The Cock, Brent Eleigh, Suffolk

cock best

The Cock is a pub at its most basic and finest, a true ale house serving three cask ales, crisps, peanuts and cashews and not much else. A very friendly landlord made this timeless drinking establishment all the more memorable, especially so when he gave me a plastic cask ale tap, as well as a fine brass one.

 

I had told him of the cask ale parties I held back home and this seemed to strike a chord with him. He knew I would use them, not hang them over the bar, or worse, sell the brass tap. As to be expected, the Adnam’s Bitter was excellent, deliciously hoppy and very moreish.

 

The Cock has two small and tidy rooms, back-to-back both featuring a central fireplace and real fires. Toilets are outside across the top edge of the parking lot. There’s a single room for let. It’s just over a two mile walk from Lavenham, mostly on somewhat busy roads, though we did cut the corner off on the return trip by using a path over a grassy field.

Two Pubs of Harveys of Lewes, East Sussex, England

harveys london houseRoyal Oak, London SE1

The Royal Oak is an absolutely fabulous pub having the full Harveys range. I’d give it a very high must visit and see, if only for the excellent cask ale from Harveys. It has good, wide open working space behind the central bar, which is unusual for many English pubs, with serving bars on both sides.

Two out of town barmen, both former pub owners who were partially retired, were in for the Friday night session all the way up from Hove, Sussex. Lots of entertaining characters pass through of an evening, including a chap in pointed-toe cowboy boots wearing a white Stetson who waded in and wanted to be noticed. He was certainly noticed, as well as being quite funny in the Monty Python mode.

Ypres Castle, East Sussex

I remember it was a cool, damp fall day in Rye, East Sussex, England, a day when indoors appealed more than out. I had just made my way to Ypres Castle, a wonderfully unspoiled pub accessible only on foot. I had procured a pint of cask conditioned Harveys XX at the bar and had seated myself at a table along a wall.

A man came in and dumped large, smokeless coal briquettes into a couple of fireplaces located around the perimeter of the spacious room. In turn, he then proceeded to ignite the coal in each fireplace using a flame throwing welder’s torch. Within a very short time the fireplaces were aglow, and heat was radiating outward across the room. Soon the room was toasty warm.

Despite my misgivings, I had to admit that this unconventional means of starting a fire indoors was very efficient and I showed my appreciation by having another pint of fine cask conditioned ale with the heat dancing merrily on my face.

Beer and Cheese Matching

DSCN1078

Neal’s Yard Dairy, Borough Market, London, England

How do you develop a beer and cheese pairing – what are some of the flavours/tastes you look for?

 

         You have to taste the cheese first and then write notes while thinking about whether there are flavours that need highlighting or things such as high saltiness in the cheese that might benefit from having the saltiness subdued so that other flavours in the cheese might step forward. What happens in the mouth when cheese meets beer reveals as much about the cheese as it does about the beer being tasted. Sometimes you hit a brilliant combination on the first go round and without much effort. And sometimes it requires some educated guesses and some serious tasting to hit just the right flavour notes in the mouth. Having said that, everyone’s palate is different and it changes day to day depending on the food and drink consumed by an individual. Fatty foods, cigarette smoking and spicy foods deaden the palate. People have different thresholds to different tastes, from salty to buttery to bitter, which can heavily impact on the recommended cheese and beer pairings. It may be perfect for me but not necessarily to everyone else at the tasting, which is fine. After all, any exercise in finding matches, perfect or otherwise, is really about finding what works for the individual.

 

Some of the main cheese flavour components are saltiness, nuttiness, butteriness, creaminess etc., depending on the style of cheese.

 

         Then I think of one or two beers that might cozy up to the cheese and accentuate certain flavours, depending on the cheese. I also check out the contrasting side of things. Then I taste the cheese again, then one of the beers, write more notes, and then have a bit of water and or plain bread. Then on to the next one, cheese, beer, water and so on, writing down initial and secondary responses to each, while building a profile of each beer and cheese combination. What do I like about each cheese and beer pairing? Is there an unusual flavour that maybe I hadn’t expected, which would cause you to drop a given pairing? Then I rank what I have tasted and then drop half of the beers and then re-taste, thereby narrowing toward what should be the best match.

 

Do you think there are specific styles of cheeses that go best with craft beer styles, and if so, please mention a few favorite pairings? (See pairings below.)

