Hop and Cleaver, Newcastle, June 2017

Oh the weather outside is frightful. Hopefully, smoked meat and beer will be delightful.

Despite being early June, and the start of summer, it is absolutely hammering it down with rain. It should have taken 3 hours and 5 minutes to get here by train. Due to crashes, things burning down, and a general build up of delays, it took more like 5 hours and 3 minutes to get to Newcastle. After a moist stroll from the station to the hotel, a quick dry off and then out into the rain again, back down towards the famous river and some dinner.

I’d already identified Hop and Cleaver as my dinner destination. Not even the horrendous rain could keep me from the gentle downhill stroll from Newgate Street to Sandhill. I did get rather wet. As I’m not a native of these parts, a coat was required. It protected me from the worst of the rain, but it was not enough.

Even when I got inside the Hop & Cleaver, a coat was still required. The ferocity of the rain was such that they had sprung a leak – the main bar area was rather soggy, and the large party of people arriving for an event were all milling about in a specific configuration that kept them away from the water leaking from the ceiling.

No time to worry about that, what with plenty beers to choose from. This menu needs studying…

I was swiftly shown to a table and ordered some food and drink. The first beer was Hop & Cleaver Rye IPA, a decent rye ale but not an IPA. The letters I, P and A get attached to far too many beers nowadays.

Food arrived. It had to be the “pit sarnie”, three kinds of smoked goodness in a very sturdy bun. Pulled pork, brisket and smoked sausage stuffed in a brioche bun with BBQ sauce. Man vs Food has come true on the banks of the Tyne. As you might expect in such an establishment, a distinct lack of plates, with dinner being served on some graph paper inside a bit of a seed tray, with chips in a kind of chicken wire basket…

It was utterly delicious. I love smoked and slow cooked meat. I love Man vs. Food. This was lovely stuff. And it paired well with the Hop & Cleaver Sorachi ale, although I couldn’t detect any Sorachi hop flavours, which is unusual for such a distinctive hop.

This is a great place if you like smoked meat, a quirky venue and beer made on the premises. It was definitely the right choice for dinner. I loved it, despite the lack of plates. If there weren’t other places to explore, I could have stayed here all night. Once more unto the breach my friends, once more…

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Pub of the month, February 2017 – Mason and Co

A quiet month for pub trips, with just a handful to choose from. There are a few not to choose from as well, including a dull Marstons pub with a badly kept pint and a hit and miss burrito.

A few trips to Leicester (comedy festival as usual) and one of these resulted in our first candidate for pub of the month, The Landsdowne (Orange Tree). We’d been there before, but not for a few years, so there is no MOFAD visit recorded. It’s going to be our new pre-show dining pub, as we have abandoned The Marquis Wellington after our last visit.

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A good local pint and a decent chicken burger, so we’ll definitely be back.

A couple of trips to 2016’s pub of the year, The Needle & Pin, this month. One was for a pizza and a pint after watching T2: Trainspotting, and the other was the lovely dark beer night, where we enjoyed dark beers and some tasty cheeses, and other sweet and savoury nibbles. My favourite match was an extra smoky brisket from over the road at the Hog Stop, matched with Beavertown Smog Rocket smoked porter.

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So, we move on to the winner, Mason & Co at Here East in Hackney Wick. This is located just next to the former Olympic broadcast centre from 2012, right down by the River Lee Navigation. On a lovely summer’s day you could sit out and watch canal boats drifting by. In February, you need to stay indoors.

London 2012 was a big success. Cast your mind back to Wednesday 6th July 2005. London beat Paris to host the 2012 Olympics. This led to 7 years of cheap jokes, cynicism and classic British self-deprecation.

From Danny Boyle’s wonderful opening ceremony, through to great performances from athletes and the concept of “Olympic legacy”, this part of East London has been transformed. They’ve still not finished, as you’ll spot on the walk here from Stratford International station. Loads more building work still going on and it’s going to be a few more years before everything is fully complete.

It takes just six minutes to get here from St Pancras. Six miles in six minutes on the Javelin train. By car or underground it would take you six or seven times as long as that. So this part of London is now accessible for people approaching from the north. You can now watch West Ham play at home, as they have moved away from the Boleyn Ground, with claret and blue lighting up the London Stadium.

What you get inside the bar is great beer and great food, as Mason and Company is the brainchild of Edward Mason (owner and director of The Five Points Brewing Co, based in a railway arch under Hackney Downs station) and Rachel Jones (founder of street food company “Capish?”)

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There are 20 beers on tap to choose from, as well as numerous bottles. All of these can match with some street food classics, including a meatball sub, steak brioche, and fried chicken or aubergine parms on brioche (think posh KFC).

Plenty of sides to choose from, Italo-fries (skin on fries coated in oregano salt), courgette fries, a Hackney salad (which is much nicer than it might sound, remember this area has been regenerated!) and a few other bits and pieces. It was chicken parm for me, Italian fried chicken thigh, marinara sauce, basil aioli, sautéed kale and parmesan crisp on a brioche roll. Very much a posh chicken burger, accompanied by those Italo-fries.

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Great food and great beers make this a great pub if you find yourself down at Here East. A worthy winner of pub of the month, and I’ll be back again on my next visit.

Dark Beer night at The Needle & Pin, February 2017

The latest Needle & Pin event is upon us. This one turned out to have a little twist on all of the previous beer tasting events. There was a little bit of food involved, pairing some little nibbles with a selection of 5 dark beers. Tonight’s event sold out in record time, and got expanded a few times. It seems that there are plenty of dark beer fans out there.

