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Classic Beer of the Month June 2016: Adnams Southwold Bitter

Adnams Southwold Bitter, 3.7%

If I ever moved away from the UK, one of the things I would miss most would be the great British bitter.

Adnams Southwold BitterForget Marmite, baked beans or Coronation Street, I would pine for a pint of that easily-quaffable, full-flavoured, cask-conditioned beer that has been the bedrock of our brewing industry for decades.

If pushed to choose which bitter I would miss most, I would struggle to find an answer but one obvious name springs to mind – a beer they’ve been brewing at Adnams since 1967.

While increasingly overshadowed by its American-hopped stablemate Ghost Ship, the Suffolk brewery’s everyday bitter is a classic of the style.

Alcohol is limited to just 3.7% but flavour is not sacrificed as locally-grown pale malt is combined with crystal malt and a pinch of black malt to provide substantial support for the generous helpings of English Fuggle and Golding hops.

From the handpump, the beer swooshes into the glass an enticing, bright amber colour, bubbling up enticingly as it settles on the bar top.

Taste the Ocean?

The malt is evident immediately as you raise the glass to your nose, along with a distinctive ‘Adnams’ note. Some say you can taste the ocean in Adnams’ beers, reflecting the brewery’s position on the East Anglian coast, and there does seem to be a slight briny character to the aroma.

Dryness is the first thing that is evident when you taste the beer, together with a little toasted bread from the malts, but then the hops kick in – bold, sharp and peppery, turning an initial slight sweetness bitter and tangy. Once again there’s just a suggestion of sea salt.

The finish is wonderfully old-fashioned – big and beery in the traditional sense as the late-hopped Fuggles really come into their own, asserting a firm, spicy bitterness – and it all ends up bone dry, demanding another sip.

This beer has been through a few identity changes in recent times. For a while it was known somewhat conceitedly as The Bitter and today it is marketed under the name Southwold Bitter but I still prefer to call it by its plain old title, Adnams Bitter.

Like many outstanding products, it needs no dressing up.

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