Category: Food

The Canal House Birmingham

When we received the opportunity to attend the press night for New World Trading’s newest Birmingham venue, The Canal House, we were intrigued, especially when we heard they had over ’60 ales on offer’.

We have had a positive relationship with The Botanist (New World Trading Company’s other Birmingham based venue) having attended one of their Ale Tastings, and also ran a competition for one of our followers, along with 8 friends, to receive a Free Ale Tasting. We have always been impressed by the quality and diversity of the beers they have on offer and hope to see much of the same at The Canal House.

Image by Dan Sandford-Smith – www.dansmith-photography.co.uk/

The setting is beautiful, using the canal surroundings to its advantage, its faux canal house design sitting comfortably with the marina and former industrial buildings surrounding it.  The attention to detail is impressive with lots of little touches inside and outside to enhance the theme.

We are the Midlands Beer Blog, so my priority was to check out the beer list, whilst my wonderful wife couldn’t pass up the opportunity of trying one of the impressive cocktails.  The beer list is diverse, with a mixture of styles and well known brewery names along with more ‘crafty’ fair.  Beers from the likes of Peroni, Thwaites sit alongside Beavertown, Magic Rock, Wild Beer Co & Lervig.  Being big fans of Belgian beer, I was impressed to see Trappist beers, Orval and Rochfort also included in ‘The Ale Inventory’.  Check out @theanthologyofales for more detail about the beer on offer.

While my wife supped on her elaborately named cocktail, I opted for ABC’s Oatmeal Pale Ale ‘A the K’. The bar man who served us was attentive and enthusiastic, and told us about how much he had enjoyed learning about the beers they stocked.  We followed this up with a Fourpure ‘Juicebox’ before we boarded the Canal Boat Ale Tasting trip.

The boat trip was a special event for the media day, and was designed to introduce those attending to the beers available at venue.  Being a self-professed beer geek I already knew details of the beers and beer in general, and enjoyed sharing my knowledge of Trappist beers with the other on the boat.  The Ale Tasting offer a good opportunity to learn about different beer styles for the uninitiated.

After the trip we carried ours, and everyone else’s, remaining Orval to our tables.  Our tables service was fantastic, with the waitress showing great knowledge of the food and drink available.  I’m not a keen lager fan, but felt I owed it to you wonderful readers to try the tank fresh Budweiser Budvar, and I was pleasantly surprised.  This beer really benefits from being served fresh, streets ahead of what I have had from the bottle or tap previously and went perfectly with my Fish & Chips.

We are not a food blog so I won’t bore you with my thoughts, besides, there are other blogs out there who are eminently more qualified to speak on that matter including Bite Your Brum.

If you like The Botanist, you will like The Canal House, they share a lot of DNA, and there is little revolutionary about the venue, but it offers a nice venue, and sitting next to the canal drinking some decent beer is a pleasant experience.

It would be unlikely I would choose to visit The Canal House or The Botanist just for the beer, and it wouldn’t get a ticker excited, but not all my friends like beer (regardless of how much i evangelise).  These venues offer decent food, decent selection of spirits, cocktails and some interesting beers,so feel it would raise a smile for most people with in a work group night out.  I also think the more places that offer good beer, the better.

*the media night was a free event, and we did not pay for food and drink, but this did not impact our views, we care too much about beer to lie.  Check out or disclosure page for more details.

Not Long Now…Birmingham Beer Bazaar is almost here!

After all the delights and highlights of Birmingham Beer Week last month it’s time to look forward to the next event on the local beer calendar, the inaugural Beer Bazaar. Taking place from August 17th to 19th right in the city centre over 2 floors at the Studio in Cannon St it is going to be a celebration of cask and keg ales both local and from further afield. Chatting to Will, one of the organisers, recently he told me that the plan is a Wellington cask bar with plenty of one off specials which we’ll come to later, a Beer Bazaar keg bar featuring UK breweries, a Hook Norton cask bar, a Hogans cider bar, a keg bar from the guys at Tilt with a phenomenal range of beers over the 3 days, a bar from sponsors Purity, and brewery bars from Burning Soul, Fixed Wheel, Fownes, Green Duck, and Twisted Barrel. So something for everyone… And should you need something to take home, well Clink will have you covered with their bottle and can bar. And we can’t survive on just beer so food needs will be catered for by Andy Low’n’Slow, Chi gourmet sausage rolls and vegetarian and vegan options plus a variety of coffee bars featuring local roasters Quarter Horse Coffee. But we’re the Midlands Beer Blog so let’s talk beer…

First off the cask list has a great range of interesting and unique beers. Upon seeing the list I immediately broke into a smile at the first beer, Fresh Cream by Siren, an 11%Imperial Bourbon Barrel Aged Milk Stout with Coffee, Vanilla and Chocolate, normally only available in keg and bottle this has been casked exclusively for the Bazaar. Other exclusives in cask include :-

Cold Conscience, a collaboration between Abbeydale, Brewdog Sheffield & Rotherham band Alverez Kings, this is a mango and lychee infused, New Zealand hopped pale ale;

Strong Ale #1, another Abbeydale collaboration, this time with journalist and beer historian Ron Pattison and Jules Grey of Sheffield’s Hop Hideout bottle shop. They’ve dug into the archives for a William Younger recipe from 1868 to produce this 10.3% ale.

