Beer and pasta making with Brooklyn Brewery

Brooklyn Brewery’s Mash Tour rolled into London this week. It’s a week of various foody and cultural events in partnership with local venues and people all lubricated by BB’s marvellous beers. I joined one of the events, an educational session about pasta making, in Shoreditch.

I’m going to be honest with you. I wasn’t sure how interesting a pasta-making demonstration was going to be. I was more keen on finding out what beers Brooklyn Brewery’s new(ish) chef Andrew Gerson was going to pair with pasta – particularly those in tomato sauces which I think can be quite tricky to match. But I went with an open mind and ended up learning more than I thought I would.

The event was held at a tiny ‘pastificio’ – meaning ‘artisan’ – called Burrio e Salvia (where if you don’t want to get practical with pasta you can simply go for lunch) and was a double header with expert Sfoglina (Italian for pasta maker) Gaia Enria and the BB Chef.

Burro e Salvia, Redchurch St, E2

Burro e Salvia, Redchurch St, E2

What struck me as they talked about the importance of high quality, fresh ingredients (rather than ‘pasteurised eggs from huge containers’ used by industrial pasta makers) and traditional techniques (there’ll be no pasta filled with prawns, curry or beetroot here thank you!) through to the joy of eating something fresh and handmade (best consumed no more than a day or two after it’s made) was the comparison with craft beer – and I use the term on purpose. It was at this point that pasta-making and beer didn’t seem like such an odd combination.

Andrew and Gaia each made a different pasta – he a thin, flat ribbon-like one called ‘taglierini’ and she a filled ‘tortellini’ with spinach and ricotta – and talked us though the differing techniques required for making certain types. For example ribbon pasta styles need the dough to be kept quite dry so it doesn’t stick together whereas filled pasta benefits from being wetter to provide a seal for the parcels.

A bird's eye view of the pasta making

A bird’s eye view of the pasta making

But what I really wanted to know was what beers would they be matched with and how would the pairings work. I didn’t have to wait too long. While Gaia showed us how to make filled pasta Andrew went to cook his taglierini. After boiling for a couple of minutes he tossed it in some browned butter with a little sage and delivered us plates of perfect little pasta nests accompanied by Brooklyn Local 1 (9%).

Andrew's pasta was cooked in a little butter and sage and paired with Brooklyn Local 1

Andrew’s pasta was cooked in a little butter and sage and paired with Brooklyn Local 1

The pasta was incredibly light and fresh and delicately creamy – although it only had butter on it. Local 1 is a sweet, golden Abbey style beer. When the two came together the sweetness of the beer was knocked back and bubblegum-like, fruity and estery flavours came to the fore – being not the biggest fan of sweet beers this was a match that worked for me.

While we were munching and quaffing away Gaia’s filled pasta was being prepared for us in a tomato sauce. It was to be paired with Brooklyn Local 2 (also 9%) – another Abbey style beer but this one a brown ale. It’s a gently earthy beer with a restrained sweetness. It’s quite dry and caramelised sugars emerge in the finish as you might expect with a Belgian-inspired beer of this style. With the pasta in tomato sauce the beer became much fruitier. Although this wasn’t a pairing that sang to me – it did show that beer and tomato sauces can be paired. I should also mention there was limited amounts of pasta so if I get the chance to revisit and reconsider I will.

Overall this Brooklyn Mash ‘Edu’ event was good fun and everyone who attended was clearly having a great time. My only complaint was I’d have like to have heard more about matching pasta (and pasta sauces) with different beers – but I guess I can use that as reason to conduct some practical research of my own and learn by trial and error!

Brooklyn Brewery Chef Andrew Gerson

Brooklyn Brewery Chef Andrew Gerson

Brooklyn Brewery is not only a producer of great beers and home of renowned Brewmaster Garrett Oliver, it is a well known brand. Events like the Brooklyn Brewery Mash show the power brands have to make beer look good and to bring it to new audiences. So as well as enjoying the Mash – which continues its London leg until Sunday 3rd August – we can make it part of the knowledge share the brewing industry is so famous for.

Find details of the remaining BB Mash events here.

If you want to learn to make pasta at Burro e Salvia there are pasta workshops throughout August.

Thanks to photographer Ev Sekkides who took all the photos used in this post. Find Ev’s website here.

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Birmingham Beer Bash reviewed pt 2

I’ve composed this post via my ipad so please forgive any quirks of layout I will edit for style and readability when back at my desk!

