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Southwold brewers Adnams are branching out – into producing their own vodka, gin and whisky. Richard Bryson finds out more
Who would have thought it? Adnams the Suffolk brewer, famous for its ales, now has a nice little sideline in producing handcrafted vodka and gin.
Then again perhaps its not such a surprise. Listening to the companys chairman Jonathan Adnams talk about this new venture it seems the distillery is a good fit with their brewing, retail and hotels business.
And this brewing engineer, as he describes himself, has enjoyed researching the idea of making spirits here on the Suffolk coast.
The addition of a small distillery to breweries is not uncommon in mainland Europe Ive visited some in recent years but we are the first brewery in the UK to brew beer and distil spirits on the same premises, he said.
Following the example of the USA, there is currently a resurgence of consumer interest in high-quality handcrafted spirits and this is a fantastic opportunity for us. Theres a growing market, not only in the UK, but around the world, for hand-crafted spirits. This niche market is growing every year and we are delighted we are the first brewery in effect to be granted a licence in the UK.
Its also no wonder the Sole Bay Brewery is proud to show off its latest production line. The new distillery is based in the old Adnams brewery Copper House, which has been refurbished and installed with hand-made copper equipment from Carl of Germany. Thanks to its glazed frontage, anyone strolling past the distillery can see this gleaming work of art in all its glory. And if you go on a brewery or distillery tour (both recommended by the way) there are views across Southwold and out to sea.
Gin,vodka and whisky, to be made from locally grown malted barley, will follow a complete process from grain to glass through our brewery and new distillery, says Jonathan.
We thought gin, as a traditional English drink, should be the starting point. But watch out too for our first whisky in 2013, following a three-year maturation in oak casks.
Jonathan admits that because it is a new direction there has been a certain amount of learning as they go along for the brewery but that process has been both fun and educational.