So, “Competition time!” was the headline.
I was sat scrolling through Facebook with Dionne the other night when I spotted a post by ‘Cheers’ magazine (the excellent magazine covering events and happenings in the local beer community, well worth a read and you can usually pick it up for free in many of the better pubs in the city). They were running a competition to win 2 tickets for the 7 course Beavertown dinner at the Bottle Shop Newcastle. All you had to do was email the name of the brewery who featured on the front cover of this month’s magazine. Naturally I already knew the answer, but for those that didn’t (and there’s a handy hint here), Cheers always have the front cover of the latest magazine as their profile picture…. So I quickly emailed them with my answer: Tyne Bank Brewery and crossed my fingers. Dionne spotted what I was doing and wanted to have a go herself, so I told her what she had to do and she sent a similar email. Lo and behold, less than 24 hrs later Dionne rang me to tell me that she’d won and luckily enough she wanted me to go with her! Hurrah!
So baby sitter eventually arranged we set off for the Bottle Shop keen to get stuck into the menu dishes. Dionne and I have always shared a love of good food. We could really bore folk around us with our discussions of each and every element of any interesting dishes we are having. So it was brilliant for us both to be able to go along (yes and bore those around us with our thoughts on the food and the beer…), but actually in a scenario like this, where the tables are laid out in long rows with benches either side it almost encourages people to talk to each other. Some folk hate that but personally I love it. Always good to meet new people especially when the topic of conversation is good food and good beer!
Dionne asked me, as we were in the taxi to the venue, how much Beavertown would be involved. I said that I suspected the Bottle Shop would simply have a load of Beavertown beers on, but no one from the brewery itself would be involved. How wrong I was. There were two representatives from Beavertown present, one from the marketing/sales side of things, the other was one of the brewing team. Both got in the talking and introducing the beers and gave us a run down of the breweries history etc, very informative, very passionate about what they do, was great to see. And at the end they stuck around to talk to us all and thank us for coming along, it was an absolute pleasure!
So here’s the low down on the 7 courses and their accompanying beers.
1st Course: Honey glazed chicken wings, ham hock Terrine, mango & watercress – Gamma Ray 5.4%
Beautiful start to the dinner, and by this point I was famished…. The dish was hearty and incredibly flavoursome. Chicken was at its best, juicy and tender meat with bones removed, that lovely honey glazed edges where the flavour intensifies. Ham hock terrine was thick and packed with salty ham flavours which the Gamma Ray cut through beautifully. The mango obviously complimented the juicy flavours in the Amarillo hops of the beer. Gamma is a stella pale ale and this dish worked a treat with it.
2nd Course: Soused mackerel, poached pear, celery root, gooseberry, gem and walnut – Pearvert Phantom 4.8%
Another triumph. The Pear Phantom is a sour beer taken to the comfortable edges of sour, so refreshingly accessible. The Pear was a pronounced flavour in the beer but with the gooseberry it zinged at your tastebuds and felt crisp. The mackerel was rich and oily, but with the complimenting fruit the overall effect was cleansing. The walnut provided a meaty quality to the dish, rounding the flavour combos off perfectly.
3rd Course: King scallop, blood orange cured collar bacon, kale, lemon thyme jus – St Clements Phantom 4.8%
Kale’s a funny thing, I imagine there are those who hate it, but in this context it was delicious. For me kale is that smooth texture that set the back drop for the delicious buttery scallop and that awesome cured bacon. The bacon was full of flavour but not salty in the slightest. Again, the phantom was there to cut through the buttery scallop flavour and the oranges and lemons worked a treat with the cured bacon.
