|(photograph courtesy Rupert Freyer)|
I was originally approached by Bob Perkin-Ball, air traffic controller at the Wattisham Airfield, whilst plying my trade at the Blackthorpe Barn. Bob was impressed with my range of beers and asked about the possibility of doing a short run for a specific event/occasion. As a micro brewer I have the facility to do short runs of beer and have been involved in many small events and specialist projects. Bob approached the C.O., Lt. Colonel Neil Dalton and put forward the idea of a special beer for 4 Regiment. This would be a beer celebrating the Apache Helicopter and one of the Regiments who fly it. The Regiment were due to return from operations in Afghanistan in September 2008 and Colonel Dalton was moving on from 4 Regiment so it seemed an ideal way of celebrating these events.
(Those of a squeamish disposition are advised to look away now)
Colonel Dalton is not a beer drinker ...
(I did warn you, I know that your parents told you that these people existed, alongside the bogeyman and the guy who hangs around in the cracks of the pavement. I gather that the Police are going to put a register together so the general public are aware if one moves in to your neighbourhood)
... but despite this handicap he could see that this would be an ideal gift to the Regiment to mark his departure and the seed was sown.
For those of a technical bent the malt is scourced from Suffolk, grown at the Priory Farm at Wrentham, 100% Maris Otter Malt, the Rolls Royce of Malts. The hops, I decided to blend Target, a solid old fashioned British hop with one of the newer American hops, I plumped for the Mount Hood which has nice floral and herbal qualities, the two blend well together. The water is from our own bore hole ... okay it is owned by Anglia Water but they sell us the stuff and it is of consistently high quality. The yeast ... that's my secret!
Throughout 2008 sample brews were tried out on the unsuspecting public attending the Rougham Shows, billed as an Airfield Special ... it was gratefully received and consumed, so much so that at the last event when, as the beer was officially being launched at Wattisham, there was insufficient beer to spare a cask for the airfield, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth and the riot police had to be called to hold back the crowds demanding a pint of Airfield Special (I made the last bit up). The beer was well received at the Regimental Dinner and on Wednesday the eighth of October the beer was made available to all other ranks.
The result was overwhelming with the local press and radio getting involved and there proved to be a demand for the beer amongst serving armed forces and members of the general public, with requests also coming in from American Military Personnel. In fact, anyone who had so much as waved at an Apache Helicopter wanted to buy a dozen bottles. I sat down with Colonel Dalton,Bob Perkins-Ball and R.S.M. Mick Ross to decide what to do with this unexpected success. Four heads are better than one, even when one of them is mine, and we hit upon the idea of making the beer available and donating fifteen pence of the purchase price to S.S.A.F.A., the Soldiers, Sailors, Airman Family Association. (My neck still hurts from when R.S.M. Ross held me in a head lock to get the donation from 10p to 15p!)
|(photograph courtesy Rupert Freyer)|
Photo shoots were arranged on the Wattisham Airfield and I dug my suit out, hosed it down and went forth, I was shown around an Apache Helicopter without the aid of Jimmy Saville, and, being mindful that the last time I wore a uniform was just before I was cashiered from the cub scouts, was saluted by a lot of people (actually, they may have been saluting Colonel Dalton ... ) An amazing experience though I have to say that as I was supporting a full beard in preparation of a painting of me as Father Xmas, the security photo of me looking more like Osama Bin Bartram than ever coupled with the fact that I was driving a tatty white van with containers in the back ...
So ... so here is your opportunity to enjoy a damn fine pint, but keep a clear head alongside a clear conscience secure in the knowledge that you are supporting a fine body of men ... and me.