The return of Folk East was a real high point of our year so far.

Folk East is a 7-stage (usually) folk festival hosted in the parkland of Glemham Hall Estate in Suffolk.  In the 9 years it has been running it has grown into one of the most highly-rated folk festivals in the UK.  As well as a diverse and wonderful musical line-up; Folk East is home to a huge array of makers, artists, performers, workshops and creatives.  It’s a haven of collaboration, creativity and quirkiness and we love going every year – and also that we meet so many of our regulars there too!

Last year sadly the usual Folk East set-up was impossible due to the pandemic.  Instead, the organisers put on Virtually Folk East which was wonderful but nothing beats the tangibility and magic of an in-person festival.  So we were delighted to be able to attend this year!

The site & set-up was slightly re-imagined to allow for more social distancing and reduce transmission risk, but it felt as magical as ever. Indoor stages were off the menu – and we really missed the Soapbox stage – and its beautiful pathway through the woods. But the advantage was that, with just two outdoor stages instead of the usual four, it was much easier to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

Every year I take home a new favourite band – and this year was no exception: Elephant Sessions totally blew me away on Friday night with their energy & talent. I’d like to offer an apology to Glemham Hall for the little bald patch where I danced the grass away! 

The new layout of the site felt a bit more like a village with a lovely sense of community – I really loved it and will be interested to hear if John & Becky are planning on keeping things this way.

There was one thing massively missing from this year’s festival though – our good friend Mat Bayfield. He was an important part of the festival and familiar to all who went. His music, MCing and energy were very much missed – and I’m sure that backstage felt this even more than us on the other side. We miss you Mat.

Last month we hosted our first ever in-person Busk Night since February 2020!  For those of your who have never been: Busk Nights, hosted by Lady J, are a wonderful laid-back opportunity for anyone to get up & share their talent.  Anything goes – from story-telling, music (all genres) spoken word, comedy, improv, rap & much more!  If you’re not keen to be centre of attention, you can come along & enjoy some fine ale and first-rate entertainment.

August’s busk – the first back in ‘real life’ – was diverse & magical. We spent the evening outside in the beer garden since the pub building itself was yet to re-open.  The drinks flowed & everyone was in superb spirits, encouraging each other & enjoying the entertainment.  There were over 50 people here – lots participating and lots enjoying the show. We had such a brilliant mixture – folk, rap, jazz & loads more. It is amazing to see the level and diversity of the talent we’re harbouring in our little corner of Suffolk.

Thanks so much to all who came, all the performers and of course a massive thank you to Justine (Lady J). Justine has worked tirelessly to keep the busk going during the pandemic – hosting the event online for the past 18 months – so it’s a real pleasure to have her back in the pub. The photos don’t adequately capture the magic – but those here really felt it. Justine has some videos and more photos on her Facebook page which are definitely a must-see.

Uncruliar Brews and Views is our good friend Sean’s incredible blog charting his experiences brewing, drinking and exploring the world of beer. We were delighted when he wrote this guest blog investigating the shandy possibilities of our casks.

Most of us have had that dilemma of what to drink when we are designated driver at the pub. For me, an evening on soft drinks doesn’t really cut it. I have had some great evenings at the Sweffling White Horse on Ghost Ship 0.5%, but I also like to blend a 0.5% beer with a full strength beer when I’m driving. This gives a shandy without the sweetness of lemonade and, in my opinion, a better body than a straight 0.5% beer. Now there are plenty of options for a 0.5% shandy on offer at Sweffling, but which beers blend the best? Read on to find out.

The Backstory

Like most people I know I enjoy going to the pub for a beer. Unlike most though, I have been known to take beer to the pub myself – not for a shady cheap drink I hasten to add, but to share interesting beers with landlords I know well enough to be able to make recommendations. 

In the summer of 2019 I took some Big Drop beers to share with Maz and Mark at the Sweffling White Horse. With their policy of stocking local food and drink I thought they might be interested in Big Drop, an Ipswich based company. I also thought a variety of 0.5% beers would sit well alongside the White Horse’s range of ‘Nilcoholic Cocktails’. When the pub reopened this year after an extended pandemic-fuelled closure, Big Drop beers made their appearance on the menu at Sweffling.

