Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Tropical Fruit Juice IPA (or IPA in 2015)

Cellarmaker, San Francisco. At the forefront of new IPAs
The world’s greatest craft beer style, the one with the most storied history, the one most misunderstood, most widely brewed, has been changing for the last three centuries. And IPA continues to change and evolve faster than it ever has before.

Defining what an IPA is has become a difficult thing to accurately achieve. Right now, arguably the closest we can get is to say IPA is a beer that’s pale in colour and well-hopped. I think we’ve even got to a place where IPA is a synonym for ‘hoppy’ and we require a prefix to tell us more accurately what to expect (Imperial, Session, Red, and so on), with many variations being brewed.

If we take IPA to mean the typical core-range American-style IPA then it’s likely going to be 5.5%-7.5% ABV, straw-to-amber in colour, hop-bitter and aromatic with US and new world hops – and that’s a very broad general description which doesn’t tell us anything specific about the flavours or subtleties (it’s like saying a cheeseburger is a meat patty topped with cheese between a sliced bread roll, but it mentions nothing of the finer details).

One approach, albeit limited, is to break down American IPAs into some broad geographic types, or ones linked to particular periods of time, which I attempted in The Best Beer in the World.

Seeing as the style is so fast-moving, I didn’t get to include the most recent American IPA trend, which I think evolves from the profiles of Oregon, Vermont and newer California IPAs, and which can accurately be described as Fresh Tropical Fruit Juice.

These new IPAs are unfiltered (sometimes hazy, sometimes properly murky) and very pale in colour. The intensity bitterness is low and character malts are non-existent. The time of them being super-dry and bitter has shifted towards softer, rounder bodies with some residual sweetness, though you don’t immediately notice that texture because the hop aroma is so dominant, so powerfully wowing, with the aroma sticking to the subtle sweetness in the beer, and giving the unmistakable qualities of fresh fruit juice – pineapple, mango, peaches, melon, papaya, lychee. There’s also a new focus on freshness to capture those aromas at their very juicy best – two weeks old is becoming too old (don’t underestimate this and it's not like these enjoy before they die IPAs: the draft-only, local-only – perhaps brewery-bar-only – hyper fresh IPA is nearby).

And notice that pine resin, florals and grapefruit are missing from the flavour profile of these IPAs – the classic qualities of the C-hops like Cascade, Columbus, Centennial are not present. And that’s relevant because these juicy IPAs are using newer hop varieties

Citra was first released in 2007 but it took a couple of years before it was grown and brewed-with in larger volumes. The flavours in Citra (tropical, citrus, soft fleshy fruits) are different to those famous C-hop staples; they aren’t tangy, pithy, resinous or floral. They’re juicy.

At a similar time we got to try more Australian and New Zealand hops with their exotic tropical fruity aromas. Then came the next big hop releases from 2012 onwards: Mosaic, Equinox, Tahoma, Azzaco, Polaris, and more, plus newer European varieties. These take that juiciness further and give even more tropical fruits plus melon and fragrant stone fruit. These new hops have changed the way IPAs taste because once we know it’s possible to make a beer smell like Um Bongo we crave more of its freshness. Bitterness, pine and grapefruit can do one – it needs juice now.

More Cellarmaker... They were the inspiration for this post thanks to their juicy, juicy beers
But one thing this change is doing is re-focusing on the American IPA. In the last five years we’ve seen the IPA-ification of all beers (Black IPA, Belgian IPA, White IPA, Wild IPA, Fruited IPA, and so on) and we’re now seeing those sub-categories disappear. In their place are new IPAs. There’s IPAs using these new hops in new combinations, IPAs brewed with new hopping techniques from emerging research studies on hops, there are SMASH IPAs (Single Malt and Single Hop), hop burst IPAs, and more. It’s interesting that while the broader sub-categories seem to be disappearing, the Session IPA is an unstoppable style. And with this beer we’re seeing some of the best uses of these new hops and techniques (Stone Go To IPA, Firestone Walker Easy Jack).

