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Anyone who has visited Southwold on the Suffolk Coast will know that the fresh sea air is regularly tinctured by fine malty clouds spilling out of the Adnams Sole Bay Brewery and wafting their way into town. And for many, that familiar smell of brewing beer will always evoke fond memories of a Southwold summer.
Adnams beer on Southwold beachBeer lovers will enjoy drinking Adnams by the sea in Southwold
Photo (c) Adnams
Being a small seaside town, the brewing history and culture can be felt very strongly in Southwold. Adnams beer is drunk by everyone, everywhere: sipped by the sea at the Lord Nelson, or washed down with a meal at The Crown, Suffolk’s best dining pub; each time with the pleasing knowledge that the beer has been brewed just metres away.
This is not a new way of life for Southwold. There has been a brewery on the site where Adnams now stands since Johanna de Corby and 17 other Southwold alewives brewed and sold beer there in 1345 (a practice that ultimately led to them being prosecuted for breaking the ale assize).
It was in 1872 that George and Ernest Adnams bought the site and gave their name to what was then the Sole Bay Brewery, and Southwold started to grow into the beer town it is today. Powerful brewery dray horses pulled carts packed with beer barrels through the streets, and Adnams became an integral part of Southwold’s community, even rolling out a spectacular contribution to King George’s Jubilee parade in 1935.
Brewery drey pulls cart in Southwold (c) Adnams

Brewery dreys used to transport Adnams beer around Southwold
Photo (c) Adnams

Back to today and Adnams has never been busier. You would never guess it from the unobtrusive Victorian exterior, but the Adnams Sole Bay Brewery is one of the most advanced breweries in the UK. Behind the traditional façade is a shining maze of brewing equipment that produces many of the UK’s most loved beers, including Adnams Broadside, Southwold Bitter and Ghost Ship. And, with their state-of-the-art machinery Adnams also manages to be one of the greenest breweries in the country, recycling heat and turning waste into biogas.
Many visitors to Southwold come specifically for a tour of the brewery, several of which run every day. To see tour times and dates and how to book, click here.
When in Southwold, one of the best places for beer lovers to stay is The Swan Hotel. It’s right next to the brewery, and the charming old 4-star hotel has been welcoming guests for over 350 years with big, comfy sofas, beautiful rooms and great food.
The Swan Hotel Southwold (c) The Local People Photo ArchiveThe Swan Hotel is at the centre of Southwold life
Photo (c) The Local People Photo Archive
In times gone by many of the guests at The Swan were Adnams brewers and engineers. The Master Brewer was given his or her own house in Southwold, just behind The Swan, overlooking East Green and the Lighthouse. They would live there with their families, walking just a few metres to work every morning.
Today you can live the life of a Master Brewer by staying at the Brewer’s House, which can be rented throughout the year. The historic cottage is decorated to reflect its coastal surroundings, and sleeps eight comfortably. Though self-catering, the Brewer’s House is still part of The Swan, so you can order room service and daily housekeeping (okay, so not quite the life of a Southwold master brewer, but a nice life nonetheless)!


If you love beer and everything about it, you'll enjoy reading our Curious History of Brewing in Suffolk and The Ultimate Suffolk Beer Guide. And if you've found a great Suffolk pub or discovered a new Suffolk tipple, why not tell us about it via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?