Have you visited the best pub in the Ipswich area yet?
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
With the Christmas break just around the corner, there’s no better way to spend a chilly winter day than down at a cosy pub, trying a number of tasty ales and beers on tap.
And one Stowmarket hostelry is the most definitely the place to be if you fancy yourself quite the ale aficionado.
The Walnut on Violet Hill Road is a one-stop-shop for all things hoppy and good, with owner Ivan Sheldrake priding it on being a no-frills establishment.
“We’re a community-style pub with a large choice of beer, and we’re led by the beer. There’s no food, and we removed all of the peripherals so there’s no television, no dartboard, no pool table, no music, and no jukebox – just good beer and good conversation.”
Originally from Stowmarket, Ivan, along with his wife Helen Sheldrake, took over The Walnut just before the Covid-19 pandemic, having previously run a pub in Market Harborough.
“I’ve always been interested in beer and real ale, and when the opportunity came up to take over this pub, I saw a gap in the market that wasn’t being filled in Stowmarket, which was a focus real ale and craft beer.”
The pair have since gone on to win a number of awards during that time thanks to their wide selection of beers and traditional atmosphere.
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“Last year, we won three CAMRA awards in the Ipswich & East Suffolk category - Branch Pub of the Year, Pub of the Year and Cider Pub of the Year,” he explains.
“We won the latter as we have around six or seven real ciders on tap at all times – think flat, proper ciders.”
Ivan’s handful of real ciders join anywhere between 10 and 16 rotating cask ales and beers that are always on tap.
But what is it he loves about the stuff so much?
“Beer is such an excellently complex product,” he says.
“From only four ingredients – grain, hops, yeast, and water – there's so much variety and so many different flavour profiles you can get. A slight change in any of those ingredients or processes gives you so many places to go. It’s much more complex than wine.
These complexities mean there’s always something on offer at The Walnut, no matter what your preference is.
“We’ve got ales that are quite bitter, pale, dark, or hoppy. We’ve got ones that are brown, ones that look like orange juice, and ones that are ruby in colour. We’ve even got a milk stout on tap at the moment that’s like neapolitan ice cream. There’s just so much variety you can have.”
But be sure to head down sooner rather than later, as Ivan adds: “Our beers change every time they run out - so in a week’s time, everything will be completely different!”
Ivan’s top 10 current beers on tap
1. Beyond The Firs by Burnt Mill Brewery. 4.8%.
“An easy drinking modern classic from this Suffolk brewery, this pale hoppy brew has notes of pine.”
2. The Dunkel by Anspach & Hobday. 5.8%.
“This is a dark lager with a smooth malty finish.”
3. Mild Concussion by Fixed Wheel. 5.5%.
"A beautiful ruby mild made from gentle malts, it’s easy drinking but packs a punch at 5.5%.”
4. Centennial Pale by Kernel. 5.3%.
“This single hop pale ale showcases the Centennial hop with pine, citrus and floral notes.”
5. Campania by Liverpool Brewing. 5.2%.
“A Neopolitan ice cream milk stout, all the flavours are there - chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. It’s pretty much a liquid ice cream beer!”
6. JW Lees - Plum Pudding. 4.8%.
“Christmas in a glass, this is a ruby ale with subtle plum and spice flavours.”
7. Tropical Storm by Black Storm. 4.2%.
“This one’s a big citrus blast of a pale ale.”
8. Sleepy Joes by Wild Weather. 4.2%.
“A classic, easy drinking best bitter.”
9. Fresh Hop Heathen by Abbeydale. 4.1%.
“Made with American hops that are frozen at source and not dried, this beer has the really fresh flavours that can only come from green hops.”
10. Bingle Jells by Mighty Oak. 5.2%.
“This one’s a strong, complex ale in the extra special bitter style.”