Bangers & Smashed 2014
The sun rose over a most beautiful slice of the English countryside as seven gastro-warriors drew their last breath before the battle commenced…
Well that’s kind of what happened! What really happened was seven mates and their families got together to determine who had selected the best beer and the best sausage and be crowned Sausage King VI… welcome to Bangers & Smashed 2014!
The idea came about after an evening of hefty drinking on a weekend break at Centre Parcs. As we all live in different corners of the UK (and Trinidad!) we wanted another reason to get together and we’re getting a bit old for music festivals these days… plus the wives would never allow it! So we decided to harness our love for all things food and drink, and on 18th September 2009 the inaugural Bangers & Smashed took place in Mortimer, Berkshire.
The rules are simple:
Pick a beer and a sausage from the county you live or were born
Pour your beer
Cook your sausage
Give each beer and sausage a score out of 10 (you may not score your own)
Accompany your score with some scathing remarks
Announce the new Sausage King
Go to the SK’s house the following year and repeat
Role of honour:
2009 – Mike S, Berkshire
2010 – Mike S, Berkshire
2011 – Mikey, South Yorkshire
2012 – Al, Gloucestershire
2013 – Joel, Gloucestershire
So as you can see, if your name is Mike or you come from Gloucestershire then you’ve got a bloody great chance of becoming the Sausage King and lifting the famous pork sword!
2014 Bangers & Smashed
Joel and Laura were magnificent hosts, the kids were happy, the Mums were happy and the big kids were even happier! A particular classy touch was an exhibition of the complete Bangers & Smashed t-shirt collection on the garden fence… coupled with the best t-shirts we have ever had for this 2014 event.
In reverse order, here are the runners, riders, highlights, lowlights and scores:
7th place (AKA last) – Mike E, Sussex
Beer: Arundel Castle Beer 4.2% (7th place)
Sausage: Arundel Pork & Herb Sausage (7th place)
I don’t think Mike realises quite how much we want to go down to the south coast for Bangers & Smashed… judging by this year’s performance, like Ireland in the Eurovision song contest, he and Charlotte obviously don’t want us anywhere near their lovely home!
The sausage wasn’t at all bad; in fact the scores for all of the sausage were very close – ranging from 38 to 43 points out of a possible 60. I actually scored it an 8 as I thought it was an excellent all-rounder, very juicy and spot-on seasoning.
The beer however, the less said the better! You’d think that Mike would have learned by now that bringing a beer in a box simply doesn’t work. The smell had a lovely caramel note but it was flat as a pancake, like water that had been used to do the dishes. 4/10 from me and please Mike, pick a good ‘un next year so we can come to the seaside!
Equal 5th place – Joel, Gloucestershire
Beer: Pliney & Elderflower, Corinium Brewery 3.8% (=5th place)
Sausage: Pork and Stilton from Farmhouse deli, Cheltenham (=4th place)
The reigning champion put on a great show but couldn’t follow up the success of 2013. The beer was pale-gold with a lovely fruity aroma; the taste was a little bland to begin with but the more time it spent in the glass the more fruity it became – a good summer afternoon beer, I gave it 7/10.
Joel’s sausage tasted great, with good seasoning and I thought it would make an excellent breakfast banger… but I found no hint of Stilton whatsoever… and I love Stilton! 7/10 for the sausage too, and a fair defence from the Sausage King.
Equal 5th place – Mikey, South Yorkshire
Beer: All Ceatures Great and Small, Black Sheep Brewery 4.0% (=5th place)
Sausage: Pork and black pudding (=4th place)
Mikey and Joel shared exactly the same scores for their beers and sausages from the crowd but I think the 2011 champion was slightly hard done by; but I suppose when you look like you should be in a boy band it’s always going to be held against you!
The beer was from the Black Sheep brewery, maker of one of my top 5 beers of all time. “All Creatures Great & Small” was a light, golden ale with a delightful balance of sweet and bitterness across the palate – another one of those great summer session beers (7/10). The sausage was my favourite of the day with brilliant spice from the black pudding and a brilliant texture (9/10)… but there were some very strange scores from other quarters… some thought not enough black pudding, others said too much; an average score of 6.7/10 was a travesty!
4th place – Dave, Cambridgeshire
Beer: Misssoula Floods, Red Brewery, Great Staughton 6.0% (4th place)
Sausage: Old English pork, Johnsons Butchers, Woodhurst (2nd place)
The B&S saying goes “whoever follow’s Dave’s beer has an obvious advantage”! We would all love to see Dave become champion one day as he is probably the most passionate foody out of the lot of us. But his beer is usually absolute dogshit! However, this year’s entry was much better and was my joint favourite of the day. A sweet and delicate American Pale Ale with great balance hid the high alcohol superbly; this is a beer that would get you pretty pissed pretty quickly. It’s just a shame that Mike E’s ridiculous score of 2/10 relegated this delicious beverage to 6th place… take a sip of your own Mike!
Dave’s banger came second but wasn’t one of my favourites. I found the flavour OK but the texture a bit dry; good but nothing special for me (6/10) and Dave says he is going to make his own next year, when the advantage will be for the beer that comes after Mike E!!
3rd place – Al, Gloucestershire
Beer: Bristol Beer Factory, Southville Hop 6.5% (3rd place)
Sausage: Pork and leek sausage, Farmhouse deli, Cheltenham (3rd place)
I think I mentioned this last year, but Al TRULY believes that his beer and his sausage is worth 10/10 every single year! In the year that he won, no one was more pleased for him than himself… and we love him for it! It is fair to say, however, that some of Al’s scoring this year was eccentric to say the least.
For me, Al’s beer was a story of two halves. Honey and hops on the nose were delightful, but the palate tasted far darker and although there was a nice sweetness on the attack, I was left with a very bitter finish, 6/10 from me.
The sausage was delicious; it looked great, it had a brilliantly juicy texture and the balance of flavours was excellent, with just the right level of leek. A few of the guys thought it too salty but I loved the seasoning – 9/10. Maybe next year will be the double 10, eh Al??
2nd place – Me, Wales (I’ve run out of Hertfordshire breweries!)
Beer: Ogham Oak, Celt Brewery, Caerphilly (1st place)
Sausage: Homemade pork and caramelised onion sausage (6th place)
My beer selection was close to being a disaster! I ordered 11 different beers and tasted them all a couple of weekend ago; the first 8 were, quite frankly, almost as bad as Mike E’s! Then I got to the Ogham Oak. I never thought I’d get away with an 8.5% ABV entry but the sweetness, spiciness and delicious texture hid the alcohol beautifully and was really well balanced. I would have given it 9/10 and thankfully the group more or less agreed, putting it in first place with an average score of 7.5/10 (I think there was another Mike E dodgy score in there somewhere).
I made my own sausages again this year and I think they were the best I have made yet. The texture was good, the flavour came together nicely but I definitely under-seasoned… maybe I should start making them more often than once a year the day before the competition from now on! 6th place looks bad, but a score of 38.5 when the winning sausage scored 43.75 is only a point per person away from being a winner!
That’s my fourth runner-up spot (along with 2 last places!)… it seems I will forever be the bridesmaid… and I don’t look that good in a dress!
Winner (again!) – Mike S, Berkshire
Beer: Dr Hexter Healer, Berkshire Brewery’s (2nd place)
Sausage: Mortimer Sausage Company cracked black pepper banger (1st place)
Mike and Becky have been living in Trinidad for 18 months now and were back in Blighty for the birth of their son, Sam, only five weeks ago. Last year Mike represented Scotland and hit and hoped with mail-order selections but this year he was back to his foraging best.
There appear to be a great selection of breweries in Berkshire and Mike has tracked down the best, this year he even arrived wearing a Berkshire Brewery t-shirt and served his beer on accompanying beermats! The Dr Hexter Healer was a delightfully balanced beer with a great balance of hops and caramel notes. A great all-rounder for any occasion. 8/10
Mike’s sausage came of top of the pops with everyone apart from me! It was full of herbs, far too many for me, and even some red chilli, in what was supposed to be a cracked black pepper number. But hey-ho, that’s why we all get a vote
So Mike took the honours for the third time but the announcement had to be made via facetime as he was back in Mortimer putting young Sam to bed at the time!
It’s not all about beer and sausages…
A few years ago, the female fraternity decided that they wanted to participate so they now supply a sweet end to the proceedings with their own bake-off. This year we enjoyed some scones, a tropical fruit cake and a cream sponge cake, beautifully decorated by Mad and her kids. But we didn’t come back to Watford totally empty handed as The Fish won the bake-off with her magnificent lemon and pistachio cake… If I can’t be a winner then I’m so please my wife has got it in her!
So there we go, another year, another Bangers & Smashed. There are just two questions that remain unanswered; one, how will Mike S get the pork sword into Trinidad, and two, can we get the wives to let us go to Trini for next year’s event????