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Classic Beer of the Month February 2012: Adnams Broadside

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Adnams Broadside, 4.7% (cask) and 6.3% (bottled)

A great many words have been written in celebration of Adnams Southwold Bitter. Quite right, too.

Adnams BroadsideIt’s a brilliant example of a traditional British bitter – a brisk-on-the-tongue, slightly salty marriage of vibrant malt and hop flavours that effortlessly oils the wheels of conversation in hundreds of bar rooms every day.

Somewhat in its shadow, perhaps, sits its stronger brother, Broadside. This is a rare beast in that there are two different versions on sale.

The original comes in bottled form and was introduced in 1972 to mark the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Sole Bay.

This was the battle that started the Third Anglo-Dutch War during the 17th century, when the Dutch attacked the allied fleets of England and France that were lying at harbour off Southwold, Adnams’ home town.

Gazing over the tranquil Suffolk coast today, it’s impossible to imagine the carnage of that day – the pounding of cannons, the acrid smoke billowing across the water and the unfolding human tragedy.

At 6.3%, the beer that was created to commemorate the battle has suitable gravitas for such a grim event, its name taken from the maritime manoeuvre in which a ship was turned sideways to allow its cannons to fire at the enemy.

Pale malt and a little chocolate malt provide the cereal base, with First Gold hops employed in the copper. Their juicy fruitiness complements the estery qualities common in a beer of this strength.

Hints of winey fruit, tea and a suggestion of glacé cherry feature in the aroma, alongside a little marzipan, soft caramel and maybe a little pear.

The taste is immediately sweet and there’s plenty of fruit in evidence, with more glacé cherries and dried vine fruits creating a rich, fruit-cake effect on the palate.

The beer then finishes dry and fruity, with the hops pushing forward and having more of a say.

In Cask

In its cask form, introduced in the late 1980s, Broadside is less daunting, running out at just 4.7%. Only pale malt is used this time, but First Gold remains the leading hop.

There are notable similarities with the bottled version, especially in the rich, fruit-cake flavours and the chunky malt profile, but, as you’d expect, being somewhat weaker, it’s also more quaffable, in fact dangerously so for a beer that is approaching 5% ABV.

The lighter touch of cask-conditioning, the softer carbonation and the freshness of the living beer also help mark out a difference.

In either format, however, Broadside is an exceptional beer. If you don’t already have it on your list of favourites, perhaps now is the time to put it there – right next to that justly famous pint of Southwold Bitter.


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