Raise a glass to the return of the Ipswich Beer and Cider Festival

After an eight-year absence, our head brewer Rob, is bringing back the Ipswich Beer and Cider Festival to the town. Taking over St Clement’s Church from Thursday 27 July through to Sunday 30 July, The Ipswich Beer and Cider Festival will feature more than 100 real ales, craft beers and ciders from both local and national brewers to tempt your tastebuds in a celebration of the best of brewing.

Suffolk and the surrounding counties have an abundance of fabulous independent brewers just waiting to be discovered, and our aim is to bring as much as these brewer’s beers as possible to the festival. Beer lovers will be introduced to styles of beers not always available in your local pub and all of this can be enjoyed in the company of friends, families and brewing aficionados.

The event has been organised by our head brewer at the Briarbank, Rob, in association with CAMRA, and will be the 33rd iteration of the festival.

Commenting on the festival, Rob said, I’m excited to be bringing back the beer and cider festival to Ipswich. It’s an event I used to attend back in the day and something that started my own passion for brewing. “I’ve been speaking to CAMRA about bringing the festival back for a while, and 2023 felt like the right year to do it.”

The aim of the festival is simple: to showcase the very best of brewery offerings and allow visitors the opportunity to sample, discover and enjoy the very best craft beers, real ales and ciders.
There promises to be a lengthy and diverse list of beers on offer, ensuring everyone is catered for.
Of course, we will be showcasing some of our Briarbank beer, alongside carefully selected offerings from across the country.

Already confirming its spot at the festival is Suffolk brewers, Artefact Brewing. The Ixworth-based company will be bringing along four of its beers: Ixworth Blonde; Session Pale; Amber Haze; and kegs of Hibiscus Blonde.

Securing Artefact was a no-brainer for Rob, who is organising the festival. Not only is he a huge fan but he’s also collaborated with Artefact’s head brewer James on a brew: The Passion Project.
Artefact will be joined by another favourite of Rob’s in the form of Grain Brewery. Based in Harleston, Norfolk, Grain’s took over the Spread Eagle in Ipswich, which is where Rob got his first taste of Grain’s beers.

We’ve yet to confirm the beers Grain’s will be bringing along to the festival, but Rob is hoping for Slate – a smoked porter with numerous awards to its name.

And the Ipswich Beer and Cider Festival just wouldn’t be complete without Burnt Mill Brewery in attendance. The Stowmarket craft beer brewer will be on hand with some of its unfiltered pale beers and an exciting collection of beers for visitors to try.

More breweries will be announced soon with Rob revealing who will be showcasing their beers over on the Ipswich beer and Cider Festival Facebook and Instagram accounts. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye out on who will be bringing what drinks so you can start to plan your drinking itinerary.

Tickets can be purchased from www.ipswichbeerandciderfestival.co.uk. You have until 30 June to take advantage of early bird prices: day tickets: £7 (£10 from 1 July); weekend tickets: £15 (£20 from 1 July); and beer tokens: £9 for £10s worth (£10 from 1 July).

Your ticket to the Ipswich Beer and Cider Festival includes entry to the event plus a festival glass and brochure. Beer tokens will be available to buy before the event or on the day and there will also be a cash bar serving soft drinks and a selection of spirits.

2022 – our year in review

We can’t quite believe we’re nearing the end of 2022, but as we look back, we really couldn’t be happier with the year we’ve had. Firstly, we’d like to say a big thank you to all our customers for the support they have shown us throughout the year; it’s great to see both our regulars and new customers in the bar. We’ve re-started our brewery tours again – it’s always so much fun to be able to talk about our brewing process, and, of course, we continue to bottle and ship our beer throughout the UK.

Alongside this, we have won numerous awards for our beers, both regionally and nationally, and every award we win is a real honour.

We scooped our first awards of the year back in March 2022 at the SIBA Regional Keg Independent Beer Awards 2022 for the East region. The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) awards represent the very best beers across the region and fellow brewers are joined by industry experts to carry out the meticulous judging.

