Sunday, 29 November 2015

A visit to Buffalo and Rye, Birmingham City Centre

Reviewed by Dee

Buffalo and Rye is a newly opened Bar and Restaurant on Bennett’s Hill just off New Street in Birmingham City Centre.  To quote their web site; “Buffalo & Rye offers a taste of Americana in the centre of Birmingham.  Food-wise we’re talking dirty burgers, gourmet dogs, house smoked meats and all-day brunch.  Whilst with the drinks we cover milkshakes (with or without alcohol to accompany), in-house cocktail creations and US imported beers.”
It is the newest addition to the Bitters ‘n’ Twisted consortium of Midlands based food and drink venues, having opened its doors to the public in mid-November 2015.  Jay and I passed by it a couple of times while it was still being furnished and made a point to investigate once it had opened.
The ideal opportunity presented itself last Friday evening as we needed tea somewhere near to the Wellington, a pub also located on Bennett’s Hill, where I would later be heading to another event.
We arrived at 5.15pm to find the venue busy but not overcrowded.  Luckily we had just beaten the Friday evening rush, and were shown to a table.

The interior of the venue was quite dark, with lots of distressed wood panelling on the walls and floor, and display cases built into the walls containing Pop! Vinyl figurines.  Lighting was low level and the ceiling had de rigueur exposed metal girders.  Seating was organised into long communal tables in the centre of the floor, and smaller tables, at which Jay and I were seated, around the edges.  A well-stocked drinks and cocktail bar was situated in one corner.  There was music playing in the background, though it was difficult to identify much of it as the atmosphere was informal and chatty.  However, I did manage to pick out War’s ‘Low Rider’ and Rufus and Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t nobody’, both favourites of mine.

After we were seated, water was brought to our table, and we were notified of which items on the food menu were sold out.  It was encouraging to see that the sauce selection on the table included one from fellow Birmingham based business Pip’s Hot Sauce. 

The serving staff were attentive without being intrusive and maintained this standard throughout the evening, even with a full venue.

The food menu was divided into Hot Buns, Pit Smoked Meats, Salad Bowls, Gourmet Dogs, All-Day Brunches and Sides.  Vegetarian options were available in all categories apart from the Pit Smoked Meats.  There were quite a few enticing sounding choices so in the end we decided to choose together and share everything.  We chose a half rack of St Louis Ribs, a Buffalo Black Burger and side orders of Mac n Cheese and Parmesan Fries.  The food took a while to arrive but it was Friday evening and the venue was almost full by the time we’d put the order in.

The ribs were served topped with a subtly smooth sauce and accompanied by red cabbage and freshly grated carrot in a cumin and vinaigrette dressing.  The portion size was about right but we found the ribs to be a little on the dry side A combination of light charring on the outside and juiciness on the inside with a strongly flavoured, punchy sauce were more what we were looking for.
A side order of Cajun Spiced Fries, with salt and thyme predominating, was also included.

The Burger we chose, the Buffalo Black was described as having two beef patties, black pudding, burger cheese and sautéed onions, all inside a soft sesame bun.   Taste wise, the burger patties were cooked medium, as advertised, the distinctive soft burger cheese was nicely melted and the onions quite chunky and well sautéed.  The black pudding, which should have been the star of the meal, was only represented as a small slice and didn’t really make its presence felt, which meant that the burger was only good instead of being great.
The little red plastic basket and waxed paper that the burger was served in came in useful for the unavoidably messy eating experience.
The Parmesan Fries that accompanied the burger were also salty but slightly less so than the Cajun ones.  We’d asked for these to come without the Truffle Oil that they were advertised with, on account of Jay’s intense dislike of it, and that was accommodated without any problems.

The final part of the meal, the Mac 'n' Cheese, was superb.  Served in a metal tray with no frills whatsoever; just small pasta shapes in a simple but rich cheese sauce, baked in the oven to give the top a nice golden brown colour and slight crunchy texture.  Well worth the £4 we paid for it.