On Father’s Day two of my children were happy to take me out for a drink, although there was a catch – I was driving. So it was that I started blending Big Drop’s Galactic Milk Stout and Off Piste Hazelnut Porter with Wolf Brewery’s Sirius Dog Star, which was available on cask on the day. 

Maz was interested in what I was doing and asked if I would write something about it. That in turn prompted me to think about combinations which would work from the bottled range at Sweffling, which is fairly consistent, unlike the ever changing cask line-up.

Blending Notes

When it comes to blending a 0.5% beer with a regular strength beer it is important to look for beers that combine well while also thinking about the ratio between the two beers. My preference is usually for a 50:50 blend. However for the purposes of this article I thought about the most sensible way of blending the beers on offer at the White Horse. 

A 330ml bottle of any of the Big Drop beers will need just under half a 500ml bottle of one of the regular strength beers in order to fill a pint glass. So this is the ratio I used unless stated otherwise.

Big Drop Paradiso Citra IPA / Star Wing Four Acre Arcadia

The combination of citra with other classic West Coast hops gives Paradiso a definite American IPA flavour. Four Acre Arcadia is the only regular strength bottled IPA available at the White Horse, although it is more in the English style.

This blend comes out closer to an English than an American IPA. There is a definite caramel note in both the aroma and he flavour. However there is a also more than a hint of citrus from the Paradiso. 

Big Drop Paradiso Citra IPA / Green Jack Orange Wheat Beer

Combining an IPA with a wheat beer isn’t necessarily an obvious choice, but the tangerine flavour of Green Jack’s Orange Wheat is a great complement to the citra hopped Paradiso. There is a distinct tangerine flavour and aroma and a very smooth mouthful with just a modest bitterness. 

Adnams Ghost Ship 0.5% / Star Wing Four Acre Arcadia

As Ghost Ship 0.5% comes in 500ml bottles these two blends were done in a 50:50 ratio, meaning two bottles will give you very nearly two pints. This smelled and tasted very much like a traditional bitter with wholemeal bread and caramel flavours coming from the malt and, strangely, a hint of blackberry from the hops.

Adnams Ghost Ship 0.5% / Green Jack Orange Wheat Beer

Like the other Ghost Ship blend this also tasted very much like a traditional English bitter, which was quite surprising as I would have expected the citrus character to be more noticeable as it is a feature of both the beers being blended. However, it was very drinkable as a trad bitter.

Big Drop Hazelnut Off Piste Porter / Cliff Quay Old Strong

All of the blends featuring the Hazelnut Off Piste Porter showed off the aroma and flavour of the Big Drop beer. This one was very much like drinking a boozy fruit and nut cake.

Big Drop Hazelnut Off Piste Porter / Star Wing Stain Glass Blue Porter

This was the most bitter of the Off Piste Porter blends. The hazelnut flavour came through strongly along with a hint of coffee making it rather reminiscent of a cappuccino with hazelnut syrup.

Big Drop Hazelnut Off Piste Porter / Earl Soham Sir Roger’s Porter

Of the three Off Piste Porter blends this one had the least prominent aroma. However, the hazelnut was very much present in the flavour. Sir Roger’s Porter added a chocolatey characteristic making this blend taste just like a well known hazelnut chocolate spread.

Big Drop Galactic Milk Stout / Cliff Quay Old Strong

This blend had a slight aroma of coffee which followed through to the taste. With the Big Drop beer being a milk stout the blend had definite hints of milky coffee, with a slight hedgerow fruit characteristic.

Big Drop Galactic Milk Stout / Star Wing Stain Glass Blue Porter

As I raised this blend I could smell first of all a rich fruitcake and then tiramisu. The fruitiness followed through in the flavour but rather than the Italian dessert I felt as if I was drinking a Black Forest Gateau. That impression was so strong that it brought to mind my dear old Nan, who did love a “Gatoo” as she pronounced it.

Big Drop Galactic Milk Stout / Earl Soham Sir Roger’s Porter

I could smell both coffee and chocolate from this blend and both of these features followed through into the flavour. The Galactic Milk Stout gives all three of these blendsn a smooth mouthfeel and that is most prominent in this one, which reminded me very much of a beery mochaccino.

