Sole Bay

Brewed to commemorate 350 years of brewing at the current site, Sole Bay is a 75cl, 10% Belgian-style beer that arrives chicly disguised as a sparkling wine, complete with tin. Look more closely and you’ll see that the bottle livery is a depiction of the brewery and its home town by local artist James Dodds.

£9.99/75cl; Adnams website.

Adnams Sole BayBrewer Fergus Fitzgerald says that the concept arose while he and his team were enjoying a few Belgian beers. But as is his way, rather than slavishly follow someone else’s formula, he came up with his own recipe – and a twist or two. The malt is from East Anglia, the hops from New Zealand – Nelson Sauvign – and a few sprigs of local lavender were thrown in near the end of fermentation. And, rather than use a champagne yeast which is often the way with these sorts of bottlings, Fergus trialled Adnams’ own yeast. Happy with the results, Fergus felt “it would have been impolite to introduce an outsider”.

Its alcohol level – 10% – means there’s enough ballast to let it age, and that in itself is an interesting prospect. But my brother was visiting from afar and we were too impatient. We did follow Fergus’s other tip though: serving it in champagne glasses – a first for me, but certainly worthwhile.

And the taste? As you’d expect, rich and complex, with the aromas of banana bread and spice continuing onto the palate. Although not dry, the right level of carbonation means it’s refreshing, while it’s inherent sweetness makes it a good food partner. It suited roast chicken and smoked haddock dishes, and I’d be willing to wager there’s other matches out there too – let me know what you find. And don’t be afraid to let it fly solo.

£9.99/75cl; Adnams website.