For those of you lucky enough to have had tickets for last Friday’s Beer and Food Event at The Ilkley Playhouse, thank you for coming, and let me know your thoughts! And for those of you who must have had a really good excuse not to have booked your tickets in time… let me tell you all about it! Part of the increasingly popular and successful Ilkley Literature Festival, we welcomed Melissa Cole to Yorkshire to talk about beer. And as we all know (from reading last week’s blog!), beer goes rather well with food. So add to the already sparkling line-up Stephanie Moon and we had one stellar cast! Melissa Cole has been one of the foremost authorities on beer for some time, and can be found regularly improving the blogosphere (Taking the Beard out of Beer). In particular, Melissa is a champion of expanding people’s beer awareness, and disproving the myth of the “female palate”. She was also celebrating the launch of her first book at the event, Let Me Tell You About Beer (available 24th Oct from Amazon!). Stephanie Moon, former Executive Chef at Rudding Park and North East representative in last year’s “Great British Menu” (BBC2), has been working with us here at Ilkley Brewery to perfectly pair our beers and food (see last week’s blog for our “Pint Chart”).
The evening started for us back at base, where we welcomed some friends of the brewery old and new, including local MP Kris Hopkins and our longtime collaborator and butcher extraordinaire David Lishman. After a couple of warm-up pints of our latest speciality beer, a Green Hopped Ale* we took a leisurely stroll up to the Playhouse, in plenty of time to prepare the beer and do a final sound check. Stephanie and her team were already in place putting the finishing touches on the quite outstanding dishes that had been paired with our beer, and we got to work making ready the first beer for matching, Mary Jane. As Melissa introduced herself, Stephanie and the subject in hand (as if beer needs an introduction!!), 120 glasses of Mary Jane we presented to each member of the audience, along with an immaculately presented mini cone of fish and chips. Melissa talked everyone through the ins and outs of flavour matching (I won’t steal her thunder – go buy her book!) as we readied the next course: Our seasonal IXB, a beautifully coloured dark Yorkshire ale, which Stephanie had exquisitely paired with rare Yorkshire beef, in this instance cupped in a miniature Yorkshire pudding with a generous dollop of horseradish cream. No sooner had Melissa and Stephanie started gushing forth on the joys of beer and beef, at the back we were getting stuck in pulling another 120 glasses, this time of Ilkley Best, best served (did you see what I did there?!) with a Yorkshire blue cheese tartlet and plum compote.
I think we could have all gone home happy at this point, as surely it doesn’t get better than that? Oh yes it does, we haven’t even pulled out the big guns yet – Just in time for winter, our rich and thick oatmeal Stout Mary was next on the scene, beautifully balanced by a twist on Rarebit, using Stout Mary bread and Wensleydale cheese. This winter warmer was just the thing on that blustery evening, and proved almost as popular as the next offering. Ilkley Pale was accompanied by an ingenious take on bangers and mash. Stephanie inverted the norm and put the mash inside one of the aforementioned Mr Lishman’s prize-winning sausages, with a red onion compote to round it off. This perfectly complimented the strong fresh and hoppy flavour that so characterises our 4.2% pale ale. Melissa explained that the use of Nelson Sauvin Hops from New Zealand was akin to matching a grassy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
An interested audience member asked why so many of the hops being talked about were New World rather than home-grown. Melissa joked that many hops seem to take on the national caricatures of their host nation; American Amarillo, used in our Mary Jane are loud and in-your-face, the Nelson Sauvin from NZ can be laid back and fresh as the famed glaciers of the South Island. British Hops, often the stable basis for holding a beer’s flavour together, are altogether a more refined and subtle kettle of fish. They queue on your tongue, patiently waiting for your tastebuds to appreciate them. And now, the final course was queuing up. Despite conventional “wisdom” that the stronger the drink the more flavour it will have, beer is often contrary, and our Ilkley Black is a perfect example. The label of a “Mild” may put some people off, but when you allow yourself to taste it you would never know it came from that category. For what it lacks in punch (3.7%), it more than makes up for in flavour. We blend 5 different malts to achieve the perfect balance and colour, and then Stephanie came along and brought her amazing Yorkshire parkin to the party! She even added a little piece of liquorice on top to compliment the liquorice tones you get at the end of your sip. All that was left to do was to finish off the rest of the beer, for Melissa to sign copies of her book and for the whole group to regroup at Bar T’at for more beer and debriefing.
What a great night. It was so good to see so many people there, all asking questions and really getting behind the beer and food matching movement. For those of you keen to know more, please feel free to get in touch through our website, and don’t forget there’s another Beer Society Night at the Brewery on the 2nd December where you can come to the brewery, meet us, drink the beer and eat lovely food. It really just doesn’t get any better.*Green Hops are only available once a year and beers made with them are special in that the hops are not dried before transportation and storage, ahead of flavouring the beers of the world. Rather they are picked fresh and sent straight to us to use immediately. There is a window of 48 hours from vine to brew, to maintain freshness, and the result is an extraordinarily full-of-flavour, zingy beer. We have made an IPA this year, at 5%, and almost the whole batch sold out straight away… look out for it at your local alehouse and sup it while you can, as we won’t be making it again until next year!!