Apologies to Adnams as I really have dragged my heels writing this blog, I had a fantastic day; it was a real eye opener and the generous hospitality I received warranted a far swifter write-up of my experience and my gratitude. So here goes, better late than never…
On deciding that I would like to ‘brew’ as many beers as possible for our upcoming Beer Festival I sent a cheeky email to Head Brewer Fergus simply entitled ‘Longshot’. To my surprise Fergus replied very quickly with an invite to ‘help’ them brew their Diamond Jubilee Ale. It was to be an early start and he even managed to wangle me some accommodation for the night prior to our brew which gave Sarah & myself an opportunity to spend a rare evening away from the pub. We had a great evening in the Lord Nelson sampling a full range of Adnams beers and some excellent Fish & Chips finished off with an Adnams First Rate Gin & tonic-definitely worth a visit.
With my alarm going off around the same time as they started cleaning casks and racking in the building next door there was slim chance of attempting a snooze so a few minutes later I was in the Brewery yard meeting one of Fergus’ able assistants, Dan. I could already smell those wonderful sweet malt aromas, the unmistakable comforting smell of a brewery in action-I was gutted, it was7:30amand I’d already missed the start of the brew. After short introductions Dan gave me a quick tour while he explained that they were brewing three times that day, Adnams Broadside was already mashing in which was to be followed by our Jubilee Ale and then a run of Gunhill.
Relieved that I hadn’t missed anything to do with ‘my’ beer, I settled in to my first cup of tea while Dan explained the various computer screens which controlled the brewery. Unlike smaller breweries they have the luxury of a Lautertun, this splits the job of the mash tun into two, freeing it up for another brew during the lengthy process of extracting the wort from the grain. Dan explained that the Jubilee Ale is an adaptation of the hugely successful Wedding Ale from last year. There is a blend of pale & cara malts, the hops have been substituted for the aptly named Sovereign. They have also managed to source 50% of the honey from Suffolk, the other 50% is Scottish Heather honey which was used last year. We set the computer up to start the brew by requesting the malts, which were crushed and added to the mash tun after the Broadside had been moved along to the Lautertun. While these two brews carried on monitored by the computer and us through the array of touch screens around the brewery, we set off to the lab to check the yeast.
Yeast is incredibly important in brewing and carries a lot of the flavour characteristics of any breweries beer. Adnams in particular have a distinct ‘house’ flavour which is something they invest a lot of time & effort to protect. The Adnams yeast is actually two different yeast strains combined, with one more dominant than the other and every once in a while the balance has to be restored. This is achieved by propagating the recessive yeast separately and adding a dose to the yeast harvested from brewing as it is pitched into a new brew. We checked the viability of the yeast under a microscope, checked the quantity of each strain of yeast and once Dan was satisfied, with a few calculations and a few buttons pushed, he set aside around 4 barrels of yeast for the Broadside brew.
In stark contrast to the day spent at Red Fox, there was little manual cleaning to do, every pipe is flushed & each vessel is automatically cleaned as they are emptied. This gave us a chance to pop over to the distillery office and see what they’d been up to. The new season Limoncello was being bottled and from the cupboard under the sink came two dubious looking vibrant bottles of spirit, one bright green and one bright red. The first was poured into a glass and water gradually added before it turned cloudy, Absinthe. The second was also Absinthe coloured with hibiscus- it seemed rude not to have a quick taste before nipping back to the brewery… I seriously hope these make it to
general release as they really are quite stunning.
Back to the brewery and Broadside was in the kettle, Jubilee had moved to the Lautertun and Gunhill was being mashed in. We checked a few gravities, put some yeast aside for the Jubliee beer, added hops to the dosing vessel and went to check on the brews already in the fermenting vessels. Whilst we were over there we had a special request to sideline some of the Adnams Broadside being pumped into a tanker to go off for bottling, we filled nine casks which were bound for Hadleys dairy (near The Thatchers) where Jane is making some delicious Broadside Ice Cream!
After the mornings brew of Broadside had been transferred into a fermenter we moved the Jubilee across to the kettle and popped over to the Solebay Inn for lunch while we waited for it to boil (I suspect this was a special treat for me). As the last mouthful of burger and last sip of Mild slipped down we got a call that it was time to put the honey into our brew, all 300kgs of it! There were 6 tubs of lovely runny heather honey which slid in beautifully when held over the steam from the kettle, however there were also around 8-10 tubs of thick, opaque, set Suffolk Wild Flower Honey (which tasted amazing by the way) more reluctant to slide quite so easily into a boiling vessel. Four of us wrestled with the tubs holding them as long as we could over the hot steam of our 100 barrel (28,800 pints) brew. With much effort, and after being covered head to toe in honey, we finally emptied all of the tubs, and while the beer finished the boil and was piped to FV33 I cracked open a bottle of something rather special for us all to share…
Schneider Weisse Nelson, a special 7% edition of the German Weisse beer hopped with Nelson Sauvin. It poured a wonderful hazy golden hue, the colour and the nose were unmistakably Schneider; cloves, bananas followed in this instance with a gentle hint of citrus from the hops. As you’d expect from the Germans this is a precisely executed beer, beautifully balanced and although not the Nelson hop bomb most of us are used to with other beers, just enough, the perfect amount, to let you know this is different, special. This beer is a real treat and I know I wasn’t alone being disappointed when my glass was empty.