IPAs currently account for around 27% of the US craft beer market, or seven million barrels of gloriously hoppy beers. In 2010 it was only around 12% of the market and one million barrels. That’s incredible growth, even more so when you consider that the craft beer segment is also growing exponentially – IPA is growing within a fast-growing category.
As well as growing up and out it’s still changing. It’s always changing; it’s been changing for 300 years, a liquid snapshot of brewing. These tropical fruit juicebomb IPAs (they are juicier than Juicy Bangers) are not like West Coast IPAs from five years ago. They’re not like the now-classic examples from 10-20 years ago (Lagunitas IPA, Racer 5, Odell IPA). These are today’s IPA where the never-ending search for newness and freshness continues to change what IPA is. And tomorrow’s IPA? Surely it can – somehow – only get juicier. Until it changes again.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Best Beer Book Launch: 13 October

On Tuesday 13 October I’m having the launch for The Best Beer in the World at Bottle Shop in Bermondsey.

I’ve picked some of my favourite beers to go on the bar (and you’ll get a few free ones if you buy the book on the night), I’ve ordered a lot of good cheese from Neal’s Yard and some St John Bakery sourdoughs, plus I’ll make a couple of cakes (using beer, obvs, and a tasty preview for my fourth book, which I've just finished writing…).

It'll start around 6.30pm and everyone is welcome, so come along and drink some great beers – the list currently includes Camden Town IHL, Birrificio Italiano Tipopils and Pilsner Urquell (which are the three free beers for book buyers), plus Burning Sky Saison Provision and Kernel’s Pale Ale Mosaic. And more to come...

I’m also starting to plan in other events and chats around the book. The next one will be at The Beer Shop London on Monday 26 October. That’s £15 for a bunch of good beers and a chat about the best beer in the world – the idea, the search, the conclusion.

If you plan on coming to the launch at Bottle Shop then let me know so that I can plan exactly how much beer we'll need.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Bia Hoi in Hanoi

I couldn’t quite take the picture in time. I saw it, fumbled to unlock my phone, fingers sticky from street food, and I tapped the camera icon, but the scooter carrying five silver kegs was already weaving through Hanoi’s never-ending traffic.

As we follow in the same direction I’m soon distracted. There are people everywhere, everything moves so fast, life condensed into the packed, stacked, compact streets; the air is thick with the smell of bubbling stock pots, an aniseed edge to every inhale coming from all the herbs, tropical fruit adding a fragrant sticky warmth; every turn reveals something new, something I’ve never seen before. Like Bia Hoi Corner.

Hanoi is a frantic, fast, exciting place

This famous intersection of bars has battered old beer kegs lined up on the kerb, people run around with trays of glasses, trays of fried food, the scooters weave in and out of all of it, and hundreds of people sit outside on tiny plastic stools, a dozen different languages bouncing around. It’s one of the world’s most exciting and lively places to drink, where the local beer, bia hoi, is unlike any other lager you’ll have had before.

Plastic mugs of the freshest, cheapest beer in the world

Bia hoi essentially means draft beer, the ‘bia’ bit derivate from the French ‘bière’, and it’s a pale lager, somewhere between 3%-4% ABV, brewed with malt and rice. That part is fairly normal for Asia. What makes it different is that after fermentation, at the point where lagers usually undergo an extended conditioning period, bia hoi is kegged and sent to bars. It’s fresh beer, a few days old, unfiltered and unpasteurised, with barrels delivered to bars every morning and emptied within a day, all served and drunk on the side of the street.

Kegs of bia hoi are all around the city, including small shops like this place, a couple of doors down from the main junction of bia hoi corner 

And that busy street-side experience is remarkable. When you sit on those plastic stools, knees under your chin, with your feet in the road, you’re given a tumbler, sometimes glass, sometimes plastic, of pale lager, and it’s something wonderfully simple in the middle of the madness.

