Bread and Beer

IMG_4020It’s been a lovely Christmas Eve.

My pleasures are simple, a little like the food here.  Our food culture, in Northern Europe, is founded on bread and beer.  And today I got to drink my favourite beer again and it’s something that only happens all too occasionally.

Let me explain.

When I was growing up Britain was only just starting to recover from the wholesale industrialisation of food production.  I suspect it had a lot to do with rationing and the love affair we had after the war with all things modern and ‘scientific’, what Harold Wilson referred to as ‘the white heat of technology’.

Well the white heat gave us things like Instant Whip and Mother’s Pride bread and godawful beer.  I used to meet Americans who would try to show how very acculturalised they were with all things British by telling me they liked Watney’s Red Barrel.  I wanted to weep.  It would have been like me saying I was a fan of all things American because I liked Coca Cola and McDonalds – except somehow worse.

Thanks to the efforts of CAMRA there was, at least, some half decent beer when I was growing up. We had, and still have, Harvey’s Best and Wadworth’s 6X.  There was a time when I’d positively seek out those beers as an alternative to the mass marketed industrial brews like John Smiths and Ruddles, themselves a step up from Watney’s and Worthingtons and so forth.

But we have moved on.  We are living in a golden age of British brewing.  It’s fashionable on the continent to do down our beer when compared to that made in Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic.  Our friends on the continent have gotten it wrong.

Last year I went to my second favourite pub, the Halfway House near Brenchley, for a beer festival.  All fifty beers were from Kent and Sussex.  It’s testament to just how well small breweries are doing these days.

Today I went to my favourite pub, the Salehurst Halt, because they had a few barrels of Dark Star’s Green Hopped IPA in.  The last time I tried this seasonal beer was two years ago.  It’s only made in the autumn when the hops are fresh off the vine rather than dried.  Last year I missed it but it lingered in my memory as the best beer I’d ever tasted.

My father

My father at the Saslehurst Halt

I knew they had it on at the Halt – we’d rung a few weeks back and they said they had a few barrels they were saving for Christmas.  However I did wonder whether I’d still rate it as highly as I did before.

Well people I did. It is sublime.  I hope Dark Star turn out my second favourite beer again, their Black Coffee Pilsner.   It’s one of those things that could have been awful (like the balti pizza I once had to send back in Birmingham, still the worst single thing I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant), but it was a thing of beauty.

Almost everything that Dark Star turn out of their brewery in Partridge Green is lovely.  I’m a fan. In all seriousness I’d buy shares.

Then when we got home I put some bread dough in the oven.  I’d taken a break from baking.  I’d put my sourdough starter in the freezer for the last six or nine months and refreshed it over the last three or four days simply by defrosting it and stirring an ounce of flour and an ounce of water a day and putting it in the airing cupboard.

IMG_4053It was fine.  I left the leaven overnight, made the dough this morning and by the time I got back from the pub it was ready.  The bread is excellent.

So now Christmas.  Have a good one one and all.

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2 Responses to Bread and Beer

  1. Andy. says:

    Thanks for this. Hope you have stayed clear of the worst of the bad weather?
    Have enjoyed your blog, so please keep going. Have a really great Christmas and may the New Year is one of joy and happiness for you all. Andy.

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