Born on the 18th of April

The 4th July is a special day on the Old side of the Atlantic; it’s the day my eldest daughter was born. Apparently, it’s of some significance on t’other side too, being the day when (it is generally agreed that) the Declaration of Independence of the United States from Great Britain was adopted by the Continental Congress. For a short time we played with the idea that my daughter should perhaps have a suitably independent (middle) name: like Freedom or Liberty. Then we realised that she would be commemorating those darned Yankee Rebels all her life, which, well, was jolly well not on. It would, I later learn, also mean she was commemorating the day that three of the U.S. Founding Fathers, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe died. All of them, remarkably, passed away on that day. Party poopers. A later President, Calvin Coolidge, on the other hand, also added some mid-party entertainment by being born on the day (not in 1776, I should add).

However, there’s an American Beer Day that deserves to be celebrated more: the 18th of April. This was the day in 1975 when the Anchor Brewery brewed a beer that would kick start the U.S. craft beer movement, and in particular a beer style, that of the American Pale Ale. Anchor, in fact describe Liberty Ale on their website as an IPA – if it is, it is more in the English tradition, except for the incredible, resinous, peppering of hops. Liberty Ale remains not only a historical classic, but a beautiful, refined beer.

IMG_1927_fotorIt starts with the bottle and the label. Many beers sport interesting labels, but Anchor has a bottle shape it owns, mid-height, broad shouldered & rugged yet smoothly curved to appeal to the fairer sex too. The labels, printed on a thick gauge, matt and textured paper are decorated with illustration that harks back to the immediate days of independence. The beer remembers the ride of Paul Revere to warn the rebels in Concord to move their munitions as the British were on to them.

More than anything, Liberty Ale is a celebration, a veneration, of the Cascade Hop. Here, it is used in its whole cone form and you can tell. Everything about this beer is refined – not delicate necessarily – just not overplayed. It’s a luminescent, gold beer, with a bright, white, long lasting head, a natural bead of fine carbonation (no artificial carbonation here) and filigree lacing. Its aroma is pungent and piney but again restrained and leafy. To drink, this is a clean and focused beer, the hop provides beautiful, layers of hoppy, citrusy accents off a rich malty, well structured base. It is in short, sublime.

Little surprise that, just like Paul Revere’s ride, it was the start of something revolutionary.

© Beer Tinted Spectacles, 2014


(Liberty Ale is distributed in the UK by James Clay @jamesclaybeers)

Spherication… a load of balls?

This time last week, I was basking in northern pride as the participants in the Great British Menu North West heat slugged it out. Despite a walkout, the standard was still phenomenal and Simon Rogan fought off his adversary with a menu of balance, finesse and imagination.  Much like the ensuing beer choices I hear you say. 

The turn, this week, of our London and South East entrants – the region containing the majority of our population and in London, one of the gastronomic capitals of the World. The standard, in previous years was bound to be high.  But in the end it begged to differ and was something of a disappointment.

The three chefs were all Michelin Star vajewelled – Phil Howard of the Square Restaurant in Mayfair has held two Michelin Stars for almost 15 years; Marcus McGuinness, a young upstart (relatively speaking) from Hibiscus has a one, and another down the side of his sofa, and finally ex rock band drummer Graham Garrett, from the West House in Biddenden, Kent also keeps one in the barn out of the back of his Gastropub.

The issues started with the elimination of Graham Garrett.  Along with all the chefs, he made small mistakes, but his food, more than all the others spoke from the heart, showed his personality, and on the basis of his main course and dessert alone, should have seen him through.  But celebrity chef judge Jason Atherton did not agree and was wowed by McGuinness’ use of olives & asparagus in his dessert course.  Marcus is another molecular gastronomy advocate – using scientific techniques to create unusual and counter-intuitive textures and tastes. But it was all rather a triumph of style over taste with yet more spherications doing the rounds, so to speak, meaning that Phil Howard unsurprisingly romped home with his classical menu.   Let’s get into it:

For starter, Phil served a spring salad with goats’ milk puree, pickled asparagus and quails’ eggs. For me, the Goats’ milk will be the challenge – the rich, farmyard earthiness and hay aroma can be quite powerful; yet the asparagus is a dream pairing with beer.  I’m going to push the boat out here, and recommend something with some hop led backbone yet finesse. Anchor’s Liberty Ale should be a fine accompaniment.

Phil’s fish course was undoubtedly a cracker, in fact, I’m sure had it been required, it would have been the tiebreaker.  A simple, high quality ingredient, elevated from pedestrian to pedestial. Cornish mackerel with oysters, mussels, winkles & samphire was mackerel being treated with reverence: the beer should not let the dish down; and again, a balance between structure yet finesse is needed – to cope with the smoky mackerel, but not overpower the other ingredients. This is dark lager territory – if you can get hold of a bottle of Paulaner Dunkel it should be both a fine complement and foil to this fish.

The main was elegantly executed but rather lacking in imagination: roast loin of lamb with pie and mash, carrots, nettles and mint.  And a classic British meat and veg dish, needs a classic British ale to accompany it – so many to choose from here although in this case Hall & Woodhouse’s Tanglefoot would be a great choice; a little more alcoholic body to stand up to the mint, but more of a floral aroma and foretaste to not knock out the lamb.

Finally pud, rhubarb and custard souffle rounded the meal off.  A fine dessert; particularly putting a small base of rice pudding into the souffle was a cracking idea, but I’m not convinced that it will stand much of a chance in the finals. However, for now it deserves a beer to show it off in the best light, and it’s a tricky one – souffle being so light, yet rhubarb being slightly vinous and acidic, making for a tricky pairing. Well, even though I think a small serving of a stronger, more maderia-like beer could work here, on balance, I am going to plump for a lighter bodied beer to finish, with some crisp, hop bitterness. Something of a radical choice at this stage in the meal, but a terrific beer, Jever Pils (available through a few specialists in the UK) would complement, not get bullied and leave you wanting the cheese board!

What do you think?  Sound recommendations or a load of spherications?

© David Preston, Beer Tinted Spectacles 2012