The drinks menu was geared towards Cocktails and Hard Shakes, all of which were in-keeping with the Americana-style branding.  All of these sounded tempting and looked it too.  They were served in a range of glasses, but all conventional ones.  Quirkiness is not the done thing here.  Looking beyond the house specialities will reveal some very reasonably priced wines.  The cheapest bottle was £14.50 and the most expensive £22.  Champagne was £40 a bottle.  We decided to order beers though.  The menu offered a choice of ten beers and one cider, most of which I hadn’t heard of before.  Jay chose a familiar Estrella Damm lager but I went for a Fire Rock Pal Ale.  Brewed in Hawaii by the Kona Brewing Company, it had a light copper colour and strong taste with a pronounced maltiness.  A good choice.

We had to skip dessert due to being pushed for time, but I recall there being two choices out of four available; a Knickerbocker Brownie and a slice of Key Lime Pie.  Had we been able to stay I dare say we would have ordered one of each.  

The bill arrived when requested and was presented in a Golden Virginia tobacco tin.  The grand total for the food and drinks was £34.95 which we both considered to be very reasonable for a city centre venue. 

On the whole, we were happy with our evening.  We felt that we’d been well looked after, we weren’t over-faced with the food and drink, and the final bill hadn’t broken the bank.

This would be an ideal venue for a group of friends to enjoy a relaxed and informal evening of food and drink, with the added bonus of supporting a growing local business. 

Buffalo and Rye should do well in the future and we wish them all the best.

Click here to visit the Buffalo and Rye web site

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Birmingham Whisky Club’s Peat Freaks Evening – 20th November 2015

Reviewed by Dee 

The Peat Freaks whisky tasting event took place at the Wellington pub on Bennett’s Hill in Birmingham city centre on the evening of Friday 20th November 2015.  The name left no room for guesswork as to the profile of the whiskies being offered for tasting.
For the uninitiated, peated whiskies are created when the barley is exposed to peat smoke as it is dried out during the malting process.  The length of time that the grains are exposed to the peat smoke determine whether the whisky is lightly peated or heavily peated.  Peat smoke imparts a highly distinctive aroma and taste to the finished product.
Peated whiskies are made all over the world, from Ireland to Japan, but are particularly prevalent on the Isle of Islay off the West Coast of Scotland, which is home to the ‘holy trinity’ of peated whiskies;  Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Lagavulin.
The presence of peat has a polarising effect on whisky drinkers the world over.  Jay can’t abide peated whisky whereas I love it.  In fact, we’re so divided on this issue that Jay waited for me in another part of the pub (and enjoyed a pint or 2 of Titanic Plum Porter) while I attended the session. 

The Wellington is a good old traditional pub, with bar and drinking areas on two of its floors and a room without a bar on the third.  With this being both Jay’s and my first visit to the Wellington, I wasn’t entirely sure where the event was taking place, but when I spotted a map of Islay adorning the wall of the room on the third floor, I was instantly reassured that I had found the right place.
The weather outside was cold and wet, making the whisky sampling that lay ahead feel that little bit more warming and comforting.

The event was organised by Birmingham Whisky Club, the same organisers as for the Whisky Birmingham event that we attended back in March (click here for details), and was presented by local expert and Whisky Shop Manager Craig Mills. 
The Peat Freaks events were described as being among the most popular in the club’s 4 year history, so much so this time as an extra event had been arranged with a completely different set of whiskies to try.

Places were set and water provided, and after a brief introduction, the evening’s tasting got underway;   

Whisky No1:  Glendronach Peated 
Distillery:  Glendronach
This was a Highland Single Malt Whisky was a new release from a distillery normally known for its unpeated whiskies. 
It had a light pale gold colour and an earthy smoky aroma.  It was hot but light on the tongue, with a sweeter taste than I was expecting, and had a rich, almost fudge-like quality.  These flavours were enhanced when a small amount of water was added.  It was an upfront experience without a lasting finish.

