Rob Martin, owner of Ipswich Ale Brewery, stained each of the tables in his new restaurant by hand to get the color just right. The wide, dark wood tables—many of which are perfectly positioned in front of vast windows displaying the brewery’s massive holding tanks—were built in-house, as was just about every other aspect of Ipswich Ale Brewer’s Table, from the display racks holding logoed merchandise to the granite curbstone that runs the length of the bar as a foot rest.
Creating a restaurant that honors the well-regarded craft beer brand, which marked its 25th anniversary this year, was no small task. After all, Ipswich Ale was a prescient forerunner of the craft beer craze, and to this day, the beers are brewed only as distributors order them and they are stamped with a shelf life. “No preservatives” means the beers expire 90 days after bottling. Perhaps that’s why Myles Eason—who performs the delicate balancing act of managing the front of the house and overseeing the kitchen—doesn’t use a freezer (except for ice cream). Everything, from the 400 to 500 Brewer’s Burgers the kitchen serves weekly to the seafood for spicy BT Fish Stew, arrives fresh.
The menu offers both classic pub fare and some seriously elevated cuisine. Start with a snack of deviled eggs: the trio of hard-boiled egg halves looks innocent enough, but each is filled with a robust tasty treat—one redolent of truffles, one with bacon and blue cheese, and a third with a spicy Asian combo of miso and Sriracha. For a heartier dish, try the pot roast poutine, a New England take on the Canadian staple of French fries, gravy, and cheese curd, topped in this case with savory brisket in gravy and stretchy cheddar curds from Pineland Farms in Maine.
Follow that with a Caesar salad worthy of the name—the Charred Caesar towers above the plate with a head of romaine lettuce, cleaved in half and lightly grilled, then draped with anchovies and dressed with a house-made lemony parmesan dressing.
Eason’s background includes a stint at Legal Seafoods, which informed his deft handling of seafood like the tender stuffed calamari and medley of scallops, mussels, scallops, haddock, and salmon that make up the spicy BT Fish Stew. Its heat comes from a generous portion of andouille sausage, which is laced with brown rice—one might liken it to a soupy New Orleans jambalaya. Landlubbers and grazers will enjoy the sampler of colorful shepherd’s pies. The pies arrive in three petite ramekins, each with a different meat and potato: hearty lamb paired with a purple potato topping, rich beef with a Yukon Gold topping, and savory turkey topped with sweet potatoes.
Despite being at ground level, the industrial space has a subterranean, late-night feel—all of the windows look into the brewery, and during business hours, a seat by the bottling line can be exciting. A large bar arcs the span of one wall, a striking chandelier—made onsite—hangs overhead with its 74 Edison bulbs. Holding some of the taps is a miniature version of the Ipswich “Tapmobiles,” familiar to anyone who has attended an outdoor event around the North Shore. The 1947 International panel van, hauled out of a Virginia woodland, was originally destined to join the company’s fleet of beer dispensers, but when it was deemed too damaged, it was cleaned up and showcased from behind the bar. In order to fit back there, eight feet were sliced out of the middle, giving the vehicle a sort of mod-Mini look.
The bar features 15 taps, including several beers that are only available at the brewery. A recent visit included Blueberry Shandy, a light, fruity, and slightly sour offering, and a barley wine, which could be paired with a special cheese plate. The restaurant offers frequent special pairings, and hopes to cast a spotlight on local food purveyors like Valley View Farm in Topsfield and Appleton Farms in Ipswich.
Not surprisingly, Ipswich Brewer’s Table is strictly about beer—don’t expect wine or cocktails. But there is a dessert drink: Enjoy the company’s handcrafted soda with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or go all in with the Ipswich Ale Oatmeal Stout Ice Cream Float, an apt end to dinner in a working brewery.