In the Keg Premium PAs (4.4%5.4%) category, our Suffolk Haze took a gold award. This pale New England IPA is packed with Sabro Cryo Hops and Galaxy Hop Blend. Its bold tropical flavour, with hints of coconut, pineapple and citrus, always delivers on summer vibes, whatever the weather.

Adding a silver award to our haul was the original Irish-style stout Black Horse Stout in the Keg British Dark Beers (up to 4.4%) category. This is our most popular draught beer. It’s a rich, smooth stout packed with roast malts for a perfectly balanced flavour.

And the awards didn’t stop there: we also took home two bronze awards as well. Mocha Porter, a full-bodied roast porter, won in the Keg Speciality Mid to Dark Beers category, while Hop to It, a light DDH IPA won in the Keg IPA (5.5%-6.4%) category.

Mocha Porter is infused with toasted cacao nibs and freshly ground coffee to elevate this already complex porter. A deliciously roasty beer it serves up a nice hit of coffee with a mellow chocolate finish.
We keep things simple with Hop to It – just extra pale malt and a handful of oats. It’s hopped throughout with Mosaic adding a welcome fruitiness and generous helpings of Simcoe delivering piney, resinous flavours.

A slew of regional awards saw us put through to the SIBA National Independent Beer Awards where we were up against seven other gold winners from the 2022 regionals. These prestigious awards see a huge range of beers across a number of styles judged in separate cask, keg and bottle & can competitions. The grand unveiling of the 2022 winners took place at BeerX in Liverpool on March 17th. Our Mocha Porter did us proud with a gold win in the Bottle/Can Speciality Medium to Dark Beers category. With stiff competition from some outstanding brewing companies we were thrilled to take home the gold.

Later in the year, in October 2022, our head brewer Rob and our bar manager Dan headed to Legra Tap and Kitchen in Leigh-on-Sea, where the SIBA East Independent Keg Beer Awards 2022 were taking place. We were delighted to return home with two more awards. Suffolk Haze won us a gold in the Keg Pale Ale category, while Hop to It saw us take silver in the Keg IPA category.

We couldn’t be prouder of our four multiple-award-winning brews. We are dedicated to producing our beers and our head brewer really does put everything into creating pints that are worthy award-winners. We’re delighted to see the Briarbank being recognised by our peers and experts in the brewing industry.

If you’d like to find out more about our beers, why not book one of our tours. Our head brewer Rob will take you through our brewing process, and answer any questions you have. Plus, depending on the tour you take, you’ll be able to taste some of our award-winning beers too, and of course, see our awards.

Award success at SIBA East Independent Keg Beer Awards 2022

It’s been a week since our head brewer Rob, and Dan, our Bar Manager, headed to Legra Tap in Leigh-on-Sea for the SIBA East Independent Keg Beer Awards, and we’re pleased to say they didn’t come home empty-handed. In fact, they brought home two awards, a gold and a silver.

Sitting pride of place next to our other awards, Suffolk Haze took a gold in the Keg Pale Ale category, while Hop to It was awarded silver in the Keg IPA category.

These two beers have been recognised as award winners before, too. Earlier this year, in March, at the SIBA Regional Keg Independent Beer Awards 2022 for the East Region, Suffolk Haze was awarded gold in the category Keg Premium PAs (4.4%-5.4%). Black Horse Stout took silver in the Keg British Dark Beers Category (up to 4.4%), Mocha Porter gained bronze in Keg Speciality Mid to Dark beers, and Hop to It took bronze in the Keg IPA (5.5%-6.4%) category.

We love nothing more than producing our beers and would like to thank everyone who has supported us over the years. There are so many talented brewers in our region that winning at the widely recognisable SIBA awards is an honour.

Want to know more about our wining beers? Why not stop by and have a chat to Rob or Dan, or book one of our tours.  And don’t forget; our online shop now offers nationwide delivery, so if you would like to try one of our award-winning beers, you can.

