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Elderflower saison

Categories: Product of the week

A refreshing brew reminiscent of proper country cider, made with all-British ingredients

Ask a passer-by what ‘British beer’ means to them and it’ll likely elicit different responses depending on where you are in the country, and the age of the ask-ee: for a young Londoner, it’s craft pale ales and railway arches; for traditionalists, it’s more likely a slightly rough-round-the-edges boozer with cask ales and pork scratchings. Head to Sudbury in Suffolk and the Little Earth Project brewery, meanwhile, and the phrase takes on a new and more literal meaning.

“They’re a microbrewery that uses only British ingredients in their beers,” explains Richie at Utobeer, which has a whole range of Little Earth’s small batch brews lining its shelves. “Their idea was to take traditional recipes and update them, with a focus on locality and sustainability.” The Little Earth Project grows its own organically certified barley and hops in a field in Chelmsworth, just three miles from the brewery. Other ingredients are foraged for or sourced locally—the elderflower that imbues its delicate floral notes in the elderflower saison, for example, grows wild in the lanes of nearby village Edwardstone, and is handpicked each May.

Aged in mellow oak and made with few hops (as is traditional for a saison), it’s sweet and tart and sour, with a distinct but pleasant tanginess—a product of the brewer’s heritage. Producer Tom Norton might be new to the brewing game, but his family has been making cider in the area for generations. Indeed, it’s a defining feature of his beers, all of which undergo at least part of their fermentation with a culture of wild yeast taken from the skins of apples pressed to make his family’s cider—and in this you can certainly taste it. Despite being a heady 6.6 per cent ABV, the elderflower saison is reminiscent of proper country cider—and for it, deliciously refreshing.

Roaring sunshine
“Though they’re a new brewery, having only started selling in 2016, they’re already a staff favourite,” enthuses Richie—give us a garden chair or a picnic rug, keep up this roaring sunshine and serve it to us super cold (as it ought to be), perhaps with a sizeable wedge of good cheddar and a fine loaf, and we’re inclined to agree.