Anyway, if you're looking for some beer inspiration over the New Year celebrations then let me first recommend a couple of belter session brews from Lancaster Brewery.
Whilst I've known one of the owners of the brewery, the super-cheery Matt Jackson, for a while as he has the most excellent Sun Inn in Lancaster, I've only tried a couple of his beers on cask and really liked them but I often think the mark of the technical consistency of a small brewery is how well their products translate to bottle - and as he kindly dropped off some Christmas pressies to the father-in-laws pub for the family I've finally got to try a couple.
The Lancaster Blonde is the lightest drinking of the bunch but is a deceptive 4.1% clean, light, lemony and bright but with just enough body to let it stand up to Winter drinking.
But it's the Amber that really blew me away, it's a mere 3.7% and punches well above its weight - it's frankly like watching one of those wiry South American boxers winning a bout in the heavyweight category. Deliciously aromatic, with a great deep spice and crushed nettle on the nose, it follows through to a gingery chocolate flavour and a satisfyingly clean bitter finish and lingering mineral freshness.
We were also lucky enough to have a pin of the special Rederrer, which is very reminiscent of Golden Pride for me, rich, cherry and very luscious - but I'm not sure of its availibility as yet as I'm not particularly keen to harass people for small bits of info like that at this time of year, whether old mates or not! I will let you know though and if you see it, grab a half and savour as it's pretty poky stuff!
Anyway, whatever you end up doing - as usual I have no clue and no immediate plans - have a very beery New Year and may 2010 bring you happiness, health & a wealth of great drinking.
Ale Roast Duck - serves 3-4
One large duck
One bottle of inexpensive smokey beer (whether Rauchbier or something like Okells Aile)
One can of Mackeson Stout
One tbsp soft brown sugar
One each of onion, carrot, garlic clove (latter choped horizontally in half)
Two celery sticks
GOOD chicken stock (can't stress the importance of this enough - cubes just don't cut it)
- Pre-heat oven to highest heat
- Boil your kettle full of water
- Pierce the duck skin all over
- Warm the two beers in a pan and add the sugar
- Put your duck on a trivet and put it in the sink and pour the kettle of water over it
- Roughly chop the onion, celery and carrot in the base of the pan and then put the duck on this and pour the beer/sugar over it so that it part fills the tray but coats the duck
- After 20 minutes turn the oven down to 170 fan, add about 250ml of stock to the tray and turn your duck every half hour for three or so hours or until the leg bone is literally falling away and you've got crisp skin
- Take out of oven and remove from pan (DON'T THROW THE JUICES AWAY!) and leave to rest
- Put juices from resting back in pan, and put the duck in the fridge
- Warm up your roasting pan on the hob and add the rest of the chicken stock and scrape the bits off the bottom, sieve into another pan, press hard on the veg to extract all flavour before discarding, and then simmer until reduced to a gravy consistency, put in a jug and put in the freezer overnight
- On the day you want it, heat oven to 180 and put duck in for 40 minutes or so, rest in a warm place for 20 minutes
- Whilst duck is resting take your gravy out of the freezer, lift off the glorious layer of duck fat and retain for roast potatoes (or use on the day if you're having them instead of dauphinoise) and warm your gravy back up
- Serve with whatever you want and enjoy!