Whisky No2:  Kilchoman 100% Islay
Distillery:  Kilchoman
A relatively new whisky which has been produced since 2010 at a distillery founded only five years earlier.  Kilchoman was the first new distillery to be established on Islay in 125 years.  The whisky is named in reference to the fact that its entire production process takes place on Islay.
I was rather fond of this whisky.  It had a straw-like, pale yellow colour, with a grassy and leafy rather than smoky aroma.   Other attendees at the event spoke of vanilla, grapefruit and buttered toast but I have to say I didn’t get these from it.  The taste profile was quite distinct from the aroma, with a pronounced toffee flavour.  It had a rich, fruity aftertaste and lingering finish but didn’t go well with the water.

Whisky No3:  Caol Ila 2001 Private Collection Wood Finish
Distillery:  Distilled by Caol Ila for Gordon and Macphail
Made by Caol Ila, the largest distillery on Islay, but aged on the Scottish mainland, this is independently bottled by Gordon and Macphail and sold as part of their Private Collection range.
This whisky had a very rich, almost bronze colour, with a complex aroma which included cinnamon bark, nutmeg and chilli flakes.  The initial taste was rich and woody, becoming sweeter as it lingered until a flavour reminiscent of fruit cake emerged.  My experience turned out to be awry again though, as suggestions offered from around the room included Frazzles/smokey bacon crisps, and red berries.  Oh well…  Anyway, I found it to be another up-front whisky, and unfortunately I’d drunk it all before I got chance to try it with water, but to be honest I enjoyed it neat and don’t think I’d bother experimenting by adding water to it.     

Whisky No4:  Peat’s Beast Cask Strength PX Finish  Whisky of the Evening
Distillery:  (secret distiller)
This monster of a whisky is created by a secret distiller and finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks.
First, the colour of the whisky when it was in the glass was a much lighter gold than the darker colour shown in the photo.  Unsurprisingly, it had a heady and elemental aroma of earth, smoke and driftwood.  It was rich and thick to taste, with a hint of sweetness from the aforementioned sherry casks.  It was far easier to drink than its 54.1% ABV threatened; so much so that I forgot to try it with water again.  At the end of the event, votes were taken to determine the most popular whisky and this one came out on top.  This time I was in agreement, as it was my favourite too.

Whisky No5:  Laphroaig 15 Year Old, 200th Anniversary Edition
Distillery:  Laphroaig
We were lucky to be able to sample this Laphroaig 15 year old whisky, which was one of a limited run of 236 bottles, released as part of Laphroaig’s bicentenary.  The whisky was bottled by Douglas of Drumlanrig.
A fruity aroma of set this whisky apart from the others.  It reminded me of grapefruit, gooseberries and green grapes, and complimented the naturally flaxen hue of the drink in the glass.  The taste was reminiscent of leafy greens, with only the faintest hint of the medicinal properties more usually associated with Laphroaig.  A big smoky finish saw out this great whisky.      

Whisky No6:  Bruicladdich Octomore 06.1
Distillery:  Bruichladdich
Promoted as the world’s most heavily peated whisky, and thus highly sought-after, this was the sixth edition of Bruicladdich’s Octomore range, named after an old whisky distillery on a farm near Port Charlotte on Islay.
At 57%, this was the strongest whisky of the evening.  It was light golden in colour and full of rich intense and fruity aromas including plums, apricots and prunes.  Taste wise it was fiery, as expected for a whisky of such strength, but I wasn’t able to identify any other flavours from it.  Some dark, treacley, syrupy notes emerged when I added water to it, but it seemed to be all about the aroma rather than the taste.  Going by first impressions alone this didn’t live up to the hype, but I am happy to seek it out again and give it another go just to make sure.

