Tolly Cobbold's Cliff Brewery – Ipswich

Thomas Cobbold opened his first brewery in Harwich in 1723. The water there was rather salty, which didn’t make for a good ale. So he shipped it in from Ipswich – just up ther river. In 1746 he left Harwich and built a brewery in Ipswich.

In 1894 he (well, his descendants) rebuilt the brewery to meet increased demands – there were over 300 public houses in Ipswich at the time.

After a few name changes/mergers, it closed in 1989, only to re-open in 1990 after a successful management buyout. The brewery started brewing again, and in 1996 celebrated it’s 250th anniversary – quite an acheivement! After the buyout, it was also opened up as a working museum to try and improve it’s profitability. In 2002 it finally closed (again) and the wonderful machinery inside has succumbed to pigeon droppings. There are rumours of re-opening it though…

Outside

This neo-Gothic building looks amazing. It was built by Cobbold’s own people rather than local builders – he trusted them more.

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Loading area

This was the first area we saw – our trip was, seemingly, the brewing process in reverse.

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Steam engine

In the basement of the brewery lurks a massive steam engine.

The horizontal steam engine that was used to pump water from the adjacent well up to the top of the building and also to work all the brewery’s machinery was built by the Ipswich firm of E.R.& F. Turner, well known as milling engineers.

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Barrelling area

This will be where they filled barrels up with ale. I’m not quite sure what the nautical-style wheels were for.

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Offices & Laboratory

The Head Brewer’s office, and some laboratories used for testing the produce.

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Blue room

This room was really unusual – you can probably see why in the pics below – it was blue! There were around nine fermentation vats in here. The blue tint is there because it is believed direct sunlight can effect the brewing process – this is also why ale can usually be found in brown or green bottles.

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Copper

I don’t even know what this is, but they’re called “coppers” and are instrumental in the brewing process. I think hops are put into them for some reason.

The short fat one on stilts is “an original boiling copper from the Harwich brewery of 1723, used as a sugar dissolving vessel at the Cliff Brewery“.

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I’m beginning to love control rooms – everywhere I go they seem different.

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Mash Tun

The mash tun, in which the starch and the ground malt or grist was broken down into sugars.

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Hop Room

This room was like a mini museum in itself. All about hops; how they’re grown; what they do; what viruses they get; what they look like etc. Quite interesting stuff.

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Malt Mill

The malt mill at the Cliff Brewery in which the carefully selected malts were ground for the next day’s brew.

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The Roof

Splendid views of Ipswich docks were to be had from up here. There was also a rather nice windvane dating back to when the building was built – 1894.

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Bottles

Being an old brewery, there must’ve been some sort of old beer lying around – right? Right!

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Other stuff

These bits don’t quite fit in anywhere…

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20 Responses to Tolly Cobbold's Cliff Brewery – Ipswich

  1. Lightbuoy says:

    Some more nice pics there buddy! Interesting facts & info too -cheers!

    Lb.

  2. Great site and thanks for shedding so much light on such dark places. Always wanted to know what was on the inside, cheers!

  3. Tim - f/ Canada says:

    This is a beautiful site.

    Great for a micro brew operation.

  4. Enrico says:

    I worked there in the 1970s, and my father and grandfather spent most of their working lives there. I have not been in that area for a few years – is it just locked up empty and unused now please?

  5. MikeMcG says:

    I love that this place seems soon to have a new lease of life – I mentioned it on here recently & now the owners are linking back to this site!

    http://www.cliffquay.co.uk

    They’re reopening the pub & brewing on the microbrewery, with plans for some educational side too.

  6. Tony Green says:

    The “nautical-style wheels” appear to be yeast presses. Spent yeast would be put between filter plates and compressed by turning the wheels in order to squeeze as much liquid as possible out of it.

    Some good news about the building, it’s been taken on by Earl Soham Brewery, who have installed a ten barrel brewplant in it which they started brewing with this month (February 2009). They’ve recruited Jeremy Moss, who was head brewer at Wychwood, to brew there.

    Obviously a ten barrel plant won’t fill the whole building, but it’s a good start.

  7. imogen says:

    does anyone know what the deal is now with the brewery? would really love to go back there, possibly for an architecture project. the best exploration iv ever done.

  8. Mr Waverly says:

    I believe that a lot of the historic copper and brass piping was removed by those light-fingered kings of the road. At night. In silence. Tons of the stuff. The Thieving Bastards!

  9. MATT says:

    NOW THE SITE AND PUB HAS BEEN TAKEN OVER AGAIN BUT IT WILL NEVER B AS GOOD AS WHEN IT WAS TOLLY COBBOLD AND IT WAS BRAIN COWIES PRIDE AND JOY R.I.P BRAIN YOU WERE A FANTASTIC BLOKE

  10. mike says:

    I’m the new landlord of The Tap and would love any info anyone has out there on The Tap. I’ve got hold of loads of old Tolly pub signs which are being cleaned up and will be up in the pub soon.

  11. n morrell says:

    I have a tolly cobbold nude ladie oval mirror. we are both retired licencee and managed to get a few mirrors’ but this one is unusal as its jut plan glass with no frame

  12. David Gilmour says:

    ER & F Turner who built the steam engine was a company run by Edward Rush Turner and his younger brother Frederick. My great grandfather, Leonard Turner, nephew to Edward and Frederick, was works director for the firm which employed 600 men by the outbreak of the Great War. The company is still going strong in Ipswich as part of Christy-Turner.

  13. gina burford says:

    i have an old bottle with the name on it that was brought up from a river near there. on it it says cobbold & co brewers, ipswich. it is green and has barnicales on it.was just wondering how old it might be. thank you plus i have family in ipswich.

  14. Peter Sutton says:

    I worked as a telephone engineer in 70s.Is it possible to visit the site is there a museum

  15. George Rader says:

    I was serving with the USAF at RAF Bentwaters in 1976 – 1978. I fell in love with Tolly, I loved the Brown Ale. I have never found a beer as good as a cool pint Tolly Cobbold. I certainly hope they make a come back.

  16. Hi there, My husband is from the Tollemache Clan and i know for a fact that he would love to visit and have a Tolly beer. We are travelling over to London early April 2011 with our 10 yr old son (we are New Zealanders but are expats living in Singapore). Any chance we can come for a visit? Many thanks Sandy

  17. Pingback: Tolly Cobbold’s Cliff Brewery « ExtremeGroundhopping

  18. Rika Nauck says:

    Thank you so much for posting those pictures. During a lovely Sunday stroll along the marina I stumbled across this magnificent building, although I am living here for more than 10 years, and I remember signs advertising a brewery museum when we moved here. I always regretted to not have done the tour and here you posted the pictures. Fantastic! Unfortunately everything is closed down now, it is grade II listed and hence not easy to develop. If I would just have the money… :o)
    I found another link explaining the history in a bit more detail http://www.tollycobbold.co.uk/cliffbrewery.htm

    Thanks again for posting!
    Rika

  19. S Smith says:

    Explored it today and compared my photos to ones taken just 4 years and quite frankly it sickens and disgusts me how this building has just been left to ruin because it’s a grade 2 listed building, that doesn’t make sense at all, surely its better to do something with it than nothing and just let it crumble to the ground but then I suppose its the mentality of our council…..

  20. Bob Anderson says:

    When I was stationed at RAF Bentwaters in the 1970’s, I was introduced to the Tolly Cobold line of beers. In particular, was a beer that was fantastic with food; the name was “Cobolnut” (forgive my spelling if not correct). I’ve been searching for years to see if it is still available anywhere. Would you please make my Christmas and tell me where I may aquire this astonishing brew. Thank You

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