Bia hoi corner at night

Bia hoi has the light, clean essence of Asian rice lager, made lighter by being low in alcohol and lacking depth because of its youth, the same youth which brings fruity esters of banana and strawberry. You also often taste the kind of caramel and buttery sweetness of Czech lager, reflecting the Czech influence on beer here (something surprisingly prevalent, especially so in Hanoi’s many brewpubs). The best bia hoi are really fine glasses of refreshingly bitter beer; the less-good ones aren’t worth worrying about when you’ve only spent 10p on it – it's one of the cheapest beers in the world.

100-litre drums of bia hoi sit outside a busy restaurant

While the liquid itself might be simple, understanding it is less so. All bia hoi is a bit different and the quality ranges. Different breweries make it (most big, some small), kegs change taste through the day, it changes depending on where you drink it, some bars have large drums of beer, others just tilt kegs on the roadside with barely any bar to house it; sometimes it cold, other times barely cool, some are great, others are ok, plus you never know who makes what you’re drinking because it’s free of branding; it’s just bia hoi, draft beer.

This is Vietnam’s beer and drinking it in Hanoi is a rare and wonderful experience. Nowhere makes or serves beer in this way, a fast-brewed, very fresh beer, kegs opened and emptied in one day before another delivery comes the next morning, where you drink on the street and the simplicity of the beer is the best kind of counter to the craziness of life flying by around you.

It’s worth knowing that you can also get draft beer that isn’t bia hoi – this is regular kegged lager from the local breweries, so if you specifically want bia hoi then you have to order that. And my favourite place to drink bia hoi wasn’t on Bia Hoi Corner, it was on the corner of Bat Dan and Duong Thanh (the top picture is the place) – lovely and bitter beer, in a place filled with locals eating good cheap food. There was also a place opposite (the one with the big 100-litre drums in the picture above) which was good.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Wahleeah and cooking with beer

Yesterday I had beer-cured bacon with bacon stout ketchup for breakfast. I’d started making it a week earlier, brining belly pork in smoked porter, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt. I took the pork out of the brine on Friday morning and left it to dry out in the fridge, then cut thick rashers and fried them, the sugars caramelising, the beer giving a toasty, smoky flavour, and the pork itself more porky in depth through the curing process. It was delicious.

That bacon was something like the 75th recipe I’d cooked incorporating beer this summer (and a very big clue to what my fourth book, out next spring, is going to be…). So when I heard about Wahleeah, a restaurant specialising in using beer as an ingredient, I planned to go as soon as I could, which was last night. And I discovered that Wahleeah is way more than just cooking with beer.

Take the salt and pepper, for example. The pepper on the tables contains 11 ingredients. The salt takes three days to produce and contains horseradish and a process that involves smoking water. Diners shouldn’t even need to use them, says chef Dave Ahern, but if he has to have salt and pepper on the tables then he wants the best he can get with an exact flavour, and it turns out the only way to get that flavour is to make them himself. This obsessive level of detail is in everything – Dave makes cheese, vinegar, condiments, and more, for the restaurant. Beer is just one small part of it.

But for me, the beer part is the reason I’m there. Having spent the summer cooking with beer, I know all the good and bad things about what happens when you add beer into a recipe and I want to see what Wahleeah has done.

Oxtail and onions cooked in Fuller’s Black Cab Stout is rich with beer, full-on meaty with the onions giving a nice sweetness. There’s delicious crab cauliflower cheese, perfect with the suggested pairing of Weihenstaphaner Hefeweizen. There’s also beer-cured salmon with house pickles, stuffed mushrooms with beer and soy, a beer chilli to go on tater tots.

Larger plates include mussels in witbier with the addition of deeply-savoury ham hock, where it pretty much demands the beer on the side to act like part of the recipe, giving a freshness to lift the richness. A huge rib-eye steak comes with a brilliant beer fondant potato and a stout sauce, where that table salt and pepper gives it a remarkable extra depth of flavour (and recalls one of my favourite ever beer matches: steak, parsnip fries, horseradish sauce and oatmeal stout). There’s also ricotta dumplings with beer butter, tuna meatloaf with bloody beer sauce, bream with beer-braised fennel.