2020 homebrew winner returned to brew his beer

It’s over a year since Stuart Betts won our fifth homebrew competition, and we’re pleased to say his creation, Water, Seeds, Flowers and Fungus, is now available to buy in our upstairs Tap Room.

Stuart returned to the Briarbank on Friday, 1 October, to brew his beer in our microbrewery, alongside our head brewer Robert Lewis-Pyke. Restrictions due to COVID-19 delayed Stuart being able to come in and claim his winning prize, but we’re sure you’ll agree, his beer is worth the wait.

Water, seeds, flowers, fungus is an American Pale Ale. A pale golden beer with a hoppy citrus flavour and a crisp bitter finish.

Stuart fought off tough competition from 43 entries, which is our best ever since starting the Homebrew Competition in 2016.

Since winning the competition, Stuart has decided to take the leap and brew beer commercially. He’s also become the Chairman of Dudley and South Staffordshire CAMRA.

Speaking of his experience, he commented, “I have sent beers away to a few homebrew competitions around the country and have done pretty well. So it was nice to win the Briarbank Competition. Who knew it would take a year before we would brew the beer? The brew went well. Rob is patient, and his attention to detail as a brewer was admirable. Good beer doesn’t generally happen by chance. After tasting all the beers in the Briarbank taproom. I quickly realised that nothing at Briarbank is left to chance. Briar Bitter, Suffolk Haze and Mocha Porter were my personal favourites. I will be visiting Ipswich again to taste the beer we brewed and also taking a cask back to the Black Country for the Dudley Winter Ales Fayre in November. Being able to serve the beer on the taps will be very special. Can’t wait.”

Our Homebrew Competition is set to return in 2022, but with exciting changes. We will be hosting our first ever Homebrew Festival on Saturday, 30 July 2022. It will be a ticketed event and will give our customers the chance to sample homebrewers’ beer across East Anglia. They’ll even be the chance to attend a tutored tasting session, plus various food items will be available. We’ll be judging the homebrew competition the day before, on Friday 29 July, meaning our visitors will have a chance to sample all creations from the competition. We can’t wait! Keep your eyes peeled on our social media channels – we’ll be releasing further details in the New Year.

To find out more details on our homebrew competition, head across to our homebrew page.




Bottling Day at the Briarbank

We can’t quite believe it’s a whole year since we started bottling our beers. 2020 was undoubtedly a year like no other, and while we missed the hustle and bustle of our upstairs bar, it allowed us to launch our online shop and ship our beers out across the UK. We’ve bottled over 10,000 beers to date, and we’d like to thank all our customers for their support.

Before the shop launched in August 2020, we had to change a few things around in the brewery, make room to start bottling, and go through learning to clean and fill the bottles. A year later, and we’ve invested in more equipment and opened our online shop for National Delivery.

Here at the Briarbank, we want to give our customers insight into what happens in our brewery and to coincide with our latest blog series; we caught up with our Head Brewer Rob to find out what happens on bottling day at the Briarbank.

The prepping
After popping the kettle on for a quick brew, Rob sets to work on prepping and cleaning the bottling machine, lines, and area ahead of getting to work on bottling the chosen beer. Rob built the bottle machine himself, so is now an expert at stripping it down and re-assembling it.

The cleaning and labelling
Once the prep has been completed, Rob racks the bottles, 12 at a time and rinses them with a mild sanitiser before labelling the bottles on his recently purchased hand crank labeller. In the early days, Rob labelled all the bottles (all 700 bottles per batch, that is) by hand, which we can confirm required a lot of patience, and some slightly wonky labels.


The Filling
Once the labels are applied, Rob places the bottles on the bottle filler, purges them with CO2 and fills them with the beer under pressure.

Our SIBA bottle caps are then placed on top, and the beer is weighed to ensure the correct volume has been added.

Rob bottles around 120 bottles per hour and 700 – 750 bottles per batch of beer. So, the whole bottling process takes around six hours.

