“You’ve never been to Southwold?” is a question I’ve heard far too much in the past few years. A previous answer of no has now been rightfully rectified after a weekend away on the Suffolk coast over my birthday weekend at the start of February. Being at the seaside for the weekend in February could have been a lot worse, whilst it was definitely chilly, the wind and rain mostly held back and we were blessed with a few odd spells of blue skies (although it was definitely mostly grey.
Southwold likes on the East of the country and the town of Southwold lies to the north of the county close to the Norfolk border – it’s just that smidge too far for us to do as a day trip (especially taking into account tourist traffic in summer, hence why we have never been). Southwold is home to a lot of different landmarks, a beautiful lighthouse, a show-stopping display of colourful beach huts and the reason we were there, the home of Adnam’s brewery.
Some of you may recall that this getaway was part of my Birthday and Christmas present from Ben where he surprised me with a session of Gin Making and two nights away in the pretty beach town.
Our drive took around two hours, we stayed in a nearby village to Southwold called Wangford in a B&B called the Angel Inn. Before heading into Southwold for a wander we checked into our room, and dumped our stuff, I didn’t end up taking too many pictures of the hotel, but the room was cosy with wooden beams through the ceilings, wonky floors and plenty of character it felt like a good base for a few days away from home. We managed to peek through cleaned rooms which had the doors open and each room was unique and a little bit different from the next.
We decided to get a taxi down to the coast after anticipating several afternoon tipples during the brewery tour and tasting, we were dropped off at the top of the town and made our way through the pastel coloured housed streets down, walked down the coast to the pier and stopped off for obligatory fish and chips .
We stopped off at the Beach Cafe which is situated at the bottom of Southwold’s pier. The Beach Cafe was colourful and bright, with beach buckets housing the essential condiments that go alongside the seaside tradition. The first weekend of the month is Gluten Free batters which is when we happened to visit, sadly my sausage and chips was not photograph worthy and looked like something that came out of my dogs butt.
It was our only fish and chips of the weekend and unfortunately it was overpriced and highly disappointing, I would put it as probably the worst I’ve ever had, whilst the curl on Ben’s fish was impressive. They were overpriced and capitalising on being the only fish and chips near the pier, there were some very cute fish and chip shops in town and I wish we had gone there.
We wandered back up to the town and still with about 30 minutes to kill before our tour started we wandered through some of the shops in the town. Stopping at mainly gift and charity shops (I love me a good charity shop), we picked up a belated Christmas present for my friend’s daughter – who I haven’t seen for far too long, and a lovely metal sign featuring the Southwold vintage tourism-esque design from the card above. Southwold has lots of independent shops and my favourite was a high-end shop which featured a lot of designers I’d not heard of as well as some fabulous classics. I found a gorgeous bag from Mulberry that might be next on my bag list to get.
From there we wandered back to the Adnam’s brewery centre where we waited in the lobby and looked over the history of the Adnam’s Brewery. The tour was small with just three couples taking part in the tour and the gin making experience. Whenever I’ve done these behind the scenes type things before it’s been a glossy experience of walking through areas designated for people on tours rather than workers, but this was a real behind the scenes of the brewery, walking around windy staircases and narrow coridoors.
The brewery equipment is new and glossy. There’s been a clear investment into the spirits side of the business as it’s grown from being a beer brewery in it’s beginnings. We were explained the distillery process for spirits and shown the large vats used that were full of spirits (cough, can someone pass me a straw?) before we were led through to room where we would be spending the next hour or so making our gins.
It was a room with a view which overlooked Southwold’s iconic lighthouse. We were given a card which listed all the ingredients and how they were grouped by different flavour types, whether you were looking for something more floral, spicy, fruity they had flavours to mix to your content. We got to grips with sniffing and sampling from the jars to decide what we did, and didn’t like. My one critique was whilst there was a vast choice, there could have been a wider variety of flavours. For fruits everything was pretty much citrus based, it would have been interesting to have some more berry and fleshy fruit flavours (e.g pear/apple) as additional options. I felt like if you wanted to create a fruity gin, as I did – the choice was only citrus steered.
We were given instructions on the right proportions of ingredients – especially when it came to flavours that were particularly potent before beginning to weigh out our ingredients of our gins. The base of the recipe starts with Adnam’s Long Shore Vodka as a base before mixing in the Juniper berries required to make it legally able to be labelled as gin. The process of waiting for it to fully distill took around about 45 minutes, out of the group of six mine was the first to finish distilling, and of course I had to label it something to do with my blog… Ben called me a corporate sell-out haha.
After all our gins had finished with their last drops we headed down to the Copper Bar beneath the brewery where many of the barrels are stored. We tested the tipples of the North Shore Vodka that made the base of our gin, their whiskeys, an oak barrelled vodka that was very whiskey-esque and no longer made as well as their three vodkas, Copper House, Rising Sun and their single. After we were suitably dosed up with alcohol (it’s a good job we got a taxi), we wandered to the Adnam’s shop with a discount voucher in tow before stocking up on all we could carry – including tonics, beers and a bottle of that discontinued Vodka and their Rising Sun gin we’re saving for when we move (the Rising Sun is very usually flavoured with Matcha Tea!)
Being extremely well ladened with alcohol we called the taxi back to go and take us back to our B&B in Wangford, we rested up for a little bit before heading down for dinner in the Angel Inn Bar. I was already still pretty full from dinner so I had a small steak, whilst Ben went all out with Liver and Onions. Gross. We went back to our room and retired pretty early at around 10 and watched a film in bed ready to rise and shine for a day of exploring more on Sunday.
I didn’t realise just how many photos I’d taken on the trip until it was all written up and edited, so I’ve split the post up into two posts and our second day of adventures will be up tomorrow.