Then desserts: chocolate stout brownie with banana beer ice cream is superb and perfect with a bottle of Liefman’s Kriek, there’s also Porter cheesecake and Oreo trifle.

It’s all big-flavoured but elegantly done; next-level pub food incorporating the pub’s most central drink, but it’s not all about the beer – these are just great dishes that happen to contain beer. 

I love that Wahleeah is taking beer seriously – that’s the best thing about it for me. I love that the food is very good and I love how the beers used in the cooking enhance the dishes in their own subtle ways without ever overpowering – they are additional seasonings, they add depth which other ingredients can’t add, they give their richness, and they compliment the food. I also love how each dish comes with a beer suggestion – and that those matches are very well selected (done by Boutique Bar Brands). It makes the beer important and it encourages people to try new beers. And it has around 12 draft beers and 50 bottles, so there's a lot of choice. These are all good things.

Wahleeah is the first restaurant in the world to focus so completely on beer cooking. This could be seen as a gimmick, a Cereal Café for beer nerds, but Wahleeah really is way more than just cooking with beer. Surprisingly more. You should go.

Friday, 11 September 2015

De Garre Tripel in De Garre, Bruges

There were only so many beers I could write about in The Best Beer in the World and only so much space to pick out individual glasses of beer from the travels, meaning many important and wonderful beers didn’t get the space they perhaps deserved. Instead of going in the book, this begins an on-going series of some of the best beers and experiences I’ve had from around the world.

It’s just off the Grote Markt, perhaps 40 paces from the Belfry; you take a left and then a right and then you’re there. But I still walked past the tiny alleyway twice before I found it.

Here’s a clue: find La Belgique Gourmade and La Cure Gourmade and right between them is a small gap. You could stand directly opposite those brightly-coloured shops and still not see it. But it’s there, I promise. A few meters in and there’s the well-worn steps leading through a cloistered brick doorway and that’s Staminee De Garre, the place you’ve been searching for, a tiny dark bar with just a few tables and a few taps.

Order their eponymous house tripel and what arrives a minute or two later, on a paper-doilied tray, is one of the finest-looking beers in the world. A thick whip of Swiss meringue foam on top of just-hazy golden beer, the heavy base of the glass is like a fat door knob, the bowl is as sturdy as the beer within it, a beer powerful in its depth. There’s a fragrant peppery-orangey spiciness, there’s a hot sweetness in there, it’s boozy yet refreshing with the foam giving a smooth creaminess. And the cheese. It comes with cheese. These little cubes are the most perfect little tangy-creamy mouthfuls with that mighty brew.

One beer disappears too quickly, leaving its white lace down the glass, and you immediately want another because you don’t want to leave the little bar, don’t want to go back and brave the waves of tourists, don’t want to stop drinking this beautiful beer.

Don’t miss this place in Bruges. And I mean that quite literally; don’t miss the tiny little street with the big beer at the end of it.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

My new book: The Best Beer in the World

Five years ago I drank the best beer in the world.

I was sitting on a hot Greek beach with a cold glass of lager and it was incredible. Nothing had ever refreshed me quite so completely, no moment had been more glorious than this one, no beer had ever tasted so good.

Yet I knew that this lager, served in a frosted glass, wasn’t the best beer that was available in the world. I knew there were beers that tasted better because I’d drunk them. It was only in that moment, when I wanted nothing more than this cold beer, that it struck me as perfection, as being the best.

And that made me think.

What could actually be the best beer in the world? Did such a thing even exist? What beers would be contenders? I got out a notebook and I started scribbling down ideas. By the time I’d drunk that cold lager I’d noted down what I thought were some of the best stories in the beer world. I also thought it’d make a brilliant book.

But I didn’t write the book. I was working full time in a college, I was writing blogs most days, I wasn’t ready to write something like that and I couldn’t afford to do the travel – I was just a 25-year-old guy who loved beer and wanted to drink lots of it. But the idea stuck with me and I’d regularly go back to it and add notes and more ideas, plus my drinking did essentially become a never-ending search for the best beers and the best drinking experiences. It was also a question people began to ask me when they found out that I wrote about beer: What’s the best beer? What’s your favourite beer?

