By Wendy Pike

This blog post feature first appeared in a slightly different form (again, written by me) on Brentwood Brewery’s website in early December 2015.

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Mince pies and mulled wine.  Turkey and Christmas Pud.  Both are excellent but obvious festive food pairings.  One partnership you might not necessarily put together is beer and Brussels Sprouts but that could be about to change …  Apparently the perfect beer to accompany Christmas Brussels is Brentwood Brewery’s Lumberjack 5.2% ABV.  This erstwhile unknown phenomenon has just been discovered on Twitter and it’s official.

“As accolades go, this is a pretty big one. We are honoured that Lumberjack is hailed as the best beer to enjoy with Brussels. The brewery has been working on lots of beer and food matching suggestions with Beer for That but this latest pairing idea is very exciting.

“What could be more traditional or British than the Brussel Sprout at Christmas? I love them. I always eat one at this time of year,” said Roland Kannor, Brentwood Brewing Company MD.

Asking the ultra topical question on a Twitter Q & A session with Great British Chefs was food blogger and writer Jeanne Horak-Druiff of CookSister.com:

‘So tell me what is the beer that best matches the dreaded Christmas Brussels Sprouts?’

OK, perhaps the question smacks of a large side order of tongue-in-cheek, but a serious answer is provided by GreatBritishChefs.com courtesy of Laurence Creamer of There’s A Beer for That (BeerForThat.com).

‘Counter the brilliant Brussels bitterness with sweetness of Brentwood Brewing Company’s Lumberjack, a beautiful bitter,’ comes the reply.

Who knew?  Love them or hate them, those little green brassicas have been transformed into fancy dishes by top chefs and on occasion, even coated in chocolate, to make them more appealing and palatable, when all along, a glass of award-winning Brentwood Lumberjack is just the thing to make sprouts taste their best.

“Lumberjack’s full body can cope with the strong flavour of the sprout, while the beer’s sweetness will contrast and balance the bitterness from the vegetable,” says Laurence Creamer of There’s A Beer for That which is backed by Britain’s Beer Alliance.

With a reputation as a ‘Marmite’ vegetable, universally out of favour in the recent past, sprouts have had a bad press. The butt of endless jokes at Christmas (Pharhhhp!), the much maligned sprout may not be as trendy as curly kale or broccoli but it is currently enjoying something of a popularity revival.  If not on your dinner plate then at least in spirit.   BBC One’s Christmas TV promotion featuring Sprout Boy puts a positive PR spin on Brussels and is sure to warm the cockles of your heart?   He is ‘a sprout with love to give’.  The animation suggests repeatedly ‘Nobody ever liked the sprout’. But luckily for Sprout Boy there is a happy-ever-after.  At Christmas he’s allowed to join the dinner party rather than being served up as dinner.

Another perennial joke, particularly with BBC Radio 2 listeners, may have more relevance for chefs and cooks across the land this Christmas. What time do you put the sprouts on? When it comes to plating up, timing is crucial and this year’s Christmas Brussels may need slightly longer cooking than normal.   Farmers in East Anglia report the mild Autumn has led to a bumper crop with sprouts up to a whopping third larger than usual.  On the upside, you’ll need fewer to fill the plate which also means less peeling.

With sprouts about 33% bigger, it is perhaps the brewery’s Christmas wish that the optimum beer/sprout ratio could mean increased demand for Lumberjack – purely to balance flavours, of course.

If you need further Brussels Sprouts inspiration, Great British Chefs have a great Christmas recipe by James Mackenzie:   http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/greens-walnut-butter-recipe

Obviously, if you need beery inspiration, please visit Brentwood Brewery.

Whilst the brewery fully endorses this freshly discovered Brussels and Lumberjack partnership, their plea is simple. Do consume Brussels Sprouts responsibly.  Large family gatherings, confined spaces, Brussels, Lumberjack … enough said. Boxing Day walk in the fresh air anyone?

Lumberjack 5.2% ABV

A strong, slightly sweet, full-bodied bitter traditionally brewed using English Fuggles and EKG hops. Has a round, hoppy finish.

Available in bottles and polypins.

Gold – SIBA East Region Best Strong Ale 2009

Silver – SIBA East Region Best Bottled Strong Ale 2013

www.brentwoodbrewing.co.uk

Brussels Sprouts

Brassica Oleracea Gemmifera:   are rich in many vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C, K, A and B as well as copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.  With anti-oxidants, protein and dietary fibre they have many health benefits to offer.

