Jolly Good Beer

jgb-logoI’ve refrained from saying much about this in case I bailed and left the project stillborn. Albeit I’ve not been particularly hush-hush… Anyway… I have beer in a cold-store now, and more beer on the way, quite a bit of beer all up… so this is most certainly going ahead.

What am I on about then? Simple: bringing more beer that I enjoy drinking into my part of the UK. That being Cambridgeshire and North Hertfordshire and areas thereabouts. We have some excellent pubs and some excellent local breweries, and I have nothing at all against the latter and enjoy their beer. But I just want to see a bit more variety. At the moment I get my variety mostly by drinking at home – and that’s just not right. The breweries in our area do do swaps with breweries elsewhere but they seem to bring in the same stuff over and over again. I’ve badgered breweries and pubs about this over the years and nothing much has changed… with many pubs simply saying they can’t get hold of this and that despite wanting do. FFS, we have several pubs here who can’t even get Dark Star and Thornbridge despite wanting it. (I’m not sure why, possibly due to not wanting to deal with the big distributors.)

So, thought I, if they can’t get hold of these beers… I know I can… I know breweries… I know pubs. How about joining these dots together.

Jolly Yellow Van

Jolly Yellow Van

Slowly this has come together, working out all the dull business-y bits took a while. Until now I’ve just been an office monkey so there has been a bit of a learning curve. Still have teething problems, like just discovering I have to hand a form in at a bank before I can actually pay money out of my Business Account. Useful… but I’m now ready to go. I have a big Jolly Yellow 350LWB Transit van (see right), I have sorted out an appropriate cold-store, and I have beer in it and en-route to it. The next part is getting it into pubs – several of which I already have relationships with… but for this exercise to be viable I need as many pubs as I can get. So now that I have actual beer on offer I’ll be bothering freehouses left, right, and centre. I just hope that enough are interested in something a bit different.

Hardknott Casks

Hardknott Casks

My initial selections bend a little to the conservative side – all cask and with a leaning to the lower ABV and less out-there styles. But I’ve included a scattering of IPA-style beers, some rich dark ones, and even a cask wit… to test the response from pubs. But don’t worry – my “conservative” includes great stuff like Redemption Trinity, Ilkley Mary Jane, and Hardknott Continuum – plus a lot of the core range from the same.

I’m also keen to do more than just deliver beer to pubs. I’m hoping to find some interest in more promotional activities and beer & food work as well. That’s part of why I did the Beer Academy course recently… it helps to have some sort of certificate, maybe? I’m pretty confident with my food and beer stuff, I come from an intensely foodie background (restaurant, parents are chefs, etc, etc). Also perhaps events, I’ll be getting my personal license sorted next week. Anyway – for the moment it is all about the beer.

The enterprise in question has been dubbed: Jolly Good Beer

A bit corny perhaps… but I like it. I’m an Aussie Anglophile… I like phrases like “jolly good!” Kat is responsible for the logo and will hopefully have time to brush up the website a bit soon as well. But that stuff isn’t really all that important. It is way behind: buying beer & selling beer and the vast amount of paperwork and back-office work that involves.



For my first wave I have Hardknott, Ilkley, and Redemption to thank for trusting me to look after their excellent beer. They’re all going to a nice safe 12°C storage container nearby which I will be monitoring with a data-logger just to be sure. This is just the start however and I have another three breweries in the pipeline… and more to come. I WANT ALL THE BEER… but sensibility dictates it comes in a little at a time at the moment. Anything not getting to the area that you’d really like to see? Let me know - via email, or via Twitter.

For information on where beers do get to follow @JollyGoodBeer… I’ll let you know who’s getting the good stuff.

Additionally – if you’re in my area (Cambs, N.Herts, and nearby) and know a good freehouse who might be interested in expanding their range let me know and I’ll be along to bother them shortly.

Hardknott Pumpclips

Hardknott Pumpclips

Kitchen Experiments: British IPA Tempura

Deep frying tempuraI’ve had it in my mind for a while to try “IPA Tempura” and I bought a few bottles of IPA-type beers to do this with. About a month ago, finally, the experiment happened. From an original six IPAs I picked three to try this with (to make it more manageable when only cooking for two people, plus I’d drunk one of the original six already… oops.)

