Beer

Kill The Cat Tasting Sessions

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The first of March is here, and (thankfully), so is Friday! We're not crazy drinkers at The Amazing Blog, but we'd be lying if we didn't admit to enjoying a tipple or two at the weekend. We were therefore excited to be introduced to Kill The Cat...a craft beer bottle shop with a difference! Based on the famous Brick Lane, they have over 150 specially curated beers, not only providing standard beers but a vast array of unique and innovative flavours. Whether you're a connoisseur, or more amateur (we're certainly in the latter category), Kill The Cat are committed to providing their customers with a newfound favourite. Even better still, you can choose from three tasting tours - with expert advice to help you along your way to finding something a little different from your 'usual.'

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Having discovered this brand, we were keen to delve further into the way in which they operate. Those with a penchant for beer may recognise that many companies group their beers by brewery or geography, and while this may be no bad thing, we were intrigued by the unique categorisation of Kill The Cat's offerings. Taking inspiration directly from the brand name (and with a little pun inspiration), you'll find that Cat 1 beers cover the familiar, whereas Cat 2 will provide a slightly rarer and unusual range. For the adventurous, Cat 3 is ideal, acclaimed to include beers that will ‘blow your mind.’ Now if you're feeling a little lost, then never fret, the beers are also arranged by their colour (light to dark), and expert advice is on hand, with top picks each month to provide a ittle inspiration.

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If you’re still not sure where to start, then a beer tasting is the answer, with three different options: The Beer Curious, The One Track Mind (IPA's) and The Killers. As the name suggests, The Beer Curious is an introduction to the world of beer, with a guided tasting of six beers, ranging from easy drinkers to more full-on brews. If you're a more seasoned pro or prefer IPA's, then The One Track Mind will float your boat, again with six drinks to try. Finally, for those looking to find innovative beers above the rest, then The Killers tour will be for you! This includes the tasting of nine different beers, picked acutely because of their uniqueness and rarity. Whichever tour you choose, you'll be enticed by the contemporary and fresh interior. Each tour lasts for around an hour, and you'll be treated to complimentary snacks - what's not to love?

Price wise, these tastings are reasonable, ranging from £22.50-£45 per person. These rates depend on the number of people in your tasting group, and the tour you decide on. To see the full price list, then visit the Kill The Cat website here where you can view their availability and browse the online shop. We think this would make an excellent gift for a beer lover, or an equally nice way to whittle away an hour or so with friends. Be sure to let us know how you get on, and we hope you have a wonderful beer-curious weekend!

Friday Favourites: Beers and Ciders

There’s no doubt that as Christmas approaches, beers and ciders are some of our more pleasurable lighter tipples… One thing we don’t enjoy though, is in our rush to replenish our fridge, is only having a limited choice from supermarket. Supermarket buyers please take note: There are some fantastic indie brands there! With a little research we’ve found some new and interesting options, from fruity ciders to chocolately beers. Keep reading as we at The Amazing Blog introduce you to some of our new festive favourites!

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Let's start with something fresh. Sassy's Cider, created in Normandy, is made of 100% pure juice, is 100% naturallow in calories and no added sugars. We started with the L’inimitable, a bright and golden balance between a traditional-dry cider brut taste, and the fruitiness of a semi-dry cider. It works well as an aperitif, but is also delicious alongside any meat or cheese. The full bodied aroma reveals apple and leather, creating a subtle balance between acidity, bitterness and roundness. Our next treat was Le VertueuxClear and pure, this can be perfectly combined with fish or light chocolate desserts as it gives you a sharp and slightly tannic mouth feel at first, finishing off the soft and subtle flavour of pear. This taste is something we certainly hadn’t come across before and it’s delicious!

Our favourite however, is La Sulfureuse, a cider blended with apple spices, creating a soft and semi-dry cider. Ideal with desserts like sorbet or pastry. lt is lower in alcohol than other ciders and has an intense pink colour, as well as a delectable smell of apples and red fruits. If you want to try Sassy’s ciders for yourself, then you can purchase 12 mini bottles (330ml each) for €44 or 6 bottles of 750ml each for €43 here. Alternatively, you can purchase a set of three for £24 on the John Lewis website here.

