Saturday 25 August 2012

Brew Dog & Trof at The Deaf Institute, Manchester

The Deaf Institute café, bar and music hall on Grosvenor Road in Manchester is part of the group that owns the popular Trofs, Salutation Hotel & Pub and Gorilla (see here).  

With their BrewDog Manchester venue now open on Peter St, the Aberdeenshire-based BrewDog brewery was first started in 2007 by James Watt and Martin Dickie and has quickly established itself as the ‘naughty boy of British brewing’.

Recently, Trof and BrewDog teamed up for a ‘beer tasting and food-matching Banquet in the Deaf Institute’s Victorian Music Hall’ and I was invited along to take some photographs, drink some beer, eat some food and generally share with you what it was all about.
For £20, the ticket included tasters of some of BrewDog's award-winning beers, ales, porters and lagers such as 5am, Punk IPA, Hardcore, Dogma and Lost Dog and some of their rarities too. ‘A real journey through the ever expanding universe of craft beer’ - all paired with specially selected dishes!

On their own website proclaims BrewDog claim they are, “a post Punk apocalyptic mother fu*ker of a craft brewery.’
As I continue to grow into an ever cantankerous #GrumpyOldMan, I do find the whole sweary attitude a little tired and passé – more archaic than anarchic… however, I do in general, approve of the ‘craft beer ethos’ and ‘movement’.

One thing that bothered me recently about the London 2012 Olympics was the choice of sponsors – particularly the fact that as ‘Britain's leading brewer’ Heineken UK were granted “sole pouring rights”.

There are some 28 breweries listed on London Brewer’s Alliance website (here) and along with Britain’s largest ‘microbrewery’ BrewDog, there are numerous other ‘independents’ producing beers worthy of the great games that we put on and our Team GB athletes.

These independents include such breweries as: Dark Star, Fyne Ales, Steel City, Ilkley, Gadds’ Ramsgate Brewery and of course Manchester’s own Marble Beers - most beer connoisseurs (which I am not) would tell you that any of the companies mentioned produce tastier drinks than the “leading* brewery” Heineken UK (*using a definition that also sees Vauxhall Motors leading over Rolls Royce and Top Shop over Paul Smith or Vivienne Westwood.)

I know a counter argument would be that ‘leading’ does not mean best and that The Fat Duck or L’Enclume as Britain’s ‘best restaurants’ could logistically not have provided the same type of service needed at the Olympics that McDonald’s could offer.

I have mentioned ‘ethos’, BrewDog publish their philosophy in their ‘Manifesto for the craft beer revolution’ – point one states:Our beers are the epitome of pure punk. We brew uncompromising, bold and irreverent beer, beer with a soul and a purpose. Our approach has the same contempt of the mass beer market that the old-school punks had for pop-culture. BrewDog is a modern day rebellion against faceless corporate bureaucracy and the bland, soulless beer they industrially produce.

This ‘contempt for the mass beer market’ sees their beers now stocked in Sainsbury’s, Tesco and, every punks favourite, Waitrose… where you can also buy Country Life Butter as advertised by national treasure, John Joseph Lydon aka Johnny Rotton… “the epitome of pure punk”.

As mentioned, a beer connoisseur I am not but I do appreciate that underneath this ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric, BrewDog aim to (and have achieved) bring full flavoured, stimulating and different beers to a wider market. I may not be a regular beer drinker but as a ‘foodist’ the more interesting flavour profiles do interest me.

The first beer we tasted was the 5 A.M. SAINT, paired with Mini Yorkshire puddings, pork and sage chipolatas, tomato, apple and 5 A.M. chutney – Josie, our excellent host for the evening (from BrewDog) explained the technical stuff relating to production which included the addition of five different varieties of ‘hops’, five varieties of ‘malts’ with a twist of ‘loads of late hops and bucket-loads of dry hops’.

What all this translated as was a fresh, energetic beer with a smooth finish. Its subtle herbal notes and the fruity flavours of orange peel went really well with the sage in the sausages and the sweetness of the chutney.

The second offering was their number one seller, PUNK IPA with Punk IPA battered haddock goujons with homemade tartare sauce – the fish and its golden beer batter were excellent; billed as a return to IPA’s of our past colonial days, the tropical fruity flavours of papaya and mango contrasted well and cut through the richness of the tartare.

Up next, a Mature cheddar cheese rarebit matched with HARDCORE IPA – the Hardcore features twice the amount of hops than Punk and if then intensely ‘dry hopped’ post fermentation (a time consuming technique that apparently adds aroma and flavour at a stage when most beers are finished) – this ale certainly had a lot of intense flavours, including rich caramelly, toffee notes, with grapefruit and hibiscus flowers. With a subtle sweetness from the alcohol (9.2%) but an overall bitterness this refreshed the palate and cut through the richness of the melted cheese and would be a good match for full on flavours and spice.

For our next beer our host announced that we would be ‘going over to the darkside’ with DOGMA paired alongside Individual Lancashire cheese hot pots with homemade pickled Dogma cabbage. This turned out to be my favourite – it uses a low amount of hops compared to most BrewDog brews (just two) but ten different types of malts and heather infused honey: smoky, rich and a with hit of licorice, it really helped to pick out the flavours of the lamb and intensify the Lancashire cheese. I’d like to taste it with other red meats or game.

Next up, ALICE PORTER, paired with a blue, Brie and goat’s cheese and Alice Porter chutneys. Flavour wise, this drink took it down a notch to the previous couple of offerings – a subtle hint of vanilla sweetness with blueberry and plum notes complemented the mild cheeses. The rhubarb in the chutney also made with the Alice Porter was excellent.

The last (and possibly best) food pairing of the evening saw a rich, moist and indulgent Chocolate brownie matched with LOST DOG an imperial porter with notes of red berries created in collaboration with the award-winning Lost Abbey brewery from California. During production they went ‘hell for leather’ with amount of malts added; rum soaked raisins and rum casks also helped to created sweet, fruity, chocolaty, coffee notes reminiscent of fruit cake.

After the food had been served, a few people left but the hardcore stuck around to taste a couple of BrewDogs ‘rarities’ – the first of these being the PARADOX JURA: a robust Imperial Stout with 15% ABV – having been aged for nine months in Jura whiskey casks, there are obvious peaty, smoky, whiskey tasting notes and aromas with hints of chocolate, miso and molasses. (I want to try this with one of my wife’s rhubarb crumbles because she uses Billington's natural molasses unrefined cane sugar in the recipe.)

It was at this point that I overheard a comment that you don’t oft hear in wine drinking circles, the phrase, "That's got a fu*king good nose!" Based on the folk I met at The Deaf Institute, I’ve decided that I like the craft beer crowd – they seemed knowledgeable and interested to learn more (whereas, I’ve found that ‘wine snobs’ often come across as poncey, boring as though they think they know everything).

This wasn’t an evening about for ‘booze monsters’ aiming to see how much they could pour down their necks. It was quality not quantity… something I think the final beer of the night showed:

The final drink of the night was the one time* ‘Strongest Beer in the World’ TACTICAL NUCLEAR PENGUIN – at 32% ABV we were served what could be described as a ‘wee dram’ that resemble a spirit or sherry in aroma and appearance. The beer had apparently been double barrel aged for 14 months, maturing in Whiskey casks and then three times frozen to create the high alcohol content (and provide the name) – it was really interesting to try. BrewDog state the beer is about ‘pushing the boundaries’ and ‘ taking innovation in beer to a whole new level'.

Most certainly taking things to a new level, is the current ‘Strongest Beer in the World’ a 57.5% ABV behemoth made by a German brewery. This came about due to BrewDog’s ‘subtly named’ 41% ABV ‘SINK THE BISMARCK’ response to the beer that took the ‘title’ from the Tactical Nuclear Penguin… the ball is in now BrewDog’s court.

A good night was had by all! Service and hospitality throughout the evening from the Deaf Institute and BrewDog staff was excellent. As far as I am aware, this event was a ‘one off’ although who knows, it seemed a success and they may decide to repeat it! In the meantime, I suggest a pub crawl around visiting Trof, the Deaf Institute, BrewDog Manchester and any other venues you see along the way that offer these interesting and full flavoured tipples – but remember: drink responsibly ;-)

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