Category Archives: Stout

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!

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New Year’s Resolution: Bread 3 of 12: Banana Bread

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Photo by Cindy Nelson via PinterestI’m a bit behind for March (sorry). I baked this bread at the end of March but haven’t got round to blogging about it yet. So basically, I had a pretty indulgent March, eating way to much bread and other naughty things. So I decided to cheat, just a little bit. Banana bread isn’t technically bread, although it has bread in the name, so ha I win. 

I decided to bake banana bread instead of a savoury loaf because it’s easier to share something sweet (or send the boyfriend off with it to football practice or work). I picked banana bread because I haven’t made it before, I like bananas and it seemed nice and simple to make. I checked out a couple of recipes online but decided on BBC Foods recipe as it had a bunch of good reviews, I added a couple of things to the recipe – just to make it my own. Here’s what I used:

  • 285g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 110g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tbp vanilla extract (good quality)
  • handful of poppy seeds
  • 40ml buttermilk
  • 50ml stout (I used Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout)

The stout and poppy seeds were my own additions; I was enjoying the stout whilst I was cooking and it seemed like a good idea to substitute some of the buttermilk for some stout… The addition of poppy seeds was because, well I like poppy seeds. This recipe was really easy and fun to make and the uncooked mixture tasted almost as good as the finish article. There are a couple of key elements to making this recipe perfectly.

Firstly, make sure the oven is fully pre-heated before baking your bread, this will stop soggy or burnt bottoms which ultimately ruin any cake or bread. This recipe requires you to cream the butter and sugar; ensure there are no lumps before adding any other ingredients, the cream mixture should turn a very pale yellow colour. Then fold in the rest of the ingredients, making sure not to take all the air out of the mixture. It says to mash the bananas, I mashed 2 bananas and thinly sliced the rest to give the bread more texture. The recipe calls for it to be baked for about an hour, mine took a little bit longer but I think that’s because my oven is rubbish. The easiest way to check if it’s cooked is the most traditional way, stick a knife in it, if it comes out clean it should be cooked. The top of the bread should be firm and golden grown.

So how did it taste? This is a very naughty, moreish bread and is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of chai tea. The bread has a cake-like moistness to it and the banana, vanilla and caster sugar make it lovely and sweet. This means it doesn’t need to be served with anything on it at all. I tried a couple of slices with some toppings, one with butter and one with peanut butter – both were lovely and made me want more and more. The stout gave the banana bread a lovely rich, nutty flavour – I can’t imagine the banana bread without the addition of stout now. The poppy seeds gave the bread lots more texture, check your teeth after you’ve had a slice though.

Game Stew & Dumplings

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Game mix in the marinade

Sundays are my favourite day of the week, even though you know you’ve got to get up for work the next morning. I always feel so well rested on a Sunday and it’s my favourite day to do some cooking.

I have the advantage of living in Stockbridge and every morning there is a Stockbridge Market. It sells meats, fish, fresh vegetables and bread, sushi, coffee, vegan nibbles and lots of crafty stuff. We usually do a quick visit before walking the pup. Today I fancied something hearty and rich to start my week on a high. The meat counter had some delicious looking game mix and diced venison – that’ll do. A game stew & dumplings it is.

    • Game & venison mix
    • Bouquet garnet 
    • Fresh thyme
    • Bottle of (good) red wine
    • Bay Leaves
    • Juniper berries (can used dry ones)
    • Garlic

Marinate all these together in a casserole bowl for at least half an hour (24 hours is ideal if you have the time)

  • Plain flour
  • Diced onion, carrots and celery
  • Butter
  • Tomato puree
  • Beef stock

Separate the game mix and the marinade and lightly flour the meat. Cook on a high heat until golden brown. Take it out and put it on a plate then add a spoonful of butter to the pan and fry the onions for a couple of minutes. Turn the heat right down and add 2 tablespoons of flour and a dollop of tomato puree. Stir into a kind of paste for a minute. Then this is the nice smelling, yummy fun part – slowly add in the marinade, stirring constantly so there are no lumps. Bring this to the boil and let the mixture reduce by half. Then add 500ml of beef stock, the meat and the chopped vegetables.

Leave to slowly cook for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. 

Whilst your stew is simmering, make the dumplings.

  • Plain flour
  • Baking powder
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  • Horseradish paste or freshly grated horseradish (both work well)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Water to mix 
Dumplings are so easy to make and taste great in a stew. They go especially well with game stews because the doughy, floury dumplings mix so well with the rich, deep flavours of the game meat. I’ve added some fresh parsley and horseradish to give the dumplings a bit of an edge and to brighten up the dish. Plus, like I said, they are just so easy to make.

Firstly mix the flour, baking powder and a large pince of salt. Then mix in the chopped parsley, horseradish and enough water to create a lovely sticky dough. Spread some flour on a surface and your hands and roll the dough into about 10 circular balls (depending on how thick and doughy you want each dumpling to be). Then all you have to do is poach them in water for about 15 minutes. I roll them in a bit of melted butter straight after poaching them, the dumplings absorb the butter making them shiny and giving them added richness.

