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My Year in Beer 2015

Happy New Year everyone!

2015 was my best year of beer related experiences to date! My own knowledge of beer improved and I made some great friends along the way. Here I recount those experiences and look ahead with enthusiasm to 2016. Please click on the available links in this blog to find out more about any individual experience.

January

January began with my book review of Roger Protz and Adrian Tierney-Jones ‘Britain’s Beer Revolution’. This book proved to be helpful aide in learning about the different regions of the UK and the beer and breweries thriving in those parts.

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A local professional beer writer’s view of East Anglia’s top ten beers proved to be a real diasappointment. Myself and friends were horrified by some of his choices,  especially considering that the article was published in the local press in January. There were many worthy contenders in the list but the sheer naivety and Suffolk centred nature of the piece incensed us.

I also found time to read and write a book review of CAMRA’s Good Bottled Beer Guide in January. A great book if you love bottle-conditioned beer.

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This month also saw me discover my (sort of) local in the Shadingfield Fox on the outskirts of Beccles. Always a good selection of well looked after beer.

January concluded with a visit to the Colchester Winter Ale Festival. A great traditional festival for the lover of dark beer.

February

The highlight of this month was my holiday to the Peak District. I got to visit the breweries of both Thornbridge and Buxton and also discovered Peak Ales. The beers purchased from both Buxton and Thornbridge were on the whole good with Peak Ales offering some good cask whilst on holiday.

On my way home from my holiday I had the pleasure of visiting the National Brewery Centre in Burton-upon-Trent. I would highly recommend this trip to any beer lover although you do need to tolerate the Molson Coors (Big Six) interpretation of the 1960s and some Carling advertising. The centre had a huge range of exhibitions from information on the brewing process and its development to the huge impact and job provision in the local community and was set up to be an engaging experience even for less avid beer lovers.

At the end of the month I hosted a bottled beer tasting with friends. Worthington’s White Shield, Thornbridge’s Beadeca’s Well and Harviestoun Old Engine Oil were favourites.

March

I finally became a member of CAMRA in January and I finally got round to attending a local meeting in this month. I will be posting some CAMRA related pieces soon.

March saw me visit New York City! I didn’t get to indulge in as much as I’d have liked to but I did get to try beers from Captain Lawrence, Long Trail and the Brooklyn Brewery. All of which were to a very good standard. Captain Lawrence’s Pale ale is excellent. 

April

I attended the Framlingham Country show and got to meet John from Two Rivers Brewery in West Norfolk. They brew a lovely Porter.

May

May started with a visit to Edwardstone White Horse ‘Dark Ales Days’ festival. You need not guess the theme! We camped overnight and enjoyed some fantastic beer (though the customer service unfortunately sticks in the memory). Shame about the weather also! We might visit this one again.

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With May being ‘Mild Month’ we also offered a few tweets supporting this style so often neglected by newer breweries.

For the first time I attended the Mid-Anglia Beer festival in Yaxley. This was a fabulous afternoon run by very friendly enthusiastic volunteers. For me, it was the best beer list I saw at a festival this year. There were offerings from Grain, Elmtree, Old Cannon, Mauldons and Hoxne Brewery.

May concluded with a day out exploring Norwich’s pubs to enjoy the ‘City of Ale’ Festival. This was brilliant with the highlights being visits to the Plasterers Arms and The Kings Head.

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June

June was my first month of being a member of Beerbods. A beer club where you get to share your thoughts online in a live tasting on Thursday evenings. It has been a great experience so far.

Ipswich Beer Festival also happened in this month at the football ground. This was a good festival and I look forward to seeing what they offer next year.

July

First up in July was the Lowestoft Town Beer festival. This was excellent value for money and the beer list was a list of solid, dependable beers.

Reedham Beer festival was another good festival. Hosted by Humpty Dumpty, the village green setting made for a quaint, village fete feel to proceedings. Although some beers condition didn’t appear to keep very well! I will attend this one again.

July ended with a beer adventure to three of East Anglia’s best beer shops. The Real Ale Shop up in North Norfolk, the massive Beers of Europe in Kings Lynn and Beautiful Beers of Bury St Edmunds. I entered into this quest to pick up some beers for another tasting evening I was hosting.

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Beautiful Beers of Bury St Edmunds

August

The month began with that tasting evening at a friend’s house. Highlights were the Best Bitter from Barrell and Sellers, Bardfield Bitter from Round Tower, Kernel IPA and Oxymoron Black IPA from Otley.

The next highlight of August was the big one – The Great British Beer Festival. Always a good experience.

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I also holidayed in Spain in this month, not much was found of note, but you can read a blog about it here.

I concluded the month with a blog about my 10 favourite Suffolk Beers.

September

In this month I visited St Peter’s Hall for their first beer festival. Lots for them to think about improving next time but a fantastic setting for a festival! Old Style Porter on Cask – Fantastic!

My next festival was perhaps my favourite of the year: the Norwich Maris Otter 50 festival. All the beers were unique to the festival and brewed using the celebrated barley that is Maris Otter. A great festival and I hope something similar happens again next year.

October

October’s major highlight was the Norwich Beer Festival. Good as ever (as long as you get in the queue early!).

November

It was a real privilege in November to attend the Adnams store in Southwold for a night of historic beer tasting. The Morse family ran a brewery from Lowestoft between 1842 and 1936. Local Historian Eric Dore has written a book about the family and the brewery’s history. In celebration of its publication, Adnams brewed two of their beers from the 1840s. One was a table beer at 2.8% and the other a Mild at around 4%. Both were great and both had a marked burnt flavour. Roger Protz and big names from the Norfolk and Suffolk brewing scene were in attendance. A great evening and a great book – which I now proudly have a signed copy of.

The Beccles Beer festival also occurred in this month. For me this still remains one of the best small festivals around. The range is exclusively local and there use of a digital screen to show which beers are available should be more widely used by others.

At the end of November I also had a wander around Lowestoft’s pubs. The Stanford Arms and the Triangle Tavern remain the two highlights of this town’s beer scene.

December

December started with a phenomenal visit to Humpty Dumpty Brewery’s Christmas open day. What a day! I was treated to a good brewery tour and lots of free beer – yes FREE BEER! This was a great day out and reinstalled my faith in this brewery. Christmas Crack for me is the best Christmas themed beer going.

December finished for me with a trip into my hometown of Ipswich to sample a few pubs. I started off in Briarbank where I had a great chat with brewer Rob about his plans to get his beers in more pubs. I was also delighted to try his Christmas ale – Insanity Claus – on cask. I really do hope he manages to get his beers into more places.  My first visit to the now Grain owned Spread Eagle was delightful – well done guys! I enjoyed visits to the Dove and the Fat Cat and also went also to St Judes which, despite an okay beer choice, remains a bit grim.

So that was 2015 – a great year of beer for me! So what about 2016?

Some brief thoughts and wishes for 2016

  • Barrell and Sellers and Briarbank Breweries I hope to see make a bigger impact in East Anglia
  • St Peter’s beers to appear in more pubs
  • CAMRA to have a big year of movement and change with the revitalisation project

I aim to blog with greater frequency in the coming year. I look forward to letting you know what I get up to!

Happy Drinking

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