Once they have passed the weighing, they’re placed into a bottle crate and moved into cold storage.

The clean down
Rob then brews himself another well-earned cup of tea before carrying out his cleaning regime and preparing the brewery for the following day’s activities.

Then, before heading home, he updates the online shop with the new beer, ready for people to place their orders.

Rob does all the bottling, labelling and packaging of the beer, and if you live within the ten-mile free delivery radius, he will even deliver them directly to your door too.

Want to find out more about what beers we have available? Head across to our online shop.

A day in the life of our brewer

Here at the Briarbank, we love the fact that we have our very own microbrewery on-site, right underneath our first floor bar. Not only does it mean that our beers travel a short distance from brewery to tap, but we think it’s rather special that our customers can see our microbrewery in action while enjoying one of our handcrafted beers.

But what does a typical day look like for our head brewer Rob? To be honest, there isn’t such a thing as a typical day. Rob handles all the brewing, bottling and labelling of all our beers, and you’ll even find him behind the bar serving them too. Our latest blog takes a look at Rob’s typical brewing day.

An early start
A brew day typically sees an early start, with Rob opening up the brewery at 7:00 am, if not earlier. Enjoying the peaceful mornings and the soothing hum of the chillers working, Rob does a quick recap of the day’s recipe, and brew sheet then gets to work measuring out the grains for the brew. Once this is done, the kettle goes on, ready for a much needed morning coffee.

While the kettle is boiling, Rob gets to work pre-heating the mash tun with hot water and checking the water temperatures are correct. Then it’s time to mash in and start mixing the malted barley with the hot water in the mash tun, making sure it’s stirred throughout. He then checks the mash temperature and moves onto pouring his coffee.

With his coffee freshly poured, he gets to work setting up the pipework for the mash transfer and then sets about checking the day’s emails. Finally, a fill and rinse of the boiler mean it’s ready to use.

After a recheck of the recipe, Rob starts to recirculate the wort (liquid) back into the mash turn and, once it’s clear, pumps it into the boiler. During this time, his coffee has gone cold, and he starts to re-boil the kettle.

After adjusting the flow of the wort, Rob ‘sparges’ the malted barley, which is a lengthy process involving sprinkling hot water over the mash to rinse out the sugars and bring them across to the copper with the wort.

Mid-morning also sees Rob start his cleaning regime. There’s plenty to do, from cleaning the fermenters to digging out used malted barley from the mash tun.

Hops for the recipe are measured out and, his now second cold coffee remains in the same place untouched.

The hops are added to the boil as it hits 100*C. Rob then tucks into a spot of lunch and a well-earned break while the wort boils. Finally, and most importantly, he gets to drink a hot cup of coffee.

Afternoon activities
After lunch, Rob is straight back into his brew. After an hour, the boiler is turned off, and late hops are added to the wort. The wort is then transferred to a heat exchanger into a clean fermenter. Yeast is then added at the desired temperature, where the brew is left for four to five days.

Then it’s time to dig out the hops and trub for the boiler, set about cleaning the boilers out and preparing the microbrewery for the next day.

A visit to the bar
After a full day brewing, Rob heads upstairs to our first-floor bar to taste the fruits of his labour. He then heads home for a relaxing evening, ahead of another day at the brewery (and hopefully a warm cup of coffee in the morning)

The Briarbank is open from 5 pm Wednesday and Thursday and midday on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They are currently closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Live Jazz returns to the Briarbank

After what feels like a lifetime, with numerous lockdowns and our bar being closed for over 14 months, we are very excited to welcome back our live jazz afternoons!

From Sunday the 25th of July, 1.30pm, our monthly jazz will return to its regular spot every third Sunday of the month, 1.30pm.

Situated in the marquee stage in good weather or upstairs in the bar, you can enjoy an afternoon of fantastic live music from a selection of great jazz musicians. Everyone is welcome, and entry is always free.