Once again, this feels like one of those events that you expect to find in London bars and brewery taps, so it’s really great to have it in our sleepy little market town. Let’s begin…

Gouden Carolus Classic was awarded “world’s best dark ale” at the 2012 World Beer awards, and also won gold at the 2015 awards. It pours a deep red, viscous with sweet notes or raisin, toffee and chocolate.

This was paired with some cave aged Gruyere cheese, and this was a great match, bringing out the creamy flavours of the cheese, and the sweet raisins in the beer.

Moor Stout is dark, smooth and rich, with roasted barley and bitter chocolate. Simple, unpretentious and highly drinkable, it has the hallmarks of a classic black beer, no unicorn hair, solar dust or celebrity nail clippings.

There were 2 potential matches with this one. Some Bavarian smoked cheese was first, but for me it didn’t work as it was way too subtle. I like my smoked cheeses to have little wisps of smoke coming out of them (heavily smoked) but this was too subtle for my tastes. The second match was Roquefort, and that was a winner, with the tanginess standing up very well against the heavy roast flavours of the beer.

Beavertown Smog Rocket Smoked Porter was inspired by London’s industrial revolution, when smog filled the air and the London porter was the beer of the working man. This was an original home brew recipe, using 9 different malts, including plenty of smoked Rauchmaltz from Bamberg in Germany. Big flavour hits of molasses, rasins and caramel are cut through by the resinous American Chinook hop. Smoky aromas abound, reminiscent of the smoke stacks of industrial London.

This match was my favourite of the night, smoked brisket from across the road at The Hog Stop. An extra smoky brisket was commissioned, to match up with the lovely chocolate smokiness from the Smog Rocket. Both were delicious.

Thornbridge’s Eldon is named after the Eldon Hole, one of the seven wonders of the Peak District. It is a Bourbon oak imperial stout, smooth and roasty, brewed with demerara sugar, with added complexity coming from the Bourbon soured oak. Caramel, coffee and chocolate mix with a hint of vanilla and Kentucky bourbon.

The food match for this was a piece of last minute inspiration, a Medjool date to match with some of the sweetness from the demarara sugar. The match was good, although this was probably my least favourite beer of the night. It felt a bit thin and underwhelming, unusual for a Thornbridge beer.

Finally, Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout. This award winning national champion stout is a beautifully creamy, full-bodied stout, the likes of which were brewed nearly a century ago on the very site of the Bristol Beer Factory today. Does not contain milk. Invigorating & stimulating for workers (or so they used to say). Brewed within the city of Bristol from local raw materials, sweet, black and extremely full-bodied. Unfermentable lactose sugar (added during the boil) sweetens the chocolate and black malt derived roast flavours. An historic beer, recreated for the modern drinker.

This matched nicely with one of Rebecca’s (aka Mrs Needle & Pin) hand made creations, an Oreo and salted caramel petit four. The sweetness balanced nicely between the two, and rounded off a lovely evening of beer tasting and chat, with the added bonus of some nice nibbles.

There’s always time for some shopping, usually this involves picking up things that I’ve previously reserved, and tonight was no exception. Several new Cloudwater brews (and a delicious coffee porter for MOFAD supplier Matt) as well as a couple of new IPAs, a barrel aged weisse and two imperial stouts (one for Matt).

Another great night out at the Needle & Pin, not hard to see why it was my pub of the year for 2016

The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, April 2016 #2

I wrote about The Needle & Pin a couple of weeks ago, so go and visit that post to learn more about Loughborough’s newest pub, and its history. I predicted more visits and more reviews. I was right.

First up today, The Needle & Pin Brew #3 by Pheasantry Brewery. Yes, that’s right The Needle & Pin have commissioned their own beers to be served in the pub. Brew #3 is a golden dry hopped version of Pheasantry Brewery’s Dancing Dragonfly, and is hoppy, dark golden ale, very drinkable for 5% – good stuff.

A quick snack is required, a tasty beef brisket roll from The Hog Stop across the road:-

And another drink, a Cavendish Bridge by Shardlow Brewing Company, this was a fairly standard bitter with slight hints of biscuit:-

The Needle & Pin is definitely my new favourite pub 🙂

The Hog Stop, April 2016 #2

Another quick Hog Stop post. Just a couple of weeks on from the last one, and it’s time for another sandwich. Last time I was espousing about their porky goodness, and I mentioned that they also do beef brisket.

As you’ve probably worked out by now, I love pulled pork. What probably hasn’t come across yet, is that I also love beef brisket. It is my regular Sunday roast joint, usually braised in red wine for several hours. Always tasty and tender, particularly from Ben & Tori, two of our great local farmers who are at the Loughborough Farmers’ Market each month.

So, as The Hog Stop also have some brisket on the go, I had to have it:-

Tender and delicious, with nice peppery rocket and a red cabbage and horseradish slaw. I would like more horseradish in it, but that’s because I love lots of warmth with my beef, with English mustard as the preffered accompaniment. I also have mustard with my roast chicken, which is my dad’s fault, as he didn’t eat chicken or turkey at Christmas, so there was always beef as well, which meant that mustard was on the table. Yes please!

Anyway, enough digressing, this was a very nice sandwich, and proof that the Hog Stop aren’t just about great pork, but great beef too.