This was a great event, offering the chance to try out new whiskies that I would otherwise have passed by.   The prices of the featured whiskies ranged from just over £40 to in excess of £100 for one bottle, so it was also an ideal opportunity to try before you buy, especially with regard to the more expensive whiskies.
I think all of the attendees at the event were already familiar with peated whiskies, so I would probably recommend trying one or two before booking a place on a Peat Freaks event.  Something featuring both peated and unpeated whiskies would be best, to allow comparisons to be made and preferences determined.    
I’m sure that there will be more Peat Freaks events in the future, and I am certainly interested in attending.   

Birmingham Whisky Club have their own web site and are active on line and through the usual social media channels.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #29 – Pita Bread

Dee – What I feel is missing most from the Jerusalem cook book are the bread recipes.  Bread appears in the book in plenty of photographs and is mentioned in the narrative, but is only included in recipes as a ready-made ingredient.   It may just be because there are such a wide variety of breads available in Jerusalem that there wasn’t enough space in the book to detail them, but as someone who loves to make, and of course eat, bread, I feel that it needed more attention.  If not recipes then a written passage, such as was dedicated to Hummus and Za’atar.
Of course, not everyone has the time or the inclination to bake their own bread, but for others, like me, who do not recognise the concept of ever having enough bread recipes don’t worry; help is at hand.  A book I love very much, and treat as a sort of sister volume to Jerusalem, is Anne Shooter’s ‘Sesame and Spice’.  It is all about sweet and savoury baking and is packed with recipes from the whole Middle Eastern region.  There is a mixture of traditional modern breads, cakes and pastries, and modern recipes inspired by them.

November 2015’s featured ingredient, Pita (also spelled Pitta) Bread, is one of many breads that are baked, sold and eaten in Jerusalem.  These breads have so many names it is not difficult to get tied up in knots trying to differentiate between them.  Pita for example is also known as Syrian Bread and Arabic Bread. 
For the purposes of this article, a Pita is a flatbread made from wheat flour and baked in the oven.  The finished bread is characteristically soft and pale coloured, with a ‘pocket’ achieved by baking it for a short time at a high temperature. 

Ready-made Pitas are widely available, but they can also be made at home using a wheat bread dough enriched with olive oil.  I have set out below the recipe that I use.  Many recipes include sugar in the dough but mine doesn’t.  I do however use two different types of flour.  The reason for this is because the plain flour has a weaker gluten structure than the bread flour, making the dough a little less resistant to being rolled out before going into the oven.  It is still possible to make a Pita with 500g bread flour but the dough becomes more ‘springy’ and more of a challenge to roll out flat.  It might be possible to use all plain flour dough for a Pita but I’ve never felt the urge to try.

The recipe below makes enough dough for 8 Pitas
300g White Bread Flour
200g Plain White Flour (I think the US equivalent of this is All-Purpose Flour)
10g Salt
1 sachet (7g) Yeast
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
300g lukewarm water

1. Mix the flours, salt, and olive oil together in a bowl, and dissolve the yeast in a small amount of the water
2. When the yeast is dissolved and starts to foam (this will take about 15 minutes), add it, along with the rest of the water, to the dry ingredients and mix to a dough
3. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic
4. Return the dough to a bowl, cover it and leave it in a warm place for about 2 hours
5. After 2 hours, knock back the dough and return it to the same warm place for 30 minutes
6. After 30 minutes, turn on the oven and heat it up to 230 degrees C/450 degrees F/Gas Mark 7
7. After a further 30 minutes the oven should be up to temperature and the pitas ready for shaping and baking
8. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts and roll each one out into either an oval or circular pita.
9. Leave the rolled pitas to rest for about 15 minutes.  This will help them to rise more evenly when they are in the oven
10. After 15 minutes put the first pita in the oven and bake it for about 6 minutes.  Tip:  It is fun to watch the pita puffing up in the oven at this point.
11. After 6 minutes take the pita out of the oven and close the door to stop the heat escaping.  Place the pita on a cooling rack and cover with a tea towel.  This will keep it soft and stop it drying out.
12. Bake the rest of the pitas in the same way as the first and keep them covered.  Leave them to cool completely before using them.