The IPA-type-critters I selected were:

  • Durham Brewery “Bombay 106″ (7.0%) – styled as a “traditional IPA” this uses pale malts and a lot of British hops, it is dry-hopped with Goldings. What we get in the mouth is a big earthy IPA – full of peppery spice and resiny bitterness. Not your brash new-world hop-aroma-explosion, something far more cultured. Imagine it sitting in a big old leather chair, reading a leather clad tome, wearing a dinner jacket and smoking a pipe.
    Pale Malts – British Hops – EARTHY IPA
  • Hardknott “Infra Red” (6.5%) – a pretty punchy IPA-type beer, it describes itself as “oxymoronic” being a “red IPA”. Infra Red has been one of my favourite beers since I discovered it some years past. I think it may have changed a little through time, becoming just a little cleaner & lighter, less full figured – but it is certainly still a head-turner. Anyway – a rich beer with a powerful hop hit using some new-world hops.
    Darker Malt Body – American Hop Punch – RICH RUBY IPA
  • Williams Brothers “Joker” (5%) – this is more a what I consider a “British IPA”, it takes on the big American hops and combines them with a crisp clean pale malt base without the big sweet caramel note present in a lot of US IPAs. Yanks call it “balanced”, I call it beer that tastes like Werther’s Originals. That said, this Joker was a bit on the lighter side as far as the hops go – almost more of a hoppy golden ale than an IPA. Nimble, light on its feet, a beer that can very easily slip past you leaving the merest whiff of its presence.
    Pale Malts – US-Hop Dominant – CRISP LIGHT IPA

Beer Tempura Test Subjects

Now unfortunately I didn’t get a really brilliant British “pale” IPA, my favourite variety – crisp, low sweetness, light malt profile, about 6%, and super-charged with hops. This was the sort of beer I had, for some reason, expected the Joker to be… so I was a little disappointed. But oh well!


Vegetables to tempuraThings to tempura…
For “tempura-ing” I have “candy” beetroot (from my own garden), red pepper (capsicum), baby corn, carrots, and spring onions plus some defrosted frozen “baby squid”. To prepare:

  • Slice beetroot into 2mm thick slices – best to use a mandolin.
  • Slice pepper into 2mm thick rings – mandolin again.
  • Halve the baby corns.
  • Halve the spring onions lengthways and separate tops from bottoms.
  • “Matchstick” the carrot and tie in small bundles with some garlic chives.
  • Pull tentacles from squiddies, and open out and halve the bodies and give them a light cross-hatch scoring across the inner flesh.

Make sure all of the above is dry, pat dry cut surfaces and rest on paper towels.

You want to get your oil on the stove before preparing the batter. Please be careful with hot oil, it is dangerous and over-heated oil can combust! Remember: Don’t drink and fry! You really want to have a suitable thermometer to monitor your oil temperature.

I’m using a litre of sunflower oil (under £2 worth), but any oil suitable for deep-frying will do the job. Use plenty and put it in a saucepan/pot that leaves plenty of space. Preferably on a burner at the back of the stove. Get the oil in the heat – your target temperature is 180°C.

If you have a deep-fryer this is all much simpler!

Preparing tempura batterBatter…
One of the well known “secrets” of tempura is cold batter. Some recipes call for icy cold water others for everything being at fridge temperature. So two hours before preparation I put a bag of ordinary plainflour in the freezer. I put my eggs and beers into the fridge (~4°C). Then 15 minutes before production I popped my beers into the freezer too. It’s going to be one FRIGID batter.

Batter ratio based on a single large egg:

  • 1 large egg
  • 120g plain flour
  • 190ml beer/water/liquid

I have also made a “control” batter that uses ice-cold water instead of beer.

To mix the batter simply put the egg into a suitable bowl, whisk it until combined, whisk in the beer (gently, it’ll “fizz”), then mix in the flour. The flour should be very loosely mixed in – a bit lumpy is what you want. To aid this, and to seem more authentic, my mixing tool of choice is chopsticks. :)

Your oil is at 180°C… your batter is mixed (if there is any delay pop your batter in the fridge, but aim to have no delay), your tempura-bits are prepared, it is fry o’clock!

Quickly and carefully dunk an item in the batter then drop it into the hot oil. It is good to have the item a bit drippy, this adds to the tempura effect. Do a few items in quick succession – do not over-crowd. Let them fry for about a minute, then flip and give another minute before fishing out and putting on paper towel. Let the oil return to 180°C before doing the next batch.

For raw seafood that isn’t sashimi-grade you may want to fry for a little longer, experiment and work out what the “sweet spot” is. For thin small/squid like mine I think a minute extra is plenty.

Tempura vegetables - close upEnjoy!
Tempura is best enjoyed right away. If cooking for others aim to be serving straight from fryer-to-table in batches. For a more social time hang out in your kitchen with some beers. (Please be sensible with the beer whilst hot oil is in action!)

