• Bottles for goalposts – How to watch the World Cup

    Rejoice! It’s almost time for the World Cup to kick off! A time for all Englishmen and overpaid football pundits to bang on about that one flukey win back in ‘66 and to spend the next four weeks* hurling abuse at the TV whilst watching England’s footballing chumps besmirch the beautiful game.

    The best thing about the World Cup is that it’s a brilliant excuse to sit in front of the TV with a beer without the nagging guilt that you should be out tending the allotment or doing constructive stuff. It only happens once every four years, right?! It’s practically a free pass for sofa-bound slothery! And to make things a tad more exciting, we suggest holding a sweepstake from which you can theme your football viewing.

    For demonstration purposes, we conducted our own sweepstake**. With the team names carefully culled from a copy of 4-4-2 and stuffed inside Nick’s filthy, flea-ridden beanie hat, we began our own draw. I drew Sweden, Nick suspiciously plucked out England. These two countries will dictate our month long footballing feast.

    Fancy trying it yourself? Here’s six sweet soccer tips on how to squeeze out maximum funtertainment from this impending festival of fusbol…

     

    1. Prepare your timetable

    Check the kick off times of matches and circle them in red pen in your Radio Times. This effectively bagsies that viewing slot from the rest of the family and would quite possibly stand up in a court of law should it lead to arguments. No Radio Times? Simply hide the remote control until kick off.

     

    1. Make your nest

    Comfort is paramount. Select your favorite armchair, plump up your cushions, remove and banish any pets that may be residing in your chosen viewing room that may howl, screech or meow over the commentary. The same goes for small children. Staying on point, my viewing will be conducted from the comfy folds of a poang armchair, courtesy of Swedish flat-pack purveyors IKEA. Nick will be reclining in a deck chair, with a knotted hanky perched atop his noggin to complete the look.

     

    1. Snack prep

    England produce the world’s finest beer snacks; pies, pork scratchings, crisps, the lot. Nick has the ALL the choice. Swedish snacks – on the other hand – are an unholy mix, consisting largely of salty liquorice sweets and jars of pickled fish. The most palatable snackage I could muster was a bag of potatischips saltade, a potato-based snack foraged again from IKEA, the quality of which would have Gary Lineker sniggering into his beef and onions Walkers.

     

    1. Set the ambiance

    To avoid the monotone, half-time blather of Hoddle and co, sound should be muted and suitable team-themed music played instead. Again, Nick has a vast catalogue of bands and artists from which to choose. The Who, Bowie, The Smiths… whoever he god damn fancies. Sweden are, again, less well served. The obvious choice would be Abba***, but The Soundtrack of Our Lives – defunct indy psych-rock, delivered with aggressive gusto by living viking Ebbot Lundberg – will be blaring out from my tinny iphone speakers.

     

    1. Assemble the booze.

    Quite possibly the best bit. Nick’s beverage of choice will be a North Brewing Co. Transmission IPA, a beer which he championed in this recent piece for the IndyBest. As it happens, Sweden have a pretty healthy brewing scene from which to plunder. Look beyond Kopparberg’s sins against cider and you’ll discover a whole host of breweries pumping out tasty wares. My liquid refreshment will be provided by Pang Pang, Sweden’s smallest brewery. In particular their zesty Flamingo-Go IPA will be gracing my gizzard and help wash down the potatischips.

     

    1. Don’t go silly.

    Stay sharp! There’s no sense in guzzling so much booze and ruining the match. Beer is to be tasted and enjoyed. We are not beer-sozzled heathens and will be drinking like the professionals we are, allowing one pint per half, followed by a post match pint with which to celebrate/commiserate.

     

    Enjoy the football, and up the blågult!

    ————-

     

    The lowdown

    Brewery: Pang Pang, Hökarängen, Stockholm, Sweden
    Beer name: Flamingo-go
    Strength: 6%

    ————-

    *Or two, when we crash out of the first round.

    ** The world’s worst sweepstake, what with only two of us taking part.

    *** Overrated rubbish

     

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  • Growing grafted tomatoes: faster, higher, stronger

    Among our regular writing slots is a column for garden and power tool aces Stihl’s blog, with our most recently filed copy being on the benefits of using plug plants. To illustrate the piece we ordered three packs of plugs from Suttons online store (you get a much better choice online than at any garden centres near me) which included some grafted tomatoes.*

    I’ve never grown grafted vegetables before so was keen to see how they would turn out before writing about them and have been so impressed with their initial performance that I’ve decided to spread the word on this website as well.

