Staffordshires Food and Drink Scene.

Category: Drink

April beers with Otter’s Tears

We welcome back Phil Hardy, owner of Otter’s Tears in Burslem, for more beer recommendations this month… Following on from last month’s instalment, I thought I’d focus on breweries that…

We welcome back Phil Hardy, owner of Otter’s Tears in Burslem, for more beer recommendations this month…

Following on from last month’s instalment, I thought I’d focus on breweries that have meant a lot to me over the years – people who have become firm friends as well as brewing the beers I love and can trust to deliver.

Torrside brew in New Mills up in the High Peak. It’s a democratic set-up between 3 experienced home-brewers – Chris, Nick, and Peter – with support from their long-suffering partners, one of whom is the talented artist who designs the labels for each beer. The guys started out with the mindset of wanting to brew what they loved to drink, and this is reflected in their smoked beers, imperial strength monsters, and well-balanced hop-bombs. With that in mind, I’ve sneaked in two beers for one here.

Torrside Sto Lat GrodziskieZenkai Pale Ale, 3.7%
Part of a two-way collaboration with Bramhall’s Made Of Stone. A simple, crisp malt base allows Mosaic and Chinook hops to come shining through in the aroma. With plenty of grapefruit and mango flavours, Zenkai is a delicious session pale ale perfect for the changing season.

Sto Lat Grodziskie,  2.8%
Grodziskie is a traditional Polish beer style brewed using 100% oak-smoked wheat, and Sto Lat stays as true to the style as possible. Ultra-pale with plenty of fizz, it owes its refreshing bitterness to Polish hops. The smoke comes through particularly well in such a low ABV beer, with an end result lying somewhere in the unexplored hinterland between champagne and smoked ham! Head Brewer Chris thinks this beer perfectly represents Torrside; I think it will also appeal to the flavour loving readers of Sauce.

Northern Monk Seismic Shift DDH IPAI’ve followed Northern Monk from long before their first brew. Back even before current head brewer Brian’s mammoth, year-long training journey with some of the world’s finest brewers across multiple continents, we have a long history and friendship. The Northern Monk Patrons Project is an initiative set up to foster collaboration, creativity and community between artists, athletes and creatives across the North. This is their latest release, which features peel-able label art from amazing street-style artist Tank Petrol.

Seismic Shift Double Dry Hopped Double IPA, 8.5%
Simcoe hops feature prominently in this beer, bringing passionfruit, grapefruit and dank pine to the forefront. It carries tangerine notes of Amarillo, the tropical flavours of Citra and Mosaic and finally a touch of floral, citrus Loral. A high percentage of flaked oats in the grist, plus a touch of wheat, ensure a soft mouthfeel. Fermentation with their IPA yeast of choice leaves an accentuating sweetness with generous peach and apricot esters.

Durham Brewery DiabolusOur final beer is from Durham Brewery and is a bit of a beast. Durham have been at this brewing malarkey for a long time, so they know a thing or two about good beer. I was first introduced to them around 2010 and was immediately hooked by their mastery of tradition and willingness to embrace innovation. I helped launch their White Stout, a beer with the qualities and flavours you’d expect to find in something black as pitch, whilst being pale and transparent. I also built a Twitter-led international Imperial Stout tasting session around their beautiful Temptation Russian Imperial Stout, which leads perfectly onto the third beer: Diabolus, a variation on that brew.

Diabolus Rum Cask Aged Imperial Stout, 11.5%
In a very limited edition of just 600 bottles, this batch of Diabolus – like all the others – is a variation on the theme of Temptation. Durham have matured the beer in oak rum casks, resulting in a deep dark colour with flavours to match. Aromas of rum and black treacle with hints of oak precede a body that’s creamy and full, with strong liquorice flavours. Sharp, fresh morello cherry and damson notes cutting through this rich umami body, and the finish is long and lingering.

You can pick up April’s picks at Otter’s Tears this month, and find Phil’s March beer recommendations here.

