Hop to It picks up a gold award at the 2023 SIBA East Independent Keg Beer Awards

It’s a winning start to the year.

Wow! We’ve had a fantastic start to the year at the Briarbank. Earlier this month, our head brewer, Rob, headed to Legra Tap and Kitchen in Leigh-on-Sea for the 2023 SIBA East Independent Keg Beer Awards, and we’re delighted to say we came home with another three awards to add to our growing collection.

Taking gold in the Keg IPA (5.6% – 7.4%) category was Hop to It, a DDH IPA which offers a fruity hop blast from lashings of Simcoe and Mosaic hops. Our Mango NEPA, a New England Pale Ale full of bursting mango flavour, took silver in the Keg Speciality IPA category. But the awards didn’t end there as the judges selected Hop to It for the silver award for the overall champion of the keg beer competition.

It’s always a great event, and we love seeing the other brewers from the East region. The competition and quality of the beer are always high, so having two awards and silver for the overall champion is a real honour.

Our Hop to It beer will now be entered into the 2024 SIBA National Independent Beer Awards, which is due to take place at BeerX in Liverpool in March, and we can’t wait. Our Mocha Porter was crowned a winner here in 2022 when it took gold in the Bottle/Can Speciality Mid to Dark Beers category, and we’re really looking forward to returning to BeerX in March.

Hop to It and Mango NEPA form part of our core range, which last year saw us swapped from bottles to cans and engage with local illustrators to design some fantastic new labels. You can purchase these from our online shop; alternatively, why not visit our first-floor bar and enjoy them in the ambience of our taproom?

We’d like to extend our thanks to our amazing customers. Without your support, we couldn’t do what we love. We hope to see you in our tap room soon.

A round up of 2023

The Briarbank has been a hive of activity this year, and what a year it’s been.

We’ve celebrated our ten-year birthday, something that wouldn’t have been possible without you, our wonderful customers.

We’ve refreshed our brand and moved from bottles to cans with some excellent illustrations (even if we say so ourselves). Some of our older beers have returned to our bar, and we brewed the special Thomas Wolsey 550 beer.

And that’s not all! Our head brewer, Rob, organised the Ipswich Beer and Cider Festival in conjunction with CAMRA – which saw its return after a five-year break, and our handcraft beer was once again celebrated at the SIBA East Independent Beer Awards with a gold and bronze award.

Ten Years at the Briarbank

Who can believe we have been open for ten years? But what an incredible ten years it has been. From the moment we opened our doors at precisely 7pm on Friday 3 May 2013, the support from our customers has been nothing short of amazing.

Over the last ten years, we have, of course, made changes. Originally brewing solely cask beer once a week, we now brew a range of cask and keg-style beers and brew up to four times each week – in fact, we have brewed over 750 batches of beer since 2013. In 2019, we changed our brewing process, making all our beers vegan-friendly and in 2020, we launched our online shop and started to bottle our core range.

Now, ten years on, we’ve refreshed our brand, switched from bottles to cans, and engaged with local illustrators, who we’re sure you will agree have created some truly amazing can designs. They really do look fabulous.

Award Success

Adding to our trophy cabinet again in 2023, we were delighted to take away a gold and bronze award at this year’s SIBA East Independent Beer Award, Cask Competition. One of our first creations, Perpendicular, a golden ale, won a gold award in its category Cask British Beer, and Briar Cobnut, our sweet traditional brown ale, took bronze in the Cask Session Dark Beer category.

SIBA Award Win

The quality of competition at these events is always high, with so many fantastic breweries in the East, and it’s an honour to have our beers recognised and pick up not one but two awards.

Thomas Wolsey

Recognising the 550th anniversary of the birth of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the Thomas Wolsey 550 Project was officially launched in March 2023, and as part of the celebrations, we were asked to produce a beer specifically for the project.

It was an honour to be asked; we got to work combining traditional brewing techniques with modern ingredients and brewed up an easy-drinking beer with hints of tangerine and citrus fruits.

If you’ve not yet tried it, this special collaboration beer, aptly named Thomas Wolsey 550, is available to buy via our online shop.


It was a year full of festivals again, with our biannual beer and cider festivals in April and August and our Gin and Rum Festivals in May and September. A big thank you to the bands who played and everyone who visited the festivals. Look out for our 2024 dates; we’ll release these on our social channels soon.

Live Music

2023 saw us increase our live music, with bands playing weekly in the spring and summer months. We also celebrated ten years of Sunday Jazz at the Briarbank.

We’d like to thank everyone who joined us, from the bands to our wonderful customers – we can’t wait to do it all again in 2024. A little sneak peek – our live music will return on Friday, 29 April. In fact, we’ll have live music every Friday between 29 April and the end of September – keep an eye on our social channels for more details coming soon…

And, of course, our Sunday Jazz will continue on the third Sunday of every month.

Open Mic Night

2023 saw the return of our Open Mic Nights with Open Road Open Mic events at the helm. Thank you to everyone who has come down, taken the mic and supported this event; huge thanks to our wonderful audience, too.

A Look Ahead to 2024

With some exciting developments in the pipeline, we can’t wait to get 2024 underway. Watch this space for details coming soon…..

Perpendicular picks up a gold award at the SIBA East Independent Beer Awards

Here at the Briarbank we are delighted to be celebrating yet another win at this year’s SIBA East Independent Beer Award, Cask Competition.

Our golden ale and one of our first creations, Perpendicular, won gold in its category Cask British Bitter, whilst our Briar Cobnut, a traditional sweet brown ale, scooped up a bronze in the category Cask Session Dark Beer. Similarly to previous years, the competition at these events is always very high, so to collect two awards at one event is truly an honour!

Over the years, we have won numerous awards, including a National Award for our beer Mocha Porter, at the SIBA National Independent Beer Awards in 2022, and it’s great to be able to add these two awards to our growing award collection.

This May, we celebrated 10 years of the Briarbank, and what an achievement! The brand was given a revamp and saw us move away from bottles to cans, a transition which has received lots of positive feedback!

We love what we do but it wouldn’t be possible without the support we have received over the years and continue to receive and would like to thank you all for allowing us to continue this journey!

Why not visit our upstairs tap room and sample our range? You might even spot Rob or Dan, who will be happy to chat with you. And, don’t forget, you can purchase our can range directly from our online shop.

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.