Enjoy a crafty beer
PUBLISHED: 11:12 29 December 2015 | UPDATED: 12:08 29 December 2015
What exactly is craft beer anyway? Suffolk beer sommelier Ross Turner begins his monthly column with an update on latest developments in the world of brewing, starting with Adnams in Southwold, where he's proud to be a brewery tour guide
When it comes to brewing, a great deal has happened in our county in the last 12 months. Some breweries have re-located, brewers themselves have moved on to pastures new, the start of a new brewery plus growing demand and interest in what we know as ‘craft beer’.
It’s worth reminding ourselves what this in-vogue phrase stands for, as it’s been known to ruffle the odd feather of more traditional old school cask brewers. I can understand why – they are, after all, craft brewers themselves and perhaps not convinced why the keg is getting such a big share of the limelight and sales.
The term ‘craft’ has been adopted from over the pond. Anchor from San Francisco coined the description and it distinguishes a small brewery from the huge mass production brewers such as Budweiser and Miller. Over here, not only are we interested in trying beers readily available on the supermarket shelves from Sierra Nevada, Anchor and Brooklyn – to name just three of the 3,000 or so American commercial breweries.
It’s opened up the market. Microbreweries are springing up all over the UK, and the growth in London has been significant, with the rise of Beavertown, Kernal and Meantime, the latter having just been brought by SAB Miller. This has spread to all other areas of the UK including Suffolk, with Station 119 brewery, at Stradbroke among the newest.
We’ve also seen new styles of beer emerge, such as Black IPA, beer brewed with dark malts, yet with all the hoppiness of an Indian Pale Ale. Most of the beers come in kegs and are filtered, or in cans and bottles. Many of the bottles are conditioned, meaning they contain yeast sediment, and must be poured with care. It provides additional fermentation and maturation giving the beer a fuller more rounded flavour in most cases.
Jump to Jack
We’re fortunate that here in Suffolk the likes of Adnams have not been ignoring this trend. They created the Jack Brand range, a collection of beers celebrating the American craft beer movement, while continuing to brew their traditional cask conditioned beer. Adnams have been brewing these beers for around three years now and I have selected five that are available in keg and 330 ml bottles, with the exception of the Mosaic which has also been brewed in cask. The dry hopped lager and crystal rye IPA are now available in a 330ml cans.
Blackshore stout doesn’t fall into the Jack Brand range as such, but there’s no doubt it does justice to the title of a modern day craft beer and deserves praise – it’s an absolute deligh, smooth, but with more stout flavour. I invite Guinness fans to try it.
When I’m conducting a brewery tour people often ask me what my favourite beer is. The answer remains the same – it depends on the weather and the season. I prefer lighter, refreshing, crisp beer in summer – darker, stronger and warmer beers are for winter. I much prefer the Dry Hopped Lager on a warm summer’s eve, or the Mosaic. The Innovation and the Rye IPA are beers that can be enjoyed all year round, the stout is a beer for colder, damp months.
There is more good news, as brewers create more diverse styles to match the tastes and palates of beer lovers. One very popular style is called Session IPA. This is a beer that has all the hallmarks of an American IPA – big bold hoppy flavour and aromas of citrus and tropical fruits, but toned down into a mid-4% abv (alcohol by volume). Adnams has released a version called Ease Up IPA, a 4.6% abv beer with grapefruit, mango and pine aromas, a clean dry finish accompanied by a little sweetness from the malted barley. Launched in December you can enjoy it in the Arcade Street Tavern into the New Year.
Ross Turner is a beer sommelier. He and business partner Ross Keough run the Arcade Tavern in Ipswich.