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Adnams 1659 Smoked Ruby Ale and The Great Fire of Southwold

By Sarah Groves, also posted in News on

Adnams 1659 Smoked Ruby Beer pump clip1659. The year Richard Cromwell succeeded his father, Oliver, as the second ruling Lord Protector, tea had only just begun to trickle into England, and the year of England’s first declared national disaster - the Great Fire of Southwold. Our smoked Ruby beer is named to commemorate the Great Fire - a decisive and important event in Southwold’s history which was of such destruction that it drew unprecedented sympathy and aid from all over England.

The Great Fire

In 1659, thatched and wooden-framed houses were heated and lit by fire, and outbreaks of household fires were common. However, on Sunday 25th April, a fire broke out in one of the buildings on East Cliff. The fire quickly got out of control, spreading rapidly due to a strong on-shore wind. At this time, buckets of water were all the residents had to try and stem the flames. In a desperate attempt to limit the damage and spread of the fire, residents tried to pull the thatch from roofs (using special forks kept in the Church for that purpose), but to limited avail. A total of 237 houses were destroyed by the fire and 300 families made homeless in just four hours. In addition to homes, the fire destroyed the Town Hall, the Market House, Market Place, prison, shops, granaries, warehouses, fish store, malt houses, tackle sheds, brew houses, out-houses and fishing nets, leaving the town with no historical records, no food, no way of making a livelihood and largely homeless. The damage at the time was assessed to be £40,000 - a huge sum in 1659. The fire was declared England’s first national disaster and a nationwide appeal for aid was launched. The generosity of the population did help relieve immediate suffering, but it took nearly one hundred years before the town and harbour recovered.

Southwold’s Greens

Adnams Sole Bay Inn and Brewery viewed from top of LighthouseIt is believed by some that the town’s many greens were left free of housing as fire-breaks, giving Southwold its distinctive character and limiting over-development. Very few buildings survive from the period of the fire, leaving the town dominated by its fine collection of Georgian, Regency and Victorian buildings. The Church, being situated to the North of the town and surrounded by a green and Church yard, survived (although an earlier fire destroyed the original building dating from 1200).

Why 1659 beer?

We’ve made our Smoked Ruby Ale using special cherry-wood smoked malt, which gives the beer its distinctive smoky aroma. It’s made with a mixture of malts - cherry-smoked, black, Cara, Münich and Pale and is hopped with English Sovereign. Fergus Fitzgerald, Adnams Master Brewer, comments: "Adnams 1659 Smoked Ruby Beer has a subtle, sweet, smoky aromas with flavours of raisins, smoke, dates and coffee. A restrained bitterness gives the beer a dry finish." **This beer is a limited edition product and not currently available.**


Sarah Groves