Wholemeal Pitas can be made in exactly the same way using wholemeal flour instead of white.

Perhaps the most common way to enjoy Pita bread is split into two semi-circles and stuffed.  In the photo below I have stuffed my Pita with lettuce and falafel, topped with tahini sauce and roasted red pepper and walnut sauce.

A’ja Bread Fritters
It was surprisingly difficult choosing a recipe from the book to feature Pita bread.  As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of recipes to make which can be served on top of, or in, a Pita bread, but they all took the spotlight away from the bread. 
After some searching, I eventually chose the A’ja bread fritters on page 64, which featured the bread as an integral part of the recipe rather than an accompaniment to it.
The bread is soaked before being added to the batter along with cheese, herbs and spices.  The mixture is then divided up into individual fritters and fried on both sides.  I found the taste to be reminiscent of a thick savoury pancake and had a soft rather than crispy texture.  The commentary accompanying the recipe pointed out that there was plenty of scope for experimentation with the ingredients.  Grated vegetables were suggested as either an addition to, or substitution for, the bread.  Jay commented that the recipe would be ideal for using up leftovers.
The fritters are described as convenience food and are in fact recommended to be served inside a Pita, but after making them I decided that this would be a bit too stodgy for my taste, so I served them topped with tahini sauce, alongside a chopped salad.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #28 – Dukkah

Dee – Dukkah is a savoury blend of nuts, seeds and spices.  As with so many other condiments which appear in Jerusalem’s kitchens, almost everyone who prepares it has their own preferences as to ingredients and quantities.  I think at last count I have about five recipes for it.  The essentials however, are the nuts and spices.  It can be ground as finely as desired, but no so much so as to turn it into a paste.
It originated in Egypt, and a few years ago I saw a television documentary in which an Egyptian restaurant owner said “Egyptian cuisine without Dukkah is not Egyptian cuisine”.  There, it is used as a spice in cooking, as a garnish for salads or in its simplest form, and my personal favourite, with bread dipped in olive oil and then the Dukkah.
It also appears in the cuisine of the Palestinians living in the Gaza strip, where it is known as ‘Dugga’.  The Gazan variants tends to have a longer list of ingredients and add dried chillies, toasted and ground pulses and lentils to the mix.
The recipe on page 300 of Jerusalem leaves out the chillies, lentils and pulses but still contains quite a large number of ingredients, thus combining elements of the Egyptian and Gazan versions.  I’m not keen on the peppercorns in this version, but Jay loves them, so they stay.  My preference when making Dukkah is to leave it quite crunchy, so as to allow the different ingredients to retain their individual tastes.

It was the featured ingredient from December 2014 but sadly, the recipe for the Dukkah itself is the only appearance it makes in the book, so it was necessary to look further afield for a meal to feature it in.

I finally settled on a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe entitled Bruschetta with Dukkah, Egg and Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, which was featured in the Guardian at the end of October last year.
The Dukkah was used as a garnish to a poached egg which was served on the tomatoes which topped the toasted bread.  It was a very simple but very effective recipe.  I was especially fond of the slow roasted tomatoes, which included a selection of different types of tomatoes, slow roasted with sliced garlic and fresh oregano, then left to cool before being mixed with sun- dried tomatoes.  I was pleased to have been able to use the last of the oregano from our garden.
The recipe called for Sourdough bread, but I instead used some walnut bread which I’d baked earlier in the week and needed using up.  It was a fine accompaniment to the other parts of the dish; the walnuts adding a few extra pockets of flavour.
The two slices of toast, single poached egg and a couple of teaspoons of dukkah made for a perfect lunch.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #27 – Saffron

Dee – I have to admit it; I’m not a saffron fan.  It’s the flavour that puts me off it, as it just reminds me of plasticine.  Just like fellow yellow peril Turmeric, I find that when using it in recipes, a very fine line exists between just enough and too much.  Go too far in the wrong direction and a meal can be ruined.

