Happy Burns Night!

Charlotte, 4, shows off the haggis

I have no connection to Scotland. Neither has my wife, or anyone else in our families. Yet I celebrate Burns Night every year. Here’s the reason: I just like haggis. And whisky. And the whole ritual element of it. I’m a geek, what do you expect?

This year I got my haggis from the excellent Wild Game Co who happen to have a stall on Whitecross Street near where I live. The laddies there also offered some excellent cooking advice: rather than boiling it, put the haggis in a pan with some water and put it in the oven, 170 C for about 45 minutes – 1 hour. That way the flavours do not boil away, the haggis still stays moist, and the top layer gets nicely crispy. Maybe all of you other haggis-eaters have always cooked it this way, but it was news to me. And it turned out awesome! This is how I cook my haggis from now on. Thanks, guys!

Neeps (left) & tatties (right)

I made the neeps (swede) and tatties (potatoes) as a combo-but-separate (see picture), I made the mashes (secret ingredient for the mashed potatoes: spring onions and mustard – secret ingredient for the mashed swede: grated nutmeg) and then put them both in a casserole dish and baked the whole thing in the oven (with some extra butter, of course) for about 30 mins, together with the haggis.

That’s all well and good, but what about the beer, you ask? The always-helpful guys at Utobeer had come up with some suggested beers to pair with your Burns supper, so I went with Black Isle Hibernation Oatmeal Stout and Brewdog Paradox Jura. I had the Oatmeal Stout with the meal and the Paradox as a kind of dessert, and I think that was the right choice.

The Black Isle Hibernation is a full-bodied beer at ABV 7.0, with lots of roast and even peat aromas on the nose. In the mouth it’s a bit like porridge made from roast oats, which I guess is the whole idea. There’s also subtle coffee and chocolate flavours, with a clear taste of liquorice toward the finish, and then it ends on notes of dry bread. Not much hoppiness in sight but I was happy anyway. It was indeed a good food pairing as it stood up to the haggis without overwhelming it (as a hoppier beer might have done). Good beer, good combination.

The Brewdog Paradox Jura is altogether more indulgent – and surprisingly (to me, at least) sweet, which makes it a good dessert beer. At ABV 15.0, this is a beer that does not muck about: the alcohol warmth is evident in the nose, which also has plenty of molasses, bourbon, vanilla and oak with just a hint of peat –  but rather subdued for a whisky cask-aged beer.  Up front you get more of the same, plus liquorice (again), candy, dried fruit and raisins. The peat and honey from the Jura whisky is also there, but not as full-frontal. The usual coffee/roast/cocoa flavours of a heavy Imp Stout work mostly in the background but the cocoa and dark chocolate flavours come through more in the finish. Then it ends on an almost madeira-like sweet, raisiny booze kick. A very, very good cask-aged beer, very complex, one to savour.  Massive in every way.

Now to go to work on that bottle of single-cask cask strength 17-year Caol Isla. Happy Burns Night everyone!

Posted on January 25, 2012, in Event, Feature and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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