 

         Depends on the specific cheese. You can find a microbrewed beer match for just about any cheese but it truly involves some trial and error. But with an educated palate, you can narrow the field quite quickly. Craft beers by their nature offer such a variety of flavours that you instantly have a head start to finding something in a beer to pair up with a given cheese flavour.

 

When presented with a pairing of beer and cheese unfamiliar to you, do you recommend tasting the beer first or the cheese first, and why?

 

         I’d always taste the cheese first, get inside its essential flavours and then think about the presented beer match. I usually already know or have a very good idea of the essence of many beers, either from the stated beer style and therefore expected flavour profiles, or from personal tasting experience. I’d also make a few tasting notes, especially of first impressions of the cheese and then when the cheese meets beer. 

 

What advice would you give to a consumer who wants to set up a beer and cheese tasting party at home?

 

         Unless you know all of your guests are really big into hops, I’d leave the IPA and double IPA pairings out for the first time. When it comes to a mixed group of people, the maltier beers seem to have more of what the majority would think of as a good match. It’s really quite a subjective thing when trying to find a beer to match a cheese but with a little practice it becomes much easier.

        

         Go up the scale, starting with a mild cheese go up to full flavoured cheeses such as blue cheese and parallel that with the beers, from light lagers to stronger, full bodied beers such as stouts. At the same time, go from low hopped beers up through to highly hopped, bitter beers.

 

         Try three cheeses, say a soft goat cheese, a firm cheese such as the Reserve Gouda, and a blue cheese alongside a variety of beers and then taste away. It’s a learning experience. You can’t go wrong. Try a variety of beer styles to see what works best for you and for each type of cheese. You simply have to do some tasting with various beers to find what will make the best match with a given cheese.

 Nutcracker and blueA few other things of note about beer and cheese

 Beer and cheese form a natural partnership as their origins are both from the farm. Originally, women known as brewsters made beer, and they also made cheese, and they would have wanted the beer and cheese to be complimentary.

There are now over 100 clearly defined beer styles in the world, from understated lagers to highly complex Belgian ales. 

 There are over 120 malts and malt variations, more than 57 hop varieties, over 207 yeasts, plus variants, different water combinations, as well as fruit and even vegetables such as hot peppers–all are available to the brewer to create a vast array of flavours in beer, resulting in far more potential flavour combinations than wine. 

 Hop bitterness in beer equates to the acidity in wine.

One thing that beer does very well, is cut through the richness and fat in cheese, and thus cleanses the palate.

 

For best tasting results at home, serve bottled beer at cellar temperature of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. But please don’t open the beer until you are ready to serve it. While oxygen may be good for opening up a wine, it can oxidize beer rather quickly and leave it smelling and tasting like wet cardboard.

 

Try a variety of beer styles to see what works best for you and for each type of cheese. You simply have to do some tasting with various beers to find the best match with a given cheese.

 

Cheese and Beer matches with tasting notes

 

Violet Hill, Milky Way Cheese, Shelbourne, Ontario, Canada, sheep milk

A beautiful ashed pyramid with cool, mushroomy aromas at the rind, and a delicate citrus freshness at the core. Gentle, sweet and slightly tangy, as you’d expect from someone named Violet Hill.

 

Denison’s Weissbier, an unfiltered German style wheat beer, is made with at least 50 percent wheat malt, barley malt, German hops and a Bavarian yeast. Weissbier conveys the goods in spades. An invigorating and spritzy wheat beer at 5.6 percent abv, Denison’s Weissbier delivers a refreshingly fresh banana and cloves aroma and lively citric notes on the palate. Denison’s Weissbier is contract brewed at the Cool Brewery, Toronto.         

 

The citric notes in Denison’s Weissbier slip past the damp cellar taste and envelope the lemon zest at the core of the Violet Hill cheese, enriching this flavour, while standing in gentle contrast to the hint of blue cheese from the ash.

 

Comfort Cream, Upper Canada Cheese, Jordan Station, Ontario, Canada, Guernsey cow milk

The velvety bloomy rind smells of white mushrooms, and the paste of melted butter with an earthy undertone. Extra rich Guernsey milk gives the cheese a dense, fudge-like texture, and clean lactic flavours. It’s impossible to eat this cheese and not say the word ‘cream’.