A bit of a dipping sauce is normally served with tempura – a simple one combines soy sauce umami with the zing of lemon juice or rice vinegar. Based on this I knocked up a sauce for each beer. About 4 tablespoons of the beer, 1 of soy, 1 teaspoon lemon juice (from a bottle alas), and a splash of rice vinegar “to taste”.

So – do we have a winner here? Not a clear one. Kat prefers the Joker based batter, and on the topic of the sauce “none of them” – if pressed she preferred the Bombay 106 as she enjoyed the decent beery hit it gave. I’m told I should have put less beer in the sauces :( Kat also says the Infra Red would probably be more suited to something of a pakora … there’s an idea for next time! :)

Each batter definitely had its own character – note no seasoning was used, no salt and no pepper – the dipping sauces provided some seasoning but my tasting of the batters didn’t use the sauces. All three beer batters gave a distinct “seasoned” edge, an umami, that the plain batter lacked. They also coloured up more than the plain batter – possibly due to sugars in the beer (the Infra Red batter was always noticeably darker – not surprising). The Joker batter simply tasted like a damn good batter, not specifically beery and with no bitterness. The Infra Red batter was the most true to its beer – mainly a malt profile thing, but also with a touch of hop bitterness & resin coming through. The Bombay 106 was the most definitively “beery” batter – it has a beery flavour, and the most distinct bitterness. By comparison to all three the plain batter was a bit… dull, really. None of the beer batters seemed to be better than the other for “tempura effect”, however the plain one was a little less “puffy” and more authentic in appearance.

Tempura vegetables laid out with sauces and beers

As for the dipping sauces – they had very similar characteristics, but were all more noticeably beer-based. The Joker was a smooth sauce that complemented all batters. The Infra Red was my preference – it tasted unmistakably of the beer and needed to be used in moderation. Whilst the Bombay 106 tasted like serious “beery soy”, and I didn’t really like it that much.

Were I to serve a beer battered thing to someone based off this experience which would I choose? I’m not sure – I think it would be down to context. If I simply wanted a good versatile batter the Joker is ahead of the game here – because it is a pretty normal beer with enough body to beef up the batter but simple and light enough to not distract or clash. I’m not really sure why or how it is an “IPA” but it is a good beer. If I want to showcase a beer edge then it is the other two that have that edge, with the Bombay 106 being suitable for both the squid and the vegetables. The Infra Red batter was specifically Infra Red flavoured and was a good complement to the vegetables, but was too much for the squid. If I was trying to highlight specific beer flavours matched against the beer in question it’d be the full Infra Red set I’d pick (batter, sauce, and beer).

As for pairing with tempura-everything? Again the Joker wins here. It isn’t anything crazy or different on the beer-front, but it has a good body and flavour to match the battered goodies – complementing without overwhelming.

There’s no clear winner here – but that was never the point! The point is beer batter isn’t just beer batter – the beer you choose is important. I’d be interested to know what successes, and perhaps failures, others have had with beer batters.

Right now I’m wondering how a stout would go in a batter for sweeter vegetables. Or perhaps for deep-fried black pudding… or haggis? *SQUELCH* *POP* *BOINGBOINGBOING*[1]

[1] …the sound of my heart tearing free of my chest, popping out my mouth, and bouncing off into the distance whilst making sad whimpering sounds.

Tempura squid


Beer–Matched Festive Vegetarian Dinner

This is a much belated write–up of 2011’s festive feast. It has become a habit of mine to host a dinner for folk who’re otherwise orphaned in the UK, it is a great excuse to go the extra mile in preparing and presenting great food. With, of course, the inclusion of great beer!

I have a growing tendency to be sympathetic towards vegetarians. Animal welfare concerns me greatly, I like to know that any animal that has died for me hasn’t been mistreated (including in, and after, death). However it is pretty much impossible to guarantee this and still willingly consume animal products — including eggs, milk, and cheese. If your concern is strong enough then “going veggie” is a laudable sacrifice to make in the name of animal welfare. These days I no longer make fun of vegetarians, refer to them as cattle, or try to convince them that chicken is a vegetable — well, not often. If I have a vegetarian around for a meal I always have something appropriate prepared, so for 2011 I decided: why not try going the whole hog! (Or no hog at all, as was the case.)

I also like trying to match beers to the dishes I prepare, so this brings about the second theme of this dinner: beer matching. Hopefully with vegetarian–friendly beers. (I checked and I’m pretty sure all the beers on the menu involved only the death of yeast cells & other micro–organisms.)

All in all I think both the full–vegetarian festive feast and the beer matching was a success. With my highlight being the mushroom tordelli dish matched with Hardknott Queboid. It looked and tasted stunning!