Then I wrote Craft Beer World. I learnt a lot. And I thought that maybe now I could write this book, so I put the idea to my publishers. I ended up writing Beer and Food instead. Then once that was finished I went back to Best Beer, I developed it, I wrote a few chapters, and I knew that it was the book I wanted to write next.

The idea behind The Best Beer in the World is to tell the stories of some of the world’s most interesting and important beers. Each chapter is a long-form first-person travel piece which looks at the history and the present and also considers the actual taste.

I travelled as much as my wallet would allow (20 countries, over five continents, and to about 150 breweries...). I went to every brewery that I thought was relevant for a book like this. I lived like a monk at Orval, I threw Altbier and Kolsch into a fight, I tell the story of the original golden lager, I brewed my own perfect beer and went on my perfect pub crawl in London, I went IPA hunting in California, I stopped at Sierra Nevada to drink perhaps the most important beer brewed in the 20th century, I brewery-crawled around Beervana, I looked at what it’s like for a young couple to start a brewery in Australia and how they’re shaping the future of beer, I drank and danced at the world’s second-largest Oktoberfest, I went to China to drink the world’s best-selling beer, I spent 10p on the cheapest beer in the world, I drank the best-known beer in the world (and was blown away by how beautiful the brewhouse is), I tried to answer beer’s biggest truism (Is Guinness better in Dublin?), I drank sour beer at Cantillon, found myself at a remote farmhouse in Vermont, I drank the best Italian craft beers and then I went back to the beach and drank cold lager on a hot day, all in the search for the best beer in the world.

Alongside the longer chapters are some pages on topics like cask ales and the history of IPA, plus travel guides to around 25 of the top drinking cities in the world, so it’s also a practical guide to beer drinking. And did I find the best beer? Well, that’s almost not the point of the book. With The Best Beer in the World I wanted to take a broader look at world beer, to tell some stories that haven’t been told before, and to appreciate the search itself, the travel, the people I met, the things I saw and learnt, and to consider all beers as being relevant. 

The book is at print and due out in October. It’s available on pre-order (and from my publishers) and it’s very different in content to the previous two books. I’m excited for this one to be released.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

My Beers of 2014

In 2014 I’ve drunk beer in 17 different countries across five continents, visiting 136 breweries along the way. If I hadn’t drunk so much over the last 12 months then it would’ve been an unforgettable year… Bypassing the usual Golden Pints (because I tried and it was too hard), here are my beers of the year, in no particular order.

Kout na Šumavě 12° at the brewery in Czech Republic
We arrived at midday and were given litre steins of Kout’s 12° pale lager. It was astonishingly good. During a tour the brewery, which is basically a derelict farm, we drank the 14° and 18° dark beers from the tank, out of large jugs. All the Kout beers are incomparably good. For more on the brewery, you should read Evan Rail’s excellent kindle single.

Jing-A Flying Fist IPA at the brewpub in Beijing
This is the best beer I drank in China and one of the best IPAs I’ve tasted – super clean, super juicy, superbly balanced. Their Airpocalypse DIPA is equally awesome and the price goes up and down depending on the air quality that day – if it’s particularly smoggy outside then head to the pub as the air is cleaner and the beer is cheaper.

Camden Town Brewery IHL all over London
From my first glass of Indian Summer – from which IHL evolved – I’ve adored this beer. It’s the perfect mix of IPA’s hops and lager’s clean balance. IHL is ruinously bangable and just always good. Hells Lager also needs a mention because I’ve drunk more of this than anything else this year and it just keeps on getting better – it’s my go-to beer.

Avery White Rascal at the brewery in Boulder
This has long been a favourite beer and drinking a few glasses of it at the brewery in Boulder confirmed that – it has the best body and balance of any Witbier I’ve had and it’s so full of flavour. I also had a few glasses of Maharajah DIPA while at the brewery. I don’t remember the rest of that night.