Big Drop Uptime Craft Lager / Norfolk Brewhouse DewHopper

I must confess to being only an occasional lager drinker and I often don’t pick up on the subtleties that some lager fans really appreciate. Of the two lager blends I slightly preferred this one but I couldn’t honestly put my finger on the reason why.

Big Drop Uptime Craft Lager / Calvors Pilsner

This blend was also very drinkable and I’m sure it would go down well with anyone who regularly drinks lager.

What can I get you?

All of the blends I tested are well worth drinking. Personally I preferred the darker options and especially Galactic Milk Stout/Stain Glass Blue or Off Piste/Sir Roger’s Porter. Of the paler blends my favourite was Paradiso/Orange Wheat. I would certainly be interested to hear what anyone else thinks of these blends, and I’m sure that Maz and Mark would too.  

The Sciency-Legal Bit

In England the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath. This cannot be safely converted into a certain number of units, as it depends on a number of factors such as gender, body mass and how quickly your body absorbs alcohol. However, as a rule of thumb, two pints of regular-strength beer could put you over the limit.

By blending a bottle of a regular beer with a 0.5% beer you can make that bottle into two drinks instead of one. If you are staying at the pub for a longer session though you should really switch to straight 0.5% beers after that. Unless you’re drinking more than 6 bottles of Big Drop beer in an hour your liver will probably be processing the alcohol from the Big Drop beers faster than you are consuming it so you should be fine to drive home.

Disclosure:

Maz and Mark provided me with the beers to sample for this blog; although I did offer to pay for them. I’m very grateful for their generosity but it didn’t influence my view of the beers.
The title for this blog was inspired by the Twitter hashtag and account, and Youtube channel of Laura and Michael.

After lot of stops and starts and changing regulations we can finally reopen the pub beer garden for the first time in over 14 months!  We have spent some time renovating it & making it a welcoming, weather-proof, Covid-compliant space and we’re ow able to throw open our doors and welcome drinkers back to the Sweffling White Horse.

There is now space for 6 separate groups to sit, with seating for up to 42 people and most of this is covered by a rainproof roof. Our first ‘Sunday Session (was on Sunday 6 June from 12 noon til 5pm, and now we’ll be open every Sunday from there on. We’re also opening Saturdays 6-10pm. We can’t wait to see you all again!
To ensure there’s space for everyone, we have set up a small extra seating area in the car park – so please park in the overflow parking field to make space for this. Due to its size, the pub building will remain closed – except for the side door for access to the toilets. 

A date for your diary

We’re also bringing back live music! Way back when the pub closed, we were about to celebrate the spring equinox in accordance with our time-honoured tradition. The seasons have changed 4 times since then which means we’ve missed 5 gigs from the Rum Ol’ Buoys but…. THEY’RE BACK!!
We are going to celebrate the start of summer on the evening of Saturday 26 June. Hope to see you there!

Our First Sunday Session

Our first Sunday as landlord and landlady was brilliant! It was so lovely be running the pub again (albeit just outdoors) after more than 14 months of being closed and far too quiet.

We started the day with our first charity walk for a while too; Nicky & Rob led the walk to Bruisyard and back, and raised £46 for the Brain Tumour Charity.


Spring is one of my favourite times of the year for lots of reasons but I always look forward to finding wild garlic springing up from the ground on my walks at this time of year. It’s a really versatile plant with lots of uses and a very unique flavour, so I encourage you all to keep your eyes peeled when out on your walks this Spring.

Where to find wild garlic

If you’re new to foraging, wild garlic is a great place to start as the strong smelling plant can easily be sniffed out and identified.  Wild garlic likes to grow in woodlands or forest, in shady, damp spots.  It’s a perennial plant (comes back year after year) which begins to grow in February/March time until around June/July.

You will recognise this edible plant by its long, smooth leave which end in a point, when it’s flowering, you’ll see small white star-shaped heads.  Wild garlic leaves and flowers are edible, both raw or cooked.  It has a milder flavour than bulb-garlic and has lots of culinary, disinfectant and medicinal uses.

