Saturday 18 September 2010

Beer and Seafood with Rick Stein and Yours Humbly

Next Saturday is the first phase in my quest to educate gastronomes in the wonders of dining with beer. I am joining Team Rick Stein at Rick’s seafood bar in Falmouth where diners will enjoy beer and food along with explanation of how the dishes and beer are prepared along with how and why they complement each other. On the menu is

Mussels in Black Bean and Ginger with Chalky’s Bite


Mackerel Recheado with Chalky’s Bark


Lemon Posset with Honey Spice Triple


There are two sittings, one at 7:30 and one at 8:30 and the price is £15 per diner. I think it is largely sold out but there are some tickets still available. For those of you reading the blog who aren’t familiar with my beers, here’s what I have written about them in the past.

Chalky’s Bite 6.8% ABV
Chalky’s Bite was developed by Sharp's Head Brewer, Stuart Howe in association with Rick Stein. Rick wanted a beer that was the perfect partner for sea food. He also wanted it to be made from locally-sourced ingredients and be of the very finest quality.

After several months of development work Chalky’s Bite was born. Chalky’s is brewed from Cornish Maris Otter malt, Saaz and Bobek hops and pure Cornish water. It is then matured at 0oC for 2 months on fresh hops before being spiced with ground wild fennel seeds and bottled with a charge of fresh Belgian yeast. Bottles are then warm and cold conditioned for 2 months before sale. The 6.8% beer is fresh complex and sophisticated, the perfect partner to well cooked seafood.

Rick wanted a beer that would work well with seafood to sell in his restaurant and shops. I worked with Rick and his team to develop the beer. Rick was keen to use wild fennel seeds to underline the link to Cornwall and seafood. I was keen to avoid the gimmick aspect of using a novel, (aside perhaps from its use in a spice blend by Brasserie a Vapeur in Belgium), ingredient such as fennel by keeping its contribution in context with the flavour profile derived from the classic grains, hops and yeast. Fennel seeds are fairly robust in terms of their flavour contribution so the stage of addition and concentration are critical to avoiding the Pastis/Pernod sickliness which can be imparted and still deriving a significant contribution. Some of the early trial batches were so strongly aniseed they were undrinkable!

The nuts and bolts of the beer are as follows;

• The beer enjoys a slow and painstaking 5 month production process (two weeks warm fermentation, two weeks cellar temp, 2 months lagering, 2 months warm and cold bottle conditioning)
• It is brewed with pure Cornish water, floor malted Cornish Maris Otter and malted wheat with whole Hallertau Brewers Gold, Styrian Goldings and Northdown hops
• Fresh whole hops (Styrians) are added during the extensive lagering (cold conditioning) stage to impart vivid hoppy/citrus notes to work like a crisp white wine with seafood
• The beer is fermented three times with two separate strains of yeast; a Cornish yeast in warm and cold fermentation for a good full ester-fruit aroma and a Belgian yeast added to the bottle for a good spicy component in the finish and to yield some more carbonation from the residual sugars
• Wild fennel seeds are added at the end of lagering just before packaging to lock in the sweeter notes of the herb and avoid the intense liquorish/aniseed end of its flavour
• The over sweetness typical of some strong ales is prevented by the full attenuation of malt sugars through the use of a unique ‘dynamic’ fermentation carried out as the beer is circulated between two vessels during its two-week primary fermentation period
• After bottling, the beer enjoyed 6 weeks in the warmth of the Cornish summer followed by a month of cold storage in our cellars

Chalky’s Bite has won the world’s best herb and spice beer in the World Beer Awards for the last 3 years in a row and also won the Quality Drinks Awards.

Chalky’s Bark 4.5% ABV
Rick was so pleased with Bite, its success in competitions and the marketplace that he challenged me to create a sequel of parallel quality. As with Bite the design brief for the beer was a great taste, novel ingredients and to be excellent as a food partner. Rick has always been a fan of ginger beers so we opted for ginger as the novel ingredient. To contrast Bark with Bite we also selected a lower ABV (4.5%). I was keen for Bark to be a beer with ginger rather than a ginger beer. I wanted the malt hops and yeast to make as much of a contribution to the flavour as the spice. I used a hop with a lemony aroma (Brewer’s Gold) to complement the contribution of the ginger. The beer is bottle conditioned with the same yeast as Bite which helps boost the spicy notes in the aroma.

I made over 20 prototypes batches of Bark over 8 months before Rick and I were able to reach a consensus on the definitive brew. The development process has been an enjoyable and enlightening journey for both of us. The British Guild of Beer Writers were treated to a prototype of the beer when they visited in Jan 2009 the beer was judged to be a little over spiced by some. The final recipe features a much smaller proportion of ginger.

Honey Spice Triple 9.5% ABV
Honey Spice Triple is a fusion beer. A blend of UK and Belgian techniques gives a fuller more bitter version of the classic Belgian Triple. British malt and hops are fermented with Belgian sugar by a Belgian Trappist yeast. The beer is made annually in small quantities and generally sells out within a couple of months. There is however always a stock in my cellar! Tasting notes for this year’s vintage are as follows.

Rich honey and fruit notes blend with bubblegum and ripe esters on the nose. HST is a big mouthful of flavour with full barley fruits and assertive citrus hops. The finish is warmly alcoholic and surprisingly dry. This is a dangerously drinkable beer! Excellent for white meats or citrus desserts. 

I can’t emphasise enough how lucky I feel to be asked to do this by Rick. I think it says something about how beer is perceived these days that the best chefs in the UK are organising beer and food nights. It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye and a glass to your lips. On that note the sample room is a-calling!


BeerReviewsAndy said...

That sounds like a great event! wish i wasn't at the other end of the country!!

Anonymous said...



snatch_pete said...

Honey Spice Triple is very good, I enjoyed it a lot. After returning from the USA in August we cracked open various Sharps Brewery beers and split the bottles among four of us. Honey Spice Triple was the beer that got most favourable comments.

We will probably purchase some this Christmas!

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