Friday, 30 November 2012

Wadworth's The Beer Kitchen

Wadworth brewery last year launched their Beer Kitchen range: five intensely flavoured bottled-beers, hand-crafted in small batches, specifically created to compliment food. Wadworth have also opened a Cookery School, located behind the Visitor Centre at the brewery in Devizes, Wiltshire. The school serves as a kitchen of excellence to educate and develop the skills of chefs from Wadworth pubs and as a place for members of the public to take part in fun, informative cookery classes.

Having received an email from Teresa Dadey of Wadworth, kindly asking if I would care to try some samples from the Beer Kitchen range, I replied that I would be delighted to do so and would be happy to promote the products on my Blog, so here we go.

But first I must insert a caveat.

You won’t find me using phrases here such as “the wheat beer’s wild but enthused embracing of a goat’s cheese canapĂ©”. I have no objections to promoting beer as an accompaniment to food in a review but I’m no sommelier and make no pretence to be. The images supplied by Wadworth are therefore not of the food I actually ate.

Now I’ve made that clear, let’s press on.

First up is the Wheat Beer, made with Saaz and Styrian Golding hops, Pilsner Lager Malt, Malted Wheat and Coriander. “A joy with delicate white fish or a light salad”, it states on the back of the label. I have it with tinned sardines and slid in tomato sauce for my essential Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, vine ripened tomatoes, reduced fat creamy coleslaw and wholemeal bread with low fat spread. The only problem is that I’m hot and dehydrated from jogging, the beers come in 330ml bottles and by the time I’ve quenched my thirst, even at 5.0% ABV, there’s only half of the liquid left to accompany the food.

330ml as a food compliment suggests contemplative sipping but I’m not called The Quaffer for nothing.

The tasting notes on the bottle state the Wheat Beer to be light and refreshing with a hint of spicy clove and tongue tingling citrus fizz. I’d wholly agree with that, adding banana on the nose. Light and refreshing it definitely was.

The traditional IPA is described as “pale golden in colour, high in alcohol (6.2%) and brewed with four hop varieties”. “A robust accompaniment to spicy or barbequed food” it states, so I line it up alongside my regular Saturday-night post-pub treat: Chicken Madras (specially made extra-hot) curry from my favourite takeaway just down the road. The tangerine notes and spicy hop bitterness of the beer proved to be an excellent match for the powerful but subtle flavours of the Madras, while the lingering dry bitter finish of the IPA cut through the hotness of the curry in a sharp and most satisfying way.

A pity, though, that I don’t have a few more bottles to hand, for I finish the beer long before the last grain of mushroom rice is forked up from the plate.

The Whisky Barrel Aged Premium Bitter is made from traditional Fuggles and Goldings hops, pale and crystal malts, and is aged is aged for two months in whisky barrels to develop its distinctive, smooth, bitter warmth from the spirit. “A heavenly companion to any cheese board”, it says on the label. That presents me with a bit of a problem as I make a point of avoiding dairy foods that are high in saturated fats. Fortunately, my local supermarket stocks an independent brand of strong cheddar with less than 2.0% saturated fat content.

I place thick slices of this cheddar atop Scandinavian-style high-fibre crispbreads, separated by a thin layer of low-fat spread and I’m now ready to remove the bottle top. Smoked vanilla wooden notes and whisky aromas emerge and the taste is as rich, dark and nutty as the label description claims it to be. But I would definitely add toffee and caramel to that. And at 5.8% this does prove to be a very pleasing companion to the healthy cheese and crackers snack on my plate.

Made with Fuggles hops, pale, chocolate and crystal malts, Kenyan Nyeri coffee beans and muscavado sugar, the Espresso Stout at 5.5% is said to be “perfection with a chocolate or toffee dessert, or enjoy as you would a coffee”. I don’t eat chocolates or desserts, so I take the latter advice. For me, the “smooth sweet finish” rather overpowers the “sumptuous bitter coffee flavour”. Perhaps that is because I am used to more aggressively bitter Espresso Stouts and richer roasted, full-bodied coffees. But I can see exactly why this stout could be sipped in blissful contemplation while nibbling on squares of chocolate.

I didn’t receive a sample of the fifth beer in the range, Orange Peel Beer, so I’ll simply state the product description: “rich, golden and full bodied with tangy orange and caramel sweet flavours, and aromas of citrus, melon and spice - a superb complement to rich dishes such as game, or to savour on its own”.

I’d be very happy to recommend these beers to the section of the market at whom the product is presumably aimed. In sociological terms I see this section as an emergent middle-class set of consumers where status distinctions based on cultural capital are obtained in this culinary context from matching small-batch beers with what might be termed (without any intended pejorative connotations on my part) gourmet or gastro food.

But would I purchase these beers for myself? I’d certainly like to try the IPA and the Whisky Barrel Bitter once again and if the range was locally obtainable in an off-licence or supermarket, I’ll probably be tempted to sample all five; but as far as I can ascertain, Wadworth is the only direct supplier. And if I was to buy any of these on a regular basis, I’d want them in 500ml bottles to go with my large, honest portions of plain (and healthy) fare. As I said, I’m no sommelier - but these are good beers.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Truman’s Returns Home - Hackney site for new brewery

Truman’s – the small brewer with the big name – is coming home to East London.

Twenty-three years after the famous Truman’s Brewery on Brick Lane closed, the New Truman’s Brewery is opening in Hackney Wick, East London. The first Truman’s beers brewed at the new site are expected to hit London pubs early in 2013.