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Another fresh and new cider experience is provided by Lilley's, this time from the UK. Their lightly sparkling Rhubarb Craft Cider is characteristically tart, packed full of rhubarb flavour, yet still has a delicous sweetness. The taste is fulfilling, perhaps going down a little too easily at times! Lilleys, a family run cider business, based in Frome, Somerset, offers a diverse range of traditional and experimental blends of cider. Always made with care and a lot of enthusiasm, this cider definitely helps you to get the best out of the day. The notes of rhubarb effectively take away the usual over-sweetness of fruit ciders, instead leaving a light and refreshing taste. This is one of our favourites from their extensive range. We particularly like this tart nature, and it was a hit even with those who are usually put off by flavoured ciders. This Rhubarb Craft Cider was a winner in The Great Taste Awards 2018 for being ‘very sweet with lively carbonation tart and beautifully blended’ and we couldn’t agree more. This is an excellent present for a cider lover, in it’s substantial carton 5L box of rustic goodness that is certain to pack a punch for a mere £19.80 here

Delivering to businesses all across the UK, you can purchase the 6 bottles (500ml each) for £15.18 here. Alternatively, you can mix and match this cider with other great options, buying a selection of 6 flavours, including Mango or Apple & Blackberry. Click here to personalise your own crate.

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Moving away from cider, and onto beer, we came across Lowlander. There is no doubt that Lowlander’s Beer shines amongst the competition, with a range of awards for their botanically brewed beers. With its snappy branding inspired by travel to far-away lands, and discovery of exotic herbs and spices, Lowlander beers are packed full of flavour and character. A whole new dimension of flavours is added thanks to the botanicals used, and their website provides advice on how to combine your favourite beer with either food or other alcoholic beverages.

We tested Lowlander’s Yuzu & Pink Grapefruit beer, and were surprised by the lightness and freshness of this beer, revealing a bright citrus flavour characteristic of having being brewed with earl grey tea and gose beer. We also tried their Ginger & Kaffir Lime beer, which is, in contrast, rather spicy and aromatic, delivering hints of zesty citrus. This beer is brewed with Darjeeling tea and wheat beer, and both beers are presented in colourful and flowery bottles, sure to brighten up any day. With this innovative combination of botanicals, tea and beer, Lowlander wanted to provide innovative lower alcohol options (2.5% vol.). Their beers are subsequently lower in alcohol content than other competitors, but we certainly don’t think this has dampened their flavour! Launched at the Speciality & Fine Food fair in London, these beers can now be purchased from €15 for 6 bottles (330ml each) on their web shop and you’ll find them stocked in many good bars and shops.

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Another innovative brand we came across is Pillars, founded by four guys who have created their own Lager Revolution in London. Finding its roots in a garden shed, the aim of the brand was to prove that a craft lager can be just as tasty as its ale counterparts. This is something that we think has turned out to be a great success. With a lot of creativity and quality, the tasteless reputation of Lager has been smashed!

Their first creation was the Untraditional Lager, which has since become the all-time favourite (and our favourite as well). This 4.5% Session IPL combines ingredients from all over the world, producing a never before seen combination of a pilsner and hoppy IPA. This creates the delicious flavour of local British malts, with softness and fruitiness which has a slightly citrusy, but definitely crisp, finish. We also tried their Rebell Helles (4.8% vol.) lager, which combines traditional Helles Lager with new world hops. It is most definitely waves two fingers to boring beers! It is a malty maverick, revealing a full bodied taste, yet is easy to drink. Based in Walthamstow, East London, the brewery pays homage to a brand that wants to change perceptions of lagers. The packaging is metallic orange, and black and white in design, offering a graphic look that looks great on any shelf. With a reasonable price of £2.65 for 330ml, this fresh taste is definitely worth a try. Visit their website here to see for yourself.

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Our last stop of this revealing beer and cider discovery tour is Big Cat Stout from Stroud Brewery, a British Craft Brewery founded in 2006. They create premium organic beers, offering a wide range of beers in cask, cake bottles and cans. Starting out as their pet project, this dark stout is organic, and vegan and delivers a silky complexity of dark roast malts.

We decided to give this 4.5%, easy drinking conditioned stout, a try. We were certainly more than satisfied. Encased in a stylish and simple bottle with a graphic red logo, we were impressed to find that this stout is organically brewed, without any artificial preservatives, flavourings or colourings. The taste is not highly bitter, and we think is best combined with rich spicy foods, mature cheddar, chocolate or coffee based pudding. The silky smooth texture is full bodied, delivering a fruity dark chocolate aroma, with a hint of liquorice. Winner of a 2 star Great Taste Award (2017), this beer is definitely not what you find in an everyday pub! Purchase 12 bottles of 500ml each for £33 here.

As Christmas draws nearer, we hope to have opened your eyes to a few new festive tipples, we think in particular that these are great for those who normally steer clear of beers, ciders and stouts. So go on, give it a go, why not try something new?

Holiday Drinks - Friday Favourites

With the Christmas Party season in full swing, and here at The Amazing Blog we like to celebrate in style. So whether you’re a Champagne, Prosecco, Rum or Beer drinker, here’s our round up of the classiest drinks to make sure your parties to celebrate the holidays are a success. 

Finest Fizz seem to have created the impossible, a Brut Rosé Champagne which is not only lower in calories at 270 calories, but low in sugar content too.  Comparing this to a regular Brut Champagne which can come in at approximately 570 calories, that's a big difference!

