For beer lovers all over the world Southwold exerts a special charm. Home to Adnams, brewers of iconic beers and set in the fragile beauty of Suffolk’s endangered coastline.
A large part of its appeal is captured by Michael Jackson who remarks in his seminal ‘World Guide to Beer’ “the Harbour Inn at Southwold…is occasionally cut off by flooding at high tide, leaving drinkers trapped in the bar. It serves Adnams’ ales which are especially complex in character. Students of these brews have sometimes been stranded there for days.”
The sea also features in Roger Protz’s description of Adnams Bitter which he includes in his ‘300 Beers To Try Before You Die’. In this instance it is a “hint of salty sea breeze” allied to “spectacularly hoppy and tangy” flavours which suggest for him Islay Whisky though for me well aged manzanilla seems a more accurate comparison.
There has always been a no nonsense four square directness about the Bitter which at 3.7% abv punches well above its weight. With cellar age the bitter achieves a dry, earthy, marmalade tanginess that resonates all the way down the throat. It takes no prisoners and finds few equals. It is brewed with East Anglian pale ale malt and a blend of Goldings and Fuggles hops. Fuggles are added late in the boil to preserve their aroma and the casks are also dry hopped with Fuggles.
Broadside like the bitter uses the same hop varieties - Fuggles and Goldings but also some of the dwarf variety, First Gold. With greater alcohol, malt richness and a touch of residual sweetness many find it the perfect sedative and never sleep as soundly as after a glass. Although Tally-Ho with its black strap molasses and figgy richness runs it close. This classic old ale has become more succulent richer and even better balanced in the last few years. Currently hopped with a relatively new variety and an obvious local favourite – Suffolk grown Boadicea. Are we alone in hoping that this will be bottled and when bottle-conditioned, vintage dated? At the end of January 2008 we broached a year old firkin of Tally-Ho which was sweet, mellow perfection…aaaah.
Explorer, first brewed in 2004 is Adnams’ response to an explosion of interest in the ‘Summer or Golden Ale’ category. Using East Anglian Pale Malt and a charcaterful hop from the Pacific Nort-West known as Columbus. It is also dry hopped this time with Chinook hops (also from the US) imparting the tell-tale grapefruit aromas and extra crispness on the palate.
Ghost Ship, Adnams' new pale ale for 2011, is brewed with Pale Ale malt, Crystal malt, Munich and some Wheat malt.Columbus, Chinook and Citra hops are used to give a beer with assertive, pithy bitterness, a malty backbone and lemon and lime aroma.
Oyster Stout – Pale ale, Crystal, Chocolate and black malts and English dwarf hops
Regatta - Pale ale malt and Boadicea hops
East Green – Pale ale malt, First Gold and Boadicea hops
Old Ale - Pale ale and Crystal malt and English dwarf hops
However, the even greater news about Adnams, though, lies in the immediate future. The fruition of many years of painstaking investment and planning have resulted in a new fermentation hall (equipment from Briggs of Burton in 2001) and a spanking new state of the art energy efficient brewhouse from the German manufacturers Haupmann, commissioned in July 2007. This has given Fergus Fitzgerald and his brewing team the ability to achieve even greater control of what they already do brilliantly well. It will also give them the flexibility to brew many styles of beer such as German wheat beers or spiced Belgian ales for example.
Meantime Helles Bier 4.4% Munich Style Lager
Sociable and Quaffable: Helles is the German word for ‘light’ as in light colour, and this golden coloured beer is typified by a refreshing piney, citrus hop aroma sitting atop a predominantly light malt accented palate. The hop aromas and delicate malt flavours work together in perfect balance to produce a refreshing beer with a clean, crisp finish. The Hallertaur hop does all its work on the nose, meaning this is a beer with very low bitterness.
Meantime London Pale Ale 4.7% ABV
Malt sweet, hop bitter: A combination of the traditional in a classic English style beer, bittered with glorious Goldings hops, with the inventiveness of exciting New World hop aromas. Cascade and Cluster, with late hopping with even more Cascade, conspire to assail the nose with a complex, heady mix of spearmint, grass and ‘hop sack’ aromas. The fruit on the palate gives way to a very dry finish with the slight lingering bitterness, that calls for a further sip, which is truly characteristic of the Pale Ale Style.
London Stout 4.5% ABV Londons’ Black Velvet
Made with Brown and Black malts and Goldings hops: Meantime Single London Stout is derived from the original Stout Porters of the early 19th century. Made without the roast barley used in their Irish descendents; dark malts and London water work closely together to give a beer of great complexity. Soft mocha coffee and vanilla notes on the nose hint at the lingering vanilla notes on the tongue. A velvet mouthfeel holds a rich and complex palate of caramel, molasses, and nut roast, which gives way to a gentle malt-bitter dryness
London Lager 4.5% - Liquid London
Meantime brewmaster, Alastair Hook, has spent 20 years planning the quintessential English lager. His reasoning is simple.The great European lager brewers use very soft water and neutral yeasts to ensure that only the flavours of their locally grown malt and hops come to the fore. East Anglia is home to the world’s finest malting barley and Kent is home to some of the world’s best hops. Midway between the two, London is ideally placed to bring them together in a straightforward, clean, long-matured, unpasteurised lager, where all you can taste is malt and hop.
Bitburger 4.8% ABV
According to Bitburger “guarantees premium quality and enjoyment. Drawing on almost 200 years of expertise, the full-bodied, light, Bitburger Premium Beer is of course brewed according to the German Purity Law. Its popular, dry-finished, hoppy taste has secured Bitburger Premium Beer position as Germany's no. 1 draught beer.” A classic German export lager.
La Trappe Blond 6.5% ABV
A rare treat! A Dutch trappist blond beer with notes of vanilla, banana, honey and spices.Its soft and creamy texture and full-bodied character combines with a bitterness that leaves the mouth watering. Its medium to long after taste is typical of the complexity of trappist beers.
Aspalls Cider ABV 5.5%
Launched in 2003 to celebrate our 275th year of cyder making, Aspall Draught Suffolk Cyder is served on tap and in bottle. Draught has a mid straw colour with a floral/appley aroma especially of Russetts. It has a lovely mouth filling mousse and a delicate flavour of fresh pressed apples. It is an off dry cyder with a complexity that enhances its long finish.