Cloudwater with a chance of Mac n Cheese

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First a word on Cloudwater Brew Co. I bought three uber cool looking bottles from this 17-month-old Manchester-based outfit last year. And not for the first time, my maiden experience of a much-hyped brewery fell short. The beers were out of balance I thought. With none of them really distinguishing themselves as complete works. Drinkable certainly, but I wasn’t about to race out and try some more.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 17.29.51But as I always do when it comes to new breweries, I gave them another shot a few months ago. And boy am I glad I did! The beers have been fine tuned and in my opinion, Cloudwater is brewing some of the UK’s best beers outside London right now. I’ve recently thoroughly enjoyed their US Light Comet, Session IPA Simcoe Centennial, and Pioneer Lager

What really impressed me was the real individual character of each beer. They were all executed with deft precision and showed a real purity of flavour. Everything in harmony. Nothing is wasted or lost. These are very grown-up beers and they are being brewed with very critical and dare I say cultured beer lovers like me in mind.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 16.23.37I decided to make a cheddar, cream cheese and mozzarella mac n cheese with some of their White IPA Mosaic E431 and matched it with the same beer. The beer’s dry peach and pineapple studded with hints of white pepper were a perfect foil for the creamy tangy cheeses. The beer in the sauce was quite subtle and nuanced but was most definitely present, its Vermont yeast pitch (similar to Belgian yeast showing banana and clove characters) shyly poking out from beneath the cheese coated tubes.

Mosaic is a hop whose star is most definitely on the rise and though it possesses many of the citrus, stone and tropical fruit flavours we associate with American hops it also has a unique but not overpowering herbal savoriness that sets it apart from some of its more piney counterparts.  

As a rather self-critical cook, I should have added more cheddar to the sauce, as it lacked some bite. But it was a lot of fun cooking with and then pairing the same beer with a dish. Adds something to the experience. 

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 17.30.55Cloudwater continues to brew an ever-changing roster of dynamic seasonal beers so please seek them out. I bought mine at my ever trusty Fresh Fields Market in Croydon but you can get them online at Beer Merchants or Eebria.

I’ve yet to taste any stouts or porters from them and I can’t believe I am saying this but am looking forward to the autumn to see what they come out with…

Bay Tree Lavender Jelly

I discovered West Country based The Bay Tree Food Company at a food fair last year and fell in love with their Spicy Gooseberry & Coriander Chutney. I had been holding onto the their Lavender Jelly for a special occasion but wish I hadn’t. The stuff is wonderful! Despite the ‘warning’  on the jar saying “Not only lovely with lamb” I went ahead and had it with it anyway. You see because that’s how I roll. I am a total rebel.

Tasting it solo, the first thing you get is a sharp hit of cider vinegar, then bright shards of aromatic lavender with subtle hints of Indian spices. It’s very balanced, so not cloying or over sweet. The flavours are exotic, yet soothing.

It went beautifully with the roast lamb, which loves aromatic accompaniments. But also went well with chicken, elevating the humble clucker without the need for lots of gravy. Pan fried pork paired nicely with the classic sweet and sour character.  Finally soft creamy goats cheese was given the royal treatment with the sharpness in both harmonising but also being lifted by the fragrant lavender.

You can buy Lavender Jelly for £2.70 online as well a a ton of other delicious consumables from The Bay Tree Food Company.


Bay Tree Spicy Gooseberry & Coriander Chutney

Chutney, but not as we know it 

I discovered this award winning stuff when I was at a trade food and drink fair in Exeter earlier this year, and man was I impressed.

Here are my notes.

Thick attractive brown red clay colour. Good solid thick consistency. Sticks to the spoon.

Nose of rich Indian spices.

Rich real fruit, mouth coating texture. Zingy sweetness from gooseberry, tang of tomato & warming complexity from the spices, topped off with the lovely aromatic crunch of the nigella seeds.

A winner.

This loves cheese, but nothing blue or too stinky. Work a treat on a cold lamb sandwich or an inventive twist on rarebit.

Find stockists and further information at The Bay Tree Food Company