 The UK consumes more sprouts than any other country in Europe. A third of annual UK sprout consumption is thought to take place during the Christmas period.

Something else to noteBrussels Sprouts (often mis-spelled as Brussel sprouts) get their name from the capital city of Belgium due to their popularity and huge crop volumes grown in the country around the sixteenth century.  Thought to have originated in the Middle East, the Romans were credited with cultivating the forerunners to contemporary Brussels.


Graham Cochrane cleaning out mash tun - CopyWill Fisher cleaning out Mash Tun (2) - Copy

 

 

This feature first appeared in Made in Essex newspaper in August 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

The ultimate day out for beer fans, a Brentwood Brewery Experience Day, starts 8am sharp with an important choice.  Beer or science for breakfast?  Or maybe both?

“It’s a jolly, fine day out.  We individually tailor the day to suit each visit.  We can be as serious or otherwise as you like.  If you want to learn about the science behind the process, we’ll happily talk science.  If you want to sample our beer all day long, be our guest,” said MD, Roland Kannor.

The morning schedule begins with a briefing followed by measuring malt for the day’s brew, mashing in and sparging – collecting the all important sugars from the grain.  Being a brewer for the day is physically demanding work, so practical clothing and boots or Wellies are advisable.  Getting mucky is inevitable.

A work friend recommended the Experience Day to engineer Graham Cochrane from Great Baddow.  Graham put the idea on his 40th birthday wish-list.  His sister bought the gift.

“We’re watching the process live, as it happens and getting really involved, adding malt into the mix and helping throughout the process.

“I guess, when you go on a normal brewery tour you get told how these things happen but don’t really understand the time and care and the important points.

“But today we’re doing it real time and learning exactly where the care points and craft is and that’s the real interest,” said Graham.

Once the wort is bubbling in the copper, talk turns to technical aspects of brewing.

“It’s great fun for us too.  We enjoy imparting the knowledge we’ve picked up over the years, teaching people about our passion for beer and brewing,” said Brentwood Brewer Mike Holmes.

As well as learning about Humulus Lupulus (hops), barley and malt, there is much biology and chemistry to delve into.

“I already know a lot about the brewing process so it’s been fun to get involved but really the highlight for me has been the detailed explanation of the chemistry behind it, how everything works.  It’s been fantastic,” said Will Fisher from Colombia, South America.

Originally from Brentwood, Will a teacher, booked a Brewery Experience Day whilst on holiday visiting family and friends in the town.  He’s a true Brentwood beer fan and admits he’s an obsessive home brewer.  His dream –  to open a small craft brewery in Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast.

“I was really interested to see how they do things on a larger scale.  It’s not a lot different to home brewing, just everything’s upscaled.  These guys really know what they’re doing.

“Everything’s done scientifically using really precise calculations.  For me as a home brewer its more of an experiment.  Small scale, you can get away with just throwing things in.”

Midday guests are chauffeured to a local pub for lunch and a pint of Brentwood beer, all included in the package.  Afterwards, chores include digging out the mash tun and sanitising equipment before the day’s tasks are finalised by adding hops to the brew and pitching in yeast.

Home time is 4pm.  Everyone receives the brewery’s booklet ‘Notes on Brewing’ along with an 18-pint Polypin of the beer they brewed, once it’s ready – usually a week later.

The Summer Virgin that Will Fisher brewed will be ready in time for his departure.  The dilemma is he’ll only have a couple of days to drink it before he flies home to Colombia.

If sparing a whole day is difficult, tours held on the first Saturday of the month offer a good glimpse of brewery life.  They run at 11am and 1pm.  For £10 per person enjoy a pint of beer,  free gift and an hour-long tour.  Entertainment is provided by Head Brewer Ethan or Roland.  Discover The Hulk and where it resides or hear jokes and anecdotes, Roland-style.  Like the brewery’s close shave with Warner Brothers regarding a ‘borrowed’ image.  The upshot, it ends well – thanks to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Chockwork Orange is now the official beer of the book ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

Brewery Experience Days are available Tuesdays and Thursdays for up to four people per day at £99 per person.  For details or bookings contact Brentwood Brewery (next to Calcott Hall Farm Shop):  01277 200 483,

enquiries@brentwoodbrewing.co.uk, www.brentwoodbrewing.co.uk

See original Made in Essex feature online:  See:   http://www.madeinessex.net/article/57