My Real (ale) Friend

Product Review: Cleaver and Keg

So, here I am reviewing another meat snack – it’s a hard life being a Food Adventurer!

I now consider myself somewhat of an aficionado when it comes to meat snacking having reviewed a number of different biltongs and jerkies and understood the subtle nuances of the process that have a huge impact on the flavour delivery. The meat snacks market has now left the likes of Pepparami in its dust and matured to cater for a more sophisticated and premium palate.

I have previously referenced how far behind the UK market is in comparison to our European counterparts but we’re catching up and (thankfully) we’re going our own way. Europe’s meat lust sways towards high salt and pork products which hasn’t translated well in the UK other than in specialist outlets. The UK foodie seems to have picked up South African and American meat snacking habits and run with them with sales on jerky alone growing by 52.9% YOY according to The Grocer magazine. As with all booming trends diversification is high which has lead to the development of meat snacking products using meat other than beef.

So what’s driving the trend? Well it seems as though it’s the fitness movement. Meat snacks have a fantastic protein to fat ratio and also easily lend themselves to countless free-froms making meat snacks a very permissible treat. For the same reason the category, quite uniquely, transcends any gender preference with a good proportion of females also buying into the new trend.

This perfect storm of health and flavour has spiked interest amongst the hipster communities who are searching for something different to accompany their newfound love of hoppy IPAs. So we can see a decline in the urine-clad bowls of peanuts and garish bags of Mr Porky’s replaced in real ale pubs by olive wood platters of well-seasoned meat snacks. Which leads, nicely, into my review…

Rating: 9.5/10

Appeals to: free-from revolutionaries, hipsters, protein-junkies and beer lovers!

Packaging

I’m a big fan of this packaging. It’s bang on trend and is very well positioned to sit beside a bottle of premium, real ale. The wax paper bag and old-world imagery conjures up quality and premium connotations with is complimented well by a characterful narrative on the back of pack. I think this is possibly the best example I’ve seen from a meat snacks company in terms of communicating the brand personality on pack; it’s quirky, it’s personable, it’s friendly, it’s brilliant.

Price

£2.50 (45g bag) – you could argue that this is a little steep but if you compare it to the premium jerky option in a mainstream supermarket which retails for £2 then it’s not so bad. Plus in this category you really do get what you pay for. I’d be questioning any ‘meat’ snack that sold for much less than £1.50.

Delivery

The whole Cleaver and Keg brand ethos is about complimenting drinks, with their tag line being ‘Meaty Morsels for the Modern Drinker’, so, naturally, I had to oblige and enjoy these snacks with a 7.4% dry cider…

Chorizo Cuts

Just wow! These little bites are beautifully chewy, well-seasoned with a creamy opening that gave way to a soft but deep paprika note that lingers on the tongue.

Strips O Beef

I’ll be honest, I went into this bag expecting jerky or biltong – I was wrong to do that! These are beautiful strips of chewy, tender and creamy beef that just melt with each bite.

Hot Strips O Beef

Now, imagine the flavour above but intensified with heat. I can handle my spice well but what started off as a warming hug quickly developed into a slap to the chops as I devoured the bag. I think I’m in love!

Salami Bites

Here is the snack that is most akin to the European trend in terms of flavour profile, however it couldn’t be more detached in delivery. It’s light, salty, herby and not greasy at all. A brilliant snack!

Verdict – in a word, amorous! Cleaver and Keg have produced something different to anything else on the market that I’ve seen and I love it. It is the perfect partner to a pale ale or dry cider and I think I’ve found friends for life. I think you’ve just found yourself a new best customer!

Details: http://www.cleaverandkeg.co.uk/

Northern Munkee.

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Pie-Eyed

Food Journey: Pied Bull Brewery Tour

So here’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time on my #FoodAdventure: a micro-brewery tour!

The pub trade has taken a battering since the global recession re-shaped the landscape and, for a pub to survive, diversification is the key. So what a position to be in for a real ale pub with its own micro brewery.

Now, I made my feelings on real ale clear in a previous post: I’m a born again beer drinker and I’m not a hipster nor do I want to surround by hipsters – there’s a reason I don’t live in Shoreditch! So you can imagine my delight when Mrs Munkee and I walked down the cobbled Chester streets and across the threshold of the Pied Bull and it wasn’t a haven for the bearded and tattooed.

The pub was exactly what I wanted it to be with painted wooden beams and old fashioned bar and ornate pumps. Prior to the tour we invited to enjoy a couple of drinks and some brilliant honey and chilli nuts.

The tour itself was lead by the Brewer: a passionate man sporting wellies, basketball shorts and the standard cellar man’s fleece. He led the group down a rickety staircase beneath the pub and into his lair. The brewery at the Pied Bull is the epitome of a micro-brewery it was tiny but the magic that this man managed to produce in such little space is incredible.

