amount of land where he is now growing Barley for beer.

As far as the eye could see were these fields, you could see the Barley just coming up and should be ready to cut by June when it will be turned into Belgium's most popular export beer.  After a great meal at L'Enoteca in Ramecroix and a few bottles of the excellent Coste delle Plaie a wine from F1 driver Jarno Trulli's Vineyard it was time to head back to Lille.

I'd heard a lot about this shop, L'Abbaye des Saveurs a specialist beer retailer, based in the Old Town of Lille which is beautiful and I was advised it is in a building which was a 18th century villa. It's run by Antony and Stéphane two guys both very knowledgeable about beer, we'd called them beer geeks. They helped me with my selection as so much in this shop was new to me, I'm not very familiar with beers from the North East of France and they seemed to stock them all.

Lille is probably the beer capital of France, Stéphane advised me and enlightened me with more facts that there are more new breweries in the last 2 years in the North East of France then in any other region. I suppose it's got to do with the North East being closer to the UK and the current boom of micro breweries we are having, well that's my opinion anyway.

The first few bottles I picked up where La Blonde d'Esquelbecq a 6.5% a very Belgian influence blond beer and Etoile du Nord 5.5%, a very hoppy beer right down my street and very IIPA. Both French and both very tasty, if this is what is going to come out of this region then I'm excited.

Next up I picked up a few bottles of a black bier  Black Albert 13% ABV an Imperial stout, quite thick and poured a dark brown creamy head. It had velvety mouth feel and yes it was an intense brew. My other selections were bottles of  Mocha Bomb Struise Black Damnation II 12% ABV. Also a Imperial Stout poured a deep black got a huge nose of roast coffee and dark chocolate, again it had a velvety mouth feel and even better picked up NO alcohol as if had none. WOW what a great couple of beers brewed by De Struise Brouwers, Belgium.

Sticking with the black beers I picked up a couple of Lancelot XI.I 11.1% ABV, I was told this beer is brewed on the 1st of Nov and is a beer to bring in the Celtic new year. No surprise the 11.1 % ABV (11th month of the year, 1st day). What great marketing I thought, but the guys in the shop were dead serious it is brewed that way...who am I to disagree!  A French beer poured very dark brown again with a creamy beige head. Strong licorice caramel aroma, with some roasted coffee. Some hints of berries smooth and full-bodied. A delicious beer that is only brewed once a year, on the night before 1 November...yep Halloween GULP!

Finally a beer I had heard about but never managed to find it, Agent Provocateur 6.5% ABV no not a beer by Joseph Corre but by Craig Allan a Scotsman worked in a few Scottish micro breweries over a period of time until he packed his bag to the shores of France to do his trade. A Belgian IPA by De Proefbrouwerij (how many beers does this brewery make?), pours a lovely golden colour with a lasting head, good fruitiness on the nose with hops. Dry with a well-balanced bitterness and picked up loads of fruits like grape fruits, lemons even mango. It's a very nice beer unfortunately they had only 4 in the shop, will have to look out for more.

My ratings:

La Blonde d'Esquelbecq 6.5% - 5/10
Etoile du Nord 5.5% - 6/10
Black Albert 13% - 8/10
Mocha Bomb Struise Black Damnation II 12% ABV - 7/10
Lancelot XI.I 11.1% ABV - 7/10
Agent Provocateur 6.5% ABV - 6/10

L'Abbaye des Saveurs is a great little find and a great pit stop either on your way to Paris or even to Belgium to stock up on your French beers.

L'Abbaye des Saveurs est le specialiste a Lille des bières artisanales. 13 Rue Vieux Murs 59000 Lille, France 03 28 07 70 06


Thursday, 6 January 2011

iKi Beer - New Year Detox

Well for most of us the waistline has expanded a little from too many mince pies, chocolates and litres of beer over the Christmas and New Year. I'm happy to continue and indulge more but at my age it's a bit harder to burn off so best listen to the wife.

