Guest Post: Stono’s Favourite Suffolk Pubs

The Nutshell, Bury St Edmunds, by David (Brokentaco) on Flickr, under Creative Commons.
The Nut­shell, Bury St Edmunds, by David (Bro­ken­ta­co) on Flickr, under Cre­ative Com­mons.

To help fill a gap in our collection of local pub guides, reader Clive Stonebridge (@stonojr) has given us a list of his favourite Suffolk drinking holes.

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I like tra­di­tion­al Eng­lish ses­sion ales and Adnams’ Bit­ter. I’m a big fan of cof­fee stouts such as Dark Star Espres­so, and not-over­ly-hopped beers with ‘new world hops’, e.g. Crouch Vale Brew­er’s Gold.  I’m from Suf­folk and live local­ly, and have been a CAMRA mem­ber for 10 years. I’m also an occa­sion­al home-brew­er and frus­trat­ed blogger/writer.

1. The Fat Cat, Ipswich
An Ipswich insti­tu­tion for near­ly 20 years and three-time local CAMRA branch pub of the year, the Fat Cat was the town’s first new free­house pub. Pro­vid­ing a tra­di­tion­al home­ly pub set­ting that has no tele­vi­sion, fruit machines or music to dis­turb the hum of pub chat­ter, it is based about a 20 min walk from the town cen­tre.

It serves a wide selec­tion of con­tin­u­al­ly chang­ing cask ales (15+ on aver­age) from its well stocked tap room, often includ­ing beers from its Nor­wich-based sis­ter brew­ery, also called Fat Cat. There is also a good selec­tion of Euro­pean lagers, ‘real’ ciders, an assort­ment of Bel­gian beers in bot­tles, and a vari­ety of wines.

Food comes in the shape of lunchtime rolls, or the shot-put sized home made scotch eggs (absolute­ly worth try­ing). From Sun­day to Thurs­day, plates & cut­lery and cut­lery are also pro­cid­ed to patrons who want to bring food from local take­aways – a very pop­u­lar choice all year round in the evenings.

Dur­ing the sum­mer, the well-kept beer gar­den pro­vides addi­tion­al seat­ing space and occa­sion­al bank hol­i­day week­end bar­be­cues.

2. Dove Street Inn, Ipswich
A mul­ti-award-win­ning cask ale pub for ten years, the Dove was most recent­ly named Great British Pub Awards Cask Ale Pub of the Year 2013. It serves a wide range of ever-chang­ing cask ales includ­ing some from its own range brewed in the micro-brew­ery oppo­site, along with a selec­tion of draught for­eign beers, ‘real’ cider and wine.

There are reg­u­lar beer fes­ti­vals  fea­tur­ing 60+ beers in the beer tent, which is mod­elled on a Ger­man beer gar­den or cel­lar and pro­vides a pleas­ant out­door seat­ing area in sum­mer.

Land­la­dy Karen’s home cook­ing and occa­sion­al week­end bar­be­cues pro­vide great food, with veg­e­tar­i­an options, and weary vis­i­tors can even book into the adjoin­ing bed and break­fast which sits above the home­brew shop. The pub also runs its own loy­al­ty card scheme.

3. Lord Nel­son, South­wold
Adnams is syn­ony­mous with South­wold and Suf­folk, and the Lord Nel­son is where the locals go to drink. A three bar pub near the seafront, it serves the best pint of Adnams’ you’ll find any­where in the coun­ty, and also does the best fish and chips too, with the fish in Broad­side bat­ter. Dur­ing the win­ter, a roar­ing open fire keeps the worst of the North Sea coast’s wind and bleak­ness at bay while in the sum­mer, the hid­den beer gar­den expands the capac­i­ty of this very pop­u­lar pub.