4th Course: Soy braised featherblade of beef, sirloin steak, stout onions, truffle mash, asparagus, baby carrots – Mr Hyde 13.7%
Before we even got the tickets for the evening, this was the dish I was most looking forward to. I’m a huge fan of imperial stouts and a huge fan of beef. Now as it was explained to us, they brewed a fairly pale malt wort and then mixed it with a dark sweet wort brewed separately in the original 600l kit from Dukes (which is now their pilot kit). The result was an incredibly high gravity wort that the yeast was applied to. I bet those enzymes thought all their Christmases had come at once! Clearly at 13.7% this is a big ferment for a beer, but the thick texture and the sweetness come from a high level of unfermented sugars that are left in the resulting beer. Delicious! But Usually such a bold sweet beer would be paired with a desert, some kind of chocolate or coffee flavoured affair. But here they went to build up the flavours of the dish. The sirloin married beautifully with the stout onions, which I would guess were sautéed. The featherblade of beef was just delicious though, rich and bold and never overpowered by the stout. It was an absolute delight, every inch the match I was hoping for.
5th Course: Palate cleanser – Negroni cocktail with a Bloody Ell mixer
After supping such a big beer, we were given this course as a palate cleanser, to reset our tastebuds back from the bold. The Negroni cocktail is very dry, very boozy, in contrast Bloody Ell is crisp light and refreshing but with the straw right to the bottom of the glass you effectively got the cocktail first and the Bloody Ell to wash it down, exactly as the compare told us.
6th Course: Twice baked cheshire cheese soufflé, pecan and radish salad, sesame seeds – 8 Ball 6.2%
8 Ball is a firm favourite of mine. Just in so much that its always been a very different style of IPA from what was the norm when I first had it. There’s a spicy edge to it from the rye which means its not so reliant on simply juicy hops, but that spicy edge is married to southern hemisphere hops which compliment it perfectly. So that spicy edge worked really well with the not overly strong cheese in the soufflé.
7th Course: Dark chocolate & porter fondant, peanut and banana chip granola, banana ice cream – Smog rocket 5.4%
The fondant deserts here were set in a sea of dark chocolate sauce which was awesome. Very rich and actually that worked best with the accompanying beer. Smog rocket has always had a sticky edge in my mind and it felt like drinking treacle in beer form alongside this dish. The fondant pudding was rich but light, the ice cream was incredibly creamy but the peanut and banana granola just provided a lovely crunch to the occasion.
This was the first time I’ve eaten at The Bottle Shop but I was genuinely taken aback by the quality of the food served. This isn’t just fancy pub grub, its carefully thought out cuisine with talent and flair well beyond what you’d expect. The Bottle Shop is always worth a look. They get some of the country’s best beers in and have a regularly changing line up. For me it feels alittle bit out the way tucked away in a very nice square at the far end of town to where I work, hence why I rarely get over there. However, evenings like this will always be a draw for me now. This was absolutely brilliant.
Dionne is still very much discovering beer and I think this was great for her to try new styles. She loves sour beers so the two phantoms were just about perfect beers in her mind. But what I was interested to see was what she made of the 13.7% scotch aged imperial stout, a very different kettle of fish! However, she loved it. The match to the food helped a lot but I think she will develop more a more of an interest in a broader range of beers. So much so she’s now considering joining me at Indyman this year which would be brilliant!
For me the star of the show was that Mr Hyde scotch aged imperial stout, in its own right it’s a tremendous quality beer. Texture is pure luxury, flavours are smoothly melted together and it just oozes class. Similarly the dish it was served with had tremendous depth to the flavours, rich and delightful. It was an utterly delicious pairing.
Beavertown are a great brewery, one I always keep an eye out for. So I was keen to speak to the brewer and ask more about the Tempest project, their barrel aging program. He gave me a few different ideas of whats to come in the near future and I have to say I’m very excited by what I heard. I suspect these will become highly sought after beers in 2016. But you’ll all have to form an orderly cue behind me!
The Bottle Shop seem to regularly organise these dinners with different breweries, so if you’re undecided about going let me tell you, you simply must go.
Many thanks to Cheers magazine for the tickets. We couldn’t have enjoyed it more!