Otter’s Tears
24 Queen Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3EG
www.otterstears.beer

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March beers with Otter’s Tears

Otter’s Tears is an independent beacon calling out to beer lovers on Burslem’s high street. The bottle shop is owned and run by Phil Hardy, who opened it in 2015…

Otter’s Tears is an independent beacon calling out to beer lovers on Burslem’s high street.

The bottle shop is owned and run by Phil Hardy, who opened it in 2015 with the goal of supplying customers with great quality, interesting beers from across the UK and the Continent. You can read the full story of Phil’s love affair with craft beer in the Spring 2019 edition of Sauce, out next week.

Beer connoisseur Phil kindly put together these tasting notes on his top picks for what you should be drinking this March. Find these beers at Otter’s Tears while stocks last, and look out for more recommendations from some of Phil’s favourite breweries in April and May.

Elusive Brewing x Weird Beard
Lord Nelson 2019, 6.8%

I met Andy Parker, owner and head brewer at Elusive, around 2010. He was in IT back then, a beer blogger and keen home-brewer. Knowing my love of saison style beer, he sent me a bottle of this to try long before he ever brewed it commercially at Weird Beard and now at his own brewery in Finchampstead. It blew me away then and still does today. Lord Nelson is a single-hopped saison designed to showcase the wonderfully aromatic Nelson Sauvin hop from New Zealand. Expect a pale and hazy beer with aromas and flavours of Sauvignon Blanc grapes and gooseberries from the hop, with bubblegum notes brought into the mix by the saison yeast.

Siren Craft Brew x Track Brewing
Strawberry Praline, 7.4%

Literally over the road from Elusive you can find Siren, joined for this brew by Manchester’s Track Brewing. The first thing that hits you as you take a sip is a tang of sharp strawberry purée, quickly enveloped by dark chocolate and roasted hazelnuts. This is a robust but smooth and creamy stout, subtly sweet with a hint of strawberry syrup. It slips down like a chocolate and strawberry milkshake topped with toasted nuts. A full-flavoured treat!

Burnt Mill x Cloudwater
Lying Low IPA, 7.4%

Cloudwater, established in 2014, took the world beer scene by storm. With a definite slant towards hazy hop-forward styles they quickly reached number two on the world brewing stage according to Ratebeer. Burnt Mill are only a couple of years old, but are clearly going in the same direction – a definite one to watch. This collaborative India Pale Ale brewed at Burnt Mill’s Suffolk brewhouse is a proper juice-bomb. Soft sweetness gives way to pithy bitterness in perfect balance. Heavily hopped with a blend of Citra, Mosaic, Enigma and Idaho-7 for aromas of ripe peach and passionfruit. With tropical fruit flavours and aromas to match, this definitely deserves a space in your beer fridge.

Otter’s Tears
24 Queen Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3EG
www.otterstears.beer

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Full of Christmas spirit

Bottle dispensary Doctor’s Orders only opened its doors in February 2018, but the passion and expertise of owner Ben (and a dash of adorable in the form of shop spaniel…

Bottle dispensary Doctor’s Orders only opened its doors in February 2018, but the passion and expertise of owner Ben (and a dash of adorable in the form of shop spaniel Billy) have seen it go from strength to strength since. Sauce caught up with Ben for our Autumn/Winter edition to gain some insight into trends in the spirit industry and glean some stellar ‘gift’ recommendations, from rum to whisky and gin.

Revel in rum

As the seasons change, so too does your palate. The colder months call to mind brown spirits, but rum has a foot in both camps. It’s at home in tropical summer cocktails, but works equally well as winter comes around as a sipper over ice.

Traditionally kept in the Caribbean or with specialist providers, rum is now more accessible to a public who are waking up to its great value proposition: You can get a 10 or 12 year old rum for the price of an 8 year old whisky. Spiced rum can be turned around in months rather than years and has a wide appeal; there are some on the sweeter side, some very complex examples, and none are taking themselves too seriously.

The wide range of island styles, distillation styles, ageing profiles, and interesting cask agents mean rum is no longer viewed as a dark, medicinal liquid that has to be mixed with coke. Foursquare are setting the standard, having won three gold medals and two trophies at this year’s International Spirit Challenge awards, including Supreme Champion for their 2005 release.

