An interesting post to finish up British Beer Month here at The Brew Club!
I’m not sure how well known Rick Stein is outside the UK, so I’ll work on the basis that nobody else has ever heard of and take it from there.
Rick Stein is a British ‘celebrity chef’, he is well known for his love of fish and sea-food and has a clutch of very popular seafood restaurants down in Padstow (Cornwall – which is the bit of Britain that sticks out at the bottom, into the Atlantic).
Additionally he has made a number of very successful TV series, mostly concentrating on the aforementioned fish and sea-food.
For several of those TV series he was accompanied by his dog – ‘Chalky’ – a Jack Russell Terrier, but sadly Chalky died in 2007 aged 17. Later that year Stein engaged the Cornish brewer Sharp’s (best known for their ‘Doom Bar’ ale) to brew a beer to ‘go’ with seafood.
The ensuing brew was named “Chalky’s Bite” in memory of the terrier.
Chalky’s Bite Beer
Stein himself describes the beer “I challenged Stuart Howe, the Head Brewer at Sharp’s in Rock, to create an English beer with the character, individuality and quality to stand alongside the Belgian greats.
The ingredients for Chalky’s Bite are relatively short and simple with just Cornish floor malted barley and wheat, three varieties of whole hop, two strains of yeast, pure water and Cornish wild fennel.
The hint of fennel gives the beer a great flavouring and makes it an ideal accompaniment to mussel dishes and seafood.” The brewery adds that “a maturation period of over three months the beer is allowed ample time to develop a high level of carbonation, its own distinctive flavour and a beautiful light golden colour.”
Okay, so that’s the theory, let’s investigate the beer.
After the head, which quickly dissipates, there isn’t too much evidence of carbonation, the colour is indeed light and golden, but I was disappointed with the nose, I was expecting something hoppy, but the nose just isn’t there.
Similarly the flavour, well yes it has certain hints of ‘Belgian-ness’ there’s an underlying hint of the strength of this beer – it’s brewed to a hearty 6.8% ABV – but there’s a missing bite for me.
I was hoping for an IPA style ‘bite’ but overall I found it a bit cloying and generally unsatisfying. And I’m sorry, the wild Cornish Fennel was lost in the mix.
Overall I’d give it two stars, it just didn’t do it for me. However I noted it won Gold in the Specialty Beers category at the Quality Drinks Awards 2008, so I tried another bottle with a grilled Trout (don’t say I don’t make sacrifices for The Brew Club (I don’t normally do fish) and okay, it worked quite well, but still only two stars.
Chalky’s Bark Beer
Anybody who knows me will have rightly surmised that I would be glued to my TV and now have the recipe book ready to try some of the recipes. Particularly the Pad Thai!
To tie in with Stein’s newly announced passion for Asian cuisines he went back to Sharp’s to commission a second beer – Chalky’s Bark.
The brewery describes is as “a beer fragrant with the flavour of hops At, 4.5% abv, it has great thirst quenching capabilities, ideal for drinking on its own but it goes particularly well too with fiery, chili hot food, something to cool the heat of a monkfish Vindaloo or Singapore Chilli crab. It’s got a dry, bitter finish with a subtle hint of ginger to compliment spicy curries. It’s a beer with a lot of bark but not quite so much Chalky’s Bite.”
Again, not much carbonation and a head that quickly subsides, but there is a distinct hint of lemon in the nose, again no noticeable hops.
The flavour kicks in distinct ginger notes that compensate (almost) for the lack of hops, it’s bottle conditioned and leaves a lot of sediment, the 4.5% ABV strength is evident, but not excessive.
Whether it stands up against a spicy meal is another matter, frankly and at the risk of being unpatriotic if presented with a Biryani I think I’d go for a Cobra, Tsing Tao or a Singha Beer before ordering this one.
For the record Chalky’s Bark won gold in the Speciality Beer Category of the Quality Drinks Awards 2009, following on from Chalky’s Bite’s victory the previous year – clearly the judges palates were in a different place to mine.
I suppose the inevitable question is, is Chalky’s Bark worse than his Bite? Well, on reflection I think the Bark is slightly preferable to the Bite… the flavour just works for me.
I’d give the Bark two and half stars over the two stars I gave the Bite.
But frankly neither are the Dog’s Bollocks!
Bob the Brit