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craft beer

    Drinks, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Beer and burgers with Byron

    Recently I went cycling for the first time since I were a kid and I’m pretty sure the only reason I made it home was because we stopped for burgers before heading back.  Thus reinforcing my idea that burgers are life.  And if burgers are life, then beer is burger’s natural life partner.

    So when Byron were like, come check out our new craft beer menu and tell us how you’d pair the burgers, I was all over this.  Anyone that followed my Melbourne food adventures will know that I have a soft spot for bacon cheeseburgers, and BBQ sauce is my favourite of the sauces (although garlic mayo comes a close second).  So naturally I was going to go for their Smoky burger: mature cheddar, streaky bacon, crispy onions, lettuce, pickles and smoked chilli BBQ sauce.  Now, that’s a lot going on in that burger, so I wanted a beer that wasn’t going to weigh me down, partly because I was going to the cinema after, but also because the rain outside was biblical and if Birmingham was going to end up undersea I wanted to stand a fighting chance of floating.

    I’ve been in to Byron before and even then it was pretty obvious then that they understood the bond of beer and burgers, as they’ve been collaborating with Camden Town Brewery since 2010 to produce their Byron Lager and Byron Pale Ale.  But Byron’s craft beer menu surprised me; the new craft beer menu is, in my mind, unashamedly pitched at beers that will compliment burgers, rather than being an extensive beer menu covering all styles.  And that’s a wise move; I got surprised with a super sour beer and burger accidental pairing in Oz and it just made me sad because it didn’t work at all.

    The beers are typically lagers, pale ales and IPAs and aiming for something middling will keep most people happy, particularly given the range of brewers.  I was pleased to see a couple of Beavertown’s beers on the list, as well as the, now fairly standard, Brewdog offerings and the Bristolian Moor Revival.  Whilst most of these are fairly commonplace names amongst the craft beer lot, there is also Peroni for people who want a name they know.  Birmingham’s branch has five taps, two are reserved for Camden Hells and Byron Pale, and the others are given over to guest beers – Magic Rock’s Hire Wire, which I have a total soft spot for, was on when I was there.  They’re all good burger beers, which is essentially what I want from a burger joint.

    So, to go with the Smoky burger, I went for Beaverton’s Neck Oil.  I really like Neck Oil, it’s a beer I’ll often pick if I see it on the menu because it’s juicy, crisp and not too heavy.  The guys at Beaverton call it a Session IPA, meaning that if you’re ‘On it’ this is a good one to go for because it’s not heavy and filling, and has a relatively low ABV…so you know, you can drink responsibly folks.  I like it for all those reasons, but because it’s light and not too heavy or gassy, it works really well with something filling like a burger, and the juiciness of it makes it really refreshing against the Smoky’s smoked chilli BBQ sauce, which has a really nice kick to it.  The flavours of the beer and burger don’t wrestle, but compliment each other. Individually the Smoky burger and Neck Oil beer are good, together they’re a great pair.  And in the interests of science, my friend Rob (who writes wonderfully, but mainly about SCFC) had the Smoky with the Byron Lager and this worked well too.  That’s the benefit to Byron’s new craft beer menu, it’s a sort of mix and match approach with their burgers which means you shouldn’t get a bad result.

    https://www.byronhamburgers.com/drinks/
    Disclaimer: This post was in collaboration with Byron, but seriously how difficult do you think it was for me to write about beer and burgers? And we all know how serious I am about burgers, all my own overthought views, as per.

    Bar reviews, Reviews

    The Anchor in Digbeth relaunches

    cocktails_jacob_anchor

    Here in Birmingham we have a thing about anchors. It can largely be traced back to Matthew Boulton and the Crown & Anchor Tavern in London, with anchors now gracing Birmingham products worldwide as our hallmarking symbol. But I want to talk about a different pub and a different anchor.

    A few months ago, Julian Rose Gibbs, took over the CAMRA-lauded Anchor pub in Digbeth. Most discerning drinkers of Birmingham will know Julian from the heydays of the Victoria on John Bright St, which he opened back in 2008 as general manager for Bitters n Twisted. During Julian’s stewardship, the Vic went from being a disjointed pub to one of Birmingham’s best, with an eclectic vibe that some confused with ‘hipster’ but appealed to the daytime old man supping ale as much as the style-conscious cocktail drinker.  The Vic blended together good drinks, a great atmosphere and groups of people who you wouldn’t normally expect to see together.  And whilst it feels very much to this writer like the Victoria has lost its captain, its loss is the Anchor’s gain.

    craft_beer_anchor

    The Anchor is one of those pubs Birmingham is lucky to still have. Nestled away in Digbeth, the grade II listed traditional style pub has largely avoided the glitzy renaissance of the city’s drinking culture over the last few years, remaining steadfastly traditional, yet welcoming, and well regarded by real ale drinkers, often noted in the Campaign for Real Ale publications.  It retained a loyal set of regulars and for those of us who infrequently frequented it often had a soft spot for it too. And not just because of the cob sandwiches and Tayto crisps.

    Jules and his team, headed by Jacob Clarke, who many will recognise from the Victoria and The Botanist, have brought a breath of fresh air to the Anchor. The repainted almost Tiffany blue coloured walls compliment the dark wood and stained glass to create somewhere that marries the traditional and modern; something which is echoed in the drinks menu, with real ales sitting alongside craft beer and modest cocktail and wine menus, the latter of which has been has been curated by Ed at Connolly’s Wines.

    gin_selection_anchor

    Talking of drinks, some well known Victoria cocktail classics like the Bombphire and Sherbertini are rightfully back on the menu, the gin list curated by Carl Hawkins aka the GINtleman, and several drinks have been named after friends and ‘various Birmingham bar industry reprobates’. Sure there are some in-jokes and cynics will scoff, but it’s clear that there’s a lot of love here – for the drinks, for the venue and for the drinks scene in the city.

