Green Jack Brewery - Silver Award Winner in Champion Beer of Britain 2018

Green Jack Brewery gate

This week has seen the 2018 Great British Beer Festival, and the announcement of the Champion Beer of Britain. Of course the headlines have been grabbed by Siren's Broken Dream; I have only had the pleasure of drinking this once, but it certainly was a great pleasure and I am sure it is a worthy winner. However, here in Suffolk, we have also been rather proud of our own Green Jack for winning Silver with their barleywine - Ripper. So it is a happy coincidence that I visited the brewery just last week for a tour with my son.

Green Jack is a rather special brewery to me for a number of reasons; I have used their wonderful swing top bottles for my homebrew, they have kindly given me brewing recipe tips, and they are partly, and indirectly, responsible for me getting into beer blogging in the first place, and of course because I often enjoy their beers. So I was very pleased to be able to tour the brewery, especially as they were able to fit me in at a time when they wouldn't normally be running a tour. 

Head brewer, Darren Fowle, explains the basics to my son

Darren was deep inside the copper when we arrived, but he very kindly interrupted his cleaning schedule to show us around, and tell us all about how the brewery works.

Green Jack, in its current guise*, started brewing just 15 years ago in 2003. Darren explained that Tim Dunford had been talking to him about brewing at the back of the Triangle Tavern, owned by Tim, and where Darren was a regular. According to Darren he, rather drunkenly, volunteered to be the brewer despite having no brewing experience! He was rather taken aback when Tim reminded him of the conversation some days later and made a serious job offer to him. Whether by luck or judgement, they have made it work, and Green Jack enjoys an admirable reputation locally.

The original brewkit was just 10 barrels. This was upgraded to a 35 barrel kit (bought from Oakhams) five years later, when the brewery moved half a mile from the Triangle to an old Victorian fish smokery. Compared to some breweries the set up is rather small and cramped, but out of this small unit, tucked away behind rows of terraced houses, comes a steady stream of excellent beer.

Darren explains that water volumes for mashing and sparging are measured by a system of pegs on the side of the Hot Liquor Tank.

Although they brew only twice a week, Green Jack maintain a core range of ten beers (including a barleywine, an export stout, and a smoked ale) as well as eleven seasonal beers. Ripper (an 8.5% barley wine) is no stranger to awards, having won the Champion Winter Beer just six months ago and in 2007, when it also won a bronze award in the Champion Beer of Britain contest. If you haven't come across Ripper then it is very well described by Des de Moor on his website.

Far be it from me to question the judgement of the CAMRA tasting panel, but personally I prefer some of Green Jack's other beers. Baltic Trader (10.5% Export Stout) is one of my all time favourite beers, with rich coffee and vanilla flavours and a wonderfully full and smooth body. This was the beer the led me into a discussion with Boak and Bailey, where they prompted me to consider blogging myself. Red Herring (5% Rauchbier), a deliciously fruity, smoked, red ale, presumably named with a nod to the history of the brewery building, is another beer that I will drink any time that I see it. 

An impressive range at the Triangle, and all in excellent condition

After spending almost an hour with Darren in the brewery itself, we made our way to the nearby Triangle Tavern to sample the beers. In fact, I have drunk them all before - at least all that were on offer that day, there are just three Green Jack beers that I haven't had the pleasure to drink so far. Despite having eight cask beers on at once, they were all in very good condition. The Triangle is clearly a popular and well run pub.

Triangle Tavern, Lowestoft

It is very much a 'proper pub', with wooden floors, bench seating and a plethora of breweriana - much of it from long since closed Norfolk breweries. On a midweek lunchtime it was rather quiet and we were left to ourselves as we drank our beers. 

Belgian beer, a vinyl night, and live music are also features

It was only as we were having a last nose around the pub before leaving, that we got talking to two locals. Both were very friendly, and were keen to tell us what a great pub the Triangle is, with its range of beers and regular live music. If you find yourself anywhere near Lowestoft, then I would heartily recommend dropping into the Triangle, which is often listed in the Good Beer Guide.

* Tim Dunford had brewed under the Green Jack name, with business partner David Bird, from 1993 to 2001. However, he had been out of the brewing trade for a couple of years when he started the current Green Jack Brewery.

Full Disclosure: Green Jack very kindly gave me my tour without charge. This has not affected my view of the brewery, or what I have had to say about it in this blog.


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