I got a bit worried when she said 'i'll help you' and immediately thought, oh crap she's got me a Davina McCall keep fit dvd or even worse some silly detox kit from the pharmacy. Couple of days later she hands me a bottle of iKi beer, yes I stood in silence for a few second thinking is this some sort of devious plan!

I was then told that this beer is organic and made using Green Tea and that Green Tea has various medicinal uses and health benefits and it is used by many as a way of detox. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves and reportedly contains the highest concentration of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. Antioxidants are substances that scavenge free radicals and Antioxidants such as polyphenols in green tea can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.

Well after taking all that in and the shock of my wife handing me a bottle of beer, it was time to kill some free radicals. iKi Beer to my joy is 4.5% ABV and brewed in Belgium yep, not in Japan to my disappointment as there are some great Craft beers coming out of the land of the rising sun such as Coedo and Kiuchi Brewery.

The back label tell us iKi means 'Life' in Japanese and iKi refreshes. Green tea not only gives iKi it's body, it also enriches iKi with high levels of natural antioxidants..... well there is only one way to find out! Pours a hazy pale yellow, with a thick white head. The aroma is fruity with flowers some malts and a slight hop. The taste is fresh, sweet. Fruity like citrus. Notes of spices and the aftertaste has the real Japanese green tea taste to it.

My ratings:
iKi Beer (4.5% ABV) - 3/10

Look I'd rather drink this than make my house shake to a celebrity keep fit video.......erm maybe depends who the celebrity is :D

iKi beer was purchased at Japan Centre 14-16 Regent Street, London, a Japanese supermarket and restaurant.


Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Masala Chicken - North Indian Stylee

Last year I had to make a short trip to New Delhi on business, it was February so the weather was not too hot but bearable. I mainly on my trips visit Bangalore, Mumbai or Chennai so I was excited when I was told about this destination and no matter what amount of work I had to do I was going to take out time to visit a restaurant all my friends had been boasting about eating at.

Based in the 5 Star (no I didn't stay there) ITC Maurya is the Internationally acclaimed Bukhara restaurant, ok a lot of people say and even I, that 5 Star hotel food is too touristy Ahh Ahhh not this one. The flippin queue for the restaurant was massive and were mainly citizens of New Delhi hardly any residents of the hotel so that said a lot.

The fit out had dark-wood beams, copper urns all over the place, and blood-red rugs, defiantly reminded my of Northern India. You could see the Chefs running around like head-less chickens ( like the pun)  behind big glass windows and what I counted to be at least 12 tandoori ovens.

I went straight for the Masala Chicken and it did not disappoint, exactly as my friends had told me it would be, immense aromatic flavours, totally mmmmmm.  Looking around I noticed a lot of people were eating a black lentil curry, I asked the waiter what it was and he explained that even though the restaurant is famed for it's meat dishes the most famous dish was actually called Bukhara's dal, a black lentils curry simmered overnight with tomatoes, ginger, and garlic and you know what, it rocked! It was incredible, so creamy because of the ghee and they also had variations with Paneer.  I highly recommend it.

Back to the meat dish I eventually managed to get the chef to give me the recipe for the Marsala Chicken (East End charm), so yesterday whilst tidying up my cupboard I found it, had totally forgot and as the Christmas Turkey had finally finished I got cooking.

I cracked open a few bottles of Thornbridge Jaipur and sat back reminisced about Buckhara.

Here's their recipe for you guys to enjoy and it doesn't matter if you add more of the spices than I suggest...well not too  much.

First mix together:
2 Part Garam Masala
1 Part Cumin Powder
1 Part salt

Rub the above on to the Moist chicken and leave for a minimum of an hour.

Then blend the following together:
1 small onion
4 parts of Garam Masala
2 parts of salt
4 parts cumin powder
1 part of Paprika
1 part of Turmeric
1 part of Red powder Chillies
.5 teaspoons of Ground Ginger
5 Cloves of Garlic
1 tablespoon  of Yogurt
1 tablespoon of mustard oil
3 table spoons of vinegar
Add green chillies to taste

Once blended brush on to the chicken with a basting brush, leave refrigerated an hour or so. Leave in the oven for 45mins on 175º and turn once after 20 mins.