A beer + food column to support the launch of CAMRA’s podcast, Pubs. Pints. People. You can tune in every fortnight on Apple Podcast or Spotify or simply visit https://shows.acast.com/5ed0cbc8e3ae160820cc9477/

COMPROMISE. A dull, clumsy word – promise blighted by a prefix. But it perfectly encompasses the frustrations and setbacks of day to day life as we shuffle wearily towards Christmas, caught in a web of ever-changing rules and restrictions. Even the Almighty didn’t find it necessary to make more then 10 commandments – politicians take note.

But I use the term because, frankly, today’s menu is a bit of a compromise. This week the Red (on) Lion is pulling nothing too punchy – our handpumps are dispensing low and non-alcoholic refreshment only. And I was all set to make an alcohol free beer jelly (wow, I bet that excites you) knowing that any alcohol in the ale would be burned off in the cooking process. Until, quite by chance, I stumbled on a way to make beer jelly with an ABV – bit like G&T on sticks – and I found the concept intoxicating. This is a whole new ball game; it transforms jelly ‘n’ ice cream from kids’ party treat to dishy dessert. There is, of course, a pay-off.

So when the pub closes at 10pm and you rush home to indulge in my boozy plum porter, cherry and blackberry jelly, spare a moment to go on-message with the second half of this column ’cos I’ve invited a few gatecrashers. Step up a bit of a ‘beaut’ by one of my favourite brewers, Thornbridge in Derbyshire; from the makers of Jaipur IPA (5.9%) and St Petersburg Imperial Russian Stout (7.4%) comes Zero Five, a 0.5% pale ale. The label describes a “tantalising aroma of peach and lemon; expect balanced citrus on the palate, highlighted by the delicate addition of orange peel.” What I love about this beer is its uncompromising hoppiness and, unlikely as it sounds, complexity. And you’d have to drink a helluva lot to wake up with a hangover.

My real find is a range of grown up non-alcoholic drinks that actually contain yeast, are fermented, and ‘brewed’ in a botanical brewey – Fentimans of Hexham in Northumberland. Founded in 1905, and handed down through the generations, these quaint little brown bottles have an old-fashioned charm. They contain sparkling beverages made from plant and herb extracts including the Dandelion & Burdock I remember my grandparents sipping. It is made from the roots of both plants but Googling burdock I find it has thistle like purple flowers. Real Ginger Beer, Curiosity Cola, Rose Lemonade, Lime and Jasmine and Sparkling Elderflower are also in the quite extensive collection. I got my bottles in a pub but they seem to be in supermarkets.

And the beer I used in my jelly comes from St Peter’s Brewery in Suffolk, Plum Porter, ABV 5%, “with jammy damson and blackcurrant notes.” I also found a hint of vanilla, and it brought a touch of dark smokiness to the jelly.

Plum Porter Jelly (around 4 portions)

Block of jelly cubes (I used black cherry but any dark fruit is OK); half pint boiling water; half pint cold Plum Porter (if you can’t find it use a rounded, fruity porter); 200ml whipping cream; handful berry fruits – blackberries, raspberries, blueberries; dark chocolate baking chips.

Separate jelly cubes and place in bowl, slowly stir in the boiling water until they melt. Cool for a few minutes then stir in the porter. I then poured half my mix into a half pint glass beer tankard leaving a little space at the top, and the rest into a jelly mould, but you can just use a mould if you prefer. Leave to cool then put in the fridge to chill and set; when set whip the cream until it forms fairly stiff peaks. If using a tankard, spoon on cream and top with fruit and chocolate chips. Place plate over jelly in mould, turn over, carefully slide off the mould so the jelly is left on the plate, and spoon whipped cream round it decorated with fruit and choc chips. Cheers – and bon appétit!

Susan Nowak
Susan Nowak, pictures by Fran Nowak

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