Also, Wolf’s Hood, a 9% Heather honey dipa from Ardent Brewery and Bazaar Dipa-the Wellington Cellar team got together with Chris and Rich at Burning Soul to create a 7.5% New England ipa. And then there’s Old Freddy Walker, the champion beer from Moor that has been aging for 8 months, plus Chimpagne from Blue Monkey which could win the prize for best beer name at the festival, a 10% pale crafted using…you’ve guessed it, champagne yeast.

There will also be 5 beers available in wood casks including another collaboration from the Wellington Cellar team, this time teaming up with Hook Norton to produce the 5% Tuxedo Stout

The keg lineup is stellar and features far too many great beers to mention, if you haven’t checked out the list it is pinned on Tilt’s twitter feed – @Tilt_Brum. However, from a personal standpoint I am looking forward to trying Dark Souls and Doughnuts from our friend Andy Parker at Elusive, the Life collab from Cloudwater and Other Half, the Kernal and Jester King Saison, and, to finish off one of the nights I’m sure, Sippin into Darkness from Lervig and Hoppin’ Frog.

I already know that on the local brewery bars Alex has been brewing up some special beers for Green Duck and I’m pretty sure Scott at Fixed Wheel, Chris and Rich at Burning Soul, Thomas and James at Fownes, and Richie and Carl at Twisted Barrel will not let us down with their selections either.

So there you have it…will one session be enough to sample all this beery goodness, well that dear reader is for you to decide. But we hope you support this endeavour put together by Nigel, Will, Andy, Dave, Kirk and Rich, and we hope to see many of you there.

 

Burning Soul – Grape vs Grain

 

For a brewery that is less than a year old Burning Soul are certainly making their mark in Birmingham and beyond. They’ve already won Rate Beer‘s Best New Brewery in the West Midlands and have just recently been nominated in the Midlands Food, Drink & Hospitality Awards. So of course I was excited to attend their Grape vs Grain event at Cheval Blanc in Moseley on the 31st of May.

First things first though – as well as matching 5 of their beers to food at the restaurant they had provided 8 beers for a tap takeover at the next door Dark Horse. Having had a very warm walk from work (this was in our one week of summer!) I started my evening with a new beer Eureka! a 6% IPA. It was welcomingly refreshing and light for the abv – a great start to the evening’s event.

I attended the dinner with my husband Dave and our friend James so my review is going to include some comments from them as well as their favourites in each ’round’.

Chris and Richard started off by telling the sold out crowd a bit about them and their brewery. They told us how they’d started out as home brewers with Chris not really liking beer. They home brewed as a money saving exercise however they now readily admit that a brewery was probably their most expensive idea ever. They took us back 4 years to when they started to collect brewing equipment and store it in Richard’s Nan’s garage and to their breaking point of ‘let’s just do this’ last July when they began work on the brewery. They wanted to brew ‘beer we wanted to drink’ and looked around the world for styles and flavours to develop their diverse range. They said they go for big, bold and intense flavours and they use the small batches they brew to test out recipes in their taproom (well worth a visit – it’s my new ‘local’!).

We were instructed not to pick just our favourite drink but to use our scoring sheets to note which drink went best with the food. And with that we were off!

First course – Greek Salad, Wine – Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, Beer – Zephyr Saison.

The beer is brewed with peppery Motueka hops and named Zephyr as it’s designed to be ‘light and breezy’. I felt that the beer went best and brought out the peppery flavour of the rocket whilst the wine had more citrus notes to it. On this one we were split, Dave was with me in preferring the beer pairing whilst James felt the citrus flavour of the wine was a good contrast to the peppery salad.

Second course – Pork Belly, Wine – Pinot Noir from South Africa, Beer – Mount Olympus.

Chris and Richard told us this is their ‘go to pale’ it’s crisp and dry which they assured us would cut through the fattiness of the pork. I found the wine a bit harsh but it did mellow with the food which had a sweetness to the sauce. The beer lost some of its bitterness with the pork and both Dave and I felt it didn’t really cut through the sweetness of the sauce. James although liking the wine with the food agreed the beer was a better match. Tough round this one, the wine was too boozy for our table but the beer did not tick all the boxes either. We all voted beer here as we did feel it was the better match overall.

Third course – Wings and Arancini, Wine – Chenin Blanc from South Africa, Beer – OCT.

This is the benchmark IPA for the brewery and one of their very first recipes. The plan was for the bitter, citrus flavour to cut through the spicy wings and we all agreed it did that very well. As James said ‘who drinks wine with wings?!’. A win for beer from the whole table.

Fourth Course – Aged Cheddar, Wine – Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile, Beer – Kettle Sour.

