Suffolk’s best pub: we explore the Arcade Tavern’s secrets
PUBLISHED: 15:54 07 November 2017
Interest in craft beers is at an all-time high and the choice on offer is daunting. We went to the Arcade Tavern, winner of Best Pub in the EADT Suffolk Food and Drink Awards, for some inside knowledge
If you’ve never tried a Trappist bier, a sour beer or a smoked beer, and if you’re even remotely curious about them, the Arcade Tavern, in the heart of Ipswich, is the place to quench your curiosity . . . and your thirst, of course. It’s a great night out.
Winner of Best Pub in the 2017 EADT Suffolk Food and Drink Awards, at any given time the Arcade Tavern offers more than 120 beers on tap and bottled. And if beer isn’t your tipple, there’s a growing list of small batch gins to try (around 70 at the last count).
Business partners Ross Keough and Ross Turner, are passionate about their products and how they’re served. They’ve also worked hard, with flair and imagination, on their town centre location, to create an atmospheric tavern in Arcade Street, which lends itself to popular tasting and product launch events, DJ sessions, Street Food Fridays, with everything from wood-fired pizzas, to souvlaki and hog roast, or simply relaxing over a few craft beers with mates.
In days dominated by the gastropub, Arcade Tavern is a refreshing modern retake on the traditional pub. The quality of the beverages on offer is the focus, the friendly, fun atmosphere naturally follows.
Ross K’s considerable experience in running hostelries sets the tone of the tavern and he has an ever growing interest in the small batch gins, while Ross T is a beer sommelier, always ready to share his vast knowledge of craft and heritage ales. We asked him a few choice beer questions.
Q: Is there a beer for everyone?
A: People sometimes say they don’t like beer, but that’s usually because they tried an average bitter years ago and assume it all tastes the same. We have a beer for everyone’s palette – sweet, sour, bitter, all sorts. Our list changes every six weeks and we’ve always got something new and different to try. We’ve had beers flavoured with coconut, banana. The more recent beer to gain much interest is a beer from Boston in the USA called Wanamango . . . . yes, a mango infused pale ale.
Q: What’s your best seller?
A: IP1 (Ipswich Pilsner One), which is our own Pilsner brewed in Belgium from the same brewery as the famous Delirium Tremens bier, which we also stock. The IP1 is a cross between a classic Pilsner brewed from an old German recipe of around 4.8% abv and a Belgium table beer of around 3.2% abv. Our version is a session 4.2% abv and offers bready malt tones, a subtle biscuit sweetness followed by a gentle hop bitterness and slight dry finish.
Q: What’s the next big thing in beer?
A: Aged beers – beers aged like wine. For example, Adnams have brought out aged Broadside, which is matured for six years in bourbon barrels with cherries. We’re now seeing other breweries creating aged beers with some very interesting results. A favorite a while back was an oatmeal stout from Siren brewery in Berkshire, that was aged in Ardbeg whisky barrels.
Q: You run cheese and beer pairing evenings – any favourites?
A: Porter and Gouda are a classic pairing, for example, San Francisco Porter with Old Amsterdam. The salt crystals from the cheese and the classic roasted caramel flavours in the porter make an incredible mouth sensation – a bit like cream liqueur. Peche (Belgian peach bier) is great with goats’ cheese too. I can’t eat goats’ cheese. I really struggle when it’s eaten alone, but when I eat it with peche it’s a flavour I never knew existed. Cheese and wine is a well-known combination, but, for me, cheese and beer go together so much better. You could visit us in September or November where Ross K and I will be hosting another tasting.
Q: What’s the nicest beer you’ve tried recently?
A: A Japanese beer called Hitachino Nest. I had it with Thai food recently. It has fresh orange zest flavours, spice, and is smooth, with a hint of nutmeg. Wiper and True Milkshake, which is a beautiful milk stout from Bristol, is another beer I enjoy just on its own.
Q: The most expensive beer you sell?
A: Crooked Stave from Colorado – they make one-off beers never to be brewed again. You can keep them for years. Look at the ‘best before ‘dates on the bottles and it’ll be something like 2036, they are extremely complex beers and brewed with a well-known Belgium yeast strain, then aged in oak.
Another is our classic Champagne bier DEUS des Flanders, which is brewed in Belgium and then taken to Champagne in France where a second fermentation is carried out, exactly in the same way as the classic sparkling wine. It is served from a Dom Perignon style bottle and enjoyed supped from an elegant flute. One bottle is best enjoyed with a party of four, five or six people.
Q: Your desert island beer?
A: I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket but it’s the toughest question anyone could ask me as I have so many favourite beers. It depends on the time of year for me. One of my all-time favorites is Schlenkerla Rauchbier from Bamberg in Germany. Bamberg is a tiny medieval town north of Nuremburg. The brewery, smoke the malt over beech wood and then the malt is used in the brewing process, the smoked wood flavor is infused in beer, and the style is Marzen from the Lager family.
Q: Sour beers are all the rage. What are they?
A: They’re basically how beer was created 7,000 years ago. Wild yeast fermented the sugars in cereals which created beer – beer came about by accident and some say turned man from hunter-gatherer into farmers. Belgium is famous for its sour biers and you can always pop by and try some classics on our menu.
We offer various different sour biers all made from 100% spontaneous fermentation such as kriek (made with morello cherries), framboise ( made with raspberries) and geuze which is a blend of different lambics aged up to 18 months and then stored in oak for one to three years, it’s incredibly tart and refreshing. Other UK breweries are trying their hand at brewing sour beers and one now famous one is Wild Beer from Somerset, who brew some brilliant beers and are going from strength to strength. Many who try sour beer for the first time dismiss it, but when shown how to sample it and what to expect they soon learn that they are very interesting.
Q: What would you suggest for a non-beer drinker?
A: We are all different but ask what they usually enjoy and start experimenting, starting light and progress to stronger flavors. At the Tavern we can easily convert wine drinkers, cider drinkers and probably those that prefer juices and even coffee.
Q: Which are your favourite East Anglian beers?
A: So much choice! Adnams Old Ale, which is available from October until March is a stunning beer for me, and I can quite easily get lost in many a Suffolk pub who stock this. All of the Adnams Jack Brand beers are consistently good in all their packaging. Nethergate Suffok County, and Yakima Gold by Crouch Vale Brewery. I can’t forget Woodfordes Wherry as this beer made me fall in love with Cask Ale. Ross K really enjoys a Mosaic by Adnams on cask and I must admit its stunning.
Check them out at www.arcadetavern.co.uk