7 pubs, 7 beers - have you tried this ale trail yet?
PUBLISHED: 18:30 17 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:49 18 November 2019
From expanding your taste buds to finding hidden gems, Will Ridgard tells us why you should explore the latest fashionable craze in the beer world.
Alongside seven of my best friends, Sunday, September 29 stands out as one of the most memorable days in my 28 years of existence - as we explored what we called 'The Seven Heaven Ale Trail'.
After sourcing eight bikes, and with very little care in the world, our adventures began in the tranquil village of Melton before ending in the ever-popular town of Woodbridge.
Talking football, football and more football, among absolute nonsense, we trawled our way through the stunning Suffolk countryside, trying a different, yet delicious ale at each pub we came across. Jealous? You should be.
But you can replicate, and even better, our joy and happiness by going on an ale trail yourself.
They're dead easy to do.
All you have to do is download the free, easy-to-use CaskFinder app. The app allows you to register on the World's Biggest Ale Trail, rate the beers you try, educate yourselves about beer and even win prizes.
You see, ale, and 'ale trails' are fashionable. Really fashionable!
I wouldn't say that, at 28 years of age, I am any kind of beer expert, but, over the years, my taste buds have certainly moved on from the classic household lagers.
Every single ale differs in its appearance, aroma and flavour, and they each have their own unique fingerprint. Timothy Taylor's Landlord, St Austell's Tribute and Adnams' Ghost Ship are just three of my current favourites that I wouldn't have even tried a year ago.
For me, it's all about cool (in both senses of the word), interesting, exciting, fresh ales, produced by local brewers, wherever that locality is, using natural ingredients. And there are plenty of those in Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk.
The CaskFinder App has tasting notes on more than 10,000 beers and is an integral part of a good trail.
At the time of writing, ale trailers John and Alison Graham have accumulated the most UK pub visits - a staggering 4,685 each! With nearly 10,000 pubs forming part of the World's Biggest Ale Trail, I guess they are nearly at the halfway point of their mission.
Now, I'm not saying that you have to visit thousands of pubs.But you just might; it's up to you. It might depend on how competitive you are. Members of my 'Seven Heaven Ale Trail' were certainly squabbling for scans upon each visit and I'd just like to say that I'm currently leading the way with 11 scans (and counting).
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There are 130 Suffolk outlets on the World's Biggest Ale Trail. A big part of the fun is planning where you are going. We had quite a lot to consider: weather, distance between pubs, cycle paths, bike facilities, bike locks, durability, determination and fitness to mention a few. After a rather heated discussion on the WhatsApp group chat, the 'Seven Heaven Ale Trail' committee decided to take the following route and take a sip of the following beers:
1. The Wilford Bridge, Melton: Woodforde's Wherry
2. The Unruly Pig, Bromeswell: Adnams Mosaic
3. The Coach and Horses, Melton: St Austell Proper Job
4. The Red Lion, Woodbridge: Laine Brew Source Pale Ale
5. The Anchor, Woodbridge: Greene King St Edmunds
6. The Old Mariner, Woodbridge: Wynchwood Hobgoblin IPA
7. Ye Old Bell & Steelyard, Woodbridge, Belhaven Old Ale
Seven different pubs. Seven different ales. Seven different brewers. Perfect. To add to the challenge, some of the licensees seemed to hide their Cask Marque certificate (which has a unique QR code you need to scan to record your visit) - meaning that only the most determined ale trailers actively tried to tick off another pub visit on the app. At one point, we were all drastically racing around trying to find it - with the heroic finder given a standing ovation.
It's completely up to you where you want to go. Like us, you might want to look on the app's interactive map and decide - or you might decide to take up another challenge and tackle one of the organised sub-trails.
The hustle and bustle of the London-based Nicholson's Trails certainly have appeal. Or you might prefer 'Ghost Ship Way' - a trail sponsored by Adnams Brewery along the stunning Norfolk Coast Path. Discover the others when you register and go and test those taste buds.