A year ago I knew very little about beer. I had no idea about the variety of beer available in this country and I hadn’t heard of many of the breweries that beer lovers reel off in conversation. One day last summer, however, I decided to set myself a challenge: to drink every beer on The Independent’s list of the 50 Best British beers.
Spain is not a place I associate with fine beer. Asking for “dos cerveza grande, por favour” usually delivers an ice cold lager in a frozen glass – after all this is a country with the climate for making wine.
The main course on most beer matching menus tends to be meat. Not just any meat, pork. And I’m not talking about a couple of chops or a sausage, I’m talking about roast suckling pig or trotters stuffed with chicken mousse. The kind of pig you’d eat at a feast.
Choosing a beer to match your starter can be more difficult than selecting the aperitif – which for me, usually fulfils the simple requirement of being just the lightest, most refreshing beer on the menu. Starters can be varied: a fresh seafood starter could just as easily warrant a stout as it could a bitter.
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Selecting an unknown beer to try can be a difficult business. But when the pumpclips run the length of the bar and the fridges are cluttered with colourful bottles competing for your attention, sometimes that decision can be a shallow one. Sometimes – and I hate to admit it – the beer with the prettiest label is the one that will first fill my glass for the night.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But if that book was called ‘Ginger Tosser’ would it really make it off the shelves? How about ‘Burton Snatch’? Or ‘Voluptuous Vicky’? Granted, if you are a fan of low-grade pulp erotica then you might snap up a copy of the latter but we’re not talking about books here. We’re talking about beer.
This weekend I began preparations to grow my own hops. The first crucial step to making my own beer. The rather unattractive, dark green, vine-like plant produces flowers (these are the hops), which contribute a bitter flavour to the brewing mix and offset the sweetness of the malts. You wouldn’t want to use them for anything else; however, they taste absolutely disgusting.
Last night I spent the evening settled comfortably in the Craft Beer Co pub in Islington. Cosy and snug, with a warm red carpet and an impressive selection of beers, on both keg and cask, it was the ideal place to shelter from the dreaded Spring snow.
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