Staffordshires Food and Drink Scene.

Category: Drink

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 

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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

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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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