Showing posts with label dark starr stout. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dark starr stout. Show all posts

Friday, June 2, 2017

To The Faithful Departed

This month's Session is being hosted by Dave over at All the Brews Fit to Pint (an excellent name for blog methinks!), and his theme is 'Late, Lamented Loves' - those beers that you loved and then lost because they are no longer brewed, where to start?

Let's jump in our zythophilic time machine and whisk ourselves back to the early 1990s, to Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland, and more specifically to the bowling alley that on Friday afternoons had a special rate of £1 per game. I was living in Inverness at the time in an effort to find a job for a few months in between my medical discharge from the British Army and going back to school to get an extra couple of Highers before heading to university. In order to get an extra tenner on my Jobseekers Allowance, I agreed to do some computer courses at a local skills agency. It was there I learnt the basics of spreadsheets, word processors, databases, etc. I say 'learnt' but really I knew all that stuff any way, it was just an easy way to get some extra cash. The extra £10 was handed out on Fridays, and so I would go up to the bowling alley and spend an hour or two attempting to perfect my technique, whilst drinking pints of Gillespie's Malt Stout.


There was something about Gillespie's that I loved more than Guinness or Murphy's, and I think it likely had something to do with it being a Scottish rather than Irish stout. Perhaps it was a trick of my teenage brain, but I was sure at the time that it had a slight dark blue hue to it. I seem to remember it being silkier than either my usual tipples, with a nicely sweetened finish that was more milk chocolate than the bittersweet chocolate finish of Murphy's. Time for a confession, I would love to get hold of a clone recipe for this and give it a bash sometime, whether or not it will live up to the memories though is anyone's guess.

Jumping back into our time machine, let's skip forward a few years, and shift continents to Crozet in Virginia, and the tasting room (such as it was in those days) at Starr Hill Brewing. It was August 2008 and I was again looking for a job, though this time because Mrs V and I had left Prague for the US, and life on a single income is no fun. Being a proactive sort, I had emailed all the local breweries, far fewer in those days, to see if they had any openings. Only Starr Hill got back to me, and so I had an interview to work behind the bar at weekends. Once the interview was done, I was given a tasting of all the beers they had available. The highlight for me was their dry Irish stout, the most award winning of that style in the US (a record that is still unbroken!), Dark Starr Stout. Now, you may be noticing a theme here, I am an unashamed lover of the black stuff. That first mouthful of Dark Starr was like the moment in Ratatouille when Anton Ego is transported back to his mother's kitchen and the simple pleasures of childhood comfort food.


When Starr Hill announced that it would no longer be part of their regular line up I was heartbroken, even though I had left the tasting room by this point, after some 5 years behind the bar. One of my favourite things to do with Dark Starr was to pour it about 10 minutes ahead of time so that it could get to the proper temperature, and seeing people's reactions to beer that isn't colder than penguin's feet. So gutted was I at Dark Starr's demise that I decided to brew my own version using the knowledge I had gleaned about the recipe of the years, and I like to think I get pretty close...


So there we have it, a couple of stouts that I have loved and now lost, if anyone has a clone for Gillespie's put it in the comments...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Beer Brine Bacon

It's fair to say that I enjoy making stuff. By 'making stuff' I don't mean building things, mechanical prowess, and being an all round jack of all trades. While I can knock together a few bits of wood to make a firewood stand, or use logs scavenged off our land to make a garden fence, I am not the kind of person who wants to have a fully functioning workshop in his garage. When I say that enjoy making stuff, I mean that I enjoy making stuff to eat and drink.

I am sure you know that I brew my own beer, but I also make bread, love baking (I do a mean almond shortbread), making chutneys and jams is a great way to kill an autumn afternoon, and recently I have started making my own bacon.

My early stabs are the curing arts were very simple, face bacon using a pig cheek, and belly bacon dry cured in little more than salt, sugar, and some spices. I get my pork bellies from our local Whole Foods, and it works out that a pound of meat, some salt, and a little time results in a bacon that puts the mass produced stuff to shame, and costs pretty much the same. Mrs V and I now refuse to buy bacon at all, which reminds me that we are running low so I should sort it out and make some more.


