ALE Winter 2000 No. 300

Company Profile No. 15 - St Peter's Brewery

I had the considerable pleasure recently of visiting St Peter's Hall, home of St Peter's Brewery. The Hall is in a remote part of north Suffolk known as 'The Saints'; it's nevertheless only a 90-minute drive from Cambridge.

The Hall itself dates back to 1280 and is a really beautiful building, complete with moat. It is open as a bar and restaurant on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. The brewery was constructed in 1996 in former outbuildings. Director George Wortley proudly showed me round the impressive plant with its gleaming coppers and wood-panelled vessels (pictured in glorious colour in the web version of ALE 299). Two new beers were in production - a stout and an organic ale - but I had to be content with merely a sniff of them. At the end of the line is the tiny bottling plant. St Peter's is best known for its bottles ales, presented in distinctive oval bottles which are replicas of those used around 1770 by one Thomas Gerrard over in what was then the colony of America. At present all the bottling is done laboriously by hand, but plans are being made to install a state-of-the-art bottling line on the site.

In addition to the two new beers, St Peter's brew no less than 12 regular ales and various specials. The beers are tasty, distinctive and, in many case, unusual - there's a gloriously zesty Grapefruit Beer, a Honey Porter, a wheat beer flavoured with elderberries, and a quite amazing Lemon and Ginger Ale. They do also make some more 'normal' beers, notably Golden Ale, a delicate and refreshing bitter which is St Peter's biggest seller. The bottled beers are widely available in off-licences and supermarkets; though pasteurised, they are still a considerably cut above most offerings on the market.

The draught beers are more elusive, though they can always be found at the brewery's own pubs: as well as the Hall itself, there is the Cornwallis Arms at Brome (a luxury country house hotel), the De La Pole Arms, Wingfield (a superbly restored country pub) and the Jerusalem Tavern. The last is particularly fascinating: it occupies an 18th-century building in Clerkenwell, London, and successfully recreates the atmosphere of an 18th-century inn. George revealed to me that the Cornwallis is to be sold to fund the investment in the bottling line and other major improvements on the Hall site.

The brewery is open for visits every Friday, Saturday and Sunday; visits are on the hour from noon to 4 p.m., and there is no need for advance booking. The cost of 3 includes a sampling afterwards.

The hallmark of St Peter's is quality in everything they do. The contrast with the bland products and identikit pubs of our big brewers couldn't be greater.

Paul Ainsworth

See also Four go mad in Norfolk.

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