As for the festive element? Well, the dinner was held between Christmas and the new year so I tried to “festivize” it a little. Use of chestnuts, colours in the salads, spices in the pie — just light touches really. I haven’t prepared full recipes for any of the dishes, as I just didn’t have time and keeping track takes a bit of the fun out of the cooking. Consider this a TV–chef Christmas–show style of thing, where they show you an amazing array of food and an insufficient amount of information to replicate it.


Chestnut & Celeriac Soup with Saffron & Carraway Sodabread Crostini and a Roast Garlic & Chestnut Puree

Beer: Summer Wine Brewery ∼ Kahuna, NZ IPA

Chestnut & Celeriac Soup, Chestnut & Garlic Purée, Summer Wine Kahuna NZ IPA

The soup was inspired by one in the 2011 River Cottage Christmas show. Hugh prepares a chestnut & sage soup which sounded rather good and I liked the coffee–cup presentation. I love celeriac and decided to add some into the soup. Before serving the soup is warmed on the stove and a generous addition of crème fraîche is made to achieve a more desirable colour and consistency.

Sodabread is great if you need bread in a hurry. In this case the bread was leftovers, it was made the day before using milk in which a pinch of saffron threads had been soaked and a generous addition of caraway seeds. The leftover bread was cut into centimetre thick slices which were put into a low oven for 30 minutes to make them crisp.

I love the rich sweet flavour of roasted garlic cloves, the same pretty much goes for chestnuts. An equal quantity of garlic and steamed chestnut was “whizzed” in a small food processor with added olive oil to achieve the desired consistency. Grated mature goats cheese and salt were added to–taste as well.

Serve as shown in the photo!

The beer match in this case was picked to be something zesty and uplifting, a modern BritIPA seemed in order with NZ hops providing the uplift: Summer Wine’s “Kahuna” NZ IPA. It worked, much as a dry yet rich white wine would in the context.


Mixed mushroom and local “Wobbly Bottom” mature goat cheese tordelli in herbed butter with a hint of truffle. Served with festive salad of julienne snow peas, red pepper, and celeriac.

Beer: Hardknott ∼ Queboid, BelgianStyle Double IPA

Mushroom Tordelli, Festive Salad, Hardknott Queboid

Quite the looker this dish, and very easy to prepare if you have the confidence to make up a bit of pasta dough. The pasta is a typical egg pasta, rested for a couple of hours and then rolled through a pasta machine.

The filling is a simple fry–up of onion, a medely of mushrooms from the supermarket (chestnut, oyster, enoki — for example), and butter. When the onion and mushroom is nicely caramelising add crushed garlic, sizzle a little then add a splash of stock. Finally grate in plenty of mature goats cheese to create a sticky, stringy, mess. I also added a sneaky dash of truffle oil at the end.

Make up your tordelli (just big tortellini) and pop them into boiling water for just about 2 or 3 minutes when you’re ready to serve. Don’t overcrowd in the water, if doing them in batches have a warmed and lightly oiled plate handy to place them on with a bit of plastic wrap handy to put over them.

The herbed butter was made up in advance with a selection of herbs from the garden (oregano, parsley, garlic chives, rosemary — in approximate order of amount added) and a little garlic. I keep a stick of this in the freezer. Melt, but do not sizzle, a good medallion of butter per serve in a fry–pan, gently toss the tordelli in the melted herb butter and serve into warmed bowls sharing the butter out as a drizzle over each bowl. Do the drizzle at the last second, just before serving.

The salad is a colourful combination of briefly blanched snow peas, raw red capsicum, and raw celeriac. Tossed in a little lemon juice and a dash of oil.

Queueboid was picked for its richness and Belgianesque earthy tones, a nice complement to the mushroominess of this dish. The beer’s non–Belqianesque hoppy bitterness prevents the combination from being too heavy.


Warm–spiced homegrown pumpkin, toasted walnut, & local “Wobbly Bottom” soft goat cheese flan, topped with caramelised red onion.

Beer: Magic Rock ∼ Rapture, Red IPA

Pumpkin Flan, Magic Rock Rapture

We had a couple of little pumpkins in the back garden, a far–from–bumper crop from a couple of vines we’d let ramble around under the apple tree. I cannot recall the exact variety, just something we got in a free packet of seeds once. In my opinion pumpkin really needs to be roasted to get the best value out of it, roasting intensifies the flavour and sweetness of the pumpkins. So in this case they were simply cut into chunks, drizzled with a little cooking oil, and popped into a 180°C oven with a scattering of rosemary until soft. Right at the end I turn the oven up to about 250°C until black/brown crusty bits start to form on the corners of the pieces.

