Caught by the River

Adnams East Green

29th November 2010

By Roger Clapham

When it comes to being “green” I’ve always tried to do my bit. I cycle everywhere, I dutifully fill up the recycling box every week, and at home I turn off everything I can get my hands on (you can insert your own joke about my love life here). As a result, I’ve long been a sucker for a dose of eco-friendly marketing, so having spotted Adnams East Green beer in the supermarket with its label loudly proclaiming it to be entirely carbon neutral, I had to give it a try.

Adnams are based in Southwold on the Suffolk Coast, and have been in operation since the late 1800s. They’ve diversified somewhat since their inception – importing wine and even selling weekend breaks in their country pubs these days – but they still make some great beer, the Broadside (a puts-hairs-on-your-chest 6.3% fruity bruiser) being a particularly good example. The quality of their beers has in fact just recently won them the Good Pub Guide’s Brewery of the Year for 2010 – high praise indeed – and with East Green, they claim to have produced the first widely available carbon neutral beer. By looking at the whole production and distribution process they have gone further than any other brewer has done in their pursuit of sustainability – and that notably includes Stella Artois, who managed to run an entire poster campaign on the back of a measly 7% reduction in bottle weights.

Working with the University of East Anglia Adnams identified all the carbon emissions they were responsible for in producing a beer, and then went on to considerably reduce those emissions through a number of measures such as using locally grown pesticide free hops, cutting water usage in their new energy efficient brewhouse, and significantly reducing the weight of the bottle – the bottles in use now are over a third lighter than similar bottles you would see in the off-licence. They have also offset a small (you could say tiny in fact) amount of carbon with the offsetting group Climate Care. Die-hard environmentalists may say this is cheating, and that such schemes don’t work well enough if at all, but if it’s good enough for The Guardian (who have also dabbled in a spot of carbon offsetting) I think we can let Adnams off.

Now all of this is of course highly commendable, but is the actual beer any good? Fortunately, it is. A very well balanced golden blonde ale, with a quite subtle taste that has tinges of summertime grass and citrus. Its very light and the gentle flavour coupled with the 4.3% strength make it very easy to drink. Personally, its lightness was the main thing I noticed – two bottles of this slipped down with me barely noticing as I watched the football the other night, and it wasn’t a particularly riveting game either so I was trying to pay some attention to what I was drinking.

Essentially, what’s been achieved here should be seen as an example to larger breweries. Adnams may be milking the environmental marketing angle, but they have produced good, reasonably priced beer here in a highly sustainable way – worth trying really, and it doesn’t cost the earth (excuse the pun). Cheers.