Beer and food

NMBCo and Lauden: Sublimely Strannik

Ah, Northern Monk Brew Co: yet another reason to love the wonderful city that is Leeds. Finally based in a proper home after months of being nomads, they’ve settled down to brew in an old flax mill near the train station. Soon, they’ll be opening up their tap room and bottle shop on site; when their doors open in the autumn, I will make the pilgrimage across the hills to drink their beer at the source. At the moment, the offering is still small but perfectly formed: New World IPA, at 6.2%, and Strannik, their 9% Imperial Stout.

Northern Monk Brew Co Strannik Imperial Stout bottle

I’d heard great things about Strannik, though I hadn’t yet managed to get my hands on a bottle, and when I heard that NMBCo had collaborated with Lauden Chocolate to create Strannik truffles, my mouth started watering. These were being sold, alongside the beer, at the Leeds Food Festival: always a fantastic event, which I was gutted to be missing. Imagine my delight when the babes at NMBCo and Lauden offered to send me over a little present so I could try out the pairing for myself!

Dark as Charlie Brooker’s humour, as the aroma from this thick, viscous beastie wafts up from the glass, you’re hit with big, boozy raisins and strong coffee; rum and raisin affogato. This alcohol-drenched dried fruit character continues as you sip, pursued by an insistent charred savouriness, and the rich bitter coffee is brightened by sour grape skins and hedgerow hops. Long, dry espresso lingers on the palate.

Northern Monk Brew Co Strannik Imperial Stout and Lauden Dark Chocolate Truffles

Paired with the suitably beery dark chocolate, the focus on Strannik’s hop profile sharpens, and as the rich creaminess of the truffles lingers on your tongue, the stout provides a deep, earthy counterpart, with hints of dark fruits. The intense dark chocolate truffle bitterness compliments the roasted coffee of the beer, with the fresh nettle hops cutting a swathe through the luxurious, silky mouthfeel to prevent this pairing from becoming cloying. It’s a decadent experience, and the two elements elevate each other. Apart, you have a magnificent Imperial Stout and some yummy chocolates, but together, they sing, hitting notes they couldn’t reach alone. A glorious collaboration, and one I hope to see repeated; it’d make a great gift set, and I know a number of people who deserve a bit of beery luxury! Thank you to Northern Monk Brew Co and Lauden Chocolate for sending these over for me to sample. Cheers.

Ilkley Pale and Sandham’s Flamin’ ‘Eck

Another instalment in the beer and cheese adventure! Today’s sampling brings us Ilkley Pale (4.2%), and Sandham’s Flamin’ ‘Eck.

The Pale is straw coloured and has good condition, pouring with a lively white bubbly head. There are green peppers and floral hops on the nose, and it tastes almost savoury,  full of clean freshly cut grass flavours, with green peppers continuing from the nose. There’s also a little pale grain sweetness as it warms.

The Flamin’ ‘Eck is a Lancashire cheese, with chillies and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s pale orange, with visually appealing chunks of chilli and tomato, and it’s of a soft consistency. There is a long, lingering heat dominating the flavour of this creamy cheese.

I thought that the Flamin’ ‘Eck would need something stronger than the Pale to stand up to it, and this pairing wasn’t planned (I was going to use Thornbridge Halcyon, but I drank it all…), but Ilkley‘s beer holds its own surprisingly well, cutting through the intense heat and cooling the tongue. The chilli and tomato flavour is complimented by the green pepper and clean, grassy hops.

An unexpected, yet decent, beer and cheese match.

As usual, I bought the cheese from Booths’ cheese counter.

Smoky Pork & Duvel Lasagne

I love lasagne. For me, half of the joy of making one is that you can play around with different meats, unusual layers, and basically tweak it to your hearts content. In the past, we’ve even made ‘nacho-sagne’ using chilli con carne, tortilla chip and jalapeno layers, and a hell of a lot of cheese, salsa, and sour cream. This lasagne was a little more tame than that, but it tasted amazing!

I’m not going to patronise you by putting up a recipe for lasagne here. Basically, we made lasagne as we usually would, but used pork mince for the bolognese, and added chipotle chillies, finely chopped chorizo sausage (well, we actually used Peperami Hot because we were improvising, but it was chorizo in spirit!), and a bottle of Duvel into the mix. The Belgian character worked beautifully with the pork and the smoky heat of the chillies. Marvellous stuff. What comfort food should I pour beer into next?

In the interest of full disclosure: As you may have guessed, I’m not a natural in the kitchen. I do, however, love food, so I’m lucky to have landed a partner who is a pretty decent cook. This meal was my idea, but he did all of the technical things. I mean, I chopped some garlic and chucked the beer in, but that’s about it.

The Celt Experience Bleddyn 1075 and Kit Calvert Wensleydale

Another beer and cheese post! What can I say? I love a good cheeseboard, we lead beer and cheese pairing sessions at the bar (Dead Pony Club and Manchego, anyone?), and I’m slowly becoming obsessed with the idea of hosting a beer and cheese evening at home for friends  - sorry, vegan pals! 

Today’s pairing is The Celt Experience Bleddyn 1075 (5.6%) and Kit Calvert Wensleydale. After sampling some of their range at Craft Beer Rising,  I can firmly say that The Celt Experience are making some bloody excellent beer, and Bleddyn 1075 is no exception. The name references a Welsh king who died in 1075; which, as it happens, is also the number of this beer’s original gravity. An IPA with a lovely bitter bite, we taste huge grapefruit, citrus flavours, with a little toffee sweetness to balance. It is crisp, almost dry, yet full bodied. Well balanced, a big beer for the ABV, and wonderfully quaffable. Bleddyn‘s fruitiness compliments the slightly honeyed, fresh flavour of the Wensleydale, and the dry hop bitterness cuts through this cheese’s rich, crumbly creaminess. Marvellous.

Bottle of Celt Experience Bleddyn

Of course, when we’re talking about The Celt Experience and cheese, a special mention has to go to their Ogham series Ash imperial porter (10.5%), which we sampled alongside a very smelly blue cheese at CBR.Man, talk about matching flavour intensities… Thanks, Tom!

As per usual, I picked up both the beer and the cheese from Booths. 

Hoppy Beer and Pongy Cheese

When I spotted a wedge of Brie de Meaux at its sell by date reduced in my little local Tesco, my thoughts flew back to the ridiculously good slab of it I tried in Friends of Ham last year. All considerations of a January diet went out of the window, and it was paid for and bagged up within a matter of moments. Unfortunately I couldn’t go home and demolish it straight away – I had a lunch date to get to. By the time I’d been to Media City, done lunch, and got back home, I’d had to tie the handles of the plastic bag together, to stop the delicious but pongy smell from pervading the (thankfully, almost empty) tram. Later that afternoon, when it was oozing gently, I plonked it on a plate with a crusty white roll, cracked open a beer, and settled down with a book.

The book was soon ignored, because, at the risk of sounding like a food pervert, OH MY GOD. This was a properly smelly cheese, creamy, and far more strongly flavoured than other bries I’ve tasted. What better to pair it with than First Chop Brewing Arm Ava (3.5%)? Very ripe brie could overwhelm many 3.5% pale ales, but Ava is unusually bitter and cuts through the fatty, creaminess delightfully, while the fruity hops mingle with the saltiness to create a wonderfully intense flavour.
I must admit, Ava was a bit of a gamble, but it stood up to the challenge marvellously in this full-on pairing.