 

Black Oak Nut Brown Ale is a 5 percent abv Brown Ale brewed by the Black Oak Brewing Company Ltd., Toronto, Ontario. This rich ruby red coloured ale has a mocha coloured head. Aromatically, embracing nutty aromas with underlying chocolate notes surface alongside roasted ones. Medium in body. Mouthfeel is of roasted and toasty elements smoothed out by a good dose of sweet pale malt. Roast, nutty, chocolate and hop flavours all vie for attention in the middle. Roast, chocolate and a defining hop bitterness play on the palate in a fairly elongated and drying finish. Brewed with reverse osmosis water, which allows the brewery to add minerals and salts back in according to the water required for each beer style brewed. Tastes very much like a lighter porter. Also, hoppier than most brown ales.

 

Black Oak Nut Brown Ale adds complexity and a certain nuttiness to the cheese, while achieving a better overall flavour balance as it seemingly reduces the tangy saltiness found in the Comfort Cream. It is interesting to note that during a tasting another beer similar in flavours to the Black Oak Nut Brown Ale actually intensified the saltiness of the Comfort Cream.

        

Snow Road, Back Forty Artisan Cheese, Lanark, Ontario, Canada, raw sheep milk

The sticky pinkish, brown rind is very aromatic, with piquant, fruity/floral, blue-cheese-like notes. Luscious paste melts smoothly delivering balanced sweetness, acidity and salt, with nutty, woodsy flavours. Seriously sensual.

 

Black Oak Pale Ale is a 5 percent abv Pale Ale brewed by the Black Oak Brewing Company Ltd., Toronto, Ontario. It’s a burnished orange amber coloured ale with a fine, off-white foam. Fruity aromas in the lead here, with fresh malt and then hops in tow. Malt quickly gives way to a lasting hop attack. Medium in body. Mouthfeel is of peppery hops poutingly playful on the palate.  Long finish sees a continued hop bitterness pressing down on a malty spine, with a distinctive and defining dryness throughout. Also brewed with reverse osmosis water. 

 

Black Oak Pale Ale makes for a very interesting interplay of flavours in the mouth, while counter-balancing the intensity and chalkiness of the Snow Road cheese, as well as highlighting the delicious bittering hops of this fine beer.

 

Bonnechere, Back Forty Artisan Cheese, Lanark, Ontario, Canada, raw sheep milk

An unusual cheese with a toasted rind, inspired by examples from the Pyrénées. The semi-firm paste absorbs smoky, hickory-wood aromas and slightly sour flavours from the charring. Well-balanced and ultimately gentle, considering all it’s been through.

 

Hockley Dark is a 5 percent abv English style dark mild ale brewed by the Hockley Valley Brewing Company, Hockley. It’s quite a tasty dark chocolate brown coloured ale with reddish hues and a heady nose of roast, toast and chocolate tumbling forth. A fairly full bodied ale, on the palate, Hockley Dark delivers chocolate flavours set on a firm malt base, with a roasted element stepping out boldly from beneath this malty cloak. The middle has chocolate and roast dancing evenly together with a little background hop bitterness present. The finish is fairly extended with roast, toast, and a developing dryness from the roast barley, as well as a backdrop of malt sweetness, with a late surge of warming alcohol from beneath.

 

The roast element of the Hockley Dark marries with the charred rind and enriches the natural nuttiness of this cheese, while reinforcing and complimenting the underlying caramel flavours found in the Bonnechere cheese.

        

Reserve Gouda, Thunder Oak Cheese, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, cow milk

This traditional gouda develops complex aromas and flavours through long aging. The very firm but melting paste smells caramelized and spicy, and tastes sweet and gently tangy. The long finish expresses wood, soy and cumin spice. Can you say “umami”? Okay, just say “yummy”.

 

King Pilsner is a 4.8 percent abv Bohemian Style Pilsner brewed by the King Brewery, Nobleton, Ontario. This polished golden coloured lager is packed with highly aromatic Saaz hops, much akin to sticking your head into a hop pocket just after harvest.  Low end of medium in body. Hops pepper the palate increasingly, releasing joyful hop notes that sing merrily to the taster throughout. It has a long, lingering bitter finish with a strong supporting malt quotient to keep it all together. Resolutely bitter but not overpowering.  It’s the real deal. This well crafted and delightful pilsner, slots nicely in between world classics Pilsner Urquell and Budvar from the Czech Republic.

 

The hop bitterness in the King Pilsner positively sings with this aged gouda, creating a harmonious whole in the mouth. Don’t hops grow on the barnyard fence?

Crown and Trumpet, Broadway, Worcestershire, England

273

“The Hughey’s return,” said the friendly barman across the wooden bar at the Crown and Trumpet, Broadway, in the heart of the Cotswolds as we strode through the doorway into the welcoming pub.