The hand-crafted fizz has Strawberry, Raspberry and Red Cherry flavours and is Premier Cru Champagne. This skinny Champagne is a version of Champagne Tribaut’s popular Rosé de Reserve, just with no added sugar. Which, if you’ve had indulgent Christmas celebrations will be a good alternative. We found that you didn’t notice the Rosé was low-sugar one, and considering it is Extra Brut it’s deliciously dry. The bottle is very feminine with a pink label and the Champagne is, of course a light pink shade. Skinny Rosé would make a perfect addition to a ladies night!

You can purchase Skinny Rosé here for £39.

When you’re told a product is a multiple award-winning one you may set very high expectations, and Premier Estate’s Prosecco did not disappoint.  This extra dry DOC is produced with grapes from a single harvest which highlights the luxurious aspects of it. It is lightly creamy with a zesty freshness and flute of this is required for anyone looking for a sophisticated accessory for when the clock strikes 12. The fizz is refreshing and can work great with or without food. The price is surprising low for the quality of the Champagne and the awards, including a bronze in the International wine challenge reflect that the experts agree.

You can purchase Prosecco here for £9.99

Ron Santa Teresa is one of the first Caribbean rum producers and is now sold in over 30 countries, the brand specialises on high quality and premium rum. We received their Santa Teresa 1796, it is a clear, reddish amber colour and its character means it’s suitable to drink on the rocks or with mineral water, if you would prefer. The strong, well rounded taste boasts smoke through tobacco and leather notes. These are created through the Solera method, a traditional method that uses Oak barrels to age the alcohol, from which it is produced entirely. The taste remains delicate, elegant and velvety whilst the bottle looks classic and classy, sure to wow any guests.

You can purchase a bottle of Santa Teresa 1796 here for £40.

If you’re the designated driver or not an alcohol drinker, St. Peter’s Brewery has made sure you don’t miss out! St. Peters is based in Suffolk and they create traditional beers as well as unusual beers. Launched in September, they have created a ‘Without’ range of beers that are alcohol free yet tastes just as good as the alcoholic version. The beer is brewed to the exact same standards as your usual craft ale, but without the alcohol. It is malty, full-bodied and bursting with flavour and is also fewer calories than standard beer. Unlike other alcohol free alternatives, this looks like beer as well as feels and tastes like beer. For an alcohol free alternative, try St. Peters Without here, 8 x 500ml £13.

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The long-established English philosophy at Wimbledon Brewery uses the best Ingredients and traditions to ensure the highest of quality beers. We tried the Quatermaine bottled beer named after William Quatermaine, an original owner of Wimbledon Brewery. This beer is an I.P.A and has spicy orange notes which goes on to a crisp hops bitterness. We also tried the Bravo American Pale Ale which comes in a 330ml can; it is refreshing, with a fruity and crisp taste and pronounced Blackberry. They both have the sophisticated Wimbledon Brewery look, with silver labels and the large logo of the Wimbledon tower, Phoenix, barley and hops which encases the important aspects of the brand. You can buy the Quatermaine bottled beer here for £2.70 and the Bravo American pale ale here for £2.50.

Friday Favourites - Chinese New Year

Kung Hei Fat Choi (Happy New Year) from all of us here at The Amazing Blog! This celebration marks the commencement of the year of the Wooden Horse.  The wooden horse can be seen as good or bad depending on our beliefs. Wood is seen as additional fuel for the already energetic horse, meaning it can inspire those to follow through with goals but can also spark conflicts. Whether you celebrate the date or just want to partake in the festivities, here at The Amazing Blog, we have found all you need to get your New Year’s celebration underway.

First off let’s address the superstitions surrounding the entry of a new year to the Chinese and what one should and should not do. Starting with the home, families clean the home as a way of saying out with the old and in with the new, as well as eliminating bad energy. Also remember to avoid any unpleasant situations or crying on this day since the first day of the year is said to be a precursor of the year to come. For you fashion conscious folks, be mindful not to wear black since the colour relates to death and instead opt for red as it represents luck and fortune. Also if you want to have some fun with ghosts and spirits, pop some firecrackers to scare the bad ones off. Your neighbour may not appreciate it but it’s a sure way of starting the year off with a bang!

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Regardless of your plans, let us suggest a themed recipe because clearly we here at the blog love anything in regards to food! We have found a Chinese New Year Cake Recipe Kit by Sous ChefSous Chef is an online store dedicated to supplying hard-to-find ingredients and equipment to ‘adventurous cooks’ interested in exotic cuisines.  The cake mix kit includes the ingredients needed to make traditional New Year ‘sticky cakes’ known as Nian Gao, which consist of Chinese brown sugar, glutinous rice flour, coconut milk and the recipe card with instructions. These cakes have the consistency of Japanese mochi balls but can also be pan-fried and transform into tasty, eggy ‘bread’. The kit is available online here for only £5.00. Thanks to our friends at Sous Chef who have given us the recipe to share with you!

