A banger's perfect partner
PUBLISHED: 11:38 22 April 2014 | UPDATED: 14:37 22 April 2014
Beer sommelier Ross Rurner matches food and beer at the Old Cannon Brewery in Bury St Edmunds
I thought it was time to head west and visit Bury St Edmunds. With its abundance of charm it attracts people from all over the county and beyond.
Bury’s famous Abbey Gardens, historic elegant architecture and award winning market confirm how blessed we are for this town to be part of Suffolk. It’s also famous for its brewery – and not just the big one you might be thinking of. Try the Old Cannon Brewery – a character building with beautiful architecture and charm of its own. Inside is a fully operational seven-barrel brewery made from polished steel, not outside in the courtyard or in the old cart lodge as you might expect, but next to the bar, immaculately clean and tidy for all to see.
The pub also has seven letting rooms and a fantastic brasserie where chef Adrian Newcombe has been producing a great menu for 14 years. Owners Garry and Hannah Clark took over the business in 2011 and it’s moving in the right direction, producing excellent food and beer. Garry kindly showed me round, pointing out the old brew house opposite the brasserie where the letting rooms are. I find it remarkable that this pub was built to brew and continues to do so with head brewer Tris Alvis coming up with all the recipes. It’s an integral part of the business and it’s what makes the Old Cannon stand out from the rest.
Six regular beers are brewed, which you will find in many good food halls and farmers’ markets across Suffolk and beyond. The pub always stocks three of its beers on draught and also guest ales, so there is something for everyone.
The brasserie and bar has a generous amount of space even with the brewery smack bang in the middle. We took a private room to the rear and discussed all sorts before Gunners Daughter 5.5% abv (alcohol by volume) was brought to the conversation and then it really got interesting. The ale is a deep red copper brown colour and made with East Anglian malted barley, the best in the world.
I listened to Garry’s suggestion of sausage and mash, which I wasn’t expecting but most beer styles work well with this. It was when he explained the very high content of pork and also the added ingredient of Gunners Daughter beer that made them. I thought it would be delusional not to agree to pair the two.
The range of exceptional beers brewed on site offered me other opportunities to match them with the fish or vegetarian dishes on the menu. However, I was sold on the sausages which were delicious. Made locally in Suffolk by Gipping Valley Meats of Ipswich, they are served with a beer batter pudding and colcannon.
Gunners Daughter on the nose picks up malty sweetness before anything, caramel notes specifically, then fruit candy which is all wrapped up with a spirituous aroma. After the first taste you pick out fruity flavours, orange is top of the pile, also that caramel has popped back. A bitterness follows and it’s then you realise how full flavoured it is. All in all, a great balance and a lovely, lively mouth feel followed by a long bitter dry aftertaste. One word springs to mind and that’s complex.
So back to the sausage which works with practically any style of beer. It is incredibly meaty and has a gentle spiciness. Here the sweetness of the malt in the beer comes into play, which also works nicely with the pudding. I definitely need that bitterness to cut through the fat in the sausage and help with the creaminess of the mash. The fruitiness in the beer contrasts with the spice in the sausage and the natural carbonation from the fermentation helps create a bitter fruity zing which cleanses the palate. The two work in harmony especially as the beer is an ingredient in the sausage. You then take another fork of sausage and colcannon and it’s here we go again.
This is, I repeat, a complex ale and one to savour and spend time enjoying with a delicious plate of well-made food.