So I there I am in the new century, survivor of the Millennium Bug, in the company of my two-year-old son beside the Red Lion in Southwold; the unsung Adnams pub, the one that doesn’t seem too full of types whenever I go in (then and now). Wife and friend are looking around what passes for shops in Southwold in 2000 (only three I have noticed on our fortnight there: butcher, second-hand bookshop and off-licence, what more does a man need?). Child in pushchair is asleep and we are outside on a bench that belongs to the Red Lion. Lunchtime and perhaps a Broadside, a pint of, a glass of, might help me belong. Notebook in pocket. Pen out. Child asleep. Beer ravishes palate. Words flow as beer steers itself across the tongue and down the throat. One of those moments that I always remember: the study of a beer. What did I write? Couldn’t find the notebook tonight but I know it formed the basis of a long piece I wrote on Adnams for the CAMRA Somerset newsletter I was editing at the time (and which is somewhere online I think). But then I found the kernel of what I wrote hidden away in a file on an old bloated iMac, which as an aside it is amazing that in 2000 we thought this pot-bellied Caribbean sea blue creature was state of the art: ‘It was outside the Red Lion one Saturday lunchtime that I spent a happy half-hour exploring the complexities of Broadside — an ale which takes the drinker to the heart of Adnams. If you've ever crunched Maris Otter Malt or Crystal Malt; or crushed Fuggles or Goldings in your hands and inhaled the result, or walked through a hop store, then a sip of Broadside takes you through its birthplace — the brewery.’
Many different beers have crossed over the drawbridge and passed down my gullet since, both at home and abroad, but I still retain my affection for Broadside even if I haven’t always had it in good condition. However, I had a glass of it the other Friday lunchtime at the Bishop & Bear in Paddington, a Fuller’s fabulous pub at Paddington that has been the ruin of many of my journeys home — usually ESB, which is what we started off our lunchtime session with. All Cointreau-like orange notes, marmalade Dadaism perhaps? Then my mate on a brief furlough from a national newspaper where he works brought along a Broadside to the table. Christ it was fresher than a fresh nappy put on a fresh baby’s bottom, absolutely delicious (unlike the baby’s bottom), a fabulous beer of deep dark-in-the-forest malt notes, a Bartok-like sway (think the first movement of his Concerto for Orchestra) of flavours, that brought in the chocolate, coffee and sarsaparilla that I have always associated with a good Broadside. It was gorgeous and connected me back to that day 11 years when the child in the pushchair was fast asleep. And that ability to link and connect with time is to me the enchantment that good beer can weave and keep you suspended in its spell.
|My mate had a ‘hilarious’ malfunction with the loo here back in the mid 1990s|