The wonder of whisky

Appreciation is growing for the very experimental whiskeys coming out of Ireland at the moment. Distillers are using a variety of different casks for ageing to enhance their flavour profiles and some of the emerging local porter cask ageings are fabulous. Whereas Scottish whisky has tended to be seen as a ‘male’ drink, especially the heavier peated examples, the new Irish whiskeys seem to appeal to both sexes. Experimentation and variety appear to be opening peoples’ minds and palates.

Meanwhile, Japanese whisky has been winning plenty of awards. Unconstrained by the same straitjacket of legislation and tradition as Scottish whiskies, we are seeing a level of innovation from Japanese distillers. They have unique flavour profiles, but we inevitably end up paying a premium for them here in the UK.

The ever popular gin

Pink and flavoured gins have been the drinks of the summer, easily overtaking the London Drys, but whether that popularity carries on into the colder months only time will tell. People have a sweet tooth, but a gin has to have prominent juniper flavours to be gin.

People are more interested now in pushing their palate and understanding why something is different. This means they are more open to experimenting and trying spirits neat, but the rebirth of gin and proliferation of tasting parties has also had an impact on manufacturers of mixers, with more premium brands coming through.

What was once seen as a throwaway is now an integral part of the drink and is carefully chosen based on whether you want it to complement or contrast with the spirit. Brands like Double Dutch are moving to develop more mixers for brown spirits.

Ben recommends…

£30-£40 price range

Garden Tiger (47% ABV): An interesting and complex gin, perfect for those who enjoy the London Dry style.

Teeling’s Small Batch (46% ABV): A fabulous everyday sipper made with a blend of malted and unmalted barley, aged in rum casks.

Doorly’s XO (40% ABV): A great example of a good, honest, unadulterated rum with none of the added sugar or flavourings you get in some other styles.

£40-£60 price range

Trevethan Chauffeur’s Reserve (57% ABV): An excellent example of a navy strength gin, perfect in a spirit-forward cocktail like a negroni or dry martini.

Redbreast Lustau Edition (46% ABV): A super Irish whiskey matured in oak before finishing in Oloroso Sherry casks from Bodegas Lustau for a year.

Foursquare 2005 (59% ABV): Simply aged in bourbon barrels in Barbados and bottled at cask strength, this is a stunning rum with plenty of flavour and nuance. One to warm the cockles.

Doctor’s Orders Bottle Dispensary
Unit 4a, Heart Of The Country Shopping Village, Lichfield, WS14 9QR
www.facebook.com/DoctorsOrdersLichfield 

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Mart’s Brewhouse & Tap opens its doors

The latest independent business to join Hanley’s burgeoning food and drink scene is Mart’s Brewhouse & Tap on Piccadilly. Right in the heart of the Cultural Quarter and directly opposite…

The latest independent business to join Hanley’s burgeoning food and drink scene is Mart’s Brewhouse & Tap on Piccadilly.

Right in the heart of the Cultural Quarter and directly opposite The Slamwich Club, which opened just a couple of months ago, Mart’s Brewhouse welcomed us with floor-length windows and a great atmosphere for its launch night on 22 June.

Sauce grabbed a few minutes from a very busy evening with Holly, who launched Mart’s Craft Beer with husband and head brewer Will back in January 2017. Originally a venture between Will and his brother, the name is in memory of their late dad.

Inspired by a trip to New York six years ago, where the craft beer scene had recently exploded, Will and Holly couldn’t find anything similar back home in Stoke-on-Trent, and so began to brew their own ales at home. They later graduated to a 1000 litre kit in an industrial unit in Knutton, selling at makers’ markets and local outlets like BottleCraft, Klay and The Hopwater Cellar while still working full time.

“The Brewhouse and Tap was just a tiny idea we had that we thought we’d do eventually – it’s happened quite a lot quicker than we thought it would!” says Holly.

Holly and Will brought Jason Barlow and Sue Grocott on board with the new venture, bringing an invaluable 20 years of experience in running bars and keeping a good cellar. Call in and you’ll be faced with a choice of 8 cask ales as well as craft and continental beers – not to mention a selection of gins and wines.

