How the 150 year-old brewer took on the craft beer market by mixing tradition with complex innovation.
When I think of Adnams I immediately think of the Suffolk seaside town of Southwold, the home of Adnams Brewery.
When I think of Southwold I think of the artfully painted beach huts, the excellent fish & chips and blowing all my 50 pence pieces at The Under the Pier Show, the most bizarre and hilarious collection of bespoke amusement machines ever created.
It’s entirely fitting then that when I think of all that tradition mixed with a sense of British absurdity and innovation, I think of Adnams and its lovely line of beers, which run the gamut from easy-drinking session ales to more complex yet still evocatively charming brews.
In 2013, Adnams released a collection of kegs and bottled beers under the Jack Brand banner, the range combining the longstanding, traditional expertise of the brewery with more modern, exciting techniques. Basically it was Adnams attempt to enter the craft beer market. Which is ridiculous, being as Adnams is one of the best and most creative brewers in the country. However with almost 150 years of history, it perhaps isn’t the trendiest.
So with this in mind, let’s take a taste-run of the Adnams’ Jack Brand beers, and see if the brewer really has anything to worry about when competing with the more esoteric micro-breweries that have sprung up in the last few years.
Dry Hopped Lager:
This is the first lager that Adnams has ever brewed, and frankly it’s one of the few lagers I will happily drink. It’s a lovely, rich and fruity concoction, almost banana-like in its aroma. Unlike most lagers, it’s not at all gassy, and is moderately hoppy with a nice dry finish. All of this is helped by the fact that its brewed with pilsner malt, which adds a good layer of depth, while the cold conditioning makes it super refreshing. It also tastes far more characterful than its 4.2% abv lets on.
Now the traditional thing to do in drink reviews is to add food matches, but my rather sacrilegious opinions about food matching should probably be kept to myself, so instead I’ll offer taste matching advice from an area I feel more comfortable…
Beatles’ album matching: I would suggest something complex, yet catchy and familiar. Probably Revolver. Even ‘Yellow Submarine’ is suitably seaside themed so maybe don’t skip it this time.
Mosaic Pale Ale:
Mosaic hops were only introduced in 2012, and the US based varieties that Adnams use in its Pale Ale are meant to provide a clean bitterness similar to Citra. This beer certainly does that, but unlike other Citra beers, this is actually quite nice. Mainly because, like the Dry Hopped Lager, this is again very sweet and fruity. Almost mango-like in its exoticness. Although perhaps lacking in depth especially compared to the other beers in the range, this is still very satisfying.
Beatles’ album matching: Mid-period Beatles, nothing too ‘out-there’, but still something less facile than the really early stuff. Rubber Soul would be good. Skip straight to ‘Norwegian Wood’ though.
Crystal Rye IPA:
Of the Jack Brand the Crystal Rye IPA perhaps owes its debt the most to the traditional North American hops of craft brewing, and the rye is an incredible addition, adding an almost toffee-like flavour to the mix. It’s very hoppy and full of rich flavour that leaves a satisfying tingle in the mouth. This isn’t for drinking more than a bottle or two, but it’s still immensely satisfying. There are also subtle hints of chocolate and smoke, but without any off-putting sweetness or burn. This is a cracking pale ale.
Beatles’ album matching: ‘A Day in the Life’ on repeat, then perhaps just the final chord a few more times for good measure. It’s that damn good.