To be honest I can’t remember exactly what went into the flan filling, the pumpkin would have been mashed and heated in a large pot. To this I would have added any/all of: softened brown onion, a couple of handfuls of toasted walnuts, a dash of veggie stock to loosen the mix up if needed; plus grated nutmeg, ground corriander, salt, pepper, etc “to taste”. I’d have a teaspoon handy to sample the mix as I built it up and I just stop when I’m happy. I probably threw in some fresh chopped parsley too. Right at the end before putting the flan in the oven I’d have gently stirred through the crumbled soft goats cheese. In this case from Hitchin’s local Wobbly Bottom farm and picked up either at their market stall of Halsey’s Deli.

The flan topping is simply caramelised red onion. The important thing when caramelising onion for a job like this is to do it slowly in a big open frypan. The browning of caramelisation should be from a slow reduction of the water content and not burning of the onion. Start off with just a little oil and after 5 to 10 minutes when the onion is looking translucent and tacky sprinkle over just a little salt to draw more moisture out. Keep going until the onions are seemingly candied and lightly browned. If you want add and melt in a little brown caster sugar near the end for extra caramelly goodness.

To avoid making this dish too heavy I’ve skipped the usual crusty flan casing and used instead about 3 sheets of melted–butter–brushed filo pastry. The pastry is cut into squares then placed in the flan tin at angles to each other to form a sort of star. Carefully press into the flan tin (the pastry breaks easily, so this is more an action of gentle folding) and fill with the hot pumpkin mix from the stove. Top with the caramelised onion and a scattering of pumpkin seeds and a grating of a hard mature goats cheese. Into a oven at about 200C with this and bake just until the edges of the pastry are a deep goldenbrown. This won’t take long, don’t take your eyes off it!

We’re done. This is best presented on the table as a whole, perhaps with a final extra grating of the hard mature goats cheese on top.

A side–dish of quinoa was served alongside this. Dressed in a drizzle of oil and balsamic and tossed with a finely diced version of the festive–colour salad used in the tordelli dish with the addition of toasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds.

The beer match is a red hoppy ale. A red–IPA perhaps, or even a rye–PA? ;) In my case the scrumptious Magic Rock “Rapture” a rich, but not sweet, hoppy ale which I think held up well in the role of washing down the robust pumpkin flan.


Layered vanilla & wasabi white chocolate semifreddo mousse, with a rich wild berry coulis.

Beer: Brewdog ∼ Prototype 17, Whisky Cask & Raspberry Aged Lager

Vanilla & Wasabi Semifreddo, Poached Pear, Berry Coulis, BrewDog Prototype 17

White chocolate… I hate the stuff. But it makes an OK mousse, and that mousse makes for a very good semifreddo. The template here is simply to make chocolate mousse the way my mum makes it. I should write down my (probably inaccurate) version of the recipe some day as it is always popular. The difference here is the use of white chocolate instead of dark chocolate. The mousse flavouring is made by melting chocolate in some butter with a dash of brandy. Into this chocolate sauce the yolks of some number of eggs are blended (simply because it is something to do with them). Finally flavourings are added. In this case the mix is divided into two and one has a few generous teaspoons of real wasabi powder added and the other a dash of vanilla essence. Whip cream until smooth and thick, whip the whites of the eggs from the above until stiff, carefully fold the two together. Split into two bowls and carefully fold in the chocolate mix. Sorry this is entirely inadequate as a recipe! It is something I “just do” and (almost always) it works well.

If you want perfect layers then this needs to be split into three stages, making the mix each time and placing into a tin after the previous layer has set. I’m impatient and imperfect however so I do it all at once. Line loaf tins with plastic film and carefully pour the mixture in in three layers with the wasabi layer in the middle. Put the tins in the freezer.

The coulis was made using wild blackberries from nearby hedgerows and “wild”/alpine strawberries from our garden. About 200g of berries are placed in a small saucepan with a pinch of salt, a dash of brandy, and a tablespoon of caster sugar. Heat is applied until the berries are pretty much totally mush. The mix is strained through a course sieve into a bowl and then through a very fine sieve back into the cleaned saucepan. Simmer until the desired thickness is achieved and then chill.

Where did the pear come from? It is simply a pear poached in red wine and warm spices (stick of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, etc). I had these sitting in the fridge at the time and they became an impromptu addition to the plate. It rounded the dessert off quite well I felt.

The beer is another hit of berry, a crisp lager–y sort of thing from BrewDog called “Prototype 17″. It’s aged in whisky barrels with the addition of some raspberries. Served well chilled alongside this dessert it cut through the richness of the semifreddo mouse and complemented the berry flavours.

