It's a Suffolk life: Little old ale drinker me

PUBLISHED: 16:51 23 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:26 20 February 2013

It's a Suffolk life: Little old ale drinker me

It's a Suffolk life: Little old ale drinker me

Can a dedicated wine drinker be converted to the delights of real ale?

Can a dedicated wine drinker be converted to the delights of real ale?

Ive never been much of a beer drinker. True, back in my student days (now wreathed in the mists of time) I could knock back pints of lager with the best of them. But since reaching a more, how shall I say, sophisticated age, any occasion that calls for a drink sees me reach for a nice chilled glass of wine or zingy gin and tonic. The prospect of relaxing or celebrating with pint of rather flat-looking, warmish brown liquid just doesnt cut the mustard.

So could the Girls Guide to Real Beer at the recent Greene King Food & Drink Festival persuade me otherwise?

Leading UK beer writer and broadcaster Melissa Cole and Greene King beer taster Sue Chisholm put forward a convincing case in the hour-long session, including the novel suggestion of making sure, should you opt for beer, thatyou ask for it in a nice glass, rather than a ratty old pint glass thats been knocking around for ages!

In front of us were four beers to try St Edmunds Ale, Abbot Ale, Old Speckled Hen and Suffolk Strong Ale.

But before we could take even a sip, we had to learn how to appreciate the aroma. This you do by cupping your hand over the glass and gently swirling the contents. Then lift your palm and take either one great big sniff or several, more delicate bunny sniffs as Melissa called them.

Its a great tip, because even if you dont like beer, the fragrance is remarkable. St Edmunds Ale has a lovely scent honeyed and fruity with a hint of pink grapefruit.

Then the tasting. Hmm, not bad. In fact, quite nice. Light and clean, with a dry but not bitter finish, in a show of hands St Edmunds Ale proved very popular with the assembled women. This came as no surprise to our experts. Evolution has taught us to beware bitter tastes they said, and women have been scientifically to be more sensitive to bitter flavours than men.

St Edmunds Ale is a good match with fish, and to prove the point we had ours with a sliver of smoked salmon. A delicious pairing.

The next two ales proved a bit more problematic, at least for me. Looking much more like your traditional pint, Abbot Ale and Old Speckled Hen are warm, fruity and malty, and though I tried hard to appreciate the richer flavours, Im afraid the finer points were rather lost on me. However, they did go remarkably well with their respective nibbles a slice of Suffolk Salami with the Abbot Ale and a piece of Rodwell Dairy mature cheddar with the Old Speckled Hen.

To the final beer, Suffolk Strong Ale, which looked a bit of a challenge. Dark and treacly, going by appearance alone it was already my least favourite.

But the smell test revealed gorgeous aromas of Christmas pud and Madeira wine and the rich, dark taste was wonderfully complimented by a piece of chocolate brownie. All in all, it was absolutely delicious and I was astonished to find it was my favourite of the four ales by far.

So have I changed my mind about beer drinking? Will I be forsaking a flute of prosecco for a pint of the brown stuff? Probably not in the very near future. But on a cold winter Saturday after a game at Portman Road, I am very definitely going to stop off at the pub for a pint of Suffolk Strong Ale, in a nice glass of course!

See you there!

Sandra Roberts

For more information on Greene King ales and beers visit

Latest from the EADT Suffolk Magazine