It was the featured ingredient from November 2014 and as I moved down my list of what had been chosen each month I could see it getting closer and closer.  I finally reached it earlier this week so began a careful search for an appropriate recipe.

Saffron Chicken and Herb Salad
This recipe, detailed on page 188, didn’t originate in Jerusalem.  It was devised in Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurant in Belgravia, but I chose it because I felt confident that I could make it work while keeping the saffron under control.
The saffron was one of the ingredients for the salad dressing.  Accompanying it were orange, honey and vinegar; three equally strong flavours, and it turned out that the orange was the main focus.  The dressing was prepared by boiling the ingredients together until the orange softened, at which point everything was blitzed together to form a paste.
The chicken breasts should have been cooked on a griddle pan, but as we don’t have one at the moment, we seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper and cooked it in the oven.
As this was a salad, there wasn’t any more cooking required.  Once the chicken had cooled down it was mixed with a portion of the dressing before being added to the fresh ingredients; fennel, coriander, basil, mint and red chilli.  We left the garlic out as the salad was intended for lunches.

The finished salad was fresh and colourful, both in appearance and taste, and fed Jay and me for 3 lunches.

The photos show it as we served it; on a bed of thinly sliced iceberg lettuce.  That turned out to be a sensible choice for two reasons; firstly because the dressing proved to be quite strong and secondly because bread or other carbs would have been left us over-full.  The strength of flavour came from the orange rather than the saffron, which wasn’t too evident in the overall taste.  We still have some left but haven’t decided what to do with it yet.  Jay fancies trying it in a cake batter, as mentioned in the book, but I am curious to see how it fares in a tomato based sauce or soup.

In conclusion; while the recipe didn’t originate in Jerusalem, it was the right choice for the featured ingredient and I’m glad that we made it.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)

Jay and Dee’s Trip to Birmingham Beer & Cider Festival 2015

Dee - We visited Birmingham Beer & Cider Festival for the second year running on the afternoon of Friday 30th October 2015.  The 2015 Festival was held at the New Bingley Hall, as it was in 2014, and the layout was much the same as last time.  Last year’s proved to be a big hit for us (click here to read about it), so we booked tickets early for this one and had been looking forward to it during the past few weeks.

The bus shuttle service was again in operation, running from the centre of Birmingham through the Jewellery Quarter to the venue.  The advantage of arriving early on for the afternoon session was that we didn’t have any problems finding seats.
We paid £20 each for entry to the festival, which included a glass and £12 worth of beer tokens.  We chose pint glasses this time rather than half-pint glasses as the design was the same with only the year being different.

With over 500 beers and nearly 100 ciders listed in the programme, it was important to organise them in such a way as to help the customers find their tipples of choice.  A number of larger breweries operated from their own bars while the rest were hosted by named bars including Lynne, Osbourne, Skinner, Carrot, Hancock and Tolkien.  We still didn’t get to try the ciders, perries, or bottled beers, as there was such a wide range of draught beers available.  Pints, half pints and thirds of pints were all offered, so we went for thirds to try as many of the beers as we could.

And here they are;

Dee’s Beers

Beer #1:  Pumpkin Ale
Guide said:  We’re brewing a real treat for Halloween – A rich ruby beer full of all the flavours you would expect for the spookiest time of the year, including pumpkin!  A burnt, smoky character is balanced with light citrus flavours from Styrian Dana hops and there is a lingering bitter finish.
Dee said:  Mahogany coloured mid-strength bitter.  Slightly smoky aftertaste but I didn’t get the citrus that was mentioned in the tasting notes, or the spiciness that I usually associate with pumpkin ales.

Beer #2:  King Korvak’s Saga  Dee’s Beer of the Festival
Guide said:  King Korvak’s Saga is a traditional Porter made from a selection of malts to impart roast, chocolatey flavours and lightly hopped with the classic British hop Fuggles.
Dee said:  From a Rodney Matthews/Dungeons and Dragons inspired brand comes this strongly flavoured Porter; Black in colour, with an aroma close to espresso and red wine.  An initially bitter taste gives way to smokiness.  A fabulous brew, best enjoyed on its own on a cold winter’s night.  I’m on an epic quest to find this one again.

