If you’ve ever traveled to Great Britain, you’ve likely encountered the famed English Pub. Then again, even if you’ve never set foot in the UK, you’re probably still familiar with this famed institution. The English Pub is not simply a location or set of locations—it’s a cultural phenomenon that is often imitated, but never quite duplicated outside of England. It’s a place where you’ll find local Brits unwinding with their favorite ale (or sometimes lager), relaxing after a tough day’s work, reuniting with good friends, hatching new schemes, or perhaps, all of the above. While we regret that we are unable to send you your own English Pub this month (damned shipping costs!), we are proud to bring you a couple of authentic British pub ales that will transport you to the dark, smoky pubs of England (though the smoky element is set to be extinguished as early as 2006, as England phases in bans on smoking in public places—including the majority of England’s famed pubs).
London is perhaps best known for its pub atmosphere, but the whole of England is spotted with the classic pub. In the UK, the pubs are often owned and operated by local breweries. And with so many breweries scattered throughout the country, you can bet there are quite a few classic pubs. If you head northeast of London out to the eastern coast of England, to a region of northern Suffolk, known as Southwold, and ask for a pint, chances are that the frothy beverage that fills your glass in this sea resort town will carry the name Adnams. Set in this classic English coastal town, crammed with characteristically British pubs, Adnams is one of England’s oldest and most respected breweries. Their brewery in Southwold, known as the Sole Bay Brewery, has been creating fine beers under the Adnams name since at least 1872. However, brewing in this spot goes back much further than the 19th century. More than 650 years ago the brewery began as the brewhouse of Southwold’s oldest inn, the Swan. Turn back time to 1345 and you may just witness a red letter date in the history of brewing in this region, when “Ale Wife” Johanna de Corby was fined by the manorial court for serving ale in unmarked measures. Luckily she wasn’t burned at the stake for her crime during this medieval period. Hey—who in their right mind would torch the “Ale Wife”, right?
Brewing continued at this site until 1659, when fire destroyed the Swan. The brewery house was then moved from the inn to its present location at the rear of Swan yard. For most of the 18th century the Swan, home of the Sole Bay Brewery, was owned by local legends the Thompson family, who gained a reputation for their fine ales. In 1825 the Swan was sold to a local maltster by the name of William Crisp for a mere £350. Under his stewardship, the brewery became quite famous. Over the next 47 years, the brewery passed through a succession of owners until 1872 when the Adnams brothers, George and Ernest, purchased the brewery. In a fateful move, George decided that he was not cut out for the country life and traveled to Africa where he was tragically eaten by a crocodile. Ernest continued his work at the brewery, keeping the business in the Adnams family while partnering with brewer Thomas Sargeant.
Fast forward to 2001—Adnams is owned by the fourth generation of the Adnams family. It was in this year that Adnams gained the esteemed distinction of being “Britain’s fastest growing brewery”. Their beers have always been top notch, but more and more folks are getting their hands on them these days. In recognition of their great brews, their head brewer was recently chosen as Britain’s Brewer of the Year by a panel of his peers. And rightfully so! Cheers!
For more information about the Adnams brewery, and their many fine beers, visit www.adnams.co.uk.