ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Adieu, St Jude

I'm aware that I've blogged rather a lot about pubs and beer lately, and deviated a bit from my original intention to mix things up by alternately interspersing recipes and restaurant reviews'n'shit here and there, so as to ensure a constant stream of variety.

Well - sadly for those strange folks who aren't at all interested in beer - this is going to be yet another beery one because I heard some rather sad news last night.

The patron saint of lost caus
The St Jude's Brewery Tavern in Ipswich is closing. This Sunday.

And it's one of the best pubs you'll ever find.

It was the undoubted highlight of my last visit to Ipswich just over a year ago - shortly after the place opened - and I feel a bit like I've just lost a relative who I didn't visit as often as I perhaps should've.

A little bit of background: I lived on the west side of Ipswich for many years and moved away in 2009, before the tavern opened. But I was there when St Jude's started brewing, in tiny, quirky, backstreet premises and I got to know the owner/brewer/visionary Frank fairly well. And his appalling jokes. And his excellent beer.

Ironically I first met him in another truly great former pub on the west side of Ipswich - the Rose and Crown - to which he supplied beers like John Orford's Strong Chocolate Malt and St. Mary's Stout. He invited me round to see his brewery the following day and plied me with free beer. That's Frank. Always generous. Always cracking bad jokes.

The closure of the Rose and Crown felt like losing a limb, and the loss of St Jude's will hurt too, even though I don't live locally and thus haven't been able to make it my local. God knows what the regulars must be going through right now. It's ironic that Jude is the patron saint of lost causes.

Located just around the corner from where I once lived, I'd probably never have left the place had it opened while I was still there.

Although in a converted photographer's studio, it's styled after the taverns of old London town.

Wall of beer!
The philosphy is simple: a vast 'wall of beer' on gravity and kitch, gothic decor that makes the place feel like a ghost train or haunted fun house for adults. The staff all know their stuff and there are no handpumps and no keg beer at all.

There is plenty of space for some cracking guest ales in addition to regular beers from the St Jude's brewery and the pub is as friendly as it is quirky. Paradise.

So sad it ends

Unfortunately Frank is now suffering from health problems and the opening of a second St Jude's pub in Felixtowe didn't go as planned, closing just a couple of months after opening, adding financial problems to his health concerns.

Gloriously, Tastelessly Gothic!
The way I see it, Frank got pretty much everything right, which makes it all the more heartbreaking that somehow things haven't worked out. He certainly doesn't deserve this.

Despite being a justified success in it's own right, fate has conspired against the St Jude's brewery tavern, but it's got to be worth one last visit.

I've rearranged my weekend plans to make the trip up to Ipswich for a few beers, and to toast Frank and his wife Colleen who made this dream happen, if only for a short while. 

I might even offer up a prayer to St Jude.

If you're anywhere near the Ipswich area this weekend, I'd strongly recommend doing the same.

There might never be another pub like this! 

NOTE: photos here have been taken from the St Judes Brewery Tavern Facebook group.

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