That’s it! All in all I was very happy with this foray into producing a festive vegetarian dinner. With food like this I suspect I could even survive as a vegetarian myself, maybe. Well, probably not. Next step is vegan? No… that really is a step too far. Anyway, I hope the above can provide some inspiration to any others endeavouring to produce tasty courses for the vegetarians lurking amongst us, doubly so if you’re keen on beer. To the best of my knowledge all the beers served above are also fully vegetarian–compatible. (Many beers aren’t!)
Of course it isn’t a festive feast without a final tipple and a biscuit..
Orkney Dark Island Reserve and Gingerbread House

3 Good Things: Apple, Venison, Bacon

This recipe has been devised in response to Hugh’s “Three Good Things” challenge. I am, of course, endeavouring to add beer as a sneaky fourth “good thing”. I’m adding it as a subtle addition — much the way the chefs in the TV episodes will gladly include brilliant oils, vinegars, stocks, and herbs without giving them a headline credit.

Apple and bacon stuffed venison haunch roast

I recently found myself with a whole fallow deer carcass so I have a “glut” of venison at the moment. I figured apple + venison, a rich game meat and sweet apple… seems a pretty classic match. Amongst all the various cuts are a couple of chunky roasting muscles from each haunch (the “thick flank” I believe), this recipe makes use of one of these — it weighs in at about 850g.

I uhmmed and ahhed a lot about the third ingredient. Of all the extra bits I’d put with this what would be the natural one to highlight? Which one will shine the brightest? It became a toss–up between sage and bacon, and I settled on the bacon — adding extra punch by picking smoked bacon! Apples and pork, apples and bacon. Classic!

I’ve chosen to use Russet apples for their firm texture and slightly nutty savoury flavour. As luck would have it the day before the “apple challenge” was announced we’d picked up one of each variety of apple available at our local farmshop. We tasted all of these with some cheese, apple slices make a great alternative to crackers! So we’d got a little bit of prior research in to make an informed decision about the choice of apple. The farmshop, Willingham’s Bushel Box, is at the farm where the apples are grown — so they’re supremely local.

So, I present: Apple and bacon stuffed venison haunch joint, with apple gravy, and apple salad.



  • 150g sausage meat
  • 2 rashers smoked streaky bacon — roughly chopped
  • 1 small Russet apple — 5mm dice
  • sprig of roasmary
  • sprig of sage
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 3 tbsp of a rich red ale
    • I’ve used Hardknott Infra Red, a 6% and particularly hoppy red ale from Cumbria and a long–time favourite beer of mine.

Crush up all the herbs and garlic in a pestle and mortar, loosen up with a little of the beer. With remaining beer rinse the pestle out into a bowl and add the sausage meat, diced apple, and diced bacon. Thoroughly combined, using hands of course, and ideally set aside for a while in the fridge so the flavours can develop.


  • Stuffing mix above
  • Venison “thick flank” — about 850g, or similar roasting cut
  • 5 or 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  • 4 small Russet apples — quartered, unpeeled
  • 6 fat garlic cloves
  • Barding fat — pork back fat is the classic
  • 250ml of the same red ale as used in the stuffing
  • Some plain cotton string
  • A large sprig of sage

Preheat oven to 220°C — or higher. (As I use very a heavy cast iron baking dish I pop that that in now too. My current oven is infuriatingly small, sticking a few kg of cold iron in it really sets the temperature back so I heat the pan up with the oven.)

Turn the joint of venison “ugly side up” and open it out along the grain of the meat. This is a combination of releasing the natural seams of the muscle and cutting into muscle butterfly–style. (I actually cut about 100g of meat out too to increase the size of the cavity. The offcuts are not wasted, they make a nice pre–dinner snack — dice it, mix it with left over stuffing: fry up as little patties!)

Line the middle of the opened out joint with about a strip of thinly sliced Russet apple rounds. Right down the middle lay two strips of streaky bacon, so they half lie out of the meat, put a “sausage” of just enough stuffing down the middle so that you can still comfortably wrap the meat around the lot (left over stuffing is expected — fry it up ad enjoy!) Wrap the stuffing by bringing the bacon up and over it. Lay the roast on 3 or 4 lengths of streaky bacon, which have in turn been laid on lengths of string of a suitable length to tie up the roast. It is difficult putting this to words, and it sounds more fiddly than it is by far! See the photos to get the idea:

Stuffed Roast - Step 1

Stuffed Roast - Step 2

Stuffed Roast - Step 3

Stuffed Roast - Step 4

Spread a bit of oil in the bottom of your roasting dish and place the roast into it bacon–side–up. Surround by wedges from 3 or 4 Russet apples, and the cloves of garlic which can just go in whole and unpeeled.

Ready To Roast!

