I am not sure how or when it all started, or who started it, and to be fair this is not really relevant (although Brewdog like to remind us who opened the can of worms, at least in the UK). But the fact that we now enjoy a wide range of flavoursome ales in most boozers is worth the celebration. During the last couple of years, you could not have been oblivious to those quirky labels appearing on a few bottles in the fridges behind pubs and bars, then on hand pumps, and now on supermarket shelves along side more “traditional” ales. Up until 3 years ago, being “beer different” to me meant buying German and Belgium ales from Carringtons or Oddbins. Then Brewdog and their seemingly un-PC and flashy bottles made their way here and there. I remember when I tried a Trashy Blonde thinking “that stuff’s bursting with life, it’s not a lager but it’s a fizzy blonde, but it’s not the typical pale ale I normally get from the local either…????”. Finally in 2010, Manchester got their first craft Beer-dom in the discreet shape of Port Street Beer House and boy these guys have been busy to bring us the best brews out there.
For a while a few of us took on the (arrogant) role of beer messiahs, trying to convert lager drinkers to “our cause” so to speak, with not much success. Thing is, it was not necessary because as always, quality speaks for itself and ultimately, people can make the difference for themselves. Then earlier this year, the team behind PSBH started to “tweet” discreetly about a new place soon to open in Manchester, the Beagle. It’s interesting to see a different angle on a promotional campaign. Most other food & drink business, start-up or not, generally use a more in-your-face campaign with all the social media arsenal. Some more in-passing reminders, cards with a black Beagle’s face printed on it, were thrown on tables at the Indy Man Beer Con, organised by the same lot. But the Beagle remained a mystery until not long before opening two weeks ago. A tweet here, a clue there… Then we heard it would do food as well (currently lacking at PSBH)… suffice to say we were getting seriously excited, a bit like when there is a rumour your favourite band are going to play a one-off intimate gig in a local venue.
So there it is, The Beagle has now been open since Thursday 16 November and slowly but surely is becoming the place to go for craft beer and yes…fine dining. A menu designed by Laurence Tottingham of Aumbry, whose reputation is now well established, a selection of fine ales on tap and by the bottle including a couple of specially brewed Beagle ales, great tunes, a fine decor and a great team…god I wish I had opened this place. The look is sober but the vintage fans will twitch at the tables, chairs and benches. It all works superbly well.
Salt beef stovey: a well seasoned corned beef patty, topped with a fried duck egg and moist with a subtle and creamy mustard sauce. The stuff melts in the mouth and is full of soft meaty flavours.
Oyster Mombassa with African hot sauce: remember our conversation about oysters? Miss Mash just couldn’t resist. She got the one, huge oyster for starter and the smile on her face said it all.
BBQ pork ribs: full of juicy meat together with chunky chips. A classic but perfectly executed, and the ribs were top quality.
30-day aged rump cap steak: Again a classic but the meat was perfectly selected and cooked.
Colonial Goose: tender pieces of lamb braised in red wine sauce served on a bed of green cabbage with garlic mash. Rarely had lamb so tenderly cooked.
Whilst ordering the food I asked the manager and/or owner to help me with the beer pairing. This is a new area for me, not that I ever doubted matching beer and food could work but I guess I am a bit late on that one. I am now fully embracing the idea though. So I had the stovey with the Beagle Pale Ale, which was brewed in collaboration with Summer Wine Brewery. A crisp, light, refreshing and decidedly hoppy ale which went well with the fatty beef and creamy sauce. With the Lamb I tried the other Beagle, a Best bitter, brewed with Quantum QC. This beer style is more creamy and on the malty flavours which again went well with the strong animal flavours of the lamb.
That said, whilst I like the idea it is now accepted that beer can be a great accompaniment to a dish presenting an original culinary experience, I still think, for now, that wine does it better. There is definitely a great variety of ales out there that will marry with any dish, but I have not yet experienced the level of enhancement that a good wine pairing provides. Worry not though, I cannot wait to be proven wrong soon and I will keep on trying for sure 😉
The ladies both had a cheeky dessert to finish: sussex pond pudding and clotted cream ice cream, and a chocolate beer cake. Guess which Miss Mash had? The beer of the chocolate cake came in a small taster glass and was a Dark Arts by Magic Rock. Sort of obvious yet a very good match.
I have to apologise for the quality of the photos there. iPhones are capable of pulling off great shots but in low lights there isn’t much they can do. I did find the charger for my DSLR though so hopefully we will get sharper shots