Broadside from Adnams, Suffolk
In an age when even Newcastle Brown is not brewed in Newcastle it is wonderful that Adnams, the independent brewery in Southwold on the Suffolk Coast, should be determined not to shift from its roots, and to brew beers that are as much a part of their hometown as the lighthouse. And deep roots they are too, for it was in 1872 that George and Ernest Adnams purchased the already going concern that was and still is the Sole Bay Brewery . In spite of setbacks along the way – George emigrating to South Africa and being eaten by a crocodile is one, the fashion post- WWII for rubbish keg beers another – Adnams has flourished and continues so to do.
The company makes a fascinating selection of beers, with some magnificent examples of their types – for example their Tally Ho barley wine is a classic – but if one has to be chosen to represent their mastery of the brewer’s art it should surely be Broadside.
Broadside is tough to categorize, not least because it comes in two versions – on draft, at 4.7 per cent ABV, and bottled, at a thought-provoking 6.7 per cent ABV. Though made with pale ale malted barley it has a reddish hue, and more body than would generally be expected of pale ale, almost a trainee barley wine, with the dried fruit flavours you would expect of such a brew, and a definite sweetness on the palate. The great Michael Jackson (the beer writer rather than the one-time Jackson Five member) found cherry fruitiness in the beer too, and categorized it as a Strong Ale. Broadside is a beer that somehow adapts to the seasons: sipped by the sea at Southwold in summer it is refreshing and reviving; nursed by a pub’s log fire in winter it is a definite warmer-upper. As the beer is made with just one hop variety, First Gold, it is something those seeking to understand what hops do for beer, and the flavours brought by individual varieties, can savour and study. As it is nowadays readily available in supermarkets homework is feasible.
Broadside is representative of the brewery too in that it was first brewed in 1972, partly to note the company’s centenary, and partly to commemorate the bloody Battle of Sole Bay in 1672 fought within sight of Southwold. In 1972 real ale was being swept away by a tasteless tide of characterless keg beers; Broadside was a two-fingered gesture to them, as it was to over-advertised and largely undistinguished international lagers a decade ago and is to the cider craze now.