Lastly, add the dumplings to the still simmering stew, stir a couple of times to coat the dumplings in the sauce and plate up. Sprinkle over some chopped parsley if you are feeling fancy dancy.

The finished article

There you have it, game stew with horseradish dumplings, yum yum yum. I promise you this will win over any meat eater (and maybe a few vegetarians). Also trust me, make a big portion, I made enough for 4 people, I had one portion, my boyfriend had 3. Serve the rest of red wine or a dark ale, a stout preferably.
Enjoy!

Black Isle Brewery Summer Shindig

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On the 4th of June I will be taking my boyfriend, dog, tent, and cool box down to the Black Isle Brewery Shindig for a hog roast followed by copious amounts of organic Black Isle beer. I thought I might tell you a little bit about their beers before I drink the brewery dry.

Black Isle brewery brew a number of different beers, you can see their full selection here. However here are a few of my favourite beers:

Organic Goldeneye Pale Ale 5.1% abv – a tangy, hoppy pale ale using sweet floral hops. A refreshing take on traditional pale ale. It is great on keg – the added fizz brings out the hops and gives this beer its edge.

Organic Hibernator Export Oatmeal Stout 7.0% abv – I just tried this one a couple of nights ago for the first time and let me just say, wow. This beer is FULL of flavour (treacle, liquorice and forest fruits) and the best thing about it is you can taste the oatmeal. It is sweet, full-flavoured and filling. Apparently the fermentation process is much like that of champagne.

Black Isle Organic Red Kite Ale 4.2% abv – I have a soft spot for this beer as it’s the first ale my boyfriend has liked (saying that he drank Black Isle Blonde before, we just gave him a little nudge). This red ale is light and malty with bursts of lemon and orange. A lovely alternative to Black Isle Blonde and other light lagers.

Black Isle Organic Vanilla Porter  – Black Isle Brewery’s best kept secret. The Tap has been pleading for them to make this for months and months and finally (shhhh though – if we boast too much we might scare them away!) they are going to brew us a batch (or 2). I haven’t had the pleasure of tasting this yet but my colleagues have and according to my American teammate it is “ohhhhh myyyyy gaaaaaad!!!” I’m not sure I will be announcing the arrival of this to our customers…. I want it all for myself mwahh ha haaa.

So, if you’re out and about and see Black Isle Brewery beer give it a try, rest assured you will not be disappointed. SAVE THE PLANET, DRINK ORGANIC!

Chocolate Drops of Rain

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To celebrate my last hand-in for university, my boyfriend took me to the newly opened Edinburgh Brewdog Bar. Luckily I know the general manager and she lovingly recommended Choklat Stout by the Southern Tier Brewing Company  and can I say, well done Southern Tier, well done.

When describing this Choklat Stout, Southern Tier refers to the sacred book of Maya, which mentions a mystical beverage known as xocoati or ch-co-atle. It is thought that liquid chocolate was worthy enough to be drank by gods and goddesses. Today, chocolate is still thought of as a luxurious indulgence and what better way to celebrate its wonderful flavour than by putting it in an alcoholic beverage!

Southern Tier have created a drink that will ‘tempt your senses & renew the power & interrelation of history in every bottle.’ Let me tell you, it did the job.

Southern Tier Choklat Stout, Imperial Chocolate Stout 11%

Branding 

The stout comes in a larger bottle than usual, an almost wine-like bottle which happily fills two serving glasses like the two in the picture above. The American brewing company Southern Tier has very modern branding and labeling, using bold fonts and simplistic features. The label is decorated with four pieces of chocolate, emphasising this predominant flavour. The label includes serving suggestions and tasting notes which I’m not sure are relevant and I don’t like being told what I should taste but nevermind. The label also provides a explanation of what exactly is in this beer. 2-row barley, caramel 60 malt, barley flakes, chocolate malt, bittersweet Belgium chocolate and kettle hops: chinook and willamette to be exact.

Appearance

It is very, very dark, almost black in colour and has a viscous swirl to its texture. I would describe it as a muddy chocolate colour. It does not pour much of a head but that might have something to do with the glass it is served in.

Nose

It has an obviously distinct Belgian chocolate smell with notes of creamy latte-like coffee. The smell has some lovely layers to it and is sweet but bitter and strong yet light. The sweet Stout smell is also apparent although the chocolate is an overpowering scent.

Taste

Much like the smell, the taste of this beer comes in splendid layers. First is a bitter cocoa taste, like a dark chocolate bar with 80%+ cocoa, the beer is definitely a stout. This then softens into a lovely fluffy and sweet marshmellowy taste which coats the throat and pleases the tongue. After arrives that distinct Belgian chocolate taste, that came through so much in the smell and lingers on whilst sipping more. Lastly, the stout definitely hints towards a lambic style finish, ending again with a bitterness that balances out everything.

After a full glass I must admit I am rather happy (hic) and would say I wouldn’t like to finish the bottle myself. However this lovely bubble of marshmallow, Belgium chocolate, cocoa and caramel is something not to be missed and without a doubt is a gorgeous and memorable choklat stout.