How to forage wild garlic responsibly

Usually wild garlic grows in abundance so it’s perfectly fine to take a handful home with you but there are some things you might want to consider:

  • If the land is privately owned always ask permission before foraging anything.
  • Make sure to pick a small amount, proportional with how large the patch is.  You will want to leave enough for others, and also make sure you do not prevent the plants from thriving and coming back next year.
  • Consider wildlife and other plants in the surrounding area.  If the plant you’re foraging is their food source you must make sure to leave enough that the eco-system can remain unaffected.
  • Pick leaves which grow slightly back from the path. This is more for your own good in case the area is also visited by dog walkers!

How to use wild garlic

You can use leaves and flowers raw in salads or sandwiches to add decoration and a punchy garlic flavour. You can also add it to butter or (dried) to salt as a means of flavouring.  It makes a great pizza topping, or added into risottos, soups and onion bhajis.  Some of my favourite recipes are below:

Vegan wild garlic pesto

Potato and wild garlic soup

Wild garlic and goats cheese risotto

It has now been over a year since the last night the pub was open. I remember thinking we were only going to be closed a few weeks at the time – but still wondering how on earth we all would cope.  Yet here we are over a year later with a much deeper understanding of just how resilient we all are.

We are very much looking forward to opening again soon – and having more nights like the 20 March last year. Although we all knew it was going to be the last time we saw each other for a while, the night was far from melancholy!

Since we last opened our doors the whole world has been through such a vast amount of change.

This time last year I was happily able to sell  drinks from the pub door as off-licences were deemed ‘essential’ after pubs were closed on the 20th March, and we entered full lockdown on the 24th.

I was also kept busy with home deliveries – the first time we’d ever offered such a service & now it’s our only way of trading!  I had a brilliant time rummaging through my fancy dress cupboard and coming up with new outfits to wear for my deliveries.  I hope it put a smile on people’s faces to see me cycling around the local area dressed as anything from a whoopee cushion to a pirate!

Our usual open day had to be cancelled but we managed to raise double what we would usually raise for St Elizabeth’s Hospice on our open day. (We’ll be doing this again this year too).

Then in July when other pubs were able to open their outdoor spaces and some indoor spaces if there was room for social distancing and good ventilation (neither of which we have).  We made the difficult decision that if we were going to reopen we HAD to do it in a way that we could guarantee the safety and enjoyment of our staff and customers.  The magic of The Sweffling White Horse has always been that you can come in for a chat with a stranger & enjoy some music or entertainment & we didn’t want to reopen without those things. So we carried on with our off-sales and deliveries and stayed patient.

In October, the tiers were brought in, and pubs could only serve alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’. This was when we started investigating the idea of opening a live music venue – which we managed to pull together in December for two amazing events – before the new year lockdown. The Sweffling Mule in the campsite/garden was long in the planning and short in the opening but such a lovely window of joy in 2020!

Since then, with lockdown no.3, it’s been home deliveries only. Though finally, it feels like we are on the path to normality. With the easing of restrictions soon to be implemented we’re getting closer and closer to welcoming you back to the pub….and we can’t wait!

As much as we can all agree the last year has been the longest 12months in human history; I almost can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s soon to be March 2021.  There’s still a little part of my brain that’s still stuck in March 2020!

Collectively the last year seems like a very long, lonely stint.  I know there were times we were able to get out and see people in between the lockdowns but viewed backwards it seems like forever since we made meaningful connections with people face to face.

Phone calls, messages and zoom have been a social lifeline to so many of us but one of my favourite ways I’ve noticed people connecting is by sending letters and gifts to their loved ones through the post.  Whether it’s a handmade card, a packet of seeds or a full-blow care package; receiving post these days is an exciting event!

This month we launched a new initiative inspired by the amazing ways you’ve been surprising and treating each other via post.  Our ‘Post a pint to a pal’ service is now available for anyone wanting to surprise a friend local to the Sweffling White Horse. 

How it works:

In line with our regular beer delivery service:

  • Head to the ‘drinks’ tab of our website to see what we have available on the day of your order.  We update this frequently with new draught ales, and sometimes food too.
  • Send an email to swefflingwhitehorse@gmail.com with your order.  Give us your order for drinks, the address you’d like it sent to with any special directions or instructions to help us find it.  Make sure to leave us a phone number in case we have any trouble. We’ll label up your order if it’s as a gift for someone else so make sure you tell us if you have a special message for the recipient!
  • Place orders by 5pm or 11am for Sunday lunch.
  • Pay via this link, or the one on the drinks page of our website.
  • We’ll deliver your order between 6-7pm that same day, or 1-2pm on Sundays. 