Mountain Goat Summer Ale in many bars in Australia
This is the beer I drank most of while in Australia. It’s just about the juiciest banger (to use the beer term of the year) with the most delicious tropical fruit aroma and flavour. The brewery in Melbourne is a very cool place with a whole range of excellent beers.

Eschenbräu Dunkel at the brewery in Berlin
I always go to Eschenbräu when I’m in Berlin. There’s something special about the beers – a house quality that’s a little fruity with a hint of sulphur – that I adore. The Pils is always great but this year it was the Dunkel which grabbed me, a beer with just a hint of toastiness and caramel which perfectly worked with the dry, bitter hops.

Night Shift IPAs at the brewery in Boston
I spent far too much of 2014 walking around industrial estates looking for breweries. For Night Shift that walk was totally worth it to find some incredible beers – I ended up drinking a 4oz pour of everything on tap (which left me a little over-refreshed). All of the IPAs were next-level-good, as were the sours.

Dieu du Ciel Moralité IPA at the brewpub in Montreal
The Dieu du Ciel brewpub in Montreal is one of the best places I drank this year. Péché Mortel, their coffee-infused stout, is beyond superlatives when poured on a nitro tap, while Moralité IPA, originally brewed as a collab with John Kimmich at The Alchemist, was no-question the best IPA I tasted in 2014.

Blackman’s Brewery Festbier at the brewery in Torquay, Australia
The most impressive new brewery I went to this year was Blackman’s in Torquay, about an hour out of Melbourne. Renn Blackmann brewed at Camden Town for a while before moving back to Oz and opening his own place with his girlfriend Jess. All the beers are bang-on-brilliant but especially this Citra-hopped lager. Perfect with the Asian-inspired food in the brewpub.

Partizan Simcoe Pale Ale at home
This one passed the ultimate test of how much I like a beer: I bought a case of it. Those 24 bottles didn’t last long and I haven’t had it since but I still remember its subtle brilliance and sweetly juicy aroma. Pressure Drop’s Pale Fire became my replacement for this, a beer brewed 10-minutes from my flat and often in my glass.

Urban Chestnut Zwickl at the brewery in St Louis
I expected Urban Chestnut to be good but they were way beyond my already-high expectations. The Zwickl had some biscuity malt, a smooth body yet still refreshingly light, then a long, dry, hoppy finish. So good.

Eisenbahn Flying Bison IPA at the brewery in Blumenau, Brazil
The original Brazilian microbrewery makes this American-style IPA which you can only buy in the bottle from the brewery. I begged and pleaded for them to let me buy some bottles to take home but they wouldn’t do it. If I say it’s ‘Pliny good’ then you know what level it’s at.

Salm Märzen at the brewery in Vienna
I fell in love with all the beers in Salm in Vienna but the Märzen stood out for being lush with toasty malt, full-bodied and creamy with a deep bitterness. It’s glasses of beer like this that makes me repeatedly fall deeper in love with lager.

Bia hoi in Hanoi
Drinking this pale lager from plastic mugs, by the roadside in Hanoi, squatting on tiny plastic stools, as hundreds of bikes buzzed past, is one of my favourite experiences from this year. We spent three days drinking it and I loved every cool glass I had.

The Alchemist Heady Topper from the brewery in Vermont
Yeah, so I got to drink this from the tank at the brewery in October. “It smells like juice!” I said, unable to control my spontaneous excitement. “I know!” replied John Kimmich, looking as excited about it as I felt. A beer worthy of all its hype.

Augustiner Helles in Berlin
Midnight in Berlin, 11 hours after running the city’s Marathon, and we’re drunk and full from drinking and eating too much. On the slow, painful walk home we pass a shop selling Augustiner Helles and drink it on the way. Great beer.

O’Hara’s Irish Stout in Dublin
So smooth, so rich, so full and just so bloody good. O’Hara’s Leann Folláin is also seriously delicious. I went to Dublin twice this year and I think it’s one of the most exciting craft beer markets in the world right now – the beer quality is exceptionally high and there’s a great variety of beers. Go to Dublin!

