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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Norwich City of Ale: Event Picks

It’s just a couple of days now until the launch of the second City of Ale event in Norwich.

There are a lot of events and beers listed in the programme, so I thought I’d choose what I think will be some of the highlights of the festival. Let me know what you’re looking forward to, and what you enjoyed when you went along. There are lots of music events, pub quizzes and the like, but I thought I would choose to highlight parts of the programme which are a bit more unusual.

31st May – Official Launch Party at St Gregory’s, this is a ticketed event, where you get nibbles, beer and music, should be good fun with a lot of the local brewers and landlords going along. I attended this last year as a brewery, I think this is the first time it’s open to the public as well.

Throughout the Festival – The Forum is hosting a film show on it’s impressive Fusion screen, which depicts Norwich brewing past and present. There are also talks and historical walks taking place over the 10 day festival if you want to learn more.

1st June – The Political Debate at St Gregory’s. Free to attend Three MPs are confirmed for the Political Debate on Friday 1st June – Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield and Shadow Pubs Minister; Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North and Economic Secretary To The Treasury; and Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat MP for Norwich South. The fourth member of the panel is Tim Hampson (@BeerHero on twitter) beer writer. BBC East’s David Whiteley will be chairing the debate, which will focus on pubs and brewing.

2nd June – The Brewers Market – Outside the Forum – a chance to buy bottles from your favourite breweries, sample some of the beers and local produce.

6th June – Ladies Beer Tasting – at the Ketts Tavern – Ok, so I may have a hand in this one with landlady Dawn, but it will be a fun evening with lots of different beers to try along with a few nibbles, it’s aimed at those who don’t drink beer as well as those who’d like to learn a bit more; the best news? That it’s a free event, but make sure you book in advance.

7th June – Tapas Night at The Cottage – Sally the landlady has lived in Spain, and creates delicious authentic tapas. Booking will be essential for this one, as it’s really popular.

8th June – Dirty Burger BBQ – The Plough – Probably just what you’ll need after a week of beer drinking in the city.

These are just a tiny selection of what will be on, there are so many events on each day that you will be really spoilt for choice as to what to go along to. I really recommend that you make the effort and get along to Norwich, the one thing that makes these kind of events great is the people who attend.

Let me know what your hight lights of the festival were and what you’d like to see more/less of next time!

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Four Beers… a response

I read with interest today the blog of Boak and Bailey, where a friend of theirs had been on holiday to Norfolk, and brought back some small brewery beers for them to try. Three of which were undrinkable, the fourth certainly poor. It saddened me to think that this is what is representing Norfolk beer outside of the county. While I admit, there are beers I have bought here that I would describe as ‘past their best’ to put it kindly – though I doubt there is a county that doesn’t have these kind of breweries – we also have some amazing beers and breweries.

I thought that perhaps I could highlight some of the best beers from the region, and see if they might change their minds about our ‘exploitative, gift-shop, tourist-trap beers.’ Whilst I myself have called Norfolk conservative in it’s brewing industry, times are changing. One of our most successful beers was our 5.8% – Jiggle Juice IPA, heaped with citra hops. Whilst that’s not particularly earth shattering these days, there was nothing like that a couple of years ago here in Norfolk when it was born.

The beers I’ve highlighted here, are in no particular order, or style, I’m as much as a fan of a really good bitter than I am imperial stout, but here are a few that might just make people thing twice about Norfolk being poor or resting on it’s tourist laurels when it comes to brewing.

Probably our biggest brewer in the region is Woodforde’s. Their Wherry (a previous champion beer of Britain) is a lovely pint of bitter. When you find a fresh barrel on in a pub, there are few better bitters. Their Sundew a  great golden ale for sunshine drinking. However, their Nip is something else. An 8.5% beer served in a tradtional ‘nip’ size, these limited edition and numbered bottles contain a really special beer. If you like deep dried fruit flavours, with hints of liquorice and treacle, you’ll love this.

Another brewery I’d recommend trying would be Grain. Since opening in 2006, they’ve won numerous awards for their beers. Try Oak for a traditional English Bitter, the porter is delicious and has just won Norfolk beer of the year. Consistently good beers. Not all are bottle conditioned,  some are cold filtered.

Humpty Dumpty are a must, another multi-award winning brewery. Their Porter is all dark malt deliciousness, and the Little Sharpie bitter a light and clean beer.

I was also surprised to see much condemnation of bottle conditioned ales, pointed at small breweries – not from Boak and Bailey themselves. Comments on their blog posts suggesting that micros bottle conditioned offerings are ‘muck’ I feel a quite a way off the mark – and missing the main reason why a lot of these breweries bottle condition their beers in the first place. It’s far easier to contract out the bottling of your beer, to get them cold filtered/pasteurised and such like. It’s less hassle and can sometimes be cheaper. However, a lot of these little breweries rely on CAMRA to help publicise them, they wont get that help if they’re not bottle conditioned, they’re not allowed to enter competitions or be on ale trails. Several of the ‘real ale’ shops here will simply just not stock your beer if it’s not bottle conditioned. Some of these breweries can be more nano than micro – and just too small for the contract bottlers to take on. When bottle conditioning is done right, it can be brilliant, while it takes practise to perfect it, I do feel it’s worth the persistence for these small local breweries. I wonder if the beers in the original blog post would have been just as poor if they had been filtered.

I’d like to know what you think are the best Norfolk beers around, which you’ve enjoyed and which you’d pass on next time… ?