Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Curry Night in Leeds

So, this was a little different to a cultural beer exchange in that there wasn't really an opportunity to share the same beers with people nor compare beers from different locales. However, it was a night to check out multiple craft ales and to have a decent curry for the first time in ages. Say what you like about where I live at the moment, but the curry really isn't what I'm used to.

Reviews of the beers imbibed are necessarily truncated because I forgot to take a pad to record my thoughts and the main purpose of the trip was to share my own home brew with the colleagues that had procured the kit for me in the first place!

My home produced label for the home brew.

I confess to being ridiculously proud of this one.
My host sampled the home brew, officially now Pete's Piss Slightly-Shitty Slow-Brewed Summer Stag and pronounced it very drinkable. Certainly the colour of the ale has improved since before Christmas and there, in his kitchen, the full tawny amber colour was unleashed. Not as fizzy, thankfully, as the last bottle I cracked open (I relieved the pressure in these bottles twice) but well carbonated just the same. It was poured with a more practiced hand than my own and so the sediment remained in the bottle, leaving a very clear ale with a good head - not too mad and not thin and rubbish - and a lovely aroma of hops that avoided being over-powering. As my host is a big fan of hops he was very kind about it but I suspect I could do better with the hoppiness for the next brew. I now await the opinion of our companion after he has had chance to drink. So far so good for people trying the home brew.

Beer 1: Thornbridge Brewery's Wild Swan. Bottled.
At 3.5% ABV it was the natural choice to start the evening. My lovely hosts had prepared four from this stable as they are their favourites and, mindful of the fact that we were visiting some fine craft ale pubs, I chose this one as a beginning. It was a straw beer with a good, vigorous head and planty of hoppy aroma. Surprisingly heavy on the yeast taste once underway but with some clever hops over the top. It claims to be tropical and fruity (kiwi is listed) and I don't know about that. Certainly there's a hoppy bouquet, a light and almost invisible malt and plenty of yeast. A good start to the evening.

Beer 2: Brewdog's Libertine Black Ale. Draught.
This was chosen because the Brewdog bar in Leeds was full of clever things on tap. So full I confess to not knowing where to start. So I naturally plumbed for a dark ale. At 7.2% ABV I was relieved that it came in a 2/3 pint glass. It was very much a dark beer with a chocolatey head. Indeed, there was a chocolate weight to the malt that I rather liked along with an aromatic and spicy finish to the hops that rolled around either side in the gulps one took. Nowhere near as heavy as the ABV or the look warranted and thus perhaps a dangerous one to have. Enjoyable, smokey and with a hint of something of the night about it - it reminded me very much of the time I saw the then leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard running for a train in Preston.

Beer 3: Brewdog's Raspberry Blitz. Draught.
Given my penchant for fruit beer I couldn't let the opportunity to sample some of this pass me by. At 3.4% ABV it was weak enough to settle me in for the curry ahead and a half went down nicely. The fruit was not too strong, noticeable and tart, and allowed a bitter hop to carry the end of the sip. Little malt in the body, mainly masked by the fruit, but there was definitely a weight to it. I am glad to report that there was little sugar to it and so it avoided the fate of the Wychwood Forest Fruits and, instead, did a good job of being sharp and refreshing. Pinkish beer with a clean white head that was thin, but not unpleasant. Other reviewers talk up the amber nature of the beer itself but, it was dark, I could only just make out the pink colour. Enjoyable, well worth another try.

Beer 4: Cobra. Bottled.
And so to the curry. I was very pleased to finally have access to a decent selection of curry at the Aagrah. My hosts had managed to gain a 20% off voucher for the food and the two beers on offer were Bangla and Cobra. I plumbed for the latter and, at 6.6% ABV, it was much stronger than I remember it back when I bought myself a bottle. Thin, fizzy and slightly yellowy but mostly clear it was reassuringly the same. Enough of a taste within it to stand well with the selection of tandoori meats we started with but then overpowered and beaten into submission by the main course. Enjoyable enough to drink with food, as suggested in the original review, but nothing to write home about. Still, this part of the evening was more about the food and so the fact that it could stand aside and let that have centre stage is perhaps its best feature.

Beer 5: Leeds' Brewery's New Moon. Draught.
This has been sampled before, at a colleague's leaving do, and I was glad to have the opportunity to try it again. Another dark ale with plenty of mystery to it in a pub that really looks the part. Much conversation about it being badly situated in Leeds but, I suspect, if people can figure out where it is the building worked well for the contents. This beer, about 4.3% ABV, was a good one to finish the night on. Not as heavy as I would have liked, the hops were American and offered a lighter touch to it, and the malt got drowned out in the taste despite appearing quite strong initially. Surprisingly hoppy rather than malty for its dark colouration and, as a consequence, almost refreshing. A great palate cleanser, it actually helped remove the traces of the curry we'd had.

By this point I shall confess that I could feel the effects of plenty of ale and not quite enough water along with good company and a satisfied feeling from the curry. Passing up the opportunity to get another ale we headed back to the house of my host (which was palatial) and went to bed. The following morning, sharing in the madness of their breakfast, I was struck by how similar children are and pleased to note that I am not alone in having children who are loud, enthusiastic and loud. I hope that this is a repeated experience, there are so many more craft ales to try on draught and so many more curries and decent pubs.

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