Founded in 1666, Truman’s was the beer of East London for more than 300 years. Re-founded in 2010 by two beer-lovers (pictured), it has been brewed elsewhere while a suitable new home was found. Its flagship beer – Truman’s Runner – is currently available in more than 150 pubs across London.

James Morgan, one of the founders of the New Truman’s Brewery, commented: “We are delighted to be bringing 346 years of brewing heritage back to the local community. This is the biggest brewing investment in East London in several decades. The site is in Hackney Wick, one of the most exciting areas in London. You can see the Olympic Stadium from the front door”.

Initial investment has been secured and the company’s ‘Truman’s Eagle’ scheme closes at the end of the year. The official opening of the New Truman’s Brewery is planned for the spring.

Michael-George Hemus, who re-launched the new brewery alongside James, added: “It all seemed a bit daunting when we set out to bring Truman’s back to East London. But we have had great support from the East London community, with a number of local people investing directly in the project via our ‘Truman’s Eagle’ scheme. We want to make the Truman’s name great again – and we are only just getting started.”

Friday, 23 November 2012

Vintage Ale Rediscovered: Forgotten beer back on sale after 35 years!

Now here’s a wonderful story that has everything: mystery, history, sentiment, a happy ending, a superb bottle of beer and a suggestion for a Christmas present!

A vintage ale which lay forgotten for thirty-five years, and was only rediscovered after a bottle of the brew exploded, went on sale nationwide in the UK yesterday, 22nd November 2012, exclusively at Aldi supermarkets, available until stocks last. The Bateman’s Vintage Ale (£3.29; 500ml) is based on a 1976 vintage bottle of Bateman’s BBB which was brewed for over fifty years at the family-run and owned brewery in Wainfleet near Skegness, Lincolnshire.

Thirty-five years ago, the Bateman family made the decision to stop brewing and bottling their barley wine, BBB, to concentrate on draught ale. At the end of the last bottling run George Bateman, the then Managing Director took the last four cases with the intention of opening them in four years to toast what would then be his eldest son Stuart’s twenty-first birthday.

Over time, though, the bottles were forgotten and it was not until just over a year ago that the stash of ale came to light when a bottle blew-up of its own accord. As the head draftsman cleared up the mess and dragged the remaining bottles out from where they had been hidden for thirty-five years, Stuart, now in his 50s and Managing Director of Bateman’s, discovered the treat his dad had saved for him decades before.

Upon opening one of the bottles, Stuart, who had presumed the contents would be spoiled, was astounded to find the beer clean, bright and brilliantly drinkable. Both Stuart and the Bateman’s Master Brewer decided that the flavour was so great that they wanted to recreate the beer for more than just the family to enjoy. Over the course of six months, Stuart and the master brewer matched the flavours perfectly using old brew records and multiple tasting sessions. Then, seven months ago, the current vintage was put into conditioning in oak casks for a distinctive character, thereby creating a limited release of the Bateman’s Vintage Ale.

Stuart recalls that “when we found the ale I was incredibly touched by the sentiment of my dad all those years ago. Looking at the bottles though, I didn’t hold out much hope of anything other than vinegar! But once we’d managed to remove the rusty crown cap and poured the ale into a glass I was surprised to see it was clean and clear.

Sipping it down, the taste was out of this world - malty, beery with a wonderful taste of port, brandy, wine and almonds. Having worked in this industry for more than thirty years I would still say it is the best beer I’ve ever tasted. And that’s why we’ve chosen to recreate the ale this Christmas so that hundreds of others can taste this amazing piece of history. I’ll be enjoying mine with some Christmas pudding.”

The ale, which has been made from a single variety of hops grown in Kent, is described as “full flavoured with notes of plum pudding and sherry mixed with rich fruits” and reminiscent of beers fashionable in the Dickensian era. Tony Baines, MD Buying at Aldi comments: “Aldi has had a strong working relationship with Bateman’s for eight years now and when Stuart approached us to sell this ale on an exclusive basis we knew it was something our customers would enjoy. The beer is like nothing else on the market with its incredible taste of Christmas - and has a wonderful story behind it too.”

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

WJ King brings an old favourite back to life - Kings Festive

Award-winning microbrewery WJ King is bringing back the taste of a bygone era with the launch of Kings Festive. The inspiration comes from Festive Ale that was originally brewed by King & Barnes to celebrate the Festival of Britain in 1951. Kings Festive (4.7% ABV) will be available from mid-November in pubs all across the South East of England to be enjoyed again.

Kings Festive is a traditional English Premium Ale. This full bodied ale with distinct vinous fruit flavours reminiscent of plump raisins and currants will be a welcome sight on the bar as it was so sadly missed. It has a deep red copper colour with a fine creamy head. There is a deliciously rich smooth mouthfeel and some great lacing on the glass.

Marketing Director Orla Lambe commented: “the original Festive Ale is probably the beer most talked about when customers visit our brewery when they reminisce about bygone days and I believe this new Kings Festive will be a very welcome sight on the bar from loyal fans of WJ King and equally a great beer for newcomers to the ale market.”

Ian Burgess, Head Brewer said “this is a classic English ale with mild-tempered bitterness using only the finest of local hops and malt. We are very pleased with the result of a retake on an old favourite.”

WJ King is based in Horsham, West Sussex, producing beers that are available in over 450 pubs in the south east of the UK, as well as nationally through website sales at