The best day out in Suffolk for anyone who loves beer
If you know someone who loves beer, and is interested in exactly what makes different beer taste so distinct, then check out Beer Safari.
Run by husband and wife team Polly and Tim Robinson, Beer Safari is just one of many food and drink events from their company Food Safari.
I joined the Safari on a freezing February morning, but was soon warmed by the generous fire at The Anchor in Walberswick, our base for the day.
The morning was spent in The Anchor’s old dairy parlour, where we learnt about the beer making process from Colin West, who is an Executive Director of the Maltsters Association as well as a Master Brewer. Colin explained in detail all the elements that combine to create beer – water, malted barley, hops and yeast. I took 17 pages of notes at this point, so I won’t spoil the surprise for potential Safari-goers by going into detail here. However, you can be sure to learn all about milling, mashing, starch and sugars and stun all your friends by issuing technical-sounding words such as Isohumulones in a confident and knowledgeable manner.
After 3 hours of looking at different malts and learning all about beer, we had a well-earned break and a delicious lunch at The Anchor. As always, the food was superb. Mark Dorber, owner of The Anchor, is passionate about matching beer with food, so we were in for a real treat. We enjoyed Scheider Weisse, followed by Meantime’s Wheat Beer -enough to whet our appetites for a visit to a barley grower, just up the road at Wrentham.
Roger Middleditch heads up a family business growing not only barley, but also wheat, oilseed rape, sugar beet, potatoes, asparagus, vining peas and spring beans. With his wife Gill, he’s diversified to include a Real Ale shop showcasing the best brews from Suffolk.
Roger led us across the road from the Real Ale shop into a field of barley, which looks like grass at this stage of the year. Sensibly, it only grows when the soil temperature is at 4 degrees or above, and judging by the arctic blasts that were getting through several layers of my clothing, the young barley was definitely in hibernation.
From Wrentham, we headed south to Southwold, where we were met by Adnams Master Brewer, Fergus Fitzgerald. Fergus and Mark steeped some hop pellets in a series of cafétières, primarily, it seemed, to enjoy the pained expressions on our faces as we experienced just how bitter hops taste on their own, but also so that we could explore the huge variety of aromas and flavours that hops add to beer. A fascinating exercise.
We also tasted a range of malted barley – from smoked malt through to aromatic malt. Fergus went through the brewing process at Adnams, and explained the different styles of beer produced, before taking the group through the brewery and fermentation rooms.
Broad smiles were on many faces when we entered the brewery tasting rooms – one is a climate controlled cask room, where beer is tasted directly from cask, and the other is a warmer tasting room, also shared by Adnams Wine team, where bottled beers are sampled and selected brews are on tap.
From the heady atmosphere of the tasting room, I left the Safari to return to the Maltstore office, but the rest of the party went back to The Anchor for a sumptuous beer and food matching dinner to end a superb day.
The Beer Safari currently runs twice and year and costs £150 per person, including lunch and dinner. For more information on Beer Safari, or any of the other Food Safari events, please contact Polly Robinson.