Staggeringly Good.

Portsmouth has the most pubs per square metre than any other city in the UK”. I have always wondered how true this frequently quoted adage was. Okay, so we are a pretty densely populated city, and we do enjoy a rather impressive naval history. Combine these factors and the outcome was always going to be drinking holes on every corner, ready to sate the unquenchable thirst of both locals and sailors alike. Of course, pubs are nothing without the breweries that supply them, and between 1784 and 1847 there was a record 90 breweries in Portsmouth alone. Fast forward to 2014 and our city is a slightly different place; the historical breweries are long gone, either despatched by the profitable housing industry or bought out and shut down by some drinks company in Chiswick.

However all is not lost, and thanks in part to the craft beer revolution, the sounds of production have started again. We are already familiar with local stalwarts such as Irving & Co, Oakleaf across the water in Gosport and the new kid on the block Brewhouse. Yet quietly creeping into the fridges of choice pubs are the dinosaur labelled bottles of Staggeringly Good. Conceived as refreshments for stag do’s, born from the loins of the Brewhouse equipment and premiered at last year’s Portsmouth Beer Festival, Staggeringly Good is here to bring you a whole new spin on the classic Indian Pale Ale. From the kaffir lime leaves of the ThaiRannoCitrus, through to the smoked heat of Extinction Black and the deep flavour of it’s newest creation the VelociRapture. Going for a night out? You can find Staggeringly Good in The Leopold, The Belle Isle, The Hole In The Wall and other forward thinking establishments. Going to a party? Cases of 12 bottles are available to buy online from their webshop, with free delivery in the Portsmouth area. I sat down with local IPA connoisseur Gareth Colwell to selflessly deconstruct these beers on your behalf.

StaggerSaurus IPA (4%):
The first and the original, this one is a pretty straight forward affair: the perfect session IPA, it’s gentle bitterness ideal for a summer BBQ or the first drinks of your night out.

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ThaiRannoCitrus (4%):
Thai themed beers are a bit marmitey; you either go for them or you don’t. In this case SG have shifted the focus on subtle kaffir lime leaves rather than punches of coriander and lemongrass. The notes of peach and lime would be the perfect accompaniment for any coconut based spicy curry dish. Would be great to see these in the Albert Road curry houses.

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Extinction Black Chilli IPA (5.7%):
One for the chilli heads, the Extinction Black comes in two forms: the black caps which packs a huge scotch bonnet punch and the red cap which is a milder more smokey version. In fact this one isn’t a million miles away from a smoked decent porter, the fruity chilliness lingers pleasantly at the back of the throat. Good with a hunk of mature cheese I reckon.

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VelociRapture American IPA (6.5%):
Repent all sinners! SG’s newest and boldest creation includes strong bursts of grapefruit and citrus. This West coast influenced homage to Sierra Nevada is in our opinion the pick of the crop. It’s clean after-taste definitively makes it a choice beer for end-times.

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For further information or updates you can follow Staggeringly Good on their Twitter or give them a like on their FB page.

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Brewdog – Sherpherd’s Bush.

Like a kid in the proverbial candy shop! Up to that there London for the weekend, hanging with my Chiswick homeboy; mainly for cycling but also for a couple of cheeky drinks. This was my first trip to a Brewdog establishment, and being such a fan of their products expectations were high. Thankfully I was not disappointed in the slightest. Their drink menu is outstanding and the whole place had good vibes about it: stripped down raw metal and wood. Not to mention a decent playlist on the go: The Mars Volta and TV On The Radio. Top marks go to their Hardcore IPA (9.2%) and the Magic Rock Bearded Lady stout (10.5%). Liquid gold. The only niggle has to be that I didnt really think that their wings were worth £6 alone. I know it is West London, but that is pretty steep. Apart from that I will certainly be back, again and again.

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Leftover Fish Cakes.

My love of potatoes runs deep, so anything like toad in the hole, colcannon or fish cakes gets a massive thumbs up. These dishes also appeal to me because they re-use scraps of previous meals, which never fails to serve up a healthy sense of satisfaction. So after a pretty straight forward dinner of salmon, salad and spuds (in which I accidentally on purposes made too much of everything) I decided to whip together some super simple fishcakes. No real recipe here, I just used whatever I had leftover and in the fridge. However the Swedish Kalles Kaviar (grab one on each trip to Ikea) is a bit of a secret weapon. Originally I wasn’t going to publish this, but my old man enjoyed them so much that it kind of swung it. You can cook these from frozen.

Ingredients:
Flaked salmon
Flaked smoked mackerel
Buttery new potatoes
Mayonaise
Dijon mustard
Horseradish sauce
Encona hot pepper sauce
Kalles Caviar
Salt & pepper

Method:
Using a mixing bowl, flake the salmon and smoked mackerel. Add condiments and mix by hand. Add potatoes and crush with masher. Season as you go whilst tasting. Finish the last of the mixing by. Shape into patties, and either fry immediately or wrap in cling film and freeze. When frying make sure that the pan is pretty hot so that you get that crispness. Not a huge amount of oil is needed. Serving recommendations: a dressed green salad and large glass of chilled white.

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Southwick Brewhouse.

One of the many perks of finishing work early on a Friday is a) afternoon naps and / or b) afternoon bike rides. Working at Airbus Defence & Space means that a sharp short ride up the hill and down again is easily accessibly. Even better when there is the promise of a couple of jars at the Southwick Brewhouse. A real jewel of a place on our doorstep. It’s one thing being a quality real ale pub, but having an in-situ beer shop where competitively priced purchases can be consumed on the premises is beyond good. As you can see we got stuck into the Staggeringly Good range of beers; local brewers who rent out space at Brewhouse & Kitchen in order to create their amazing range of IPAs (more on these later).

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The Ale-ing Beer Festival.

Sometimes the most spontaneous ideas are the best. As a Portsmouthian I am no stranger to beer festivals, we enjoy a fair few here. However when someone pitches the idea of cycling to Hayling Island for a bijou beer festival held in a community centre, finding reasons to say no are virtually impossible. OK, so the ride was a tad wet, but going off road down the Billy Line is always fun, and it took us pretty much to our destination. Like I said, this was a very small affair compared to what we enjoy here, but it was fun, good natured with plenty of kitsch entertainment. I also found a rather good use for the Strong Island enamel mug, fits a half perfectly. Over three hours of beer festival followed by the ferry home is pretty much spot on for a Saturday afternoon. Will return next year.

The feedback forms were fun too.

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Tried & Tested Hangover Cures.

Takes quite a bit to beat this Nigel Slater invention. Chilli feta. Great for when you have over indulged the night before, it combines: chilli heat, hot / cold salty cheese and crusty bread to mop up any alcohol left in your system. An added bonus is that pretty much all of the ingredients can be bought from your local independent med shop, rather than the express versions of big name stores that blight Southsea.

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Iridescent Torpedos.

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