Into the oven for a sizzle! Do this until the outside has browned a little — 20 minutes in my case. Then reduce the heat to 180°C, baste with 3/4 of the beer, place the barding fat on top…

Barding time.

…and continue to roast until you reach an internal temperature of around 65°C (40 more minutes in my case). Remove from the oven and set the roast aside on a warm plate and cover with some tinfoil while it rests.

Now for the gravy...

Now the apple gravy! This couldn’t be simpler. Carefully pour as much of the fat out of the roasting tin as you can, this can be discarded (or put to another use if you’re really thrifty). Remove everything remaining from the pan and place it into a food mill. Use the remaining beer to wash all you can out of the pan too. Mill it. Done! It should be a good thick consistency and beautiful rich, roasty, caramelised, beery, apple flavour. (It took quite some effort to stop myself just standing there eating this with a spoon!)



  • 2 small Russet apples — medium dice
  • Half a medium brown onion — fine dice
  • 1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp Cider vinegar
  • Pepper/Salt
  • 3 or 4 fresh sage leaves — finely shredded

This piquant little apple salad cuts through the other rich roasty flavours in the plate — giving the whole meal a nice crisp lift. Simply toss it all together, adding pepper & salt to taste.


Slice roast, place on warmed plate, apply gravy, add a pile of fresh apple salad. Enjoy! With a glass of Hardknott’s excellent Infra Red… duh :)


Independent Manchester Beer Convention

Wow… what a weekend!

IMBC Keg Hall – Calm Before The Storm…

The Port Street Beer House folk behind the festival deserve our praise, and thanks, for making it happen. Above all, I hope it is a business success as well as a huge social success. We need more @IndyManBeerCon gigs. I’m sure that, like myself, all beer lovers throughout the nation are hoping this is just the start… I’ve already caught wind of a potential London event of this sort kicking off for 2013.

IMBC Keg Hall – Full-Swing…

Our recent beer festival left us with empty casks that we needed to drop back at Summer Wine and Buxton breweries. Oh, look, there’s this “Indy Man Beer Con” thing happening… several of our friends will be there… could be interesting. They want volunteers too, well – why not? So on Wednesday we scooted north to Holmfirth then south over the wonderful-driving Woodhead Pass to overnight in Buxton. (For beer go to the Queen’s Head or the Old Hall Hotel – we had great condition Buxton ales in both.) Then on Thursday we popped up to Manchester to help out with the IMBC set-up… a day that predictably ended in beer. Much, maybe too much, excellent beer at BrewDog Manchester and Port Street Beer House. The evening was shared with fellow Twitter beer folk & Untapped users Kirk and Chris… as you can guess it was an evening of total beer geekery. Anyway… the next day the festival begins!

IMBC Cask Hall

Weirdly for 2 days of beer festival, I actually didn’t manage to tick off even half the beers I was interested in. Next time perhaps I should focus less on chatting & volunteering and more on the drinking part?! I’m going to list some beer highlights now… at the risk of leaving things out & alienating brewers and fellow drinkers…

