Boxted: Swapping bails for ales

THE beer drinkers of Suffolk and north Essex are a jolly fortunate lot, as Duncan Brodie discovered.

Just how fortunate struck me afresh at a bottled beer tasting event staged earlier this month by Boxted Cricket Club, just north of Colchester, at which I was invited to offer an “expert” (their word, not mine) opinion.

A total of 22 breweries, small and not so small, donated beers to taste and – without any consultation between them, so far as I am aware – they managed to contribute as comprehensive a range of beers as you could wish to find in one locality.

From stout to lager, all shades of beer were represented and while I admit that I didn’t manage to taste all 22 in the time available, those I did get to sample didn’t include a single dud.

Among those to make a particularly favourable impression were Amarillo, a hoppy golden ale from Crouch Vale Brewery; Chockwork Orange, a complex dark ale from the Brentwood Brewing Company, and Wily Ol’ Fox, an aromatic amber ale from the Red Fox Brewery.

All these, it might be noted, hail from Essex (South Woodham Ferrers, Brentwood and Coggeshall respectively) but Suffolk was not to be out-done. Besides IPA and Suffolk Springer from Greene King, and Southwold Bitter from Adnams, there was Tumble Home, a ruby ale from the Cliff Quay and Earl Soham Brewery, and Soul Survivor, a full-bodied brew from HellHound Brewery, based in Hadleigh.

These two were doubly pleasing in that, besides them being eminently drinkable, I can (if only tenuously) claim a connection with each of them as I happen to be a descendent of two generations of innkeepers from Earl Soham and a current resident of Hadleigh.

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Just to keep honours between the two counties even, the line-up also included two of my personal favourites, Old Growler and Umbel Ale, from Nethergate; which, having originally been based in Clare, in Suffolk, is now located just across the River Stour at Pentlow, in Essex.

With apologies for the roll-call, other breweries which supported the event included Wibblers, Mauldons, Calvors, Mersea Island Brewing, Felstar, Mighty Oak, Harwich Town Brewing, Maldon Brewing Company, Greeen Jack, St Peter’s and Mill Green.

The event, thanks to the generosity of the breweries which supplied the beer, and that of Fillpots Nursery, which provided the venue free of charge, was a resounding success and raised just over �1,000, which will be used to promote youth and women’s cricket.

Actually, the exact sum has been given as �1,011.01. In the context of an evening spent drinking beer, would it be inappropriate to ask who spent a penny?

n Not strictly beer, but certainly inspired by it, is Adnams’ Spirit of Broadside, the latest spirit to emerge from the Southwold company’s distillery. It has been matured in oak casks for more than a year and has now been launched to mark the 340th anniversary of the Battle of Sole Bay.

The connection might seem slightly tenuous but Broadside beer, now an established fixture in the Adnams range, was originally brewed in 1972 to mark the 300th anniversary of the battle, the first naval encounter of the third Anglo-Dutch War which took place off the coast of Southwold.

The anniversary celebrations in the town also include the Broadside Big Swim, a one-mile, open-water, sea swim which is being staged by Active Outdoor Sport tomorrow, with the help of sponsorship from Adnams.

It’s just as well the weather has taken a turn for the better. Good luck to all who take part; I’ll be with you in spirit…