After a Christmas where any TV choice was dictated by a Ben 10 obsessed 3 year old it was a welcome change to return home and see what the V+ box had in store. Oz and Hugh Raise the Bar seemed like the most appealing offering but in televisual terms proves that the bar tends to be quite low these days. The format is the well worn travel mission where our hosts supposedly showcase the best of what’s on offer with a challenge in the last programme of running their own bars: for one night only that is. It’s laboured, gimmicky TV which relies on stereotypes and a scattergun approach to content. It leaves me asking: why can’t we be more like the Belgians! Yes that’s right the Belgians. Stay with me.
Such was my despair I went to the fridge, reached into the bottom shelf and cracked open a bottle of Tournee Generale. Quite possibly the only beer created as part of a TV show (of the same name) and sold commercially? Now i’m sure I may be corrected at this point, but its the only one I know of. And yes you guessed it. It’s Belgian. The result is Tournee Generale (6.5%). It’s a cloudy, amber beer, with a creamy head and a definite Coriander taste and smell. It’s not a classic but is more than drinkable. In some ways, the fact that its brewed (by Duvel Moortgat) as a result of a TV show is its most interesting characteristic
For those who remember MTV in the 90s, when it was about the music and not awful teen reality, you’d recognise the shows co-host, Ray Cokes who is paired with Jean Blaute who you probably don’t. As the name suggests the series is a tour of brewers in search of the countries best with the objective of brewing a Speciale Belge. From what I’ve viewed so far it’s not the scattergun approach of our BBC equivalents; crediting the viewer with a little intelligence and as and added bonus there are no shots of a hungover Oz Clarke in his pants!
Here’s a taster! Interested to know what your views are on the treatment of beer in the mainstream media.
So we’ve all been there. It’s midweek, its wet and cold and almost everything that could go wrong, has, and that which hasn’t will doubtless be kicking you in the arse in the next few days. Christmas week should not be like this!
Perhaps sensing the cartoon rain (or perhaps snow) cloud that has been hanging over my head all week Lou hatched a very simple but effective plan involving Belgian beer and savoury snacks.
Before even opening the front door the smell of pastry and a good amount of cheese is wafting down the stairwell, and combatting the cloud. I will say at this point that there are many skills that I admire in the people in my life but the ability to read my mood and feed me accordingly is a skill that Lou has acquired above all others. I’m generally a grouch but more so when not sufficiently fed and watered. She has been known to counter my mood by saying “shut it, eat this “… seconds later the picture is different.
As I open the door the waft is now an enveloping blanket of cheese. At this point, without even knowing what’s cooking any thoughts of stress have disappeared. The source of this mood altering smell, Gougères; a sort of mini cheese puff made with choux pastry and stuffed with cheese. Hailing from Burgundy these French favourites are commonly served with a glass of bubbles. I’m not adverse to the odd glass of Champers but we don’t have any in the fridge. What we do have lurking in the deep recesses is some Lindemans Kriek. I’m not a big one for cherry beers (dare I say i’ve always considered it a drink for the ladies) but the sweetness and acidity of the Kriek is an ideal substitition for the Champagne and an ideal companion to the Gruyere laden pastry.
With the Gougères polished off, and the Kriek run dry, all is right with the world and Christmas week is back on track So in the spirit of Christmas and this Anglo-Franco-Belgian post… Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Zalig Kerstfeest.
There was a time, not that long ago, that a few beers on a Tuesday night could turn into an unexpected session. Random dives, curry and kebabs would likely be involved; as inevitably would the Wednesday morning hangover and the prognosis of: it must be something I ate. Nowadays I’m a little more restrained. Attributable in part to the conversion. Not of the religious kind, Though on reflection it does involve a morning baptism and a great number of oh god, jesus, jesus’s, as I plunge into an outdoor pool which today read 15c. It’s not something to be attempted with the remnants of a session clunking round your shattered mind and body!
So planning a few Tuesday evening drinks these days requires more thought. The main rule here is that too much of a good time should be avoided or you are risk of a session.
Meeting Captain English around Farringdon I’m stuck for a venue. I’ve always found the station end of Cowcross Street to be a wasteland for decent pubs and bars so this is firmly out. Ok so I said too much of a good time should be avoided, but a bad time is just a waste of time and money. There’s a niche between the two which is pleasant conversation, a few laughs (but not too many mind) which will see you on the right train home every time. Clerkenwell Green, the Gunmakers and the Peasant would all be too dangerous a proposition so the choice was the Dovetail. A bar specialising in Belgian beer should surely be a dangerous choice? But strangely it isn’t. The service is ok, the choice is extensive and tucked away on Jerusalem Passage it’s a relatively quiet location. I’ve spent time here for after work drinks and on weekends when I lived around the corner but have never made a connection in the same way as say the Peasant or 3 Kings, that makes me want to stay. English and I ponder this over a Kwak; the conclusion is it’s identikit feel; with Tin Tin posters, pews, Belgian beer memorabilia, not to mention the stale chip fat aroma, we could as easily be sat in a Bromley chain bar. A shame perhaps? Well not really as without the likes of the Dovetail occupying the niche between favourites and the likes of Cowcross Street, Tuesday nights could be a thing of the past. As conversation strays to the existence of a Kwak Pipe it’s time for the short walk to the train station.
9-10 Jerusalem Passage