With a fresh but traditional pub feel and windows directly onto the gleaming brewery in the downstairs bar area, it’s taken a great deal of hard work to transform the building, which was empty for around four years. Most recently it housed Club International, but it seems the bold colour scheme was inherited from one of its previous incarnations as a tapas restaurant.

Going from a one barrel to a barrel brewery means the team will be able to keep the five core brews on the go – a pale ale, an IPA, a marzipan stout, a porter and an IPA brewed with tea – while also allowing room to be more adventurous.

“The good thing about us having the bigger brewery is we can start to experiment a lot more with different hops and other ingredients,” Holly explains. “The craft beer market is driven by choice – people want lots of choice and you have to be constantly changing.”

Although a kitchen is not on the cards in the near future, customers are welcome to order from neighbours like Klay and Slamwich Club and eat while they drink – a great example of local businesses supporting each other.

“I’ve lived in Hanley for nearly 10 years now,” Holly adds. “In the last 18 months or so this stretch has really opened up. The more little businesses come, the more people it will bring to the area.”

Plan are in the works to build a stage on the spacious first floor to host live bands, comedy nights, acoustic sets and so on. Brewery tours and brew-your-own masterclasses are also in the pipeline.

While Will’s looking forward to brewing on the new kit for the first time this week, the team are also keen to support other budding home brewers having fun with their own creations. The winner of a Potteries Home Brew Club competition will be along in August to brew his winning beer on the Mart’s kit.

Mart’s Brewhouse & Tap
66-68 Piccadilly
Hanley, ST1 1HX
www.facebook.com/martscraftbeer/

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Drink Aware

When it comes to alcohol, many of us are drinking less, less frequently, these days. According to market researchers IWSR, global sales of alcohol dropped 1.4% in 2016, with beer…

When it comes to alcohol, many of us are drinking less, less frequently, these days.

According to market researchers IWSR, global sales of alcohol dropped 1.4% in 2016, with beer taking a big hit. However, there’s a corresponding demand for better products when we do indulge.

There’s a thirst for more high-quality drinks made with the best ingredients.

Whilst as consumers we are spending less on alcohol we are demanding better quality products for our money.

We’re also getting more adventurous, and brands are making the most of this by finding ways to stand out with interesting flavours and innovative hybrids. Wild and foraged ingredients continue to be popular, and ‘botanical beers’ are a growing trend, with the likes of tree bark and mushrooms featuring in ingredient lists.

Wellness is another factor here, with low and no alcohol drinks coming to the fore. More and more of us are cutting down our alcohol consumption, particularly younger people.

Low alcohol wines and beers, shandies, spritzes and even ‘spirits’ are constantly being launched. Brands are also increasing vegan, organic and gluten free offerings – Skinny Booze’s vegan lager, for example, is low-calorie, low-fat and low-sugar.

Craft and heritage has been the leading force for a while now, but now that the movement is firmly established brewers and mixologists are taking the opportunity to be more adventurous and playful. They’re not to everyone’s taste, but so-called pastry stouts flavoured with everything from cacao nibs to blueberry cheesecake are becoming more popular.

Many brewers and distillers are creating limited edition brews and spirits and embarking on collaborations, as in the case of Forest Gin’s Earl Grey Gin or Fifth Spire’s Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur. This creativity is extending into category crossovers – like Jameson’s aged in beer barrels, Glenfiddich’s Winter Storm whisky aged in Canadian ice wine barrels, or vintners such as Chapel Down creating their own gin and vodka.

Social media is a game changer for cocktails, with statement serveware and stylised garnishes appearing everywhere. Take The Dial at Burton-on-Trent’s rhubarb and custard cocktail – made with a limited edition local Nelson’s Gin and served up in a Bird’s custard container.

Prosecco is enjoying huge popularity and other drinks are looking to cash in on this surge – sparkling rose cider, sparkling beer and sparkling Pinot Grigio in a can are just some of the fizzy products launched recently.

The key takeaways for alcohol producers and retailers are to be bold and think big – not necessarily within conventional boundaries. If you can also make your product fun and interesting, and tie it into the wellness trend, then so much the better.

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