Never been to our jazz before and wondering what to expect? One Sunday a month, our bar turns into the stage for a set of some of the best live jazz you will find in Ipswich. The man behind our Jazz Sundays is John Parker. A fantastic guitarist, he has been organising these gigs since we opened, and each month brings with him, top quality musicians.

What makes our regular jazz unique is it is never the same. Each month John brings different guests from all over and regular familiar faces, with ever-changing setlists, gigs full of requests, you will never find two sessions the same.

Over many years of jazz, we have had guests such as Zak Barret, Simon Hurley, James Davison, Mick Hanson, Pete Neighbour, Julian Stringle, Dominic Ashworth, and many more. We are also looking forward to welcoming back some familiar regulars who always bring such an excellent quality of music each month such as, Alan Clarke, Ron West, Bernie Hodgkins, Kevin Harris, plus more.

Briarbank – A look back at the last 12 months

We won’t lie; the past 12 months have been somewhat different from what we’re used to. We’ve really missed the hustle of our upstairs bar, chatting to and serving our customers, and, of course, hosting our brewery tours, but there have been some momentous moments too. We’ve won five awards, four gold and one silver, we’ve run our annual homebrew competition, albeit a bit different to previous years, and we’ve launched our online shop, making our beers available to enjoy at home.

We’ve often talked about bottling our beers, and it seems 2020 was the year to do it. With the upstairs bar sadly closed, we started up our two-barrel system, sourced some bottles, and redeveloped our website to implement an online shop. Since we launched the shop in August, we’ve been brewing, bottling, labelling and shipping weekly. The support we’ve had from our customers has been phenomenal.

Our core range is available to purchase in bottles or mini-kegs, and with seasonal gift packs available too, you can grab a present for the beer lover in your life or even just yourself. The brewing, bottling and labelling are all done by our head brewer, Rob, and if you live within the ten-mile free delivery radius, he’ll even deliver them straight to your door.

We are currently working on expanding our webshop to allow for nationwide delivery. If you live outside of the free delivery radius and cannot collect, make sure you keep an eye on our social media pages for details on when nationwide delivery will be available.

Now, onto the awards, we mean, who doesn’t love to win an award? Before the first lockdown, we picked up three awards for the East Region in the SIBA Independent Keg Beer Awards 2020. Black Horse Stout took silver in the Keg British Dark Beers category (up to 4.4%), Hop to It won gold in the Keg IPA category (5.5 to 6.4%), and Mocha Porter scooped gold in the Keg Speciality Mid to Dark Beers category. In July, having now started to bottle our beers, we entered the 2020 SIBA Digital Beer Awards. Our first time entering our bottled beers and being awarded gold for both the beers we entered is an honour. Mocha Porter took the gold in the Speciality Medium to Dark Beers category, and Grapefruit IPA came top in the Premium PAs (4.4%-5.4%) categories.

The 2020 Homebrew Competition was also somewhat different, but the level and quality of entrants were amazing. In fact, it was incredibly hard to choose a winner. In the end, Stuart Betts took the winning title with his Strong Pale Ale, Water, Seeds, Flowers and Fungus…

We can’t wait to have Stuart in the brewery to start brewing his beer. Once we’re able to do so, we’ll be releasing details on our social platform so you can get your hands on a bottle or hopefully enjoy it in our upstairs bar.

Our 2020 round-up brings us straight into 2021. We hope to be able to welcome you all back to our bar as soon as it is safe to do so, but don’t worry, you’ll still be able to get your hands on our bottles or mini-kegs to enjoy a Briarbank beer at home. Keep an eye on our social media pages for full details of when we will reopen and when our nationwide delivery will be available.

And again, we wanted to say a big thank you to all our customers for their support over the past 12 months.

Food & Drinks Offers

Dine at the Briarbank throughout November, January and February and you’ll be able to get 2-4-1 on items from our main menu every Monday and Tuesday.*

Available from 16:00 – 21:00, customers can choose items from the classics, salads, pasta & sauce and the grill (excluding 12oz rump steak) section of our main menu.

