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Fergus celebrates 10 years of Ghost Ship

By Adnams , also posted in News on

We love it when a plan comes together

It is comforting to learn that a beer, first launched in cask, was imagined, and inspired by conversations and observations in pubs along the Suffolk Coast. How many perfect plans have been hatched over a pint? The chance to relax and share ideas is something we should value, especially in the current climate.

When we asked Head Brewer, Fergus Fitzgerald to regale us with the story of Ghost Ship’s inception, it turns out it’s a tale of opportune moments and chance meetings by pub firesides – all quite fitting for a beer that conjures up images of sheltering in haunted hostelries.

“In 2010 the brewing team was asked to make a seasonal for Halloween. There were rumours of an old bottle of Deathly Pale Ale in Southwold’s Red Lion and originally, the idea was to make something that resembled it. It had been spotted on a visit and we thought it was a good starting point for the project,” he said.

Deathly Pale Ale never really existed… Sounds spooky, but in fact, it’s the tale of a beer that didn’t make it out of the crate. It was brewed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Adnams family involvement with the Sole Bay Brewery and rather than simply name it Centenary Ale, they went with Deathly Pale and the label featured a skull and crossbones. On delivery, they thought better of it, as it resembled poison, but a few hand-labelled bottles did escape the brewery, and one ended up in the pub down the road.

“So, we planned to make it pale. There was even talk of resurrecting the skull and crossbones, but it hit the same barriers it encountered back in the 70s,” laughed Fergus.

The creative was reimagined and became inspired by shipwrecks and ghost stories from our seaside home and the rest is history; but Deathly Pale still maintains legendary status among beer label collectors today.

Earlier that year, Fergus had visited The Anchor, Walberswick for an evening of hop talk and hospitality with proprietor, Mark Dorber. He was hosting Brooklyn Brewery’s Brewmaster, Garratt Oliver and the team from Brewers Select Group and they invited Fergus over for a few beers.

“Talk turned to hops and there was considerable enthusiasm around the table for a new American variety called Citra. It was clear it was tasting great. Ian Ward of BSG promised me a sample, which duly arrived. They were right, it was, and we said the next time we got the opportunity to use it, we would.

“When it came to brewing, we didn’t do any trials as it was only going to be a seasonal beer. We simply built the recipe around Citra and just went for it.

“It went so well we made plans to bring it back in 2011. It was due to run from May to November, but we barely made it to Halloween before we ran out of hops. That was a real indication of just how well it went.

“In 2012 it came back again (along with a fresh crop of Citra), and this time it was permanent. We’re much better at forecasting now.

“When we select our hops, we’re looking for that same lemon and lime flavour we loved back then, and I like a slight hint of elderflower too. People's preferences were changing and with Ghost Ship we just seemed to get the timing right. It all just came together.

Find out more about this history of our best-selling beer here.