Know somebody who loves beer? The following breaks are perfect for combining a relaxing break with exploring some of the UK’s best brews. Read on to learn more about some homegrown beer hotspots.
The Swan, Southwold
Best for an elegant seaside escape, seafood feasts and brewstillery tours
Holmes the butler can often be found greeting guests outside The Swan’s handsome Georgian frontage, offering recommendations and choice titbits of local history in equal measure. Much of this involves Adnams, the brewing family firmly intertwined with Southwold’s story.
There’s been an inn on this site since 1818, which Adnams took over in 1872 and set up its brewery. A recent makeover at the hands of Shoreditch design studio Project Orange has seen the Swan transformed from faded middle-England gentility to Hoxton chic. Think louche emerald sofas contrasting with sleek mid-century furnishings and copper fittings that nod to the distillery out back. Bedrooms – including those in an annex of cheery cottages – add nautical decorative details (doubles from £200 per night).One of just two brewstilleries (combined brewery and distillery) in the UK, lively tours of Adnams show off its London Dry gin process that begins with grain vodka (made on site) with botanicals added during distillation. The two-storey copper still itself is a shiny sight to behold, with its gurgling tubes it looks like a madcap Victorian pipe organ, backed by views of Southwold’s 19th-century lighthouse.
Tutored tastings (including prize-winning gins, Longshore Vodka and a lovely bourbon-like whisky), are held in the vaulted basement, where a new 9% ABV beer ferments in oak barrels. Brewery tours explain more of the beer-making process, with plenty of tastings, too (tours £20). Wobble over to the Swan’s buzzing Tap Room bar for a French cocktail (Adnams gin, champagne and lemon juice; £12), and surf-fresh local Maldon oysters with Adnams stout dressing (£8).Dinner in the Still Room serves a standout beetroot gin-cured salmon with squid ink cracker (£9), an exemplary halibut with brown shrimp and Jerusalem artichoke (£23) with roasted Barbary duck breast the hot tip for meat eaters (£22). Save room for a breakfast of locally smoked kippers, or cereals, pastries and local Marybelle yogurt.
Blow away the cobwebs on the pier which features inventor Tim Hunkin’s steam-punk arcade games, such as Whack-A-Banker, then head along the shingly-sandy beach, stopping for photos of Southwold’s rainbow-hued beachhuts. Hop aboard the rowboat ‘ferry’ (dating back 800 years) across to Warberswick (£1 each way), then walk the eight-mile loop through dunes and marshes, via the pretty cliff top town of Dunsmere.Back at Southwold Harbour, find freshly-landed crab at Solebay Fish Company, or head into its restaurant for a restorative prosecco and a towering shellfish platter (from £35). Or pop next door to Mrs T’s for a hefty half-portion of good cod and chips (£4.50) and eat on the bench blasted by sea air (avoiding the seagulls).
There’s more birdlife at RSPB Minsmere reserve just outside town, a little further from which, Darsham Nurseries café is a gold star stop-off for vibrant, veggie-forward seasonal British fare and wines (dishes £5-18) in a flower-filled setting.
By Sarah Barrell
The Bell at Ramsbury
Best for single-estate spirits, craft-brewed ales and home-smoked grub
An elegant Wiltshire village, complete with church, thatched roofs and winding streets, Ramsbury offers the perfect escape from city life. Right in the heart of the village is a pub: The Bell at Ramsbury, a smartly refurbished 300-year-old coaching inn with nine comfortable en suite rooms upstairs. (Doubles from £110 per night B&B).
After a quiet wander around the village, and a stroll down to the nature reserve, pull up a stool at the bar for a well-earned pre-prandial. The Bell’s gin and tonic is artfully put together with a few delicate slivers of fresh pear and apple to accentuate the botanicals.The gin comes from the pub’s own distillery, Ramsbury, a short drive away where in-depth tours uncover (most of) the secrets behind the making of this spirit along with vodka and sloe gin (Wednesdays and Fridays; £15). The brewery makes craft beer and traditional ale, too, making the most of the Bell’s homegrown barley and chalk-filtered water source. Look out for specials such as the limited-edition mango IPA.