Ingredients:

225g Chinese brown sugar in pieces (half packet)

200ml water

200ml coconut milk (half can)

225g glutinous rice flour (half a bag)

Optional gold leaf, to garnish

This recipe makes 3x10 cm cakes, to serve 6 people.

Recipe:

  1. Break down the brown sugar into small pieces, and place in pan with the water. Heat, stirring until dissolved and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the coconut milk.
  3. Measure out the glutinous rice flour into a large mixing bowl, and pour over the coconut milk and sugar mixture. Whisk well, until there are no lumps. The texture should be similar to a runny pancake batter.
  4. With a little cooking oil, grease 3-5 small ramekins, remembering that 4 is an unlucky number! Pour in the batter, dividing equally between dishes.
  5. Sit the ramekins in a large saucepan with a lid, and add water until it comes to half way up the sides of the dishes. Cover with lid, and simmer for 30 minutes on a low heat.
  6. Remove from pan and leave to cool (they are also tasty at this stage!). Refrigerate. They will keep well wrapped in the fridge.
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  8. Optional: If you’re giving the cakes as presents, run a knife around the side of the cake, and lever it out. Place upside down on a circle of grease-proof paper, tie with string, and top with a little gold leaf.

Next we have the Wing Yip Five Beer Gift Pack, because what is a celebration without a little alcohol!  Perfect for any occasion and festivity, the pack contains beers from all over Asia in areas like Kirin Ichiban, Tiger, Sapporo, Tsing Tao and Singha. The supplier of the beer pack, Wing Yip, is the UK’s leading retailer of Oriental products with four locations in Birmingham, Manchester, Cricklewood and Croydon. The beer gift pack however, is only available online here for £7.98.

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Food and drink are a must but not always enough to entertain your guests; we want your celebration to be everything but boring.  Amuse your guests and bring good fortune by flying a traditional Chinese dragon kite.  Airdynamics,  a UK based company specializing in hand-made kites imported from China, suggests that under Chinese tradition flying a kite during the celebration brings growth and good fortune in the upcoming year.  If kite flying isn’t your speciality, no worries!  These carefully crafted kites dual as entertainment and home decorations in the form of dragons, snakes and other animals.  Prices very based on size and selection, but orders can be placed here.

Finally we have a gift from us to you; well, it’s actually a gifting idea. Traditionally in Chinese New Year culture, a charm is given to family members and friends to optimize good fortune in the upcoming seasons.  Seeking good fortune themselves, the Pandora bracelet company has designed the Chinese Zodiac Horse Pendant Charm.  Yes, it is unique to 2014 but we find the Zodiac Horse doubles as an everyday “good luck” charm.  Even better, the horse charm will fill another space on the bracelets of your family and friends!  Find the charm at a local Pandora store or on Pandora for £35.00.

If you’re not hosting or attending a Chinese New Year party, pop by Chinatown to experience ‘the largest Chinese New Year party outside of China.’  Chinatown entertainment will include dancers, musicians, food and more!  Go here for more details.

We hope this has given you some inspiration for your Chinese New Year festivities!

Alastair Sawday's Special Places Pubs & Inns of England & Wales

There's nothing as typical of Britain as pubs and bars - whenever I hang out with my friends and family we all gather around a table in our favourite pub drinking beer and cider and having fun catching up. The atmosphere is warm and relaxing - there's something about pubs; that something you can't quite explain, that makes you feel at home and stay there for hours without realising you've spent the whole evening drinking. I have a few favourites on my list, however, new places are always welcome when it comes to having fun with my friends. A few weeks ago, we received Alastair Sawday's Special Places Pubs & Inns of England & Wales at The Amazing Blog - an exquisite selection of 900 pubs and inns that has helped us with many great evenings in lovely new pubs.

The book is written in a personal and laid-back style without being too informal and is neatly laid-out. Each pub or inn suggested is shown on a picture or two; opening times, contact numbers, prices, addresses, and even tube stations are provided and broken down geographically. One of the things we love the most about this guide is the fact that the information is concise and brief - they even specify which places are pet and children-friendly!

Alastair Sawday's Special Places Pubs & Inns of England & Wales is a fantastic guide that has received really good reviews from the most well-known newspapers and magazines; and at The Amazing Blog we understand why. Their suggestions and the detailed and useful tips and information have never let us down. If there is something negative to point out about this fantastic guide, that should be the lack of time to visit all of these promising places in England and to a lesser extent in Wales.

You can purchase Alastairs Sawday's fantastic guides here.