If you read part one of my review of Birmingham Beer Bash you’ll know I had a marvellous time and rate the event highly. But what of the beers? Well, here’s what I had to drink during my flying visit…

Celt Experience Brigid Fire Smoked Rye IPA (6.3%) keg I began with this because I wanted something that would match the pizza I was having for lunch. The man behind the bar thought it would work and we agreed the smoked elements of the beer could be good in combination with the wood fired pizza – but I could barely detect any smoked flavours in the beer. That said it was a tasty drop. An attractive opaque orangey gold coloured brew with a big, resiny, piney aroma and a fresh grapefruity flavour leading to a dry, malty payoff. It went quite well with the pizza which brought out the sweetness of the malt.

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Next up I carelessly ordered some of Hardknott Brewery’s Squiddy (3.8%) keg and was shocked that it looked… well… green. One slight criticism I have of BBB is the lack of tasting notes in its beer list – but then again I know how hard it can be to gather such info in time to print a programme. I mention this here because I did not know the Hardknott beer had squid ink in it – although given the name perhaps I should have cottoned on! It didn’t make the beer black, as per squid ink pasta, though just dark green or murky gold when held to the light. The brew had a savoury, mineraly aroma which carried through to the taste and made me think it could have food matching potential but as a stand alone drink it lacked zest and wasn’t for me.

After two keg beers I decided it was time to hit the cask bar. While I was mulling over what to have my eyes alighted on a label telling me that Cheshire Brewhouse has made a beer called Sorachi Ace (6%) cask . Being a huge fan of the Brooklyn Brewery beer featuring and named for this hop I couldn’t resist (although I wasn’t sold on the Duvel Tripel Hop which featured it). The hop is renowned for bringing dill and lemon flavours to the beer but apparently some people also taste oak (yes, I looked that up in the Oxford Companion to Beer) and this is what I got when I tasted the Cheshire Brewhouse beer – so much so that I thought it must be barrel aged. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The beer was an utterly beautiful sunshine and golden honey colour – worth hanging on your wall although of course that would either be a waste of beer or it would just end up all over your carpet as you tried to hang it! A big, fruity aroma of apricots and peaches wafted from the glass and made the pronounced woody flavour of the beer a bit of a shock. It was an intriguing shock though that sent me back for sip after sip. It’s fair to say I was quite captivated by it. As well as the wood character the beer possessed a resiny bitterness with lots of piney notes and was very dry – but eventually the fruity aroma emerged from the wood to give a rather splendid jammy aftertaste. This was my beer of the festival

Just to be sure though I hunted down the brewer and interrogated him. No barrel aging, no wood chips, nothing like that at all. The beer was bittered with Magnum and then late hopped with ‘lots’ of Sorachi Ace including the use of a hop back (essentially a straining device that can also be used as a sort of infuser to add hops after the boil stage of brewing).

Freedom Brewery’s Barrel Aged Pilsner (5%) keg had a tough act to follow. This is the brewery’s standard pilsner which spends three months maturing in Glenfarclas Whisky casks that have previously housed bourbon – still with me?? Freedom isn’t the first to barrel age a lager in Glenfarclas casks as Harviestoun’s Orach Slie has also trod this path. The Freedom effort is subtle at first but whisky flavours build with each sip.

I decided to leave my trip to the designated Sours Bar, cleverly positioned next to the new Cider Bar to catch all those cideries who think they don’t like beer, until the end of my day. A man who didn’t like sour beers was working the bar – he clearly feared for his customers (not a bad thing!) offering a taste in case I didn’t like it when I asked for a third of Magic Rock Circus of Sour White Wine/Lychee (3.5%) keg . This little beauty is low ABV and gently sour in the Berliner Weisse style. As per the barrel aging it had an aroma of white wine. It was a very pale golden yellow colour and its refreshing tangy-ness was perfect for the blistering hot summer’s day Brum was having. I couldn’t really taste the lychees but I didn’t mind. This has got to be one to bring wine-lovers across to beer.

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My last beer of the day (on site – I grabbed a can of Four Pure Session IPA (4.2%) for the train) was from a brewery I keep hearing of but had not managed to sample any beers from. Lovibonds Henley Sour Grapes (5.4%) keg was dusky gold and smelled like a rhubarb fool. Softly sour, it was tart, juicy and contained hints of redcurrant and raspberry followed by an appropriately cheesecake base biscuitty aftertaste. Another summer’s day joy and just the sort of beer I might have in place of a dessert. I can’t wait to sample more from Lovibonds.

