Raising a glass to Suffolk's finest
PUBLISHED: 13:06 20 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:13 20 February 2013
Ruth French celebrates a fine tradition of beer, cider and wine-making in Suffolk
Ruth French celebrates a fine tradition of beer, cider and wine-making in Suffolk
Alcohol has had a bad press in recent years which is a bit of a shame. Think of a celebration; a wedding, birthday or simply a companionable evening in the local pub all enhanced by a favourite tipple which, in moderation, can enhance life, break down social barriers and help us feel relaxed. In this region, we have some of the worlds finest brewed beers and ciders, great wine merchants and a growing number of award-winning vineyards too. Lets take a look at their history, their place in the market and which foods best accompany them.
Where would be without wine? Wars have been fought over it and ransoms have been settled with it.
Ill make my apologies here to wine connoisseurs for not going deeply into classification types. Its an enormous topic tied up as much in jargon and snobbery as law and tradition.
Firstly then, there is the appellation of the wine, or its place of origin (think of the general terms, a Bordeaux or a Rioja). Next is the wines vinification; maybe its sparkling, dessert, fortified, table, cooking or perhaps even a vintage (a subject classification of its own). More relevant to the average consumer though is the wines variety. For instance, Sauvignon Blanc is a white-skinned grape variety with an appellation belonging to the region of Bordeaux.
Mead is a type of wine made from fermented honey and water and is currently enjoying a revival. It is said to hold aphrodisiac qualities and is in fact where the word honeymoon originates. Newly-weds drank it for a week after marriage to ensure fertility!
In recent years, this country has once again started to produce some small-yield, quality wines from its own vineyards. One such producer is Shawsgate Vineyard of Framlingham. Try their Venus Red, a medium-bodied 2004 wine with great bouquets of blackcurrant, vanilla and cinnamon. Its versatile and good value for a small yield at 11.99 a bottle. For a white, choose Pandora, a young, medium-dry wine with a tropical bouquet and spritzy acidity thats perfect with fresh mackerel or lobster.
For a vast array of world wines, you cant do better than to pay one of Adnams Cellar and Kitchen Stores a visit.
Situated throughout East Anglia (and London) to include Southwold, Woodbridge and Hadleigh youll find a wine to suit any palate, pocket and occasion.
My hot tip choices from Adnams are 2009 Shiraz/Cabernet, Canoe Tree, a soft, rich and spicy red at 6.29 thats perfect with all mushroom dishes, steak and venison. Or LEmpreinte de Saint Mont Blanc, Plaimont, a fantastic dry white featuring grapefruit, honey and herbs at 12.99. Try it with white fish and samphire or chicken and orange salad followed by chocolate mousse.
Rose wines are becoming more elegant and you wont do better than a Spanish Rosado Monte Arlas Navarra, chosen by Adnams for its unusual sophistication. Deep in colour and complexity, its perfect for a summer garden buffet of fish paella followed by strawberries and cream.
And finally, no resume would be complete without mentioning the fascinating world of Champagne and/or sparkling wines.
Champagne itself is enshrined by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and was adopted as a status symbol by French kings. If youre lucky enough to have it on your shopping list then choose Veuve Fourny Cru Blanc de Blanc. At 26.50 a bottle its good value for its class. Find it at Wines Of Interest in Ipswich and do it justice with party canaps of smoked salmon or perhaps with oysters or sushi.
Traditional British life without a pint? Its unthinkable! Woven as it is into the fabric of society. At its most basic level, beer is an alcoholic beverage of fermented grain flavoured with hops that has been brewed in its original form since 4,300 BC by the Babylonians.
Classifications are many but generally beer is either a lager (American or Continental beer brewed at lower temperatures and in kegs) or its an ale or stout (often in casks where unpasteurised ales undergo the secondary fermentation process as in traditional, real ales).
Suffolks world-famous Adnams of Southwold, holds a special place in history. Founded in 1872 by George and Ernest Adnams, who purchased the Sole Bay Brewery, the award-winning company produces many beers and ciders including the UKs first carbon-neutral beer, East Green introduced in 2008. The crown in Adnams jewel is its Southwold Bitter. A traditional copper-coloured brew made from finest East-Anglian malted barley with late-added hops to give a herby taste. Try their Broadside Beer, a deep, ruby red with strong, well-formed flavours reminiscent of fruitcake.
Bury St Edmunds brewery Greene King combines its 200-year old traditional skills with modern thinking to produce its Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale, a unique blend of two ales matured for a period of two years resulting in a dark, fruity and particularly strong beer.
