Bury St. Edmunds – 2 brewpubs, 1 b&b, 2x GK pubs, and a trip to The Apex

It was a significant birthday for me at the beginning of March. Not one of the mahoosive ones, as the half century passed five years ago. But #55 is significant, as pubs do special 55+ lunch deals (not on the alcohol sadly).

So a trip away for a couple of days was in order, and thanks to the wonders of the Interwebs, at the back end of last year I booked us in to see The Unthanks at The Apex in Bury St. Edmunds, and two nights at The Old Cannon Brewery in the town : it’s a brasserie, bar, brewery and B&B, and that’s a lot of B’s which hit the spot. (Visit their website here.

It was an easy drive from Colchester to Bury St Edmunds up the A12 and around the A14, if we ignored the speed limit on the A12 at the moment, and the skies which turned very very black and had us driving through a sleetstorm for 5 miles.

The Old Cannon was easy enough to find, in a quiet residential area only 5 minutes from the town square. Previously the St Edmunds Head, the Old Cannon was taken over by Hannah and Garry Clark over 15 years ago, although walking in to the pub you would think it was a much more recent conversion, so smart is it. Pride of place go to two huge copper brewing vessels, and the ceiling in the room in front of the bar has been removed and on what it left of the floor above you can see the mash tun and some loft-ladder type arrangement to get up there.

The pub is plenty big enough, tastefully decorated, with lots of nooks and crannies. There’s parking out back, and the B&B accommodation is in the old brewhouse next door, and was top notch. The bottle of beer in the room to welcome residents was a nice touch (especially as it was their stout!). We went on a 2-night deal that had dinner thrown in – that is, part of the price, as it was delivered by hand quite politely. A poached egg and smoked fishcake starter, and then fish and chips went down nicely, accompanied by a pint of their Gunner’s Daughter, a 5.5% not too hoppy bitter. There were a couple of their own beers on tap, and a couple of guests, but no dark beers, and the need for a dark beer had us heading out that first evening looking for somewhere else to drink.

That turned to be The Beerhouse (visit their website here), who brew their beer in a shed in their yard. It’s a fascinating building, curved on the front, it’s a full quarter of a circle, so that each end of the long bar is at right angles to each other. Stripped pine floors, a no-nonsense pub, with some cribbage action about to start. Half a dozen beers on tap, but again no dark beers! Mighty Oak’s ‘Plasticine Porter’ was up next, and give the landlord his due, when he saw my sad little face deprived of dark ale, he did take the time to pop down to the cellar to see if the barrel was ready. It wasn’t , so I consoled myself with their Brewshed Best Bitter, which was more than quaffable.

The following day gave us little chance for beer drinking, as other touristy things had to be done. We passed The Nutshell, the famous teeny-weeny little pub on the market square (GK IPA and Abbot on tap, so we didn’t pop in). However, at lunchtime we nipped into The Mason’s Arms, a tastefully decorated GK Pub (with a glass panel in the floor to view the cellar), as they were advertising the availability of the Greene King ‘Suffolk Porter’. Probably the first pint of GK I’ve had in two years, and if I closed my eyes I could have been drinking an Adnams porter, so good was it.

The Apex venue didn’t appear to have any decent beers on, so it was an OJ in the bar listening to Tilly Dalglish before we headed into the main hall to listen to The Unthanks. Ideally I’d round this review off by saying it was the best gig I’d seen in years, but truth be told it was one of the most disappointing – over-produced and hiding the girls’ voices, and a set that was about as uplifting as a Leonard Cohen one – no memorable tunes to hum on the way out!