Try Edwardstone brewer Tom Norton’s trendy sour beers
PUBLISHED: 19:08 14 June 2017 | UPDATED: 13:46 16 June 2017
It’s Beer Day Britain tomorrow. To celebrate, Charlotte Smith-Jarvis caught up with a brewer from Edwardstone who’s doing things a little bit differently.
Alongside gin, which is growing in popularity at a rate of knots, sour beer is having its day in 2017.
Fermented with wild yeasts, these quirky, mouth-puckering brews are the David Bowie of beers – classic, timeless but quirky and unique at the same time.
I have to admit, I’m not a huge beer drinker, but I am partial to a bottle of kriek (sour cherry beer) from time to time, so I was interested to find out more about Little Earth Project brewery, just up the road from Hadleigh in Edwardstone.
The tiny brewhouse is in an outbuilding next to The White Horse in the village, and is run by brewer Tom Norton – the founder of Eddyfest.
“My parents bought the White Horse 12 years ago,” Tom says as we sit in his office, the biscuity scent of malt drifting in on the breeze. “There was this old building next to the pub which came down in the storms of ’87. We thought about what we could do with it and a brewery seemed perfect.”
Tom started the pub’s Mill Green Brewery in 2008 but in 2015 the family leased out The White Horse so he had to start doing things a bit different.
Still based in the former Mill Green building, the brewer took inspiration from very close to home. “As a family we’ve always made cider. We just press the apples and the juice ferments with the natural yeast on the skin. It’s the equivalent of sourdough. We have this history of cider made with wild yeast and I was interested in sour beer. I knew it was becoming popular so I thought, let’s go down that route.”
You’ve probably heard of bean to bar chocolate, but how about field to bottle beer?
Tom grows all his own barley and hops a short drive away in Chelsworth, sticking to eight classic English varieties such as Fuggles and Goldings. And water for the beer comes from a borehole on site at Edwardstone. You really can’t get much more local than that.
“The difference with sour beer,” he explains, “is it takes a long time. Normal beer you can brew, ferment and drink in a week to two weeks. What we are doing takes six months. Wild yeasts can ferment more complex sugars but they do it slowly. You end up with a beer that’s a bit drier and more interesting. We’re brewing different beers all the time.”
Something Tom’s particularly keen on is reviving old forgotten beers. So as well as an IPA, he’s made an Export Indian Porter which he likens to Duchess de Bourgogne, the beer being slightly art and dry with fruity, underripe flavours.
“Our first beer was a stock ale. We used all our own malt and a 200-year-old recipe from a book about country houses and cooking and brewing. It was often called October beer. It fermented in the winter months which stopped it going too sour. We replicated that and bottled it up. It was strong though – 10.5%!”
Currently Tom sells his beer all over the country and is about to ship bottles over to the Netherlands. In Suffolk you can buy Little Earth Project beer from Beautiful Beers in Bury St Edmunds, which is stocking its elderflower scented offering at the moment.
Or buy direct from the brewery in Edwardstone, where you can choose from the smoked beer, made with smoked malt in the tradition of beers from Bamberg in Germany, or perhaps try out the Organic Harvest Saison.
“In terms of style of beer it’s like a European farmhouse ale. A bit rustic and brewed with 99% certified organic ingredients. That’s a really nice beer and shows just what you can really do with local ingredients.”