Eight years after the 32nd CAMRA-run Ipswich Beer Festival, the event has finally returned - to a historic new venue.

The 33rd Ipswich Beer Festival opens its doors at St Clement's Church near the Waterfront on Thursday afternoon - and organisers hope it will be the first of many at the venue.

For decades the Ipswich Beer Festival was a highlight of the calendar at the Corn Exchange, but changing tastes and the pandemic meant it faded away.

However now St Clement's has been restored as a new Arts Centre and community venue, it has found a new home organised by the Briarbank brewery just round the corner and supported by CAMRA whose members are volunteering to run the event.

On Wednesday the beers and ciders for the four-day festival arrived to give the the chance to settle and be at their best by the time the doors open to the public.

Ipswich Star: Rob Lewis-Pyke helping to set up the beer festival.Rob Lewis-Pyke helping to set up the beer festival. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Briarbank head brewer Robert Lewis-Pyke said:  “I’m really excited about the festival. I’ve had a great time planning its return, and to see it all come together is amazing.”

There are more than 100 real ales, craft beers and ciders on offer from local and national brewers.

Ipswich Star: More than 100 beers and ciders are on offer at the Beer FestivalMore than 100 beers and ciders are on offer at the Beer Festival (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Mr Lewis-Pyke added: “It’s been a real pleasure to meet some of the brewers who will be showcasing their beers at the festival.

"We’ve got some really great independent breweries in Suffolk and the surrounding counties, and I’m really excited to be able to bring their beers, alongside breweries from further afield, to the festival."

Ipswich Star: Peter Brooks is looking forward to hosting the Ipswich Beer Festival.Peter Brooks is looking forward to hosting the Ipswich Beer Festival. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Peter Brooks leads the team who has brought St Clement's back to life, and is really looking forward to the next few weeks.

He said: "We're hoping to get 1,500-2,000 people coming into the building this weekend and then hundreds next weekend when we're hosting the Old Gaffers who are bringing their boats to Ipswich.

"They're people who would otherwise not get the chance to see inside the church - to see what we have done here."

The Beer Festival is the biggest single event at the church, but bookings are now racking up as significant progress has been made over the last year.

Ipswich Star: The Ipswich Beer Festival team.The Ipswich Beer Festival team. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

The new floor is now well-established and new toilets for visitors have been installed. 

For this weekend a number of portable loos have also been installed just outside the church!

Mr Brooks said that they also had bookings for art shows and other events during the year.

"Over the next few weeks we should have 3,000-4,000 people coming through here and hopefully they will like what they see and want to come back."

And he added: "Talking to Rob, we're already thinking that if this does prove a success this weekend we would like to see it as an annual event - we're only just around the corner from Briarbank and we work well together."

Ipswich Star: St Clement's Church is hosting the return of the Ipswich Beer Festival.St Clement's Church is hosting the return of the Ipswich Beer Festival. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

The Festival opens at 5pm on Thursday and is open from noon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It closes at 10.30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 10pm on Sunday.

There is a £10 entrance fee on the first three days (or £18 for the whole weekend) and you can buy beer tokens to purchase the drinks on sale. 

Local food vendors will also be at the festival.