         After an absence of the better part of a year, my wife and I returned to this quintessential traditional 17th Century British pub. We’ve been coming to this wonderful pub since 1980 when we were then staying on the High Street at my wife’s grandmother’s home, a 15th century cottage, Milestone Cottage, a rare single family dwelling set apart from mostly cheek by jowl shops and cottages at the upper end of the High Street where the road curves gently as it climbs steadily. Resplendent in locally quarried, honey coloured Cotswold limestone, these are some of the most frequently photographed cottages in England. Originally known as ‘flea bank’, the cottages were gentrified sometime between the wars and became collectively known as The Shakespeare cottages. We had come on our delayed honeymoon. We were married in October and came to England the following spring to celebrate our nuptials and quickly fell in love with Broadway and the Crown and Trumpet, just beyond the village greensward on the road to Snowshill.

         The rich honey coloured Cotswold stone front that is adorned with golden lettering of the namesake ‘Crown and Trumpet’ embraces with an inviting warmth, draws both the dedicated pub goer and the casual visitor alike, pulls them in as surely as a piece of rich dark chocolate excites the senses. What awaits is what excites. Superb cask ales and fine, locally sourced food served up in a friendly and amiable pub environment, which has an air of congenial informality and presence backed by the permanence of survival through time. This is what a really good pub should be–all things to all people. Whether one wants a pint of real ale and a packet of crisps at the bar or a full, three-course, sit-down meal for family and friends, it’s all available. And if one wants a quiet read of a current novel in a corner, or a full-blown conversation about most anything at the bar, that too is on offer.

         To the left as you enter the pub is a cozy room with the short corner bar, which bears the signature handpumps of such fine cask ales as Stanway Bitter from the local Stanway Brewery in nearby Stanway, with a few tables and chairs on either side of the fireplace. To the right is a larger room with high back settles and more wooden tables and chairs and bay window seating. The toilets are out back but the courtyard access area is covered, so no worries there.

DSCN0751

         “The usual, sir?” says the barman, who is actually one of the chefs doing double duty.

         “Indeed. Two pints of Stanney, please”, I reply as if I’d only been away for a day.

         We settle in with our pints at a table with a view of the open front door and the picnic tables beyond.

         The landlord, the one with his name over the door, Andrew, or Andy as he is known, is a bit of wag, humourist, punster. And as I have been told by a publican in Toronto, I am not without a sense of humour too. But Andy is not the only character in these parts, and they all add to the fabric of the place.

         You could set your watch by the daily arrival of one regular right at opening time. Clank goes the front door latch at precisely 11 a.m. as Basil rolls in for a pint and a natter. Retired for years, he orders a bottle of a high gravity brew, which he mixes with a lesser beer to form something I would never drink, so right away you know he’s highly entertaining. 

         “I don’t see much of Malcom these days. (Pauses). He’s down at the cemetery,” Harry says with a glint in his eye. As the laughter, or was that chortling, rolled forth, he bemusedly damped down the tobacco in his pipe before heading outside for a smoke.

         Upstairs, the rooms are as unique as they are snug, and yes, the floors may slope a bit here and there, but that, after all, is what one should come to an old pub for, authenticity, heritage and history. That, and good cask ale, the traditional beverage of choice in England, beer that is unfiltered and served directly from the cask on a bed of yeast and without the intervention of extraneous CO2, beer with a great breadth of flavours, beer as it was meant to be served. 

          The Crown and Trumpet is friendly to trekkers and locals alike, and having en-suite rooms at the pub makes it a perfect place from which to begin day outings along The Cotswold Way, a 100 mile marked pathway stretching from Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, to Bath in Somerset. Ordinance survey maps, Tourist Map 8 covers a good portion of The Cotswold Way and the area around Broadway, are readily available at book shops. Maps are essential to keep from straying from the marked pathways and thus having an enjoyable hiking experience and not be looking down the barrel of a gun of a disgruntled sheep farmer.

         For lunch, I have a sharp English cheddar ploughmans and a crisp green salad, and of course a pint of cask ale, another Stanney Bitter, a hop bitter beer with high drinkability that is very moreish in nature. In fact, I soon have another pint as easily as not.

         In the evening, I recall a pair of retired gentlemen who met at the bar for a pint, a natter and then spent time doing a shared crossword, though sadly they have passed on. Following my evening walk and a medium rare steak dinner, a recording jazz duo plays as hot and rhythmically as the stoves in the kitchen. And I order my last pint of cask ale for the evening.