Suffolk: ‘Lifestyle choice’ behind boom in people brewing their own ale

AN increase in people making ale as a “lifestyle choice” is behind a record boom in Suffolk breweries, experts believe.

According to the region’s real ale group Camra, new “one-man-band” breweries, who have opted out of traditional, recession-struck careers, have been key to making the county a beer-making capital.

Some Suffolk breweries, that have been founded in the depth of the double-dip recession, have said their businesses are rooted in a quest for a more “simple life.”

John Gagen, pubs officer for West Suffolk Camra, said: “We are fortunate that there are more breweries then we’ve had in my memory.

“A lot of them are very small; sometimes just one man bands, but we welcome that too.”

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He added: “I think a lot of it is a lifestyle choice. They are never going to make a fortune but they make a bit and if someone wants to home brew and make a moderate living, then they can do it.”

Matt Hammond, founded Shortts Farm brewery about six weeks ago and currently produces just one ale.

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The 30-year-old of Mill Road, Bury St Edmunds, said: “For me I was looking for a lifestyle. I know this won’t make me a rich man, I’m a long way from that. I just felt that the simple life was the way to go.”

Mr Hammond said he also wanted to help with the diversification of his parent’s farm in Thorndon, Eye, where his brewery is based.

“It is a family farm, it would be such a shame to lose it,” he added.

The former carpenter said he had researched widely and volunteered at a small operation in the west country before launching his brewery.

His first ale, a 3.8% beer called Strummer after the legendary frontman of The Clash, was inspired by a lack of real ale at music festivals.

“I wanted to make a live beer for live music,” Mr Hammond said.

He added the strength of breweries in Suffolk was great news for British food and drink.

“It really is something to be proud of,” he said. “We are probably the only country in the world that makes British real ale – there is nothing quite like it.”

Mr Gagen said one of the positives of small breweries is that they can be more experimental with tastes while bigger producers are expected to stay faithful to more traditional recipes.

He added that pub breweries, such as The Kings Head at Bildeston and the Edwardstone White Horse, were also doing well in what has been a tough time for other public houses.

East Anglia now boasts an impressive 107 breweries with 11 new operations opening in the past 12 months.

Strummer can be found at The Dove in Bury St Edmunds and The Sweffling White Horse, among others.

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