Boudicca Brewing Co. at Theberton Lion Beer Club
For the September meeting of the Theberton Lion Beer Club* we were joined by Emma Pinder of the Boudicca Brewing Co. Emma explained that she had a background working in television, but that she had a longstanding interest in beer and has previously been involved in the organisation of the Norwich Beer Festival. She founded the Boudicca Brewing Co. three years ago, when redundancy left her with a sum to invest, and the need to find a new occupation.
The head brewer is Andy Mitchell, who took a rather circuitous route into the brewing business. He started off by studying chemistry at university, before pursuing a career in ICT. At this time he began dabbling in home brewing, eventually deciding to study brewing and distilling at Heriott Watt University. Before joining Boudicca, Andy had his own operation, Spectrum Brewery, where he was particularly well known around Norfolk for his darker beers.
|A room full of Beer Club regulars and first timers.|
Boudicca Brew Co has a very strong brand identity. All the bottle labels, and pump clips, feature a gold Celtic torc, such as would have been worn by Boudicca herself. The names of the beers also tie in with the Celtic heritage of East Anglia. Finally, the colour scheme of the labels and pump clips reflects the colour of the beer; making those jam jars on the bar superfluous!
But you shouldn't get the idea that Boudicca is about style over substance. Emma is very proud of the fact that Boudicca uses all organic malt and hops; although the brewery isn't certified organic, due to a combination of administrative costs and the fact that their bottled beers are packaged at Panther, who would also need to be certified to maintain a fully organic production chain. All Boudicca beers are suitable for vegans, as auxilliary finings are used instead of isinglass. Emma also mentioned that the brewery uses sustainably produced limewood shives and keystones rather than the plastic ones used by any breweries now.
The first beer we tasted was Three Tails Bitter, named after the three tailed horse which was a common symbol on Iceni coins. At 3.9% ABV, this is a very traditional English session bitter. It has a slightly sweet malty taste with a satisfyingly dry and bitter finish. Although it is not yet labelled as being gluten free, Emma explained that the recipe has recently been reformulated and that clarex is used to remove the gluten. Personally I thought that it tasted a little bit thin, but, to be fair, no more than could reasonably be expected of a light session bitter such as this is.
|Tom does the honours pouring the beer while Emma hides out of shot.|
Next up came the Golden Torc, a golden ale at 4.3%. This isn't a beer style that I am normally keen on, but this was a very decent example. I didn't pick up the 'merest hint of grapefruit and citrus' promised by the brewery's own description, but I did detect a very pleasant grassy bitterness.
After that we dropped back down the ABV scale to just 3.7% for Queen of Hops. I found this to be quite similar to the Three Tails and I'm not sure how well I would have distinguished between them in a blind triangle test. To give credit where it is due, Queen of Hops is a perfectly decent pale session beer, but it just didn't excite me.
It is interesting to know that the head brewer was known for his darker beers before joining Boudicca. I think that is still his forte as the last three beers were certainly the best of the evening. The Red Queen is a 4.5% red ale that features a bit of rye in the grain bill. I felt that there was the slightest hint of smoke in both the aroma and the flavour, along with a load of hedgerow fruit and a little peppery spiciness. This is a beer that I would certainly be keen to drink again.
Spiral Stout was one of the first beers brewed by Boudicca and claimed a bronze award at the Norwich Beer Festival in October 2015. When it was originally released, the first firkin sold in just 45 minutes at the Kings Head in Norwich. Like the Red Queen, I thought that it had just a hint of smokiness, but the dominant flavours were deliciously bitter coffee and chocolate. This is a great stout at 4.6% and was one of my favourites of the evening.
|Prasto's Porter in the glass and the bottle on the left, the other bottle is Spiral Stout.|
Finally we had Prasto’s Porter, which was a bonus sixth beer. This is a beer that Emma is particularly proud of, not least because she gave Andy the original idea of brewing it and had a hand in developing the recipe. It was the strongest beer of the evening, at 5.2% ABV, and had a wonderful aroma of bitter liquorice. However, the flavour was sweet and mellow, with just a little warmth from the slightly higher alcohol. Most of those present felt that this was a beer to have one of at the end of the evening; personally, I could happily have had several on a cold winter night.
Overall, it was a most enjoyable evening. All of the beers were at least decent; although, I definitely preferred the stronger, darker offerings. I am lucky enough to see Boudicca beers fairly frequently at one of my regular watering holes, and I will certainly be drinking them again.
NB: Since first publishing this blog I have made a couple of factual corrections based on information received from Emma Pinder.
* 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.