Welcome to 2018 TGE-ers, we’re nearly a month through already can you believe it? I know many of you are taking part in dry January, giving up booze for a whole month. Pfft! Try 9. Sorry, not bitter…In the spirit of a rather damp January however, Mr TGE and I went along to the launch event at The Mall pub in Clifton Village for this years’ craft beer residency in partnership with Thornbridge Brewery. The Craft Beer Residency is taking place from 25th January – 17th March at over 100 pubs nationwide offering a range of limited edition beers to those pubs taking part.
Now, as an 8 ½ month pregnant non-beer drinker, it wasn’t necessarily going to be a natural fit event- wise for me, but as the team at The Mall pub were laying on a 5 course menu and Mr TGE gallantly offered to put aside his dry January rules for the night to try the accompanying beer pairings (What a trooper eh?) we waddled along to see what was in store.
The Mall pub is a lovely venue in Clifton Village, I’ve had drinks there previously but never tried the food. Upstairs is a cosy informal pub and downstairs is an equally cosy but slightly more formal dining room and separate bar. As we arrived we were offered the first beer of the night, the ‘Mimosa’ 4.8% which I’m reliably informed is a smooth, full – bodied Vermont-style session IPA with an intense citrus hop character. Specially brewed for the Craft Beer Residency it was very well received in the room. I had a quick sip and have to say it was bloody lovely – I would definitely order one in the future. I found it light and fruity in flavour, very easy to drink. Mr TGE agreed and we took our seats for the first course of the night with Rob Lovatt, Head Brewer at Thornbridge, and his team guiding us through the beer selection.
The starter was beetroot three ways topped with crispy quail’s egg, chicory and horseradish and looked absolutely stunning. However for me this was the only course that didn’t work, the beetroot although served 3 ways all tasted the same and was rather bland. The horseradish and chicory helped deliver a little flavour and texture but unfortunately wasn’t enough to make the dish that interesting – I would have loved a sharp pickled beetroot flavour in there. The quail’s egg was lovely however with a pleasantly oozing yolk. That said Mr TGE enjoyed it, quite possibly this course didn’t work for me through missing out on the beer pairing called ‘Bear State’ (7%). A classic West Coast style American IPA this beer is brewed to have a huge profile flavour of grapefruit and pine with a well-rounded bitterness. Again I had a quick sip (all in the name of journalism) and found it similar but less fruity than the Mimosa and could definitely taste the grapefruit and additional bitterness. It wasn’t my favourite but went down very well around the table.
Next up was course 2, a palate cleanser of Thornbridge strawberry sorbet. Made with ‘I Love You, Will U Marry Me’, a strawberry blonde ale at 4.5%, it was gorgeously fruity and light. It’s exactly what you would want served from an ice cream van on a sultry summer day – though to be fair it went down pretty well on a damp January evening too. The beer was named after the iconic graffiti marriage proposal preserved on a bridge connecting flats in Sheffield and was brewed to support Sheffield’s S1 Artspace in their bid to create a new cultural venue. Thornbridge Brewery is based in nearby Bakewell and incidentally, a bakewell tart flavoured beer would be right up my street if you fancy brewing that guys?
Moving on to the main course we were presented with a beautiful plate of venison medallions on celeriac puree, savoy cabbage and a wild mushroom & red wine jus. I’m a huge fan of venison and this was an absolute winner for me – the meat was soft, tender and full of flavour. The jus in particular was lovely, glossy and rich! This was paired with the ‘cocoa wonderland’ beer (6.8%), a full bodied porter with natural mocha malt flavours. Real chocolate is added during maturation which was fairly evident from the chocolatey aroma. It was the perfect pairing with the venison (I had one small sip) but probably too chocolatey for me to order as a stand alone drink. Together though they made an indulgent and extremely tasty meal, I was surprised at the sheer range of flavour with the beers on offer. If you’re not particularly a wine fan this would be a great option for you if you wanted a matching drink flight with a tasting menu.
The penultimate course was my favourite of the night – which after that venison is really saying something! Chocolate ganache with cherry curd and white chocolate popping crisp was again a beautifully presented dish (which I promptly devoured). The ganache was one of the best I’ve tried, deeply rich in flavour and so smooth. The tart cherry curd cut through it perfectly, I wish I was still eating it now to be honest. The cherry on top on the ganache had been dipped in the popping candy which was an unexpected little delight and the chocolate popping crisp added a nice crunch to the texture. This was served with my joint favourite (alongside the Mimosa) beer of the night ‘Love Amongst the Ruins’, a 7% sour red ale aged in burgundy barrels with cherries. It had a rich fruit aroma with sharpness and depth and complimented the food extremely well – though I would order it as a stand alone drink too, I loved the fruity sour flavour. It’s a Belgian brown ale which goes into burgundy barrels for 18 months with cherries and a mixture of things that I don’t understand (Brettanomyces, Pedioccus and Lactobacillus if you’re interested) and is then blended and bottled with champagne yeast. I’m clearly not alone in loving this as it won the prestigious gold medal at the Beer World Cup 2016.
By this point we were all insisting that we were of course far too full to possibly consider eating anything else and were swiftly proved to be wrong by the arrival of a heaving cheese board. With a selection of hard and soft cheeses, seed & nut biscuits along with an array of chutneys it was demolished in minutes. I stuck to the cheddar which was creamy and mild with a lovely quince jelly. Delicious! This was served with the ‘Serpent’ beer, a 9.5% Belgian golden ale rare brew from a collaboration between Brooklyn Brewery & Thornbridge. The ale was aged in Four Roses Bourbon barrels for 18 months with cider and perry lees from Oliver’s cider and bottled with champagne yeast. I didn’t sample this one but again it was very well received around the table and the perry notes went very nicely with the cheese.
A very big thank you to the lovely folk from The Mall pub and Thornbridge Brewery who hosted us (and had endless patience for explaining the basic of brewing!)
Please note: this experience was received free of charge but this didn’t impact my opinion and I was under no obligation to write a positive review. No review is shared with the venue before publication.
Also please note I’m aware it sounds like I was chugging beer all night – I had a couple of sips and the rest of the information was passed on from Mr TGE and my fellow diners who were all too happy to help!