    It would be cliched to say they’re trying to create a place “where everybody knows your name” but whilst they might not remember your name but they will remember your drink.  Those who remember the Vic team of days gone by will remember a dysfunctional family where those who were on the other side were welcomed like visiting relatives. The Anchor isn’t trying to replicate the Victoria circa 2012, that would be impossible, but it is trying to create a proper boozer for the modern age; good drinks, good service and a sense of community, whoever you are and whatever you drink.

    For all the shiny newness that has come in the last few years of the Birmingham bar scene, it’s nice to see one of it’s anchors back; best of luck Jules and your team.

    The Anchor in Digbeth relaunches on Thursday 17th November.  Find it at 308 Bradford St, Birmingham B5 6ET.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    First bite: Original Patty Men & Siren Craft Brew, Digbeth

    OPM_venue_cornerSunday 16th December 2012 was when I had my first Krispy Kreme burger from Original Patty Men.  Ever since, I’ve been hoping and wishing that they would open somewhere permanent, a nice little slice of our own burger paradise in Birmingham – because I’ve had enough with feigning excuses to go to London (really for burgers) or being forced to queue for hours.  Finally my prayers have been answered; Original Patty Men have managed to add one more to the long list of new Birmingham venues in 2015.  It may well be the most exciting yet.

    Earlier today I headed down to a preview of the new Original Patty Men and Siren Craft Brew venture.  Siren Craft and OPM have been teaming up for a few years now, and it’s easy to see why – beer and burgers are a classic pairing.  And Siren Craft share the same enthusiasm for their product as the OPM guys do – in fact they’re brewing up a special beer which takes inspiration from OPM’s Big Vern’s Krispy Ring burger, in that it involves actual donuts. Yeah, you heard right.  It’s an exciting collaboration generally, Siren Craft Brew have been making more of an appearance in the city and it’s great to see them have an established base, further cementing the idea of Birmingham as a craft beer haven.

    siren_craft_beer_OPMWhere is it?!

    Located in a railway arch on Shaw’s Passage, it’s the sort of perfect place that marries accessibility and authenticity.  If you’ve never heard of Shaw’s Passage, and frankly there’s not much reason to, it’s just the other side of the railway arches to the Selfridges Moor St car park.  Unlike most other cities who’ve gentrified their railway arches, it’s a largely forgotten about place, near an adult cinema and next to a car garage and gaming centre, the Warehouse Cafe is probably it’s most well known neighbour.

    staff_at_the_pass_OPMWhat’s it look like?

    The look of the place is distinctly industrial.  This is a look that Birmingham is becoming all too familiar with, but between the location and the idea of bringing street food vendors indoors, it works. Exposed brickwork, untreated wood and huge sheets of metal which will rust over to give a great aesthetic, it echoes OPM’s previous unfussy incarnation, where diners are used to no airs and graces, just good grub.  The venue seats 33 people, but there’s also the option for take out and possible plans for outdoor seating – burger picnics, anyone?

    pulling_pint_siren_craft_brewWhat’s there to drink?

    At the moment there are four taps for Siren Craft Brew, the final menu yet to be confirmed, although I’m looking forward to trying that special donut beer, which is likely to make an appearance soon.  And whilst beer is a focal point, it’s not the only thing on the menu.  For those that want something else there are other options, canned beers, spirits and soft drinks from indie retailers (the ginger ale is lovely).

    original patty men burger_friesTell us about the Original Patty Men menu?!

    The food menu is short, simple and to the point – burgers, fries and sides.  There are five burgers, one of which is vegetarian, served in fresh yoghurt & buttermilk buns unless specified – the Big Vern’s Krispy Ring still comes in a Krispy Kreme donut (pretty sure there’d be a riot if it didn’t).  One of the benefits to no longer being just street food vendors means the option of sides are available; three types of fries and two sides – slaw and slow cooked beans…and you know, chairs to sit on.

    For the preview we were given the cheeseburger and Darron’s Fancy burgers to try and I can attest to them being the usual high quality  we’ve all come to know and expect from Original Patty Men.  Oh good lord, I love their burgers.  The fries are equally good and don’t feel like an after thought.  The ODB fries, with OPM spice mix, Sriracha mayo, crisp friend onions and fresh spring onion look as good as they taste.

    Original_patty_men_friesI’ve made many jokes about the opening of this venue being like an early Christmas present to the city and I feared that just like advent being better than the reality of Christmas day, this might be a bit of a let down.  I have unashamedly been a big fan of Original Patty Men since that burger back in December 2012 and this has been my most hotly anticipated venue of the year.  It didn’t disappoint, it was just what I hoped it would be (well I’d also like to be able to book, but you can’t have everything).  It’s great to see a local street food venue take the plunge, branch out to their own space and team up with a well respected brewery, in an interesting part of town.  For all the places that have opened in the city this year, this, along with a few others, makes me feel like maybe the city is starting to believe in itself.

    The venue opens this Friday and will be open from Thursday through to Sunday thereafter.  Keep up to date via www.twitter.com/originalpattym

    Disclosure: I was invited to a media preview and the food and drinks were provided complimentary, but that didn’t mean I had to be. Plus OPM had three years of my hopes to match, which was never going to be easy. Go, please, just save me a seat.