  • Dark Star, Critical MassDark Star, Critical Mass (2009) – mmm… rich, dry, bretty stout. Aged since 2009 in-cask with brett yeast perhaps? I can’t find any definitive info online about this particular beer! Right up my alley though.
  • Ilkley, Green Goddess – thick, sweet, spiced dessert of a Belgian “bitter”. It magically has worked, somehow, and tastes luscious. When I was behind the cask bar, this was one of the beers people were coming back to for more.
  • Dark Star, Belgian IPA – this didn’t work for me, though many people loved it – it’s not you, it’s me… However I found it interesting, especially beside the Ilkley offering. To me there was little of that lovely American hop character left in the beer, and just a huge spike of bitterness in the middle of the palate. (Dark Star need to put more info on their website, this one isn’t there either!)
  • Wild Beer Co, Modus Operandi – a brewery I’ll be watching out for. I love “wild” beers, my nose and mouth don’t mind even a lot of wet goat, sourness, funkiness, etc. The MO was balanced & smooth though, a rich & dark saisony sorta beast.
  • Magic Juice ClownMagic Rock, Clown Juice – mainly because Stu, the Magic Juice Clown. But also because it is a great beer.
  • Hardknott, Queboid – don’t misunderstand, I don’t rate Hardknott beers just because Ann & Dave are my friends. I stalked and badgered the Hardknott folk, and eventually got to know them, because I like their beer. I’m a Queboid fan and have a small collection of bottles spanning several batches going back about 3 years. This was my first experience of it on draught, and it was goooood! Dave’s really perfecting it, if not perfected. (Though I do prefer it a few degrees warmer than it was, between 8 and 10C.) I spent some time at the Hardknott bar and did enjoy introducing people to this beer and sharing in their newfound love of Queboid. (I was in no way threatening in suggesting they should love it… really, I swear.)
  • Hop RocketBitches Brewing, Chocolate Chilli Stout – through a “hop rocket” full of chillies, and with an extra smoked naga chilli thrown in just for fun. WEAPONIZED STOUT! I had this beer for about 2 hours before topping it up with more of the stout and by that time merely placing it in the vicinity of your lips caused them to try and crawl back into my mouth and down my throat. Naga foolishness aside, the stout was a grand obsidian elixir – my favourite type of beer.
  • Buxton, Tsar – following that previous point, need I say any more?
  • @MacChater prepares @SWBrewery beery cocktailsSummer Wine – the whole mixology tasting session! I’m a flavour fiend, and this sort of monkeying around with people’s perceptions & entrenched ideas about food and drink is right up my alley. Beer as a cocktail ingredient?! Don’t be daft! … but why not? Their beers themselves are brilliant, and of course divisive as any such creatures will be. Stout with ginger? Beer with licorice? Good thing I love both ginger and licorice. The gin and Paracelsus beer cocktail was just too much gin for me, I like gin… but in this case it dominated. Less next time? The rum and Calico Jack, with chocolate orange wedge, was a huge success on my tongue. I’m going to have to buy more Calico Jack now I think. Massive thanks to @MaxChater for putting this together in collaboration with the Summer Wine dudes.
  • Lovibonds, 69 IPA – a legendary beer that I’ve never managed to get into my mouth until IMBC. It really lives up to its reputation. Lovely IPA and I really must visit Lovibonds sometime… and buy a case of it. :)
  • Tempest, Brodies, Thornbridge, Kernel, Marble… too much amazing craft beer? Never! But every one I didn’t get to experience is a wrench to the heart & a deep sobbing in the soul in memory of beers still untried. Sour beers shouldn’t go unmentioned. Cantilion on cask! The Lovibonds Sour Grapes! Oh my, the sheer diversity of it all…
IMBC Cask Bar@SWBrewery Barista & the Quantum/@NorthTeaPower collab at the coffee bar!Kegs!

For me, personally, the IMBC was actually more about people anyway. Friends who I’ve met several times like @HardKnott Dave & Ann, Twitter-personalities who I’d had yet to meet like @SimonHJohnson, even coffee gods like @HasBean Steve! Not to mention brewers… many, many excellent brewers. Also folk like myself from the fringes of the beer scene – brought together in one place by the love of really great beer. Nothing else I’ve been to in the UK is comparable… GBBF, for example, doesn’t come close. It is probably a density issue – IMBC was simply wall-to-wall with the sort of beer people you want to meet. It turned out there were people there I should have met but somehow missed, chances are we were within a couple of meters of each other. So, while the IMBC beers were astounding, it really was the people that made this festival come alive. People were the magic-ingredient, beer the not-so-secret-sauce.

The quality didn’t stop at the beer and people however. The organisers had gone out of their way to get it all right. Food wasn’t an afterthought, as it too often is. Not only was there a beer & food matched dinner available to those organised enough to book it – the general festival food was varied & exciting. Gourmet hot-dogs, brilliant quality curries, and a selection of the old staple pig products. I tried them all, everything was up to scratch. If only some didn’t run out of food so early! And COFFEE! I’m a coffee geek as well as a beer geek – quality HasBean filter coffees thanks to the wonderful people at @NorthTeaPower in the afternoon? Yes please! On top of this having @acousticcoffee Dale and @HasBean Steve at the festival was almost overload… context switching between drinking & talking coffee, and serving, drinking & talking beer almost broke me I think.

Sausage inna bun queue...

Sausage inna bun time…

Posh pie!

Posh pie!

IMBC coffee heroes!

IMBC coffee heroes!

The venue too… stunning. If you’re in Manchester you must visit the Victoria Baths. Such an exciting building to hold a beer festival in, so many nooks and crannies, such architecture! You’ll get the general idea from their own website, and some of the festival photos. If there was one downside it was the capacity of the men’s toilets. I suspect this may have been part of the reason the venue was limited to 500 tickets per session when I’m sure the bars could have supported at least 50% more. Next time I wonder if a trailer of toilets out the back might be a reasonable addition to proceedings.

The “what is craft beer” debate raged on throughout the festival. We’ll never have a satisfactory definition for something so based in the eye of the beholder. Though for me, in this moment, I’m thinking craft beer is IN the beholder. Craft beer is people. Brilliant, wonderful, friendly, diverse people.

Get some Clown Juice in you!

Get some Clown Juice in you...

Don’t just take my word for it though — here’s more: