An evening of beer and charcuterie at the Beer Boutique

Beer BoutiqueBeer and pig, what could be better? Well, smoked beer and smoked pig perhaps? We’ll come to that later. Mid-December, thoughts of Christmas shopping on hold, we go to Putney for a small ticketed event at the craft beer shop, Beer Boutique.

The evening was organised with The Charcuterie Board and Moons Green, passionate British artisan producer of everything piggy. Quite a broad group of people from beer lovers, pig lovers (no tittering at the back) and people fancying a good evening. Nice simple format with Beer Boutique Max introducing beer and meat men introducing the meat, eating and drinking our way through six beers and six different meats.

What Max lacks in beer and brewing knowledge he more than makes up for with enthusiasm, adrenaline and genuine passion. This worked well because it broke the ice and people weren’t afraid to ask questions. Most of all it was a fun evening, no beer geekery or po-faced tasting.

The beers were all classics and the charcuterie was both beautiful and plentiful.

We kicked off with Sam Smith’s Winter Welcome and marmalade glazed ham. Both relatively undemanding but simple and classic. The slightly bocky paired well with ham glaze and neither dominated.

Saison Dupont and English saucisson sec came next. The taste of the farmyard and a perfect marriage, a really successful pairing. This classic saison has a straw flavour which matched will with the earthy pig in a charcuterie board staple.

Most adventurous on both counts were Rule of Thirds (Siren/Beavertown/Magic Rock collaboration) and guanciale, that’s cured pig cheek to you. The beer was a very good IPA but given the stellar contributors not great and the guanciale was nice, a fine way to use cheeks. Personally a straight heavily hopped Citra or Cascade with a slice of lardo might have been better. The bitter IPA cutting the high fat is a fine principle though.

Westmalle Dubbel paired venison and wild boar salami. Malty and complex, the beer held up superbly against the rich venison. Keep eating, keep drinking and layers of flavour keep coming through.

Duchesse de Bourgogne paired with rosemary bresaola. The beer, a Flanders red ale aged in oak casks, is one of my all time favourites but pairing it with charcuterie was always going to be difficult. Both beer and meat were superb. As a pairing, average.

Schlenkerla Märzen and hot smoked bacon. Do I need to say more? Rauchbiers are often described as having the smell and taste of bacon, and the Schlenkerla is the one against which they are all judged. Hot smoking of bacon is a clever twist on something we all love. Lovely.

What a great evening! I’ll say it again both the beers and charcuterie were superb. No geekery, no pretentiousness. Only disappointment was that the charcuterie was not for sale and not easily available to the public. I really hope that this is the first of many such evenings. Sign me up now.

What’s Brewing, November 2014 – Agony Column

Whats Brewing Nov14I do my best to help the troubled letter writers to What’s Brewing. After last months letter from MH of Axminster (Pubs being turned into crèches), it’s official, Children are the new battleground!

On which side is CAMRA going to come down?

JG of Glasgow believes that MH infers that children should be banned from all public places! On the other hand perhaps she would like to see beer served in crèches – now there’s an idea!

PS of Nottingham applauds the zero tolerance approach of some landlords. He is right in blaming the parents though.

PJS of Wandsworth tackles the Berliner Weisse questions raised by Roger Protz and suggests a small Berlin brewery. Of course there are numerous good British Berliner Weisses nowadays but they are not ‘real ale’, it’s ok to drink the Berlin brewed ones because…?

DS of Chelmsford is back, happy to be perceived as a ‘dead horse flogger’ in this nation of animal lovers! 1970’s style beer is hard to find, of brands that are still available the keg beers have generally improved, whereas some of the cask beers have in some cases got worse (viz. Young’s Special and many more) – think on.

Birrificio Italiano at the Finborough Arms

The unprepossessing Finborough Arms

The unprepossessing Finborough Arms

A pub on the Finborough Road, Earl’s Court, so far so bad. Add a theatre, a great keg and cask selection, and a proper landlord who just happens to know one of the leading lights of the Italian craft brewing scene – hooked. So a tap takeover and meet the brewer by Birrificio Italiano at the Finborough Arms was a no-brainer for your correspondent.

Agostino Arioli, Birrificio Italiano

Agostino Arioli, Birrificio Italiano

Agostino Arioli of Birrificio Italiano is one of the best known Italian brewers (one of 850 commercial breweries now!). In common with other brewing luminaries he preached freshness. I agree, having tasted beer straight out of the tank at breweries you get so much more flavour. Also Agostino doesn’t like to filter, I’m not convinced about this, I can see the theory of leaving everything in the beer but can also see the sense in stabilising it somewhat.

There were six beers on keg and once the theatre crowd had dispersed Agostino gave a talk. The epitome of Italian class and cool, it was entertaining and informative. My rather incomprehensive notes on the beers follow,

Tipopils – Not many wise people would disagree with landlord Jeff Bell’s choice of this for his house lager. A classic.

Imperial Pils – Comparatively weak at 5.8% by the standards of modern Imperial versions but this is another long standing B.I. beer. A substantial, full flavoured beer.

B.I. Weizen – Big banana hit! Not so spicy but a sipping hefeweizen.

La Piccola – My note on this one just says ‘Bonkers’. I seem to remember it was a good bonkers. It’s a light saison with added Sichuan pepper that gives that weird umami thing going on in a beer. I’m pleased with my one word summary.

Bibock – Quite dry for a bock, a good thing imho. A classy drink.

Nigredo – Saved for last, a black IPA, it ran out!

So this isn’t the site for long flowery descriptions of beers but there are three take home messages from this evening.

Birrificio Italiano beers are seriously well made, seriously good beers – drink them where you find them. Plan your next Italian holiday around a trip to a brewery.

Finborough Arms – don’t be fooled by the location. Landlord, beer selection and quality, food, theatre, events make this a proper good pub. If you want a quiet drink don’t go there on Chelsea matchdays though.

Quality not quantity – you don’t need 300 ho-hum best bitters and make a festival out of it. Half a dozen quality beers of interesting styles is a lot more fun.

Venue:                  7/10
Beer selection:      8/10
Beer quality:          8.5/10
Atmosphere:          8.5/10
A good night out:   9/10
Total score:            41/50, 82%