As previously mentioned, the whole of the pub scene in Southwold is tied up by one name. You can’t escape Adnams while you’re here, so I thought I should investigate some more – strictly in the name of research, of course.
My original plan was to go on an official brewery tour, which these days is branded an “experience” because Covid has put paid to gaining much access to the brewery itself, which straddles East Green in an imposing, though not overwhelming, industrial fashion.
My plans are intiallty thwarted, because like everything else in the holiday season, the tours are quickly booked up. But then I play my side hustle, a small podcast that I run in my spare time. Just about nobody listens to it, aside from my mates, but it’s enough to persuade the PR man at Adnams to fix up a personal meet and greet with the Head Brewer, Dan Gooderham.
I don’t usually mix blogging with blagging, and as I enter the visitor centre, asking the lady for “Dan – yeah, he’s expecting me”, I take on a distinctive air of Alan Partridge, sitting on the benches outside and shouting “Dan!” At every man who looks like a brewery type coming through the courtyard.
Dan can’t be older than thirty, and has the casual appearance of a young man in the beer trade who’s done good. He started working in a brewpub before joining Adnams ten years ago
Adnams’ website playfully says that brewin in Southwold “can be traced” to the seventeenth century, but it was around 1880 when two brothers Adnams bought the SoleBale Brewery. A family descendant still runs the rim today, and it’s clear that tradition and heritage remain two important watchwords for the company.
In recent years Adnams has diversified into craft beers and spirits, running one of the few combined breweries and distilleries for some miles. As a lover of cask ale, I ask Dan what he makes of this change in emphasis. He quotes a colleague : “Some people say we’re jumping on a bandwagon. The fact is we built the wheels of that wagon – it’s others that have only just found it.” He may have a point.
Just down the road from the brewery is an answer to another historical question; what shall we do with the drunken sailor?
The Sailor’s Reading room was designed as a way of keeping seafarers away from the pubs, engaging instead in something altogether more educational and Christian. The building is today full of maritime memorabilia, though Covid restrictions sadly mean its closed today.
But it isn’t far to find some more entertainment, and it doesn’t get much more traditional than this.
Southwold Pier was built in 1900, originally to welcome steam ships that would bring visitors up the coast from London Bridge. Like many British seaside piers, its history is mix of boom and bust, with the Second World War and a a couple of notable storms doing their best to destroy it.
Today its in the hands of a famil owned hotel group (not Adnams) and is still a major draw for families. I’m told that the amusement arcade is a “must”, but with a queue stretching around the block that’s all I know. The rest of the 623 foot boardwalk has a mix of shops and cafes, the latter pretty much fixing prices for the whole of the North Shore. The lunchtime fish and chips are nice enough, but not a patch on the beef dripping delicacies in the town centre.
One key tip if you are coming here – pitch up early and dump the car. “I had to come into town today,” says the well to do woman on the bench, “but I just couldn’t bring anything larger than the Mini.” On enquiring what her other car is, she emphasises the plural. “Oh, we have an Aston Martin – and the Morgan, of course – though my husband mainly uses that for racing.”
There’s money around here, that’s for sure. And sadly a lot of it has gone into converting everything from grand houses to little cottages into holiday homes. The unfeasibly pretty town centre is arranged around winding streets and beautifully manicured greens, with small private driveways. If only local people could afford to live here.