Adnams is, famously, brewed in Southwold, Suffolk, a sleepy seaside resort full of quiet charm. It is a delight to visit Southwold for an Adnams session; there is such a fine selection of pubs, from the upmarket Crown to the unpretentious brewery tap, the Sole Bay Inn. The legend goes that washbasins in Southwold have three taps - hot, cold and Adnams!
The brewery was greatly expanded in the mid-70s to meet the increased demands from the free trade as the real ale revival took hold. This did not detract from the quality of the beer however, which has continued to be admirably consistent. Adnams brew four regular beers. The rare Mild, 3.2%, is a beautiful ale, richly flavoured for a low-gravity brew. Bitter, 3.6%, is a fine session beer, dry and hoppy on the palate and with a long finish. Some reckon to detect seaweed there as well! Extra, 4.3% was CAMRA's Champion Beer Britain in 1993 and is a gloriously hoppy ale, off-set by a tart fruitiness. It can be hard to find. Finally Broadside, 4.7%, can be a wonderful beer if given enough time to mature in the cellar. When sold young, it can taste sweet: in its prime, it offers a much more complex set of flavours.
There are also seasonal ales. Long-established Old Ale, 4.1%, a succulent winter ale and Tally Ho, 6.4%, the ferocious Christmas barley wine, have been joined by Mayday and Barley Mow, both 5%, brewed in May and August.
You will often hear people say that Adnams doesn't travel, a reputation no doubt arising in the late seventies when a lot of Adnams beer went out into the free trade via agencies who did not all take proper care of it. Nowadays Adnams keep a much tighter rein on such matters, even establishing their own agency, Clipper Wholesale, who operate locally from a depot at Milton.
Traditionally the estate was confined to a 30-mile radius of the brewery, but there has been some recent expansion. For example, about 30 pubs in the Lowestoft/Yarmouth area have been bought from Whitbread. More importantly for us, Adnams now own The Castle in Castle Hill and treated it to a splendid refurbishment last year. We seem to sing the praises of this pub - a regular outlet for Mild - in every issue of ALE. Sadly, popular licensee Fred Vesey is about to leave, otherwise we had a serious candidate for Pub of the Year.
A few more local outlets for Adnams:
Queens Head, Newton - a classic free house which has remained faithful to Adnams beers for many years. Bitter and Broadside are permanent fixtures, joined by Old in the winter and Extra in the summer, all served straight from the cask. The pub has been in all 23 editions of the Good Beer Guide. Landlord David Short has been at the pub 34 years, the last 25 in sole charge.
Crown and Punchbowl, Horningsea - the elusive Extra can be found at this classic country inn. The public bar with its quarry-tiled floor and informal atmosphere conrasts nicely with the more upmarket ambience of the lounge.
Chequers, Fowlmere - Adnams beers a recent innovation following a move into full free house status. An enviable reputation for food but its a nice, though expensive, place for a drink as well.
Wrestlers, Newmarket Road, Cambridge - several local Charles Wells pubs offer Broadside as a permanent guest. You can always rely on a good drop at this bustling, buoyant local, famed for its authentic Thai food.