4. The Beer­house, Bury St Edmunds
While Adnams is syn­ony­mous with South­would, Bury St Edmunds is home to Suf­folk’s oth­er major brew­er, Greene King, but The Beer­house is one of the few pubs in the town where you’ll be unlike­ly ever to find their beer. Eight hand pumps pro­vide a var­ied selec­tion of cask ales along­side four ciders. Among the beer selec­tion are often beers from the pub­’s own brew­ery, the Brew­shed. There are sim­ple pub snacks and the pub has a nice out­door seat­ing arrange­ment which soft­ens what is essen­tial­ly a for­mer car park, and where spring and win­ter beer fes­ti­vals are held.

5. Butt & Oys­ter, Pin Mill
Fea­tured in fre­quent vis­i­tor Arthur Ran­some’s book We Did­n’t Mean to Go to Sea, the Butt & Oys­ter is a Grade II list­ed build­ing and fea­tures in CAM­RA’s nation­al inven­to­ry of his­toric pub inte­ri­ors, retain­ing many of its orig­i­nal fea­tures from the 17th to 19th cen­turies.

The pub is sit­u­at­ed on the edge of the west­ern shore of the Orwell and, at high water, the riv­er laps round the base of the build­ing, and it is said yachts­men could once be served aboard their boats by lean­ing in through the pub win­dows. These days, the win­dows mere­ly pro­vide pic­turesque, panoram­ic views across the Orwell Estu­ary, which attract many artists and vis­i­tors.

Pri­mar­i­ly sup­plied by Adnams, beer is sold from four casks on show behind the bar, and the menu, as befits its loca­tion, is built large­ly around the local seafood. It gets incred­i­bly busy and pop­u­lar in the sum­mer months so book­ing a table is essen­tial.

6. The Tri­an­gle Tav­ern, Low­est­oft
Billed as the most east­er­ly real ale pub in the whole of the UK, and sit­u­at­ed on Tri­an­gle Mar­ket near the town cen­tre, the Tav­ern is the spir­i­tu­al home to the Green Jack Brew­ing Co. It offers a min­i­mum of six Green Jack ales every day with as many as four fur­ther guest ales and two real ciders at any one time across two bars, front and back.

The front bar has a more relaxed tra­di­tion­al look and feel with an open fire, and is where occa­sion­al live music is played on Fri­day nights. The back bar is more mod­ern with games machines, pool table, and juke­box, and is where the world-renowned annu­al pro­fes­sion­al world thumb wrestling cham­pi­onship is host­ed. Beer fes­ti­vals are held through­out the year.

7. The Cher­ry Tree, Wood­bridge
The build­ing dates from the 17th cen­tu­ry, though the tree itself no longer remains. With its tra­di­tion­al oak beams and slop­ing ceil­ings, the pub has a char­ac­ter that’s hard to fake in a town with plen­ty of his­to­ry to shout about. The pub offers a selec­tion of eight well-kept cask ales, the major­i­ty from Adnams, though sev­er­al guest ales are usu­al­ly on offer. Tra­di­tion­al food made with local­ly-sourced ingre­di­ents and a warm, fam­i­ly-friend­ly atmos­phere makes this a pop­u­lar local des­ti­na­tion, with reg­u­lar quiz nights and an annu­al beer fes­ti­val. Accom­mo­da­tion is also pro­vid­ed in a con­vert­ed out­door barn.

8. The Nut­shell, Bury St Edmunds
List­ed by Guin­ness World Records as the small­est pub in Britain, it is Nut­shell by name and nature. Though it might sound a tight fit,  this one bar pub, at 15ft x 7ft, has enough room to seat ten peo­ple and half as many again stand­ing quite com­fort­ably, though the record is claimed to be 102. The ceil­ing is cov­ered in cur­ren­cy from around the world high­light­ing its sta­tus as a tourist attrac­tion. Among many oth­er nov­el­ties is a mum­mi­fied cat found by builders car­ry­ing out ren­o­va­tions. This being a Greene King pub, the two cask ale hand pumps serve only their beer, usu­al­ly IPA and Abbott Ale, but it is kept well, mak­ing this one of the best places to sam­ple it in its home coun­ty.