8 Suffolk brewery tours and tap rooms to visit
- Credit: Gavin King Photography
Nudged up against the coast and peppered with historic ports, Suffolk has long been well-positioned for brewing, and can boast a heritage in the industry going back hundreds of years.
While tide and time have seen some brewers shipped out to sea, others remain, and have been joined on their journey by a whole host of newbies, equally as enamoured with malt, barley and hops. If you want to further your knowledge of Suffolk beer, the best way to get up close and personal with it is to book a brewery tour, or spend a while in a tap room. Here are just a few to get you started. Please call ahead to find out upcoming dates and more information.
Briarbank Bar and Brewery
While Ipswich’s Waterfront is no longer lined with malthouses, you can still buy beer made here, in one of the town’s most desirable locations. Briarbank (from the same folk behind Isaacs, The Gardeners Arms and Venue 77) has eight casks in operation, brewing around four beers at a time, several times a week. And you can sample them in the tap room above, alongside a range of wines, guest beers and spirits, bar snacks and suppers. Keep your eye out for future tour dates with head brewer Rob. At only £10 per person, you’ll learn more about his techniques and the beers, will sample a few, and get a beer or soft drink included too.
Try Perpendicula (4.4%) - one of Briarbank’s first golden beers made with Cascade hops (originating in Oregon) which lend it a bright, citrussy flavour. Or go off-piste with a pint of Raspberry Milk Stout (4.5%) made with raspberry puree and vanilla, and brewed with oats, which give a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.
The bar is open Wednesday and Thursday 5pm to 11pm, from 12noon Friday to Sunday.
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A Suffolk institution with multiple awards under its belt for its beers and spirits (the Longshore vodka and Copper House gin have been recognised globally).
Head brewer Fergus has a deep passion for brewing and, as well as keeping the traditions of drops such as Broadside alive, has over the years been behind a number of innovations and collaborations that keep Adnams bang up-to-date.
See the Adnams website for details of tour dates in either the brewery or distillery. Both priced at £20 per person, you’ll uncover more about the history of the coastal brand (including ‘that’ crocodile story), and enjoy a tutored tasting. Make your own gin experiences can be booked at the flagship Southwold store or in Bury St Edmunds.
The brewery and tap room is perched on the edge of Long Melford, right next to the old railway that joins the village to Sudbury. It’s an excellent spot for a cool pint before or after a stroll or cycle. There’s a large shop and bar, with a sunny lawned and decked garden, where you can sample everything from twice winner in the CAMRA Winter Beer Festival – Growler (5%) - to the refreshing, floral, mellow Stour Valley Gold. They even launched a low alcohol version of their popular Venture beer this year. The bar is open daily from 12noon, and the shop, from 11am Wednesday to Saturday. Look out for street food pop ups, be it filled bagels or gourmet mac and cheese, at the weekends.
Tours are £17.50 per person from 2pm each day (pre-booked only). Or take it one step further with a brew day including lunch and 18 pints of beer brewed alongside the team (£100). But if you or the one you love is a true beer nut, you can shell out £400 to brew your very own beer, taking home a whopping 144 pints a week later (bottling extra).
Old Cannon Brewery
The Old Cannon has a history stretching back to 1845 – and is still delighting customers to this day – as a tap room, restaurant and guest house (there are seven bedrooms to book). While the main brewing operation is underground, the mash tuns and kettle are right next to the bar – how many pubs can say the same? When in action, tours cost £10 per person on Mondays at 10am, including a tasting and bacon sandwich.
Otherwise, stop in for a pint of their classic Gunner’s Daughter (5.5%) - an award-winner with a hoppy, fruity, sweet and slightly bitter finish. It’s open from 12noon daily for drinks, or for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday and a high-quality roast from 12noon to 5pm on Sundays. Check out the sharing boards. The huge, American-style blooming Cajun fried onion with dips is not to be missed.
The folk behind this modern craft brewery converted a derelict sawmill into what is now a bit of a destination. On site, alongside the beer-making operation (see the hops growing in their nearby fields) is an amphitheatre (where live outdoor events usually take place), a tap room, café and even a bakery, where Norfolk and Suffolk legend Mick turns out superb loaves and the best London cheesecakes this side of the M25.
The tap room is open 5pm to 8pm on Tuesdays and from 12noon to late Friday to Sunday. Nine ales are made at Starwing, from the classic golden Spire Light (4.2%), to dry-hopped Dawn on the Border (3.6%) made with tropical-tasting Cascade and Chinook hops.
A tour of the magnificent Greene King buildings and brewery in Bury St Edmunds is £18 per person and bookable from Tuesdays to Saturdays. As well as learning more about the business, there’s a tutored tasting, and you’ll even get to sample chutneys, marmalades and mustards made in collaboration (using Greene King beer) with Suffolk’s Scarlett and Mustard.
While there, make a pit stop at the Beer Café, which incorporates ale into plenty of the dishes. It’s open from 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Thursday and from 10am to 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
St Peter’s Brewery
Set in South Elmham close to Bungay, this is one of the oldest breweries in England – and simply one of the most beautiful. You cannot fail to be impressed by the location, next to the moated St Peter’s Hall (currently being refurbished but taking enquiries for events). Each batch of beer, from the Best Bitter (3.7%) to the velvety Cream Stout (6.5%), rich with undertones of chocolate, coffee and vanilla, is made using water filtered through the chalky ground on site, gathered from the brewery’s own bore hole. And take a look at the oval shaped bottles. They’re based on the design of an 18th century gin from the States - worthy of keeping for displaying those summer flowers.
Tours usually take place on Saturdays at 11am and 1pm, taking in the unique buildings, and including tastings and a bottle of beer to take home. It’s £12 per person.
The White Lion
A fantastic country pub in Ufford, with a large beer garden, superb classic British food (as well as pizza and spit roasts on the garden menu when available), and beer made in the onsite Uffa microbrewery. Here, in an old coach house, they make citrus and caramel forward Longboat (4.7%) and spicy, earthy Golden Hoard (3.7%). Tours, with tastings, are free of charge but have to be booked in advance.
The pub’s open for food Wednesday to Sunday for lunch from 12noon and in the evenings Wednesday to Saturday.