I know that until now, I have only written about my adventures in craft beer. And this post could be described as a beer review. But really, it is a beer review wrapped up inside an adventure of sorts.
Beer at breakfast time? There is something that has never quite sat well with me. I guess that it is an innate fear of alcoholism. Isn’t it just a hop [pun intended], step and a jump from having a beer at breakfast to having a whiskey with your weetbix, or a metho-mouthwash before brushing your teeth?
Well, I managed that fear this morning. The beer in question has sat patiently in my beer fridge for nine months. It’s been nestling next to a Southern Bay Sunrise Breakfast and a Moa Breakfast. I’ve been fighting an uphill battle with my conscience. But, today was the day…
It’s Sunday, the sun is shining and the birds are sheltering from the heat amidst the foliage in the garden. I am sitting at my kitchen table, listening to the evocative twang of Spanish guitar on the stereo whilst the domestic goddess and attendant cherubim are baking a peach and raspberry flapjack. I’m sitting amongst the remains of breakfast: Eggs Benedict, with homemade foaming Hollandaise, and bowls of stone-fruit salad. Beside me sits an almost empty bottle of a beer that I’ve been looking forward to for almost a year. A beer that I have been hugely excited about drinking. A beer that has only been brewed once and, to the best of my knowledge, won’t be brewed again. A beer that was brewed with breakfast in mind: Bridge Road Brewers‘ 500 Smokey Breakfast Lager.
Now, why would this unusual beer languish in my fridge for such a long time? Because it is a breakfast beer. And, as I said before, who drinks beer at breakfast time except those in need of help? Well, if breakfast is a late brunch, on a Sunday, then it’s almost lunch. And a beer with Sunday lunch is most definitely allowed in civilised company.
A lazy day of cooking, eating and drinking with the family sums up my favourite was to spend a Sunday. Throw in a coffee, the paper and the time to read it and you’re pretty much there. Aaaahhhhh, perfection!
So, six-year-old-son and I set about making the Hollandaise sauce. It’s a simple fact that every man sold know how to make a Hollandaise; girls love a guy who can cook! Although if you’re cooking her breakfast, you’ve probably already done pretty well.
For reference, Delia Smith’s recipe from How To Cook Book One never fails!
Thick cut sourdough toast. Crispy bacon. Poached eggs, quiveringly soft, perched on top. And then anointed spoonfuls of unctuous Hollandaise. Perfection.
And beside it; a glass.
I was surprised by how dark the beer poured. I’d expected a burnished gold with an ivory head, but what I got was a dark brown, almost grey. Like the bitterest chocolate: 85% stuff. The head was tight, firm and tan in colour, dispersing over five or ten minutes to leave fine lacing.
The aroma was slightly odd and, frustratingly, I can’t put my finger on it. It was sweet and smokey, almost like marmite (the original British institution, not that ghastly Sanitarium stuff).
The beer had a lively, spritzy mouthfeel, and tasted both sweet and bitter at the same time. (It’s worth using your whole mouth to taste, rather than just a quick swallow.) My first thoughts ran to maple syrup, and almost burnt toast. And then weirdly, apricots and dried fruit.
It’s a malt-driven beer, and not over-hopped. And it works fantastically.
Between my beer breakfast and actually converting my thoughts into a coherent narrative, I asked Ben from Bridge Road for a list of ingredients. He pointed me towards a great video made on the brewday, listing the ingredients which were drawn from the brewery team’s favourite breakfasts. This list includes; Carmen’s Muesli, Zo’i coffee, Tetley’s tea, maple syrup, cinnamon-raisin bread, and Beechworth honey (of course).
There are several malts, primarily a smoked German Rauchmalz to echo the smell of bacon (didn’t quite work for me), a Belgian Abbey-malt for a biscuity character and a roasted wheat malt for colour and a chocolate hit.
In hindsight, the cinnamon raisin bread, muesli, honey and maple syrup, I can taste. I think that the marmitey smell is a combination of the the coffee and the smoked malt.
Well, I can say that I’m a convert – beer at breakfast time can be a triumph of beer and food matching. As with all craft beer, it’s all about the experience not about getting smashed.
I’ve had an illuminating experience, and the next question is: what should I have with the Southern Bay Brewery Sunrise Breakfast Lager in the fridge?
I’m thinking something lighter and more befitting of a summer Sunday morning; figs and ricotta drizzled with honey, or crepes with maple syrup and banana perhaps?