And that’s not all. You will also be able to get a pint of cask beer for just £3.00^. So, this winter, why not take a break from cooking and make the most of our offers.

Don’t miss the next one…

There are no upcoming events at this time.

Or view all offers on our monthly calendar.

*This offer is available throughout November 2019, January 2020 and February 2020. It is every Monday and Tuesday between the hours of 16:00 and 21:00 and excludes Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The offer is applied against the following items on our main menu, from the grill, pasta & sauce, classics and salads. It excludes the 12oz rump steak from the grill section. The two for one offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. The Briarbank Bar and Brewery reserves the right to amend or withdraw this offer at any time. E&OE.

^Visit the Briarbank Bar and Brewery every Monday and Tuesday throughout November 2019, December 2019, January 2020 and February 2020 and you will be able to get a pint of cask beer for £3.00. Available from 16:00 until close. The offer is not available on any other beers. This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other drinks offer. The Briarbank Bar and Brewery reserves the right to amend or withdraw this offer at any time. E&OE.

2018 Homebrew Competition winners

Another year has flown by, and over the last weekend in October we found ourselves judging our third Homebrew competition. 2018 could possibly be compared as the best year yet, on the number of entries, and of course the quality of the beer. With over 30 beers entered, it was always set to be a tough line-up, and the judges (and myself) had a great afternoon critiquing all of them. It’s a hard job.

Our Homebrew competition is open to all levels of brewer, from extract to all grain, and the entries proved that there really is some great beer being made at home. As always, it’s really great to see what people are producing, and how far homebrewing has come from the stigma of yeasty odd tasting beer made in a bag on the back of the door.

We host a number of categories in the Homebrew competition, to try and cover a range of styles, but these are semi-fluid and can possibly change upon the number of entries. If you’re looking to enter the 2019 competition, be sure to check out homebrew page for the latest updated category listings.

We were joined by judges from a range of beer backgrounds. We had some long serving CAMRA members, a beer blogger, distributor, and even our new trainee brewer. All of which undertook the task of spending the afternoon scrutinising the appearance, taste, aroma, and style of our entries. It was a long afternoon, but by the end of it, we had six category winners, and an overall grand champion of the competition.

So onwards to the winners! Each of the category winners had the beer scored highest in that particular category. They were judged against the others in the category, and these are what the judging panel thought really stood out.

  • Old Ales, Milds, and Brown Ales – The Nightfly by Pete Young – A great example of a Ruby Mild.
  • Stouts and Porters – Yergy-The-Chef by James Pettifor – A delicious Oatmeal Stout, quoted ‘breakfast in a glass’
  • Speciality – Mulberry Bush by Nick Davis – A beautiful fruit porter packed with winter flavours.
  • Standard Pale Ales – Homeland Honey ale by Andris Mcgee – A great pale ale with a refreshing hint of honey coming through.
  • Bitters – Sir Lancerhop by John Watson – A great Amber Ale, with a fruity aroma and peachiness in flavour.
  • Strong Pale Ales – Cascading Goat Ale by Nigel Scarie – A lovely pale ale, described as ‘like drinking an English orchard’.

Each of these winners will be joining us at the brewery for a tour, meal and of course some beers while we talk brewing and beer for an afternoon.

The winners of each category were once again laid out and judged, against each other. The outstanding beer that came top of these was named the overall champion, and that went to John Watson with Sir Lancerhop. John’s beer really hit the spot with the judges, its fruity aroma and complex taste scored it just high enough over the rest of these fantastic beers, and John will be joining us in the brewery to replicate this beer for all to try when we serve it across our venues, in Briarbank, Isaacs on the Quay, and The Gardeners Arms!

If you would like to enter our 2019 competition, you can do so easily via our online entry form. Entrants can enter up to three categories each, and there is no entry fee for this competition. We are confident we will see an ever growing array of great quality beers as our competition grows! We can’t wait to see what 2019 brings.