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Over the May Day Bank Holiday Weekend we took a trip to remote South Suffolk to a little place called Edwardstone. Now for those of you who may not have heard of the place which I’m assuming is pretty much everyone it is near the pleasant village of Boxford and 6 miles east of Sudbury. It is nestled in a beautiful part of Suffolk, close to the many towns and villages who made their wealth during Suffolk’s prosperous medieval period of wool production. So let me explain what attracted us to head to this quiet corner of Suffolk for a Beer Festival.
Dark Ale Days is a beer festival that focuses on darker beers. It is in its 19th year and has proved highly popular. Now there aren’t too many beer festivals that specialise in dark beer and you know how much we love darker beers here at Pubcask. When we discovered that you could camp for a reasonable £5 a night then it seems to us at Pubcask a no-brainer.
Seven of us met up early on Saturday morning in Ipswich and in a convoy of three cars we took the pleasant morning drive of about 40 minutes through pretty rural Suffolk. We arrived at around 11am and found a big corner of space in the campsite. We then started pitching tents which was a lot easier for some of us who had pop up tents. It was the most organised camping trip I had been on! Members of our group had brought a stove with a kettle and mugs. So after having a lovely cup of tea (once the kettle boiled) and getting stuck into our huge stash of crisps, the clock struck 12pm so we decided it was time for the pub. It should also be noted that 12pm was opening time!
We all took the long walk of about 25 metres and went through the door and then found a series of doors. The pub is split up into two main rooms. The Public Bar and The Lounge Bar. We headed into the empty room which was the The Public Bar. This was in effect a games room with dartboard and a traditional bar billiards table. All of which entertained us in between the beer. We immediately found the beer list which was very exciting. See the pictures below.
So after reading the beer list we got very excited and were very impressed. They had 15 dark beers, 10 lighter beers and 4 ciders. Best of all you could get 4 Thirds of a Pint for £5. That seemed like quite a good deal to us so we decided to work our way through the list starting at 1 -4. We spent the next two hours drinking beers, playing darts and keeping up to date with football scores on our phones.
As the afternoon progressed we decided it was time for lunch so we headed into The Lounge Bar and found a big table where we ordered lunch and carried on drinking beer. To keep us entertained one member of our group decided to show off his piano skills! He was joined by a very talented young lady who accompanied skills with a beautiful voice; alongside some piano skills of her own! After everyone had eaten we decided to take an afternoon stroll and one of us decided he needed a nap. So after a lovely 20 minute country walk and a race to a tree and back we headed back to camp. We then had an hour’s break and enjoyed some more crisps and another cup of tea before strolling back to the pub at around 6pm.
The pub was now a lot busier and had a good atmosphere and we went back into the Public Bar where there was standing room only. After an hour or so we decided to find a big table for dinner so after keeping an eye out we managed to nab a big table in The Nook which is a small corner in The Lounge Bar where the ceiling and walls are covered in beer mats. This was now our spot for the evening. We all ordered food which was again very good and by mid evening we had made our way through the entire beer list.
So now its time to talk about beer. With so many great beers and a few differing opinions we picked a Top 5 which we all universally agreed on. As you may have guessed they were all dark beers. So here is a list of our favourites with full descriptions in chronological order
6) East London Brewing – Orchid 3.6%. Vanilla Mild ‘Black colour with frothy, pale brown head. Malty, roasted nose with chocolate, cacao, milky coffee, dark bread and a touch of vanilla. Malty, roasted taste with notes of chocolate, cacao, dark bread and a gentle roasty bitterness in the finish’.
9) Five Points – Railway Porter 4.8%. True London Porter brewed in London hopped heavily with East Kent Goldings.
11) Hammerton – Pentonville Oyster Stout 5.3%. ‘In 1938 the original Hammerton Brewery was famous for being the first in the world to use Oysters as part of the brewing process. In this new recipe we’ve used a variety of flavoursome malts, including a good dose of oats. Fresh wild Maldon oysters are then added to the boil to add a subtle extra complexity to the taste of this stout’.
14) Summer Wine – Mokka Milk Stout 6%. Aromas are chocolate milkshake with blackberries and earthy coffee. Medicinal with herbal liquorice and prunes. Flavours are coffee and dark berries with cream. Raisins with hints of lemon and nutty cola.
15) Yeastie Boys – Pot Kettle Black 6.5% (KEG). Hoppy Porter, brewed in New Zealand and aged in Pinot Noir barrels for 4 months……………… ENJOY!
To check out the whole beer list click here.
We had an excellent day and at around 10.30pm the older ones started to head towards their tents and the younger ones stayed out until the bitter end which was around 12.30pm. This is a great local pub with good food, great beer and a brilliant atmosphere. It is also worth mentioning that throughout the day we found several members of staff to be quite short and rude at times. We understand that it is a busy time but even when we first arrived and the bar was empty the attitude of the staff was less than friendly. We fear that we may have been victims of prejudice; a group of youngish men perceived to be ‘out on the piss’ with little regard for others. Throughout the day simple enquiries about the menu were made difficult by rude staff and even at the end of the night when asking for a glass of water we were cut off with an abrupt NO before finishing the sentence. Although it is worth mentioning that some staff including a tall man and one in a colourful shirt were always very friendly. These experiences were a slight dampener on what was otherwise a superb festival.
Overall we had a fantastic time at The Edwardstone White Horse Inn and all want to go back again next year. Keep an eye out on their website for their latest events as they have regular beer festivals throughout the year.