Scott Lloyd on the Beer trail......

Rose and Crown
Where might a 'Beer-Searcher' travel to find a perfect ambiance? A location to reflect on a year of extensive travel and writings and an opportunity to crack a few nuts and nurse some seasonal ales. The Good Pub Guide to hand - It's a no brainer - The UK Pub of the Year 2015 - The Rose and Crown, Snettisham!

By now, you should all know the whereabouts of Snettisham. Yes, it is that small village situated between Sandringham and Hunstanton, and if you don't have The Good Pub Guide 2015, then try the Domesday Book.

The Rose and Crown is a delightfully traditional English pub dating back to the 14th Century and was originally constructed to house the men during construction of the local church St Mary's.  It is not by accident that this pub collected the UK Pub of the Year award.

Imagine, if you will, low ceilings, twisting passage ways, three period bars, large open fires, a good choice of bottled, draught and real ales. But, more importantly, the pub is a favourite with the locals and the atmosphere is welcoming and warm.  The food is 'traditional with a twist' and the accommodation extensive and of the highest standard. Looking out from small cottage windows offers a glimpse of a cricket field, awaiting a dusting of seasonal snow. Beyond, the tall imposing spire of St Mary's church (175ft) second only to the spire of Norwich Cathedral.

A very scruffy terrier has found my feet and camera bag. He is also very welcome. Focusing on the bar reveals a number of brightly engaging pumps, two of which are on a nautical theme that can only reflect the proximity of water. The Wash, just thirty minutes away on Shanks's pony!

Adnams Broadside
First up, Adnams Broadside - 4.7% of multi-award winning, winter warming, ruby red ale that sets an almost impossible challenge to the casual imbiber. Dark and seemingly mysterious, I have merely dipped into this morass of rich fruitcake flavours. The unmistakable First Gold Hops provide tangerines and spice, before the palate collects marmalade, geranium, almonds..Brewed with Pale Ale and Chocolate malts a most satisfying pint.
The Terrier at my feet looks up, almost expectantly. His owner returns with a pint of Woodforde's Wherry. Not hugely impressive to look at, the beer that is...but the Wherry's floral notes are already impacting on my gradually diminishing Broadside, and will be my next pint.
Dark Star Creme Brulee
So, what else has caught our attention? Surely there is a Winter Solstice out there....there is,  and it is claimed by Anderson Valley Brewing in California!

Closer to home, the seasonal special from Dark Star is a dessert in a glass! Welcome Creme Brulee 5.9%. This outrageously strong bitter is a must. Roasted malts from crystal 400 and 150, pale ale, chocolate and wheat. There is vanilla notes and a smooth caramel finish. Andrew Paterson would reassure that no blow torch was used in the making.

Not sure how many courses we can muster, but heading north, our friends at the Tyne Bank Brewery have produced Chocolate Lyme Stout 5.4%! Yum! Need I say more. This has to be unique! On their Menu try: 8 different malts, finest cocoa powder, the darkest chocolate, zest of 100 limes, a mix of Kaffir and Persian, late in the boil along with Nelson, Sauvin, Motueka and Kohatu - citrus aplenty. Cask or keg, as taste suits. Will it ever be repeated!
Yule Fuel
As an ideal accompaniment to mince pies, we head to the West Berkshire Brewery and their seasonal Yule Fuel 5.0%. This ruby red, 'white/cream bearded head' is hop driven with wild berry and liquorice overtones. Hints of toffee and spice lead to a rich malt finish, nothing short of a Christmas pudding in a glass.

Oh deer...speaking of terriers, the Brew-Dogs have also been mixing the malts with an 8 malt blend, including the Weyemann Oak smoked malt. Welcome Santa Paws 4.5%. Did I hear a groan? 
Hover, drone-like above the off-white head to discover a raft of aromas - sweet spicy notes that offer caramel, toffee, nutmeg, coffee and hints of middle eastern date palms..therein doth lay the sweetness. An easy drink that is light and overal a very sophisticated scotch ale....whatever next!
Woodforde's Wherry

Once again, I am drawn to the bar at The Rose and Crown - many of the bar-flies have flown and I have immediate access to Woodforde's Wherry 3.8%. This I am told, is a clear favourite with the locals, and hasn't traveled/sailed far, perhaps under an hour from Norwich. A CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain in 1996. My new friend the scruffy terrier has been joined by a much larger version. This time I may well lose some valuable ale - a tongue has appeared that many an Ox would die for! It is possible that this hound is familiar with the Wherry as spicy floral notes pervade. There are subtle hints of caramel, toasty malts and sweet biscuit. I am enjoying this light flavoured fresh and zesty ale. This is fully deserving of a brewery that has been brewing for over thirty years, using Norfolk barley and water sourced deep beneath the brewery.

I am looking out again at the cricket field and wondering if the renowned cricketer WG Grace had ever played on this ground. He used to holiday in Snettisham in the early 1900's, staying with his friend the headmaster of a grammar school named The Halls. Information gleaned from St Mary's church, above the village, reveals that in the 11th century, Snettisham was the third largest town in Norfolk with seven mills, three fisheries, salthouses and 440 sheep! History has it that in 1886 the sheep were knee deep in snow and it is Knee Deep 4.5% from Caledonian that offers a seasonal reminder.

Knee Deep

Those that have sampled this deep chocolate coloured ale, will have been pleasantly surprised by the immense fruit and spice aromas. Rich in malt and fruit there is tangerine and hints of ginger to create a warming malty finish. A useful ale for any Scottish or Norfolk farmer at this time. Taking us conveniently up to Christmas, The Hogs Back Brewery provided their Christmas Advent Ale 4.4%.

Whilst seasonal ales come and go, I have a feeling we will see this one again. A rich chestnut coloured ale filled the glass, with just a hint of a head that quickly disappeared. Sweet and malty, yet distinct zesty peel aromas gave this pint an unusual twist. This medium brew was instantly smooth and velvety to the taste. I just wanted to hold on to that moment, but nothing prevents the palate from demanding more, and more there was as roast malts, coffee and liquorice competed with late fruits and a hoppy sweetness that gave this ale character that is so typical of Hogs Back ales.

It is with fond misgivings that I have to take leave of The Rose and Crown. The fires still crackle, the terrier and his friend long gone. My host has revealed some well kept beers, great food and a winter lunchtime that has brought memories of seasonal beers and ales that I am sure will return again in another twelve months.

Beer Searcher wishes everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Hop filled New Year.