Sunday, 22 April 2012

Beer Flapjacks

Any one who's ever brewed their own beer will know that after the mash you're left with a large amount of grain which is simply thrown away. As usual this was the case yesterday after brewing some IPA. In this new climate of austerity I decided that to throw away all the grain simply seemed nonsensical. After trying some of the spent grains they still tasted slightly sweet and with nice hints of caramel. Perfect for flapjacks! So I took some of the grain, dried it out in the oven and hey presto I've got a flapjack mix. The recipe can be found below.

Beer Grain Flapjacks

  • 200g Oven Dried Spent Beer Grains (This was a mix of maris otter and carapils)
  • 300g Rolled Oats
  • 300g Butter
  • 10 Tablespoons Golden Syrup
  • ~150ml of suitable beer (I used Meantime Chocolate Stout)
  • Optional: 200g chocolate (to top)

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Line a shallow dish with greaseproof paper
  3. Add butter, golden syrup and beer to a pan and heat on a medium heat until butter has fully melted and mixture is smooth
  4. Using a large bowl mix the oats and grain into the liquid mixture until all the grains are sticky and wetted
  5. Pour into a shallow dish and cook in oven for ~20minutes or until golden brown on top. Leave on a wire rack to cool. They will feel soft at this point but they will harden as they cool
  6. After allowing to cool for about an hour start melting the chocolate in the microwave
  7. Layer the molten chocolate over the top surface of the flapjacks and allow to cool (I decorated with some chocolate buttons)
  8. Cut into manageable sizes
  9. Eat and enjoy them!
These flapjacks would be particularly yummy with any kind of rich, chocolaty stout or alternatively a slightly sweet golden ale.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Cask Conditioned Lager?

At the Great British Beer Festival last year I was lucky enough to work on the bar which contained the Champion Speciality Beer, Oakleaf's I Can't Believe It's Not Bitter, a 4.9% cask conditioned lager. At the time I wasn't overly convinced by it. I felt that it wasn't quite lagery enough for lager drinkers but yet too lagery for hardened cask ale drinkers. I just found it to be more of a novelty and lacked any real discernible flavour. I didn't find it unpleasant and wouldn't complain if someone bought me a pint of it in a pub but it just lacked something. Despite my reservations it sold well and the reaction to it was a mix of people echoing my sentiments and people loving it. The beer did little to convince me that cask conditioned lager would sweep across the nation revolutionising the beer world. It wasn't a bad beer it just wasn't great. 

I hadn't given cask lagers much thought until recently. When on a trip to the Anglesea Arms in South Kensington, an excellent pub which stocks a great range of cask ales mainly from Sharps and Adnams but often has a few local beers available, I was intrigued when a cask was changed and a pump clip for Sharps Spring Cask Pilsner appeared. The beer is described by Sharps as "a pale straw beer with a herbal lemon aroma" with thyme added during maturation for extra flavour. When I went to order a few pints the barman commented on how good a choice I was making and that he absolutely loved the stuff. It poured a lovely light straw colour with a thick white head and had a great citrus aroma. The aroma was continued into the flavour with a slightly sweet citrus flavour followed by a clean crisp bitterness that was all backed up by just a smidgeon of malt. It was clear it had been cask conditioned as the heavy carbonation and sharp coolness associated with keg lager was lacking. A friend described it as "lager without the fizz", in his eyes a criticism, but I found it to be just the tonic needed on a warm spring evening. It quenched my thirst well and was very drinkable and moreish; the kind of beer you could drink all night. I'm not usually a lager drinker but I have to say that the Sharp's Spring Cask Pilsner is one of the best beers I've had in 2012 so far. If you see it I'd highly recommend trying it for yourself.

After trying these 2 beers I'm starting to become convinced that cask lager is an avenue which brewers should definitely consider. It's a niche market because I struggle to see hardcore lager drinkers change from keg to cask lager but as with most things to do with beer choice is always good. I can really see a place for beers like this in the hot summer months when a crisp refreshing beer is perfect.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

By The Horns Brewery Open Day

When I saw that By The Horns were having another open day at the end of the month it reminded me that I had always intended to write a little review of their beers I tried at their open day in March. By The Horns is the newest brewery to open up in south west London and a visit to London by my parents coincided nicely with their first open day. And so on a lovely sunny Saturday in March we made the short trip over the river to the brewery.
The journey down to the brewery was very striking as it took us past the old Young's brewery. Having lived in this part of London it made my Dad rather reminiscent about all the good beers Young's used to make before the brewery was closed indefinitely in 2006. On arrival at By The Horns we were greeted by a small block in an industrial estate that seems so ubiquitous with microbreweries nowadays. I like this idea though, that 2 young guys with a passion for brewing can set up a microbrewery in what is essentially a big garage and make very good brews. Speaking to the 2 owners they seemed to be very passionate about what they were doing and had big ideas for the expansion of the area to which they sold their beer. It was also nice to see that the clientèle was not made up exclusively of middle aged men with beards and sandals. It always makes me happy to go to these kind of events and see young people getting as excited about beer.

So what were the beers like? The guys had their whole range available in a mixture of casks and bottles. The 3 highlights for me were 2 cask beers; the Doodle APA, a 5.9% pale beer made using bags of american hops, the Lambeth Walk, a silky 5.1% dark porter, and the bottled Bobby on the Wheat, a 4.7% pale wheat beer. I have to say my favourite was probably the Doodle APA. It was just the slightly bitter, citrus flavoured beer that is so perfect for quenching ones thirst on a hot day. While the beers weren't mind blowing they were very nice offerings from one of the newest breweries in London. I bought a few bottles of their beers to take away with me and I've since tried all 3 of them finding them to again be lovely beers. The Doodle in particular was excellent in the bottle with the subtle citrus hop flavours coming through nicely. I also managed to snaffle a pint of the Bobby on the Wheat at the White Horse a few days ago and found that the cask offering was a nice, refreshing and interesting, through the use of the wheat, beer.
Overall the day was good fun and it was nice for my parents to see how the brewing scene in London has changed from when they lived here. I hope the guys at By The Horns are successful in their endeavours as  any brewery which looks to crack Fullers dominance on west and south west London is alright by me! I'm also looking forward to their next open day at the end of April where the new Oat Pale Ale will be launched!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

If you've got nothing nice to say then say nothing at all

When I was little I was always taught that if I didn't have anything nice to say about something I should keep my gob shut. I've always thought this should apply both on my blog as real life. It is for this reason that I do not often outright criticise pubs and breweries when I feel that their offerings have been substandard. When questioned on this by a friend I noted that while good beer served in lovely surroundings inspires me to blog the opposite certainly does not. It is wisely noted that generally customer reviews, not necessarily of pubs, are generally borne out of a feeling of wanting to rant about how bad something is or praise its reputation. However I feel much more inspired to write in praise rather than despair. As I've said before, I drink a lot of average beer in a lot of average pubs. Do I think any of you care about it? No, not really which is why in general when I write I write mainly in praise of breweries and establishments.

But surely bad service, bad beer and bad hospitality should be held to account? Yes, they should. However, my view on this is very similar to my view on CAMRA members actively denigrating other beer styles than clear fined cask conditioned ale (See 1 below). I feel the cause of good pubs and good beer served within them is championed better by celebrating the good rather than criticising the bad. It makes little sense in my opinion to waste time I could use talking about beers I love and enjoy rather than moaning about the ones I don't.

Am I being stupid here? Should I blog about all beer whether I find it good, bad or indifferent?

1. Posts by Hardknott Dave, about SIBA and beer clarity, and Tandleman, about CAMRA's acceptance of "craft beer".