1516 Weisse at the brewpub in Vienna
A Cascade-hopped German-style wheat beer that’s fruity in all kinds of different ways. It was an unexpected surprise which made me go back for a few more glasses.

Budweiser from the tank in St Louis
The Budweiser brewhouse in St Louis is one of the most beautiful breweries I’ve ever seen. Drinking the beer from townhouse-sized tanks wasn’t as revelatory as other underground lager experiences but it was still a brilliant thing to have done and gave me a newfound appreciation of a beer which I already had a lot of respect for.

Beavertown Smog Rocket
I’ve been all over smoky flavours this year and Smog Rocket is a constantly good dark, smoked beer. The combination of that with the ribs in Duke’s is one of the best beer and food experiences this year. I’ve drunk a lot of Beavertown in 2014 and will drink a lot more in 2015.

Keserű Méz in Szimpla Kert, Budapest
Szimpla Kert is one of the coolest bars I’ve ever drunk in. I spent hours just walking around and enjoying it late at night before going back the next lunchtime to explore its many rooms and spaces during daylight. Keserű Méz is a hoppy and unfiltered strong lager from Fóti brewery – a good beer made even better by the surroundings.

Everything in Lowdown, Denver
We were in a cab back into the city after visiting a few brewpubs when we passed this place without knowing about it. We shouted “stop the cab!” in a wonderfully dramatic way and went in, ordered a taster of all the beers and loved them all.

De Prael Mary in De Prael Proeflokaal, Amsterdam
Think a barley wine meets a Belgian strong ale with lots of hops served in a cool brewpub near Amsterdam’s red light district. I like this place a lot.

And because I’ve done a lot of eating this year, here are the…
10 Best Things I Ate in 2014.

Ribs at Bogart’s in St Louis
Ribs have been ruined for me now because I don’t think I’ll ever eat better than those at Bogart’s. I’m not even going to attempt to describe how delicious they were. Likewise for their housemade pickles. Best thing I ate this year.

Peated malt biscuits at Clove Club
I love the smoky, saline flavour of peat and using that malt made into little biscuits was a real food highlight of the year – savoury yet sweet and very light.

Mortadella sandwich in Mercado Municipal in Sao Paolo
A world-beating sandwich in the massive Mercado Municipal. I’ve never seen so much meat stuffed between two pieces of bread and it was spectacular.

Cha ca la vong in Hanoi
It’s fish fried in turmeric plus loads of dill, which sounds like it’d be weird but it’s an unbelievably good dish. All of that strong dill flavour is muted when it cooks, turning into a spinach-like soft mix of savoury greens.

Pork bao from Bao in Netil Market
If there’s a better street food dish in London then I haven’t eaten it. Whenever I’ve been in London on a Saturday I’ve walked the few minutes from my flat to Netil Market to eat this. Their fried chicken is also awesome.

Stir-fried morning glory in Hanoi
The simplicity of this is what made it so good: it was just greens fried with garlic but it was so tasty.

Schnitzel in Schneeweisse
I have no idea how they made the meat so tender and the crumb so crisp and light but this schnitzel blew my mind. The potato salad on the side would also probably have made this list on its own.

Sweetcorn pudding in Mercado Municipal in Sao Paolo
Somehow the combination of sweetcorn and condensed milk blended together, set and served with cinnamon was a perfect little pot of dessert. I need to remake this myself.

Egg coffee in Hanoi
It’s not food but it was definitely one of the best things I tasted in 2014. In fact, all the coffee I drank in Vietnam was unreal. The egg part came like a meringue on top with this rich, thick coffee beneath. It was so good we went back the next day for another.

Hazelnut gelato and custard tartsNot together, obviously, but these are two food-things which I'm obsessed with and I’ve eaten them around the world as a weird ever-present in my eating (do you know that in Vietnam you can get custard tarts in KFC?! They’re weird and cheesy). The custard tart at The Barn in Berlin was my favourite and 3BIS in Borough Market was the best for the gelato.