The Bell is an eco-conscious estate, keen to reduce its environmental impact by creating farm feed from spent grain and using a biomass boiler fed by the estate’s sustainable woodland, and a reed bed to filter water. It is also a great place for food. Back at the pub in the evening, perch at the bar for sharing snacks (£7-14), or hearty fish and chips, or take a table in the restaurant and let the chef guide you through seasonal ingredients, many sourced from the estate and its smokehouse.
A starter of rich lamb decorated with seasonal greens and fresh herbs from the kitchen garden (£8) was a wonderful beginning, followed by poached rabbit loin, pressed rabbit leg, black pudding, mushrooms and sweetcorn (mains around £20), the rabbit mind-bogglingly tender, served with a harmonious counterpoint in the caramelised shallot that brought an edge of bitterness to this sweet-earthy-umami dish.Be sure to leave room for a full English breakfast the following day as it won’t disappoint. The house-smoked bacon is delightful. Further smoked products are on offer at the distillery shop; the venison is beautifully tender and its smokiness doesn’t detract from the deep, gamey taste. You can also take home the estate’s own cold-pressed Black Gold rapeseed oil (£5) and honey (£6).
By Miriam Nice
London beer trail
Best for small craft breweries, big-city sights and a buzzy urban scene
London’s craft beer scene is going from strength to strength. Enid Street in Bermondsey, or even further south, is where you may eventually end up, but to make a day of it, start north of the river and take in some key sights along the way with our essential craft beer guide to the capital.
Start the day at Dishoom King’s Cross for a bacon naan, then head to the Euston Tap on Euston Road. With its ever-changing list of keg and cask beers and ciders from London and further afield, you’re spoilt for choice. The Wellcome Collection, British Museum and British Library are all a short walk away for a cultural stop.
From here, it’s a hop to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn on Fleet Street via Temple or Blackfriars tube station for a superb selection of milds and bitters on draught, plus its Extra Stout. Head to Somerset House for a dash through the fountains before crossing the river and make your way to The Rake in Borough Market where there’s a rotating stock of beers and knowledgeable staff to help you choose.Explore the stalls (the full market runs Thursday – Sunday) and take in everything from artisan Scotch eggs to Ethiopean street food. The market is lined with restaurants and cafés if you prefer to eat off-the-move.
One stop on the Jubilee line from London Bridge (or a short walk) will take you to Bermondsey, at the heart of London’s small brewery renaissance. While originator and icon The Kernel no longer runs as a bar, you can pick up bottles to take away. Consistently excellent, choose from hoppy pale ale, historical porter and stout, or barrel-aged sours.Incredibly hip Mancunian outfit Cloudwater has followed Bristol’s Moor by opening up alongside Partizan, FourPure, BBNo and Anspach & Hobday. The ever-changing seasonal range at Cloudwater usually includes the super-hazy New England IPAs that made its name.
Continue the trail further by taking the train from London Bridge to Peckham Rye for its burgeoning craft beer scene. BBNo has just opened up a tap room at its space on Bellenden Road. With 22 taps, you’re spoilt for choice, but saisons and Belgian-influenced beers are amongst the finest.
Nearby Brick is a local favourite, with a more established bar feel and the excellent Slow Richie’s food truck out front. Fruity kettle sours are a strong bet here. Gosnells brews a light, sparkling take on traditional mead. Down the road you’ll find Hop, Burns and Black with its prodigious range of craft beer. Technically it’s a shop but you can drink in – Jen and Glenn’s antipodean roots mean there’s always some excellent New Zealand beers. Into Nunhead, award-winning micropub The Beer Shop stocks a tidy range of cask, keg and bottles to drink in or take away. A suntrap backyard beckons in warm weather.
By Miriam Nice
Do you know any beer hotspots worth touring? Let us know in the comments below.
All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of 3rd June 2019 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.
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