the beer cycle
Although many more serious cyclists would have us believe that alcohol and bikes do not mix, there is a school of thought that believes that a pub, with an array of real beer, is a wonderful thing to build into a long ride in order to provide sustenance to the tired rouleur. Indeed, in Germany, there is a drink, a kind of teutonic shandy equivalent, known as a ‘radler’ – which means cyclist. With this in mind, I shall shortly be bestriding my Brooks saddle and riding in a confident and definite style to my local for a few pints.
Coming from Suffolk means that I live in the centre of the beer industry. We grow the barley here that gets malted and turned into beer, using of course water that has been Burtonised and hops from various places. And what’s really marvellous is that my local is a small, ecentric showcase for local brewers; all the beers on tap are selected from a broadly East Anglian millieu. And, in common with the rest of the UK, there has been a massive surge in the brewing industry in this area in the last decade.
As you will have gathered from reading this collection of missives, one thing I do like is a degree of eccentricity. And so I like Earl Soham Brewery, based some ten miles away from me in East Suffolk. Earl Soham, nestled in undulating and gorgeous countryside and isolated from the stresses of the modern world, spawned a brewery some years ago at the back of the Victoria pub. This proved successful, and now it has moved over the road to a dedicated premises under the guidance of the brewer, John Bjornson. Without going into a Camra-esque apoplexy, let me just say that their Victoria bitter is a proper session beer, and I drank a lot of it on tuesday evening.
If you live in a quiet place such as Earl Soham, but you harbour an adventurous spirit, you will inevitably be called upon by the sprites and told to make your way to the big city to seek out excitement. You will then, in all likelihood given your straitened circumstances, go to Ipswich, and you will find there the Cliff Quay brewery where you will happen upon a brewing operation which is a joint venture with ESB – a newish brewery under control of Jeremy Moss, the head brewer. Formerly involved in brewing Wychwood beers in the midlands, Jeremy has got a portfolio of really wonderful beers under his belt in Ipswich. The premises is basically the old Tolly Cobbold brewery down by the docks – and the Brewery Tap is the slightly shabby, bohemian looking, gothic flavoured pub next door.
The impetus falls upon you to get on your bike and seek out your local pubs. Some may be depressing and bland – don’t mention Greene King to anybody who lives in Suffolk and likes their beer; their identikit pub chain crushes the spirit of anybody with a drop of imagination, [or as Joe Strummer would have had it, anybody born with a living soul].
But sharing the same air in Bury St Edmunds, where we have now arrived after a westerly ride, is the excellent Old Cannon Brewery, formerly the St Edmund’s head. Another thriving independent whose beer is now drunk farther afield (Rattlesden at least!), they offer a great range of their own and guest ales in their airy, stripped wood floored bar which also contains the brewing plant for added interest. My frequenting of this fine establishment is generally given extra flavour by the wonderful company I keep there. But that is not your business.
Clearly, with the international aspects of the internet, this trawl of local brewers is not going to be relevant to all, however I hope that you are moved to include a pub or two on your next all day ride, or even use your bike as transport for an evening out.