Beer #3:  Water White Session IPA
Guide said:  Brewed with Sorachi Ale hops, this session ale has bags and bags of gutsy flavours.  Some people get lime and lemongrass and some get coconut.  So much more flavour than the ABV would suggest.
Dee said:  Quite a departure from Beer #2:  Golden in colour with a fresh citrusy aroma mixed with coconut.  These themes were carried on into the taste, which also delivered a slight sting in the tail with a sharp, bitter note.

Beer #4:  Spanish Main
Guide said:  Roasted Malts, Muscovado Sugar, English Hops, Black Pepper, Pirate Attitude.
Dee said:  Dark, spicy but also delivering a pronounced sweetness.  Went down far too quickly for a beer with 5.9% ABV.

Beer #5:  Flying Tonight
Guide said:  Smooth drinking with a clean hoppy aftertaste and a faint sweetness.  Brewed for Halloween, a hint of sweetness comes from the addition of a small amount of blackberry juice.
Dee said:  Although the commentary accompanying this beer mentioned Halloween, it had more of a a summery feel for me.  Bronze coloured, with a white head.  Bitter, hoppy and slightly fruity aroma followed by a dry, grassy flavour with a slight sweetness.  I didn’t get the blackberries in the taste but that wasn’t a problem.  I really enjoyed this.

Beer #6:  Local Motive
Guide said:  We’ve taken our session beer, brewed especially for the Cross Keys (Kippen), and turbo-charged it with Mosaic dry-hops.  Easy-drinking but loads of flavour.  Dominant flavours/aromas: Mango, citrus, earthy pine, stone fruits.
Dee said:  Copper-coloured with a strong, hoppy aroma.  Taste was packed full of citrus and hops.  Not one for me, but Jay loved it.

Beer #7:  Old Moor Porter
Guide said:  A full bodied Victorian style porter with hints of licquorice.  The initial bitterness gives way to a smooth, mellow finish.  A bronze medal winner in the Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2008.
Dee said:  Very dark brown in colour, with a strong aroma of chocolate and pipe tobacco.  Smooth to the taste and quite bitter and earthy in flavour.  A classic Porter.

Beer #8:  Purple Haze
Guide said:  There weren’t any tasting notes in the guide, but I found this on their Twitter feed:  “Well hopped Pale Ale with an infusion of local berries.  Naturally hazy vegan ale”
Dee  said:  Distinctive only for its slight purple colour.  It was ok and I don’t regret trying it, but I wouldn’t seek it out again.

Beer #9:  Town Crier
Guide said:  Town Crier is a full-flavoured golden ale with a big voice.  The elegant straw coloured bitter has a hint of sweetness which is complemented by subtle hop flavours leading to a dry finish.  The nose of crisp fruit is apparent with a refreshing balance of taste, a bitter which is supremely consistent and full of flavour.
Dee said:  This kept attracting my attention whenever I checked through the guide.  Was it an omen?  I decided to find out:  Light gold in colour, with an aroma of apples and pears, though it was by no means a cider or perry.  Very smooth and drinkable.  I would call this one a good quaffing beer.

Beer #10:  Snowflake
Sarah Hughes Brewery (I haven’t shared the link to this brewery because it misdirects to a site selling double glazing)
Guide said:  A classic winter warmer with a flavour of candy sugar, plenty of rich malt, slight creamy alcohol and plenty of berry fruits.  Rich and warming malt and alcohol finish.
Dee said:  At 8%ABV, this was one of the strongest draught beers at the festival.  A rich bronze colour with a fruity aroma.  A strong hit of alcohol on first taste, with a warming sensation to follow.  From then on it was one to savour. 

The strongest beer of the festival was the 15% ‘Cyclone’ by Fixed Wheel/Angel Ales.  I would have liked to have tried this but decided that ten samples was enough.