The Brewer proceeded to explain the brewing process with gusto, here was a man that loved his job – who wouldn’t?! The most interesting part of the tour was the introduction of the hops and the different varietals to incite the subtle flavour notes in the various Pied Bull beers. This was also, clearly, the brewer’s favourite part of the tour as he became more animated and enthusiastic: hops can be strong, they can be weak, they can be a citrus, they can be floral, they can be a coffee, they can be a chocolate, they can be earthy, they can be light, they can be bold, they can be unashamed, they can be bright, they can be dull, they can be heavy, they can be uncanny and they can be familiar. Hops can be all things to all people. Brilliant!

The tour concluded with the only natural way to end a micro-brewery tour: a tasting!

Black Bull

Dark and intense. This beer evokes a creamy dark coffee with chocolate notes. This quickly develops into a creamy caramel with a Mocha lasting finish.

Do-a -Bull

Pale and full of life. Cold crisp, light and citrussy with lighter floral hops. The deep hop flavours linger on the tongue.

Quaff-a-Bull

Very very hoppy but full of flavour. Light and frothy. Orange notes finish the symphony of flavours.

Details: http://www.piedbull.co.uk

Northern Munkee.

Ale Mail for NYE2016

This post was inspired by a Foodie Christmas present I received this year which was a selection ‘Box of Brew’ from Beer52.com.

Craft Ales have exploded onto the UK alcohol market with trendy pubs and microbreweries leading the way in the on trade market and a whole plethora of small producers finding their way into retail. Brew Dog has been a particular success story over the last 12-18 months having fully utilised social media and the power of crowd funding to grow their income and brand awareness. This revolution has also done wonders for the Beers, Wines and Spirits category because it’s driven a huge amount of value because retailers can now charge £2 per bottle rather than 50p with some of the ever-promoted big brands.

Subscription beer clubs have sprouted on the back of the on/off-trade success to allow fanatics to experience wares from lots of different producers, selected based on individual preferences, delivered straight to your door. What a fantastic idea! Clubs such as Beer52.com and Flavourly.com have done the foraging for you and unearthed some buried truffles of ale, packaged them up and sent them straight to you door. All you have to do is open, enjoy and evaluate so you can decide whether you want to see more from that particular small business. So that’s exactly what I did!

Now, I am not a hipster. I have never sported a top knot nor have I cultivated a beard for any other reason than laziness and therefore I am not your typical craft ale drinker. If truth be told I’m more of a cider support than an ale ally. However, I can’t profess to being a Food Adventurer without being, well, Food Adventurous. So I wholeheartedly decided to take on the challenge and enjoy my Christmas Craft Ale last night, alongside Jools Holland on NYE2016.

I’m going to rate the beers I tried on three measures: quaffability (did I enjoy the drink?); appearance (what did I think of the look of the liquid and packaging?); overall (how likely am I to buy it again?). I will also rate my overall experience from Beer52.com

The first bottle I tried, and remembered to make notes on, was from Gypsy Inc. and called Gypsy No. 5. It was a 6.2% cloudy ale with a strong, hoppy initial flavour that evolved to leave a lasting, smooth, caramel finish.

Quaffability: 8/10

Appearance: 5/10

Overall: 7/10

I then explored a darker ale from Brew Fist called Caterpillar Pale Ale. It was darker in appearance than the Gypsy Inc. and, although it was 5.8%, had a much harsher, almost peppery, initial hit with harsh citrus tones to finish.

Quaffability: 4/10

Appearance: 7/10

Overall: 5/10

My next selection was made purely with my eyes, I loved the packaging. It was a small aluminium can from Them and Us. When poured, it delivered a smooth 4.5%, almost, gas-less ale with light fruit flavours. The deep mahogany hues in the glass were almost mesmerising!

Quaffability: 8/10

Appearance: 10/10

Overall: 8/10

Finally, because I could have continued all evening but I would have become more and more nonsensical, I unleased an American Pale Ale from Emelisse. This was a much lighter and gassier beer at 3.5% and appealed to my familiar tastes much more than the others. It gave a very light, crisp and refreshing drink with delicate citruses at the end.

Quaffability: 10/10

Appearance: 9/10

Overall: 9/10

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by my Ale Mail and, although it wasn’t something I would have chosen for myself, I’m a convert! With a good salty snack and some rugby to watch I could happily work my way through some more craft ales. The delivery from Beer52.com was well presented, easy to follow and guided me through this new experience. I would definitely recommend this gift for a foodie. Note to self: keep on being Food Adventurous!

Northern Munkee