Try the Hens Tooth ale, described as real ale in a bottle or Greene King XX Mild if you prefer a finer, mild brew.
Bungays St Peters Brewery is a relative newcomer specialising in traditional and speciality beers. Its modern brewery, built in 1996, relies on quality water from its own bore hole to produce ales and the more unusual Honey Porter Beer. This adding of honey and even fruit goes back hundreds of years and the thoroughly modern St Peters exports its products all over the world.
The brewing of beer is clearly an art form worthy of admiration and respect so it makes perfect sense to eat good food with it.
Beer is perfect with English cheeses and onion or Suffolk ham and always seems to demand hunks of crusty bread too and thats why a ploughmans lunch simply cant be beaten.unless you make your own fish and chips.
Make a simple beer batter with a light, pale ale and use goujon-sized fillets of haddock and home-made chips.
If stout is your tipple, you may be interested to know that its original term in this country was Porter because London river and road porters drank it in the 16th century. Brewed from dark roasted barley, it produces a richer, literally stouter beer, a variant of which is more famous nowadays across the shores in Ireland in the form of Guinness Stout. Steaks and roasts of red meat are worthy companions especially when teamed with an eye- wateringly strong home-made horseradish sauce.
Cider is fermented apple juice with typically 2-8% alcohol content and apple cultivars known as Cider Apples.
The campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) has laid down its definition as well as for that of beers. Real cider and perry (pear cider) must be fermented from unpasteurised, fresh apple juice, not concentrates. Many cheap, commercial bottled ciders are a travesty of the real thing and come highly sweetened and carbonated. As a result, they bear little resemblance to real cider.
In 2009, Adnams obtained exclusive distribution rights to sell such an English cider from a dedicated producer in Worcestershire. Hogans Cider is made using 100% unpasteurised, apple juice and is now distributed by Adnams as far a field as the USA.
Suffolks own Aspall Cyder, spelt with a y to differentiate it from West Country Cider, is brewed in Debenham at Aspall Farm and was started here by the Chevallier family from Jersey in 1728.
Their Premier Cru Cyder (dry) has a glorious, champagne-like colour that works amazingly well with curry whilst their Perronelles Blush features a deep, intense colour and more pronounced flavour that will add grace to a pork casserole or sticky pork chops with spinach mash. Theres nothing infra-dig here, cider is now elegant once again.
Try Draught Cyder with cheese dishes or with a simple lunch of ripe camembert, warmed through and served with crusty bread and fried egg, Normandy-style. Its sold on tap and in bottles, is perfect as an aperitif and has been likened to a Sauvignon Blanc.
FIVE SUFFOLK BREWS TO TRY
Old Growler (5.0%abv) Nethergate
A dark ruby red porter-style beer, OId Growler is smooth and warming in character on the palate but with more than a touch of hoppiness in the finish.
Albert Ale (4.4%abv) Earl Soham Brewery
Just a shade darker than a conventional bitter, Albert Ale delicately balances a restrained hop character with a hint of sweetness.
Best Bitter (3.8%abv) Old Cannon
A good crisp bitter. Perhaps more of a session beer than a "best" bitter, given its strength, but thats so much the better if you fancy more than one.
Waxies Dargle (4.3%) Brandon Brewery
A deep copper-coloured beer which makes a big impression all round, with a depth of malt character balanced by robust hoppiness
Black Adder (5.3%abv) Mauldons
A bitter stout, with the edge of the dark malts balanced by a combination of fruity and nutty character on the palate and complemented by a long-lasting finish.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Adnams plc, (nationwide brewed products, Adnams Kitchen & Wine Cellar Stores East Anglia and London, Adnams Group Hotels) Sole Bay Brewery, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6JW
Tel: 01502 727200 www.adnams.co.uk
Greene King PLC, Westgate Brewery, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 1QT
Tel: 01284 763222 www.greeneking.co.uk
St Peters Brewery Co, St Peters Hall, St Peters South Elmham, Bungay, Suffolk NR35 1NQ Tel: 01986 782322
Shawsgate Vineyard, Badingham Road, Framlingham, Suffolk IP13 9HZ
Tel: 01728 724060 www.shawsgate.co.uk
Wines of Interest, 46 Burlington Road, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 2HS
Tel: 01473 215752
Aspall Cyder, Aspall Hall, Debenham, Suffolk IP14 6PD
Tel: 01728 860510 www.aspall.co.uk