Sunday, 17 November 2013

Event: Barney's Brewery Beer Festival, Summerhall

As a Yorkshire Lass, it's not really unusual that I like a beer. My dad is a fan of ales and stouts, so I grew up sampling those (none of your lager lark), and when I passed for old enough to be in a pub, I was introduced to the joys of cheap bitter. As a whippersnapper, I'd get a pint of bitter and blackcurrant (either John or Sam Smiths, or a Tetleys) and a bag of crisps for under £2, which was a rather bargainous deal. The thing is, I'm not really a beer aficionado. I know that I don't like lager, and that I can manage half a pint of stout before feeling slightly full and sick, but aside from that, I'm often a bit in the dark. Seeing as there's a rather marvellous independent beer shop near my flat, it's a shame that I'm not adventurous, but I find myself sticking with two or three that I know I like rather than branching out.

When I received a newsletter from Summerhall, outlining their upcoming events, the Barney's Beer Festival seemed a rather good way of finding out more about beer, and a particularly pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Summerhall is a really interesting building. As the old Edinburgh University "Dick Vet" Vetinary Medicine school, it has a slightly creepy feel (I blame the stained blue Lino in the teaching rooms) despite its beautiful Victorian entrance hall. As well as being home to Barney's brewery (there was a brewery on the site before the Dick Vet, so it's nice that one has returned) it hosts special events, free exhibitions, and sports a rather reasonably priced bar and restaurant. Having somehow not been in, I was looking forward to a wander round.
Our tickets included a rather snazzy branded schooner glass (2/3 pint), a guide to the beers on offer - a great idea for people like me who are a bit unsure of what they like - and a token for a free sample of Barney's.
The bar. I loved the keg display - and the very reasonable prices!
The bar seemed as good a place as any to begin. First up, two of the Barney's specials - an Eteaket Lapsang Porter for me (5%) and a Capital Porter for Mr F (4.2%). I plumped for mine purely because of the tea connection. It was slightly smokey, rich and bitter - lovely to start with, but I did struggle a bit towards the end of the glass as the bitterness began to be a bit much for me. I am not sure I'm a porter girl. 
The dark Lapsang Porter
Whilst supping our drinks, we had a wander round. As well as the main room, which sported a bar in the corner, lots of wooden benches, and a stage at the front, there were a couple of smaller rooms explaining the brewing process.
A friendly lady from the Brewery was on hand to give out samples of what the beer tastes like at each process, and to talk us through it (short version: it tastes disgusting, and it's a lot more complicated than I thought).

We managed to time our return to the main hall with the beginnings of the music. First up came a digereedoo player (verdict: odd, even for Edinburgh). Another beer was needed. And a burger.  
Front - my Thornbridge Sequoia (4.5%). Back - Mr F's Dark Star Original (5%)
I really enjoyed this one - much more my cup of tea. Or pint of beer. Whatever. It was much smoother than the porter - more drinkable, and considerably less bitter. Turns out that I am an Amber Ale kind of lady.

About halfway through these drinks a really good saxophone band started - fronted by Barney himself.
After half an hour or so of enjoying the music, we had to toddle off home, which was a shame - I really enjoyed the atmosphere once the music started (and we'd managed to bag a seat by that point!). It was a shame that the beers came in fixed sizes (as a comparative newbie, I would have rather had a bigger variety of half pints than the schooner size on offer) and the lack of seating made the afternoon a bit lacking in atmosphere at times, but I'm looking forward to getting a few friends together to go to an evening session when they do their May 2014 event.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Recipe: Fifteens

I've mentioned before that Mr F is from Northern Ireland. Aside from the stereotype of eating lots of potatoes, and being partial to a decent pint of stout, foodwise there are very few things that he requests or makes to remind him of home. This occasionally strikes me as strange - Northern Ireland is (like my native Yorkshire) a land of comfort food - a land of Veda bread, soda bread and wheaten bread. It's also the land of traybakes.

Northern Ireland seems to treat the traybake like the rest of the UK treats a piece of cake. I'm only just getting used to walking into a cafe there and having to settle for a traybake over a piece of lemon or carrot cake. I'm still not completely convinced by them.

The cafe that does our event catering at work is run by a lady from Northern Ireland, and therefore specialises in traybakes rather than cakes - a frequent point of contention with some of the team. One of the things which regularly pops up on our conference lunch orders is a Fifteen slice. It's a classic, a typically Northern Irish treat, and it's incredibly easy. You don't even need an oven (or a tray). You will need a cup of tea to go alongside a slice.
Fifteens all sliced up. Not big, clever or particularly photogenic, but very easy and tasty. 
Makes about 25 slices

15 digestive biscuits
15 glace cherries
15 marshmallows
15g dessicated coconut
1 can of condensed milk

Firstly, bash up your digestives. Not too fine - still with a bit of texture, but grainy rather than broken biscuits. I do this with a rolling pin in a sandwich bag, doing a couple at a time. Pop them into a big bowl.
Mix in your cherries and marshmallows - you can cut them in half to make it easier.
Pour over the condensed milk. Go slowly, a bit at a time, and mix like mad. It depends how much you've bashed your biscuits as to how much you'll need, but essentially enough to make it all stick together. Don't worry if it's a bit lumpy or a little bit wet. Ideally you want it slightly under wet rather than over. I used about 300g of the condensed milk.
Roll the mixture into a long sausage shape on a chopping board, and then roll in dessicated coconut. Wrap in clingfilm (aavoid tin foil - it's a nightmare to unwrap). If it's quite wet and sticky, put the clingfilm onto the chopping board and sprinkle with coconut. Use the clingfilm to help you form the sausage shape.
Chill it in the fridge for a couple of hours (ideally overnight), before cutting into slices with a very sharp knife.

Best stored in an airtight container in the fridge, to stop it going gooey. It'll keep for 3 or 4 days. If you're feeling adventurous you could probably change the ingredients around - nuts, jelly sweets or a variety of dried berries would all be mighty tasty (although make sure you use fifteen of each!)