18 February 2010

Suffolk 'n' tasty

Of the plain brown bitters commonly served in the pubs of London, Adnams is my favourite. There is, I think, a distinctive flavour to all Adnams beers. It's a crisp, dry, almost sulphurous mineral quality which I'm guessing comes from their water. And I love it. Late last year I noticed how it carries over into the winter session beer they make for Marks & Spencer. And then my local supermarket began carrying Adnams beers in bottles. I was all over that.

First up, Lighthouse, and props to whomever decided to put a 3.4% ABV beer on the market in Ireland -- a country where light lagers have to make it clear that they're at least 4.2% ABV or no-one will buy them, and where the only mainstream sub-4% ale goes to great lengths to hide its lack of intoxicating power (today's challenge: go to the swish new Smithwicks website and see if you can find out how strong it actually is). Lighthouse is indeed light, and the lack of body leaves it just a bit on the gassy side. The flavour is mild toffee and caramel, with that signature mineral character, perhaps just fading to soapiness at the end. All-in-all I found it very similar to the M&S one. On the far side of €3, however, it represents similarly poor value. Someone's having a laugh with the pricing gun here, I reckon.

For the same sort of money you can get a bottle of Innovation, much better suited to the ABV-conscious Irish palate at 6.7%. And in conjunction with Lighthouse we get an excellent lesson in the role alcohol plays in flavour complexity. The cloudy orange-amber ale isn't at all boozy -- the aroma is all alluring and exotic spiced citrus fruits. The base of the flavour is a light tannic tea layer, with a sweet and perfumed Riesling level above it, and then a topping of zingy orange sherbet. Wonderful sophistication and utterly perfect balance. Amazingly for a beer this strength it's fantastic as a cooling refresher and one I'll definitely be keeping in mind for sunny summer evenings.

Remember those? No, me neither.


  1. Excellent, im a big big fan of Innovation, Ive just bought some of adnams, william goddell beer, it comes in a nice 75cl bottle with a cork, im hoping it's up there with the innovation

  2. I love Innovation as well, the balance between the malt and hops is excellent. I'll be placing an order direct with Adnams soon I think...

  3. I used to put Adnams beers in the same bracket as Greene King -- ubiquitous and boring -- but I've come to appreciate them more in the last couple of years. Adnams Bitter, on form, is just a perfect pint. I also really like the idea of their experimental seasonal specials. Beers under 4% really do seem to suffer from pasteurising and filtering, though -- without booze to give them body and punch, they often taste of little but gas and caramel.