Being a Brit though I grew up on bacon being 'back bacon', that is taken from the loin with a bit of the belly still attached. Sure we had streaky bacon, but I always preferred a rasher of back. Confident in my curing chops (pun intended), I decided to try and source the relevant cut of meat to make a wet cured back bacon. Serendipity intervened one Saturday morning when I noticed a loin roast at Trader Joe's that bore an uncanny resemblance to what I was looking for. A little short on the belly bit, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get. My first back bacon experiment went well, and tasted great griddled in a cast iron pan.

Wet curing uses a brine of salt and water, and what is beer other than water with malt, hops, and yeast? So I thought to myself that I would make beer brined back bacon. The genesis of this idea was reading about a cure for hams used in Suffolk in England, which uses a dark beer for the liquid. While there is plenty of crossover between making ham and bacon, I wanted to research the idea of Suffolk cure bacon rather than ham, thus I came across this post on Adventures With The Pig.

Taking that post as a jumping off point, I settled on the following cure:
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 5.5oz Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout
  • 2 bay leaves
I ground up the peppercorns, coriander seed, and bay leaves in my pestle and mortar, mixed in with the salt. Having squared off the piece of meat, thus giving myself a very fine pork chop for my tea, I put said pork in a large Ziploc bag, chucked in the cure mix and rubbed it thoroughly into the pork. With that done, I poured the molasses onto the meat, and through the bag so as not to sticky up my hands, rubbed that into the meat as well. Finally I poured in the stout, sealed the bag - pushing out enough air so that the liquid covered the meat, and let it sit in the fridge for 7 days, turning each morning just to ensure an equal cure. After a week, it came out of the bag looking like this:


Having patted it dry, the now cured bacon went back in the fridge for another 7 days to dry out before slicing and freezing for future use. One thing I have learnt is that I either need a better knife for slicing the bacon or I need to invest in a meat slicer. Naturally I had a couple of slices to make sure it wasn't terrible, and indeed it was far from!


My next wet cure bacon plan is to replace the stout with Schlenkerla M?rzen so that I can get some smoky character in the finished product while I learn how to manage my smoker. I think I can safely say that another step toward my 100% homemade fried breakfast has been taken!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Thursday Drop

Mrs Velkyal had some friends round last night in order to put together their costumes for various Halloween bashes this weekend. Seeing the opportunity, I pottered off to Beer Run, book in hand, hoping for a place at the bar to sit with a fine libation, or two, and while away a couple of hours.

Eventually a space opened up at the bar and I perched myself, half pint of Samichlaus 2006 in hand and Hogwaller sandwich in tow - the Hogwaller is simply sandwich heaven, bread, ham, bacon, cheese, mustard, a finer companion for beer is hard to imagine (though maybe some caramelised onions would work in there as well?).

The half pint of Samichlaus lasted about an hour and a half, at 14% it is not something you want to be chugging, and with the minging hangover from a growler of Legend's 15.9% barleywine in mind, I wanted to savour the beer. I didn't take pictures or tasting notes, but it was deliciously boozy, sweet and smooth yet clean as all good lagers are.

This got me thinking about strong beers in general, and a thought flashed through my mind that cold fermented beers are perhaps better suited to extreme strength than their warm fermented cousins. It could of course just be my acknowledged predilection for cold fermented beers in general, but I find powerful lagers so much more pleasurable to drink than boozy ales.

Once that half pint had been supped and savoured, I ratcheted down the gears a fair bit for a pint of Left Hand's Sawtooth, which is one of my favourite British style ales being made in the States, I would love to see it on cask sometime. I rounded off with a pint of Donnybrook Stout from Victory, by now well into a discussion with a guy at the bar about the book I was reading.


A thoroughly pleasant evening finished at home with a pint of Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout from a growler, listening to the Peatbog Faeries on Spotify and with my wee Cairn Terrier at my feet. I can of no better way to spend a Thursday night.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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