A few years back a friend and I fancied getting a coffee from somewhere that wasn’t Costa, Starbucks or Cafe Nero. We spent a solid 45 minutes searching for an independent cafe around the streets of Ipswich to no avail. What we did find was 2 or 3 of each major coffee outlet dotted around, some almost within eyeshot of one another.
Now you probably fall into one of two camps here, you either love Costa, Nero or Starbucks and think “Wow, that’s great, convenient coffee” or you’re like me and just get a bit sad at the state of the world. The reason I feel like this is simple, it’s just adding to the mundanity of modern life. You can have a Costa in Huddersfield and it’ll taste exactly the same as it would in Truro. How many British high streets look exactly the same? Too many, and why? because big business is killing of the individual outlets that ultimately would do more for a town or city.
If you visit a place what are you most likely going to remember? something unique to the city? or just another MacDonalds? You’re not getting anything different if it’s in Dubai or Doncaster. Some people like the familiarity but I’ve always stuck to the saying that “Variety is the spice of life” and luckily living in Liverpool variety is on my doorstep.
Even more on my doorstep is Black Lodge Brewery located on Kitchen Street. “The Tap Room” as it’s sometimes referred to was opened in December 2015
brewing small batches of outstanding ales on a 100-litre kit. From there they have expanded to a 400-litre kit or 2.5 bbl (for those of you in the brewing industry). If you’re an ale fan then you have to get yourself down to this place, they’re constantly experimenting with new and unique beers. The other day I treated myself to an Old-Fashioned infused 7.5% pale ale and my gosh it went down so well. The bar manager Ed Hardy said they’re able to do this due being “Small & Flexible” whilst “Focusing on customer feedback”. This, in essence, gives them freedom of brewing making their selection change almost weekly. They also stick to some traditional favourites such as double IPAS and stouts if you’re not feeling too adventurous.
This Wednesday just gone, the 20th of September, I was invited along to a Beer and Meat taster event or a ‘meat & greet’…I’ll show myself out. Anyone who knows me knows that there are three things in life that you can offer me and I’ll instantly fall in love with you, they are, Beer, Meat and something different from the norm and this night was offering all of them.
They were hosting this night in collaboration with Cannon & Cannon, a London based company that offers some of the best and most experimental British meats this isle has to offer. Started by Norfolk based brothers Sean and Joe Cannon around 7 years ago, they relocated to London and now run a stall in Borough Market 6 days a week whilst supplying a number of companies around the North with mouth-watering selections of meat. They’ve hosted nights like this monthly in London, however, this night was their first venture into the land of scouse. They’d sent their host for the night Joe Corneille who filled me in about their other operations around the country. They run a bar in Camberwell on Church Street called “Nape” that I was informed means a cut of meat from the neck. A perfect excuse to visit one of my old stomping grounds.
Black Lodge Brewery and Cannon & Cannon, both campaign for similar goals. They’re offering customers individuality whilst helping to sustain local business. If there is one good thing that can come out of Brexit it’s that more things like this might start to pop up. Without getting all UKIP on you, it’s British industry and a real celebration of what this tiny island can offer. That old saying that the British struggle when it comes to their food is a complete fabrication if this is anything to go by.
The night started out with a pale ale name Mokoto, a light, crisp almost citrusy ale that would be perfect for a summers day. This was teamed with our starters, Biltong (A dried meat, spiced and similar to jerky) and beer sticks made from British Pork and lightly spiced (Pictured Left). Straight from the off I knew I was in for something special as the beer and meat complimented each other so perfectly. It was almost a variation on your usual pint and a packet of pork scratchings, but obviously a million times better.
We were then treated to a British equivalent of Salami before I had my mind blown by the smoked mutton and brown American ale combo. It’s rare that you find meat that melts in the mouth but this was exactly that. The smokiness of the meat just exploded once a sip of the malt heavy brown ale was introduced to the equation. This was probably my favourite beer of the night but the best meat was still to come. With each round, the anticipation grew and grew with what could be up next. The ‘ooos’ and ‘ahhhs’ that followed each introduction just let you know how gripped everyone in attendance was by the host’s descriptions of each pairing.
Next up was another British salami this time infused with fennel, that added an aniseed type motif that flirted on the taste buds but didn’t overpower. The beer pairing for this was a black session ale, knocking in at the late 4% range, that’s quite the session.
What happened next was almost an out of body experience. We were given a cut of pork cheek where the two cheeks have been pushed together to create an amazingly rich, fatty (but not in a bad way) thin sheet of heaven. It was almost like what bacon should be, and having this paired up with a clove-infused ale made for an almost festive taste. If supermarkets are already displaying mince pies then I think this is more than acceptable to have this in September. This cut was by far my favourite of the meats, I’m already counting down the days until I can experience this again.
To end the night was a chocolate and red wine blood sausage. Now I’ve never been a fan of black pudding but this was good enough to convert a vegetarian. The red wine and chocolate cancelled out the over saltiness you often get with black pudding and created a perfectly balanced expression of flavour. Chuck an 8.9% ale alongside and you had the perfect end to an amazing evening. I almost felt sad at the lunch I made the next day as it came nowhere near to the quality of the previous night’s indulgences.
All of this was £15 a ticket. As the guy next to me said, “We’ve definitely got our monies worth here” and he wasn’t lying. With companies like Black Lodge Brewery and Cannon & Cannon offering nights like this you hope more and more people will get on board. The message they send and the philosophies of the companies are something that I fully support. I’ll remember this night more so than a couple of pints in the local spoons and feel it got me excited and passionate about exploring the wide variety of food and drink that Britain can offer.
I’d just like to say a huge thank you to Ed Hardy and Joe Corneille for being brilliant hosts of the night and offering a relaxed but engaging exploration into the possibilities of independent, local, produce. So this weekend, why not try something different, support the individuality of your local businesses and make each event something you’ll remember for years to come.
I searched for localism and I was not dissapointed.