I know there are lots of people we’d all like to share a drink with right now. And even though we have some very exciting light at the end of the tunnel on the form of the vaccine & a planned route out of the current lockdown; we still have a little wait until we’re reunited. With this in mind it’s important to keep making the effort to stay in touch, keep checking in on your friends, family & neighbours. Whether you’re posting them pints, picking up the phone or waving at your neighbours, make sure to stay connected to your communities.

This lockdown I’m encouraging everyone to really embrace the idea of hibernating.  I know you’re tired and worried and probably quite frustrated this time around but while we have a duty to our communities to stay at home & keep people safe; we also have a duty to ourselves of self-care.

Whether you’re working from home, home-schooling, furloughed or at leisure, your free time is certain to spent differently to usual and even from the lockdown last spring. This time around the weather is not ideal for long stints outdoors.  My most emphatic piece of advice is that taking your daily exercise should not be skipped (time in nature is vital for wellbeing) BUT once you’re back home really sink into making yourself as cosy as possible.  There really is nothing better.

The Danish word ‘hygge’ really epitomises what I’m talking about.  Hygge is the concept of staying warm, cosy & finding joy in the little things that can improve our environment & how we spend time there.  My point being that if we have to stay at home we can make our living spaces as welcoming and conducive to wellbeing as possible.  By approaching this lockdown with a positive mindset & indulging in some good old-fashioned comforts, it will pass much more enjoyably.

Blankets

Whether you’re reading, watching TV, listening to music or cuddling the cat blankets make all chair-based activities infinitely better.  We always have several to choose from, but every home should have at least one. There’s nothing cosier than cocooning yourself in a fluffy blanket and enjoying the warmth & safety of home.

Warmth

Put on extra jumpers, socks or maybe even gloves if you’re a Raynauds sufferer like me. Light the fire, put on the heating; whatever it takes to make your home an oasis of warmth – you’ll appreciate it so much coming back inside from your daily exercise.

Lighting

Lighting is crucial to making your home feel inviting and cosy.  Instead of using the main ceiling light, why not switch to a few lamps with warm-toned bulbs.  If you’re not doing anything that requires bright light or visual concentration, soft lighting is wonderfully calming. Candles are also a welcome addition to any room, the flickering light can make you feel warmer & scented ones are great for creating a relaxing environment.

Entertainment

More than ever in the last year we’ve been learning that productivity is not the yardstick to measure ourselves against. So I don’t think the focus during these weeks in lockdown should be even remotely on ‘keeping busy’ but more on keeping entertained.  Think of things that bring you joy, make you feel absorbed and plan those things into your day. These activities don’t have to be anything ‘useful,’ in fact I advocate that at least some of them shouldn’t be, just something that makes you smile. Do something crafty, cook something delicious or curl up with a book.  We have a free library outside the pub with books, DVDs & sometimes puzzles for people to stay entertained.  BBC iplayer has some amazing programmes to access, including a shed-load of Attenborough.  We are living in unprecedented times, which we (hopefully) won’t ever see again so use your time for joy, not worrying about how productive you can be.

Food and drink

Punctuate your day with nutritious meals and cups of tea – it’s a great way to get your body into the rhythms of the day and making sure you take good care of yourself.  Make sure to treat yourself with the odd indulgence too: Lots of places are doing amazing menus of takeaway food & we’re offering drinks deliveries to anyone in a 5 miles radius so you can still treat yourself to a draught ale in the evening.

Tribernation

However you choose to spend the next few weeks make sure to stay in touch with friends & family – they’re crucial to boosting our wellbeing & avoiding feelings of loneliness.  I’m hereby coining a new word: ‘tribernation.’  It’s the knowledge that whilst we might be all hunkering down in our separate houses; we are all in this together. We’re staying home for the good of the whole community, and also; we have universal understanding of what life is like for our friends, neighbours, colleagues etc right now. Make sure to check in with people you care about and think of those in your community living alone.  And please please feel free to get in touch with us here if you need anything – we have a collection of helpful people on hand who can bring you some shopping or just phone for a friendly chat.