Jay’s Beers

Beer #1:  Turkish Delight
Guide said:  No tasting notes were available and I couldn’t find any on line.
Jay said:  Pale and Golden, quite dry.  Came with no tasting notes, but also came as no surprise that there was plenty of rose water flavour.  A nice starter but certainly couldn’t cope with a pint of this one.  Enjoy it on a summer’s evening in the back garden.

Beer #2:  Clear Cut
Guide said:  This is our flagship Pale Ale.  We use low colour malt for a lustrous, sparkling body, and bags of American hops for big flavours of pine resin, lemon, and grapefruit.  This is crisp, clean and thrst-quenching.  This is clear cut.
Jay said:  Another pale, super dry and hop-tastic drink.  Lots of citrus and grapefruit.  A good thirst quencher for the beer garden after a long walk.

Beer #3:  Portolate
Guide said:  No tasting notes were available and I couldn’t find any on line.
Jay said:  Dark, not thick as porters/stouts can be.  Nutty and quite short in the mouth.

Beer #4:  White Stout
Guide said:  White Stout is a very pale, full bodied, strong beer.  American Columbus hops are used throughout to give massive floral and resinous character.  A pale body supports perfumy, spicy hop flavours and aromas.  Intense bitterness is balanced by forest fruits and mango.
Jay said:  Dangerously drinkable at 7.2%ABV.  Struggled with a pale coloured ale being a stout at first, but it was light, fruity, citrusy, lingering and luscious…Then you fall over.  A definite contender for beer of the festival.

Beer #5:  Cherry Dark  Jay’s Beer of the Festival
Guide said:  This black bitter uses US and Slovenian hops and is infused with cherries that subtly come through on the aftertaste.
Jay said:  I love the Titanic Brewery.  Their Plum Porter is one of my favourite ales around at the moment.  This one is also very good, though the Plum Porter pips it at the post.  Tonnes of vanilla on the nose, then pure Black Forest Gateau.  Scrap dessert – let’s have a beer.

Beer #6:  Gargle Spanner Stout
Guide said:  No tasting notes were available and I couldn’t find any on line.
Jay said:  Oh dear! The first one not really to my taste.  Too earthy.  Gave it to Dee, who liked it and said something like; dark chocolate, flat and earthy.

Beer #7:  Smith and Pepper
Guide said:  A smooth, golden ale with a zing brought about by the combination of four English hops, with the addition of a delicate, natural ingredient to provide a delightful pepper finish.
Jay said:  Crumbs! That’s unusual.  Naming is accurate and the taste is growing on me.  Nice, light and golden after some proper heavies.  This is a great quaffer.

Beer #8:  Botanical Beer
Guide said:  It’s a modern twist on an age old technique.  Banks’s Botanical Beer has a secret blend of ‘Gruit’ (herbs and spices) to complement and accentuate the hops flavours – spicy, citrusy, peppery and floral.
Jay said:  Sharp and floral on the nose.  Tangy and tart first taste.  Light and refreshing.  Interesting on the tongue.

Beer #9:  Dandelion and Burduck
Guide said:  Dark stout with the flavours of your childhood, well if you’re about 40 or over anyway!  We usually only sell this in our own Badelynge Bar where it goes down a treat!  If you like those flavours you will love this!
Jay said:  Ace!  Luscious coffee stout, hint of childhood fizzy pop, but grown up.  Green Duck do it again :-)

Dee:  As with last year’s festival, the catering was of very good quality.  Early on in the afternoon we shared a great Cornish Pasty from Select Foods.  We went for the traditional pasty, which consisted of steak, potatoes and gravy encased in a neatly formed pasty shell made from light flaky pastry.
Later on we enjoyed a delicious but very messy (isn’t that the best way to enjoy them?) hot pork bap from Pickles of Harbourne, plus a bag of pork scratchings to…erm…keep our energy levels up.

And with that, our second festival was completed.  We’ll be back in 2016.