    The plants have been labelled the Tomato Grafted Tutti Frutti collection and contain three varieties – two red cherry types (F1 Red Berry and F1 Cherry) and a cocktail type called F1 Mandarin, which is said to have ‘hints of mandarin’ in the flavour.

    They arrived over month ago in good condition, tucked into a plastic growing tray, and were immediately potted up before being planted out in the greenhouse a few weeks later.

    What is a grafted tomato?

    A grafted tomato is essentially two varieties of plants that have been joined together: the top part is selected for the quality of the fruit, and the bottom part for its resistance to infection and ability to absorb nutrients. In theory, the plants should grow much healthier and bear the kind of tasty fruits you might not get so reliably otherwise.

    As a newcomer to grafted tomato growing I’ve been googling a bit more information about the techniques involved but some of the science stuff started to make my brain hurt a bit, so I’ve just extracted this information from Wikipedia instead: “The cultivation of grafted vegetable plants began in Korea and Japan at the end of the 1920s when watermelon plants were grafted onto squash rootstock.” It’s now big business with, according to Wikipedia, an estimated 750 million grafts in Japan in 1998 and, more recently, the Europeans have cottoned on, with over 45 million grafts in Spain in 2003-04. So why has it taken me so long to get round to trying them for myself?

    How are they performing?

    Back to my own tomato trio and the early results are quite astonishing. They’re growing like tomato Olympians: faster, higher and stronger than anything else in the greenhouse. They went in a few weeks after my much bigger seed sown tomatoes (the variety Black Russians) in the same conditions – directly planted into the ground, under glass, with a mix of farmhouse manure and some water retention granules I found at the back of the shed.

    The grafters didn’t take long to catch up to the size of the Russians and now stand at almost twice the height, with good thick stems, healthy leaves and a few sets of flowers already awaiting the attention of pollinating bugs.

    Time will tell whether they continue at this impressive pace, and how the resulting tomatoes will taste, but if they continue in the way they’ve started I’ll be back for more grafted vegetables next year.

    guide to grafted tomatoes

    *The others were Dwarf French Beans ‘Safari’ which are perfect for filling holes in the veg plot and a Perennial Flower Luck Dip which are perfect for filling holes in my flower borders

     

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  • Glenfiddich IPA Cask. A hoppy experiment

    In a recent press release promoting Fathers Day gift suggestions* we spotted a whisky that has been matured in IPA casks. We’ve had beer that has been aged in whisky barrels but didn’t know it was a thing to do it the other way round. Intrigued, we asked the PR lady for a sample and she duly obliged, sending a small bottle our way in an instant.

    The whisky distiller is Glenfiddich, one of the most popular single malt producers on the market, and the batch is part of an experimental series that also includes a whisky aged in a Canadian Ice Wine cask. For the IPA Cask edition, Glendfiddich’s Malt Master, Brian Kinsman, teamed up with Seb Jones of Speyside brewery to make a special IPA that would leave its citrussy hop imprint on the beer barrels that would then be used to finish a new Glenfiddich malt.

    Tasting notes

    Most beers that have been aged in whisky casks have a very obvious change of character, picking up oaky flavours and a hit of whisky. Being aged in this way also changes the characteristics of the beer, regardless of the additional flavours it attracts. But I found it hard to believe that a whisky would pick up much additional flavour from a beer cask, and am not sure I would want much beeriness spoiling a perfectly good whisky. Giving it a sniff there were no obvious hoppy affects at play – just the enticingly fresh aroma of a good whisky.

    The taste reveals that this isn’t a new beer and whisky hybrid. It’s not even a whisky flavoured with beer. Instead, it’s an excellent whisky with a flavour that has been subtly influenced by the IPA without the method being obvious through taste alone.

    It’s a fresh tasting whisky with a slightly thick, oily texture and some unobtrusive peppery oak to give it some depth of character. And there are definitely some citrussy notes, catching the toffee sweetness before the spices kick in along with some lingering grain flavours.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my sample, preferring it neat (it’s 43%) rather than with water or ice, and reckon it would appeal to both the whisky novice and the more committed whisky drinker in search of something different. I’ve got a decent measure left in my bottle which I’m going to save as a chaser the next time I have a couple of IPAs. I think it will work.

    Fascinating fact

    Brian and Seb trialled three specially produced IPAs for this experiment: the first using Centennial hops; the second with British Challenger hops; and the third featuring Cluster hops. It was the Challengers that triumphed.

    Glenfiddich IPA Cask is available from the Whisky Exchange

    *Other Father’s Day gift suggestions we’ve received in press releases include a bag of charcoal, a bottle of Jeyes fluid, and some stuff to clean black spots off patios. This is all true.

    beer whisky hops

     

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