The idea here for the beer pairing was that the sourness would cut through the rich cheese and in addition Lactobacillus is used in both the cheese and beer production – a microbial marriage! This beer is hopped with my least favourite hop (Citra) however in this case the citrusy flavour from the hops cut through the rich, dense cheese. The wine was very fruity and a little heavy on the tannins. This was a tough round again, Dave was expecting to prefer the wine but in the end felt the beer was a better accompaniment. James agreed that the fruity beer was a better match and also a particularly good match to the quince jelly. Beer wins again!

Fifth course – Chocolate Brownie with Coconut Porter ice cream, Wine – Grenache from France, Beer – Coconut Porter.

This beer is now one of the most popular they make which came as a surprise to the brewers and the inclusion of the beer in the ice cream was nothing if not a work of genius! This was a very ‘grown up brownie’ and the beer was a great match to this. The wine had a nice cherry, chocolate flavour to it but we all felt that we didn’t need that sweetness on top of the brownie and ice cream. The table voted beer as the final course winner.

Once we’d finished eating our voting sheets were collected and counted up.

This is the third grape vs grain event that they’ve held and in the first 2 wine has won both times but (drum roll please) on this night beer was the winner!!

I can’t fault Cheval Blanc at all, the food, wine and atmosphere were excellent and it was a great value night out at only £25 a head. Of course the beers were top notch but it was great to have them in a different setting and see the sold out restaurant really get involved in the tastings. The background Chris and Richard shared on each beer and the food pairings was engaging and I hope that this event, and the tap takeover, encourages lots of people to seek out their tap room and enjoy more Burning Soul beer. Here’s to the next 12 months – who knows where they’ll conquer next!

“All the Pig, All the Time” at Peel & Stone Harborne

Only 12 hours after landing back in the UK after our holiday my husband Dave and I were sitting in the cosy surroundings of Peel and Stone in Harborne ready to start our ‘All the Pig, All the Time’ dinner and beer pairing.

The menu
The menu

Who can resist a menu that starts with something surely Dracula would be proud of ‘Pain Au Blood’!

The first beer was from London Fields a brewery I have to admit to not having tried before.  However after tasting their 3 Weiss Monkeys I shall be seeking them out.  It was a very crisp, pale white IPA with a sharp lemony flavour.  This sharpness of flavour worked well with the buttery croissant where the chocolate was replaced by black pudding, it was a great start food and beer wise – in fact the beer was so good Dave had a second!

The carbonara and beers
The carbonara and beers

The next course was ‘Proper Carbonara’.  Sounds simple and I guess it is but I’ve also had some awful ones!  This was not one of those – sweet crispy bacon, creamy but not heavy sauce and lashings of parmesan.  But the beer….this gem of a dish was paired with Purity’s Lawless Lager.  I have to say straight off this is not a beer I like, I find it far too malty and sweet.  I can see the idea of the pairing but the sweetness of the bacon cut through the sauce and I would have liked something with a bit more bite be that hoppyness or citrus flavours, it was a sentiment echoed on a few of the tables around us too.  Dave had the right idea and kept some of his 3 Weiss Monkeys back to try with it – a much better match.

A light break then with ‘Pig Ear Salad’  – pickled watermelon with crispy strips of pigs ears.  To be honest the only pigs ears I’d come across before were the ones you feed to dogs so I was a bit dubious but it was delicious.  This was paired with Twisted Barrel’s Saison from Another Place (MBBC 1st Birthday Special Edition).  I was so pleased to have a chance to try this beer as I missed out on the birthday party (by being on our aforementioned holiday) and it did not disappoint – lemon curd aroma with a floral, sherberty taste.  A very clean tasting beer with an slight lactose flavour (but of course not an ingredient as all their beers are vegan!).  It paired really well with the salad creating an almost margarita type flavour with the watermelon.  My favourite beer of the evening.

Roast pork, dauphinois and veg
Roast pork, dauphinois and veg

Moving onto the heavy hitters then it was ‘Roasted Pork Rump, Dauphinois, Date Jus and Roasted Veg’ paired with Anspach and Hobday’s Sea Salt and Chilli Stout.  I was a little nervous about the rich meal and beer pairing but it absolutely worked.  The beer has a rich chocolate, figgy aroma but is so light  and easy drinking.  There is a hint of the salt and the chilli is warming rather than blow your head off.  When paired with the food we also detected some more liquorice notes coming through in the beer which with salt and chilli worked well.

Finally the dessert, how would they get ‘pig’ into this we wondered?!  Turns out through lovely sweet bacon strips in the Bacon, Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Cherry concoction served as a little stack in a glass.  The beer pairing here was Redchurch’s Hoxton Stout.  A very light aroma to this one with a sweet, hoppy, vanilla flavour.  The pudding was very rich (but delicious) and this added an interesting bitterness to the beer that was not there when it was drunk alone.  An interesting mix of a rich beer with a rich flavoured dessert that created a balance.

I finished off my evening with a Almanac Horchata Milk Stout.  A slight bitter aroma to this with a sweet chocolatey flavour.  I didn’t get a lot of cinnamon or almonds as you would in the source drink but there was a fruitiness to it that balanced out the sweetness very well.

A cracking first evening back in the UK and we managed to stay awake through to the end! And as always great service and atmosphere in this little ‘hidden gem’.