And so my day at BBB was over just as other people’s evenings began. The start of the evening session began as a PA was cranked into life and the noisy but marvellous sounds of Birmingham’s own Black Sabbath began to drift through the air. Sadly I had to leave just as the party was getting started but I hope to pay a longer visit in 2015.

The third Birmingham Beer Bash is already being planned and is provisionally scheduled for 23 -25 July 2015. Keep an eye on the BBB website for official announcements/confirmation.

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Birmingham Beer Bash reviewed (Pt 1)

Late to the party, as this is its second year, here are my thoughts on Birmingham Beer Bash (BBB) which started on Thursday (24th July) and continue(d) Friday and Saturday. This is part one of my ‘review’. Look out for a follow up featuring the beers I sampled and a few further thoughts!

Part of the new breed of beer festivals – which host keg as well as cask (real ale) and bottle bars – the team behind BBB were pipped to the post by Indy Man Beer Con in setting up a festival which offered beer-lovers the chance to venture beyond cask ales. But that’s not to say it shouldn’t be thought of as a pioneer of modern mixed-dispense festivals.

Where Indy Man Beer Con trades heavily on its architecturally dramatic venue BBB is in an understated – albeit historic – event space called The Bond Co right next to the canal. Close to the shopping mecca of The Bull Ring it’s easily walkable from New Street Station, off a side street just beyond Digbeth – which can sometimes feel a little bit like walking into the back of beyond but also has an air of Brooklyn about it!

The outside area at Birmingham Beer Bash

The outside area at Birmingham Beer Bash

This year The Bash offers a number of keg bars, a cask bar, a cider bar and a sours bar all in the main space just behind where you’ll pick up your glass and programme. Food stalls occupy a covered courtyard beyond which, through a door in the left hand corner, you’ll find the token stand and the International Bar.

The benefits of a small event like this are that it makes for a publike atmosphere and you don’t have to trek miles to get the beer you want.

Inside the main bar area

Inside the main bar area

Do not think for one moment though that small means not much beer. There is a fantastic selection including all the usual suspects (meant in a good way!) – Brewdog, Thornbridge, Magic Rock, Siren, Wild Beer Co, Weird Beard et al – along with plenty of less well sung heroes and heroines of the craft/modern beer era.

As I just popped in for the Friday afternoon trade session (and was heartily welcomed and invited to stay on for the evening in exchange for a small, but reasonable fee rather than booted out the door by security staff at 4.30pm sharp as per Craft Beer Rising) I’m missing out on the beer and food matched ‘fine dining’ on offer – which I’m incredibly sad about! Two very food-oriented breweries – Wild Beer Co and Compass Brewery – feature(d) on, respectively, Friday and Saturday nights, their beers paired to some six courses of some tasty looking grub prepared by Chef Nathan Eades.

It is this sort of thing that the new beer festivals are going out of their way to include and it does leave many of the CAMRA festivals standing (do correct me if I’m wrong – I’m not a wanton CAMRA-basher).

A ‘fringe events’ programme of talks and tastings and – new this year – live music on Saturday night from a local Celtic Hard Rock trio Torous completes the line-up. I will confess that music at beer festivals has started to get my goat a bit as I’d rather be able to talk to people than have to shout above a band so I’m glad to hear it’s only a Saturday night set! Not that I don’t like a good gig (many will know of my love for New Model Army) – it’s just that although I’m happy to have a beer with my music I’m not so keen on it being the other way round.

The veridct

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Birmingham Beer Bash. I liked its atmosphere, its friendly staff, its simplicity and its beer list – which was extensive enough to be exciting and include something for all tastes but not so huge as to be overwhelming and thus delay getting stuck into the beer while spending half an hour trying to work out what to have first.

Given this is a festival thought up and run by people who could be considered amateurs (but no longer are in my opinion!) they need to be heartily congratulated for what they have achieved and the ‘professionals’ should take a look at Birmingham Beer Bash to see what sort of event is created when it’s born out of genuine love of beer rather than a drive to make money.

I’ve already written about my beer-related trips to Birmingham – which has many more places to get great beer than when I  first wrote about it (including Brewdog and Pure Bar & Kitchen) – and now the Birmingham Beer Bash exists I consider it even more of must visit destination.

 

At the time of writing – tickets for the remaining sessions of BBB have completely sold out. My advice? Book early for next year as soon as dates are announced.

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