I can’t wait to host live music again at The Sweffling White Horse. Our music or open mic nights were always the highlights of our calendar and during 2020 I’ve really admired how independent artists and creatives have adapted and found ways to survive in such a challenging climate. After all, isn’t it music, books, art and various forms of creativity that we’ve all turned to to see us through bleak months of lock-down & uncertainty?

Until musicians can go back to live performances here are some ways you can support your favourites:

  • Follow them on social media and like, share save and comment as much as you can – these actions boost the visibility of their page so more people are likely to discover them.
  • Always see if you can purchase physical (CDs, vinyl etc) or digital content directly from the artist. Check which their most beneficial provider is eg they can make decent money from bandcamp but almost nothing on Spotify.
  • If you’re streaming music do everything you can to support them: Saving tracks to your devices, following the artist, pre-saving or listening to tracks on their release date all help to raise the profile of your favourite artists on streaming services. These things give them more chance of being picked up by the algorithms on these sites and having their tracks added to popular playlists which will help get them better known & maybe even earn them a little revenue.
  • Join their mailing list if they have one.
  • Actively seek out and support crowd-funding campaigns. If you’re not financially able to support; why not share them on you social media pages to encourage greater exposure?
  • If the artist has a Patreon account support it at whichever level you can afford. Most artists will offer tiered support, with the lowest being a few pounds a month.
  • Actively seek out new music. Search online or on streaming services, ask your friends for recommendations. There are also loads of apps and websites that will generate a recommended playlist based on your current tastes. There’s a lot of music out there with artists just waiting and hoping to get heard.
  • If you’ve just discovered an artist and they have a back-catalogue of releases; buy it when you can afford to do so. It may have something different/interesting on there. But also, many artists will have boxes of old releases in the lofts & garages so buying their back-catalogue is a great way of putting cash straight into their pocket.
  • When gigs start again PLEASE come out and see them, buy a ticket or put some money in the hat.
  • While gigs are impossible consider hosting a home-concert. Hire an artist to play via zoom (or similar) and raise some money in the process.

This winter is going to be a difficult one for a lot of us. As yet we don’t know how/if pubs will be able to trade – but one thing we know for certain is that it is safer to socialise outdoors  A Japanese study has found that it can be up to 20 times more likely to catch coronavirus indoors than outdoors, and scientists advise that ventilation is key if you are indoors. So this winter we are all going to have to learn a new way of socialising, and we’ve got some top tips and advice on how to stay comfortable as well as safe:

Warm Clothing

Invest in some thermals & make sure you have a nice warm waterproof coat. Tights under trousers is a great way to keep warm, and knitted wrist warmers are surprisingly helpful. Layering up is the best way to stay warm, especially slightly loose layers as they trap a layer of warm air between each garment, keeping you extra toasty!

Go undercover

If you have a frame tent or awning this could be a great, well ventilated space to socialise with friends and family. Make sure it has enough room for your group though – even in well ventilated spaces it is recommended we sit at least 1m away from those not in our household. If it’s safe to do so, you could run a cable and add an electric heater to your outdoor space.

Fire it up

On dry days/evenings, you could use a fire pit to keep warm. If you don’t have a fire pit or BBQ suitable, you could invest in one of these portable ones for less than £20. Here’s a photo of mine from when I visited my mum. We shared a takeaway and spent an evening together outside her house safely.

Pick your moment

Check the weather – cloudy evenings may look a bit daunting but can often be warmer than clear skies. This is especially true once the wind has dropped. At the coldest time of year, it might be better to socialise during the daytime rather than in the evenings.

Bring your own..

To be as safe as possible, take your own eating & drinking vessels to friends’ houses, and avoid touching each others’ items. If, like me, you suffer from bad circulation you could make or buy a cup-cozie like this one. This will make drinks easier & more comfortable to hold – especially if you’re wearing gloves.

Also plastic-backed mats like this one can be a really useful way to stay dry and warm

Santise

Always carry a little pot of hand gel with you. This way you can protect yourself and others if you need to handle each others’ things or if you need to pop indoors to use the loo.

Socialising has been difficult for some months in the wake of social distancing measures and lockdowns. I do think it is going to remain so for the next few months. Spending time with people is a really important way to to boost your own wellbeing & support your friends through difficult times so let’s not let the colder weather put us off!