Monthly Archives: October 2012

Dark Beer on the Brain

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The beer side of my blog has been rather neglected over the past couple of months, possibly because my work-life-balance is a bit hectic at the moment and I’ve also been exploring wine more and more. However over the last couple of weeks I’ve tried some FANTASTIC beer that I just have to shout about. All of these beers are available to buy around Edinburgh and I’d seriously suggest giving them a go if you like Real Ale/dark beers.

Dark Island Reserve, Orkney Brewery

If you’re a Real Ale drinker in Scotland you’ve probably heard of Orkney Brewery and if you drink dark beer, you’ve probably heard of Dark Island. Orkney Brewery have used their hugely popular Dark Island Ale and matured it in Orkney malt whisky casks to create a beautifully strong, incredibly rich aged ale.

The high ABV of the ale (10%) means that the ale is designed to be enjoyed much like a liqueur or whisky and the bottling of the beer reflects this. The beer therefore has a much longer shelf life than a usual beer. Dark Island Reserve still has all the desirable flavours you’d expect from the original ale; dates, spices, heavy chocolate, coffee and a hint of acidity but also has the added richness and woodiness from the whisky.

Dark Island Reserve is a truly beautiful beer and although I’ve finished the bottle there is a 100% chance I’ll be buying another bottle closer to Christmas. It’s the perfect ale to savour after a long winter walk with my spaniel and I would recommend this beer to anyone that likes whisky and dark beer.

Icelandic Toasted Porter, Einstok Brewery

I saw this in a shop window and was firstly intrigued by the idea of an Icelandic brewery and then realised it was a toasted porter and HAD to try some, I’m so glad I did! The Brewery is located only 60 miles from the Arctic Circle and the water used in the brews run through prehistoric glaciers which produce some of the purest water in the world. This element could explain the clarity and crispness of the ale.

The Toasted Porter is absolutely beautiful, a thoroughly enjoyable beer.  There are obvious notes of toffee and chocolate but the beer appears to remain light and extremely smooth. It is malty and very easy to drink, I’d recommend this even to those that don’t drink dark beer. My fiance for example is not a fan of ale at all and found this really enjoyable.

We bought a couple of other Einstok beers too; Icelandic Dopplebock and White Ale, both of which are definitely worth trying but my heart lies with dark beers so the Toasted Porter was my favourite.

Milk Stout, Left Hand Brewing Co

This is one of the most awesome beers I’ve had in a long time, seriously! I bought a milk stout a couple of months ago from a brewery I’d never heard of and it really wasn’t good, I mean it was rank. So I was a bit dubious when the shop assistance recommended another milk stout. I’m not one to judge so I thought I’d give it a go.

This milk stout is sweet, totally smooth and incredibly drinkable – even pouring it into a glass was a great experience! Left Hand Brewing Co is based in Colorado in the US and I’m quickly coming round to the idea that America are making some incredible craft beers.

Back to the beer – the stout is really, really creamy without being TOO creamy and the more you drink the more you get of a lovely warming coffee flavour, I love a beer that develops! I promise you’ll be able to drink bottles and bottles of this but be careful because its medium-to-high ABV (6%) is amazingly disguised. After having a look on their website I discovered that the beer has won a load of awards, apparently it’s not just me that thinks this beer is brilliant.

Coconut Porter, Maui Brewery

I spotted a can (yes, a can) of this in one of the fridges at the Bow Bar in Edinburgh and couldn’t resist. The can was rather expensive but you only live once and how often do you see a beer brewed in Hawaii.

I really enjoyed this beer but I must admit I was a tiny bit disappointed by the depth of taste. I’ve tried a couple of Coconut Porters in the past included the brew by Stewart’s Brewery, which is really good. I have to admit I compared it a little. I think the thing that threw me the most was the fact that it was heavily carbonated, I think the coconut flavour is a lot more evident in a cask beer. The beer did however have a wonderful texture, especially considering it came out of a can! You still get hints of everything you should, malt, coffee and of course coconut.

There you have it, as you can see I’m having a bit of a moment with dark beers – I think it’s the impending winter and cold weather. Hopefully the response to this blog post will encourage me to blog more about my adventures with beer (and then I get to drink more beer too obviously).

Let me know if you’ve tried any of the above beers and tell me what you thought, beer tasting is very subjective and I’m always interesting to see what other flavours people get from the beers. Happy beer drinking!

September Cooking Challenge: Chai Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints

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The last recipe from my September Cooking Challenge is a dessert courtesy of food blog, Pass the Sushi. I did actually make these in September, just – so I successfully completed my September Cooking Challenge, go me! I probably shouldn’t have left this recipe until last, or I should have read the recipe more carefully as I didn’t realise that some of the ingredients couldn’t be bought at my local Tesco.

Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kisses for example are a Halloween/Thanksgiving themed seasonal American chocolate treat and are unavailable in shops around the UK. I spent a couple of hours searching the internet and finally found a UK-based website that sold American groceries and sweets, phew!

The recipe also called for chai concentrate which I’ve never seen in any of my local shops. I did a little Amazon search and found bottles of chai concentrate, but nothing smaller than a litre bottle which I thought would be a waste of money. I decided to improvise, I bought a box of chai tea and infused quite a few tea bags in water with some brown sugar to sweeten my concoction, I used this instead of chai concentrate.

The recipe was easy enough, mix everything together and leave to chill for an hour. Making the chai seasoning was fun and I had left-over for future recipes. The smell of the seasoning was gorgeous and filled up the kitchen, it did however make the dog sneeze! One thing I would say about the recipe is that when rolling out the cookies, be sure to leave large gaps between them on the baking tray. Mine mushed together a little and caused some of them to be oddly shaped, not the end of the world but just a little tip!

Also, after you place on the Hershey’s kisses after baking the cookies DON’T touch them at all for at least an hour. The recipe tells you this but I was curious and poked one which ultimately melted and lost its shape straight away. You’ve got to know your failures to know how to do it right!

So thankfully my final September Cooking Challenge recipe was a success and the cookies were spongy yet solid, spicy and sweet and the Hershey’s kisses added a lovely velvety pumpkin-flavoured finish. I’ll definitely be making these again, possibly for Halloween.

Thanks to all those who have been checking in to see my progress over September, hopefully one of the three recipes have appealed to you and inspired you to start your own cooking challenges! Please let me know if you cook any of the three recipes, I’d love to hear your experiences!