Mauldons - The Black Adder Brewery at Theberton Lion Beer Club
The Mauldon family of Sudbury can trace their brewing heritage back to 1795, when Anna Maria Maudon began brewing at the Bull Hotel on the outskirts of the town. In the 19th century, as brewing became industrialised, female brewers became less common, but at the time many (or even most) brewers were women. The brewery grew throughout the 19th, and early 20th, centuries into a considerable concern, but in 1960 it was sold to Greene King.
In 1981, Peter Mauldon - a direct descendant of Anna Maria, decided to re-establish the family tradition of brewing in Sudbury. Although he hadn't worked in the family business, he did have good brewing experience - having previously been head brewer with Manns and Watneys. The first new Mauldons beer was brewed in December 1982.
It was around four years later, probably in 1986, that I first came across Mauldons Black Adder in the Grand Old Duke of York in Ipswich (long since closed unfortunately). Initially I was attracted simply by the name, as I was a fan of the TV programme which had aired earlier that year. It didn't take me long to decide that I was also a fan of the beer, and I would drink it whenever I saw it on tap. I certainly wasn't the only person to rate this beer highly, and it was crowned Champion Beer of Britain in 1991.
In 2000 the brewery passed into the hands of Steve and Alison Sims, both formerly of Adnams, when Peter Mauldon decided that it was time to retire. The Sims have successfully expanded the business, moving the brewery to a new, larger site soon after taking it over. More recently they have taken over a pub in Sudbury - The Black Adder Brewery Tap.
The first beer we sampled at the July Beer Club* was Dickens, a sessionable bitter at 4%. It is a pale amber in colour with a loose head and quite low carbonation. The flavour is predominantly bready malt with a slight sweetness, perhaps a malt loaf. This was popular with several beer clubbers, who like a steady session bitter. It wouldn't be a first choice for me, but I would be perfectly happy drinking it.
Many Mauldon's beers have a Dickensian theme, as Sudbury was the inspiration for Eatanswill in the Pickwick Papers.
Pickwick was our second beer of the evening. This is slightly darker than Dickens, and has a fruity aroma which I found very enticing. This was followed by a plum pudding flavour and slight feeling of warming alcohol, which was rather a surprise in a beer that is just 4.2%. Maybe more of a winter beer than a summer one, but it definitely hit the spot for me.
Next we moved from cask to bottled beers with Suffolk Pride. At 4.8% this is definitely moving into the strong bitter category. Like the previous two beers, it is amber in colour, but with a little more carbonation and a generous head. The aroma is definitely malt forward, while the flavour had an unexpected, but very pleasant to me, hint of spiciness to it.
Then we came to what was, for me, the highlight of the evening - Black Adder. Sadly, it isn't a beer that I see very often in my part of Suffolk, and I haven't had it for several years. It didn't disappoint! A beautiful, black porter with a fluffy white head that lasted well down the glass. The aroma is bitter-sweet liquorice, and this is also the first impression of the flavour although it is followed by a hint of burnt toffee. I was very happy to be able to take another bottle of this home with me at the end of the evening.
Finally we returned to the hand pumps for Bishop's Head. Named after Bishop Simon of Sudbury who went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He introduced the first poll tax in 1377, which led to his demise in 1381 when he was beheaded at Tower Hill. His body was buried at Canterbury Cathedral, but his mummified head is kept at the Church of St Gregory in Sudbury. The beer is a light golden ale, which may have suffered from following the Back Adder. I found it rather lacking in character, although it isn't a bad beer by any means. I am sure that I would have been happier with it if it had come earlier in the evening. By all accounts it has sold well and is being re-brewed quite regularly.
* The Theberton Lion holds its Beer Club on the first Monday of the month, unless that is a bank holiday, starting at 8.30. For £5 you get samples of five different beers, usually around 1/3 of a pint. Sometimes the beers come from one brewery, in which case there is sometimes a representative from the brewery. On other occasions they are sourced by Tom from different breweries. We score the beers, and Tom uses these scores to consider which beers he might get into the pub.