Officials have banned a talented young Boxford craft brewer from entering his traditional ale into the East Anglian Beer and Cider festival in Bury St Edmunds next week - because some people may not like the taste.
In an move that has been criticised by many CAMRA members, the organisation’s West Suffolk branch has told Tom Norton that they don’t want any of his Brett Terroir ale, 99 per cent of which is brewed using Suffolk ingredients, at the event which runs from Wednesday to Saturday at the Apex.
In an email, the organisers said: “We would have loved to have one of your sour beers at our festival, especially a Suffolk one. “However it was felt that an unknowing drinker trying the beer might think it was off. (OK, we would have told them that it isn’t) but the fear is that they would use social media to spread this comment around to the detriment of the festival.”
But one angry local CAMRA members said: “What utter nonsense - the whole point of a beer festival is that we can try out different ales. Beer is vast and fascinating subject and the huge growing interest in very traditional ales and brewing shows that people are more than happy to try new beer experiences.
“Of course this beer would have a taste that is different and not everyone would like it - but it is exactly how it would have been made in the heart of Suffolk a hundred years ago.
“Now as a result of this ridiculous ban beers lovers won’t get the chance to sample a drink that represents part of this county’s proud brewing heritage.”
Tom, who brews his beer in small batches from one of the greenest breweries in the country, said: “I was very disappointed. The Brett Terroir is made with local ingredients - some from fields within sight of our brewery near Boxford. We have tried the beer in real ale pubs in Colchester and Norwich and it has gone down very well.”
However, in spite of the ban on draught Brett Terroir, some of Tom’s beers will be available in bottles at the Festival from a stall run by Bury’s independent beer shop Beautiful Beers.
Proprietor René van den Oort said: ”It is a wild yeast beer so it will have a musty quite powerful aroma that may confuse or surprise some people trying it for the first time. Sour beer has been nicknamed horse-blanket because of its distinctive nose.
“Tom makes beer in very small quantities and we will be selling two of them at the festival. They are fine to drink now but because the yeast will continue to develop in the bottle it will become more mellow and balanced, less sharp and pungent, over the next ten years or so.”
Tom, who runs the Little Earth Project, at Edwardstone, added: ”Brewing a modern clean beer the brewer will know how the finished beer should taste long before the grain, hops, yeast and water combine. But sour beers by their very nature were unpredictable - aged in oak with plenty of yeast and bacteria no two barrels are the same.
“Here we monitor the flavours created over months and then decide what would enhance and complement them. This beer should have a salt and a peppery bite to complement the earthy almost savoury nature of the beer. The malt hops and yeast were all soured from own little piece of earth here in Suffolk.”
Little Earth Project specialises in brewing historic, farmhouse and wild beers using wild and organically farmed ingredients from the local landscape.
The brewery is small and almost self-sufficient - using local coppice wood and solar power as its main source of energy.
The brewhouse was built using local bricks and wood and insulated with sheep wool from a flock kept nearby and even the store room is lime-plastered - keeping the moisture levels steady, helping keep the malt and hops in good condition.