I was certainly in need of a drink when I arrived in Norwich on Friday evening after spending the previous five hours getting held up in numerous traffic jams. Me and my two drinking mates arrived at The Murderers for the 'Grain to Glass' evening organised as part of the Norwich City of Ale Festival. For me, the highlight of the evening was to be the beer tasting with the legendary Roger Protz.
Due to all the delays we missed the first part of the event and we entered when the man from Crisp Maltings was explaining how the barley is transformed into the malted form which is used by the brewer. My one criticism of the event was the background noise from the boisterous bar making it difficult to hear much of what was being said which was disappointing.
The beer tasting itself made up for the earlier disappointment. Six generous samples were provided and the first four all came from the Beeston Brewery of Kings Lynn. The frst sample was Squirrels Nuts, a 3.5% ABV mild. The first beer had plenty of roasted malts with coffee and chocolate notes. For a low-strength mild it had plenty of flavour.
Roger Protz clearly loves talking about beer and the many flavours that can be detected from both the aroma and the taste. He's a very good speaker and thankfully I was able to follow most of what was being said. When someone clearly knows what they are talking about my concentration levels go up and it is easier to listen to.
The second beer was called Bloomers, a 4.0% ABV pale golden ale. This beer was a sharp contrast to the first. There was plenty of citrus notes with strong lemony characteristics. There was a dryness to it and a clean refreshing finish. The third beer, Stirling, was a 4.5% ABV traditional best bitter with a rich fruitiness and some caramel and hints of chocolate. I did not catch the name of the final Beeston beer, a 4.8% pale ale, so it was probably The Dry Road. Not making notes I also have to rely on a somewhat hazy memory!!
The fifth beer came from the recently opened Lacons Brewery of Great Yarmouth. Roger was present at the opening and he gave us the history behind the original Lacons brewery, closed down by Whitbread in 1968 which put an end to more than 200 years of brewing history. Last week, after a few years of hard work and negotiation the name has been revived and brewing came back to Great Yarmouth using the original Lacons yeast. It was great to sample Encore, a 3.8% modern classic brewed with the Citra hop. It is simply delightful with a gentle grapefruit and lemon buzz. Highly refreshing and I have no doubt it will become a classic session bitter.
The final beer was called Crazy Horse, an 8% IPA from the Norfolk Square brewery. Described as an American IPA it was certainly crazy. I saw it on the bar earlier in the evening and I'm glad I had not ordered a pint of it. Brewed with three American hops I think these flavours were lost by the rich malty fruit flavours bursting through from all sides. To me it tasted more like a barley wine. It was just too rich to drink much of. It was certainly a very interesting end to the tasting session.
The Murderers is a superb pub and one that I am very familiar with. The Murderers is actually the pub's nickname due to a gruesome murder committed many years ago as the official name is The Gardeners Arms and the pub sign has a different name on each side. On Friday it was extremely lively and when I arrived I chose a pint of Junga (4.4% ABV) from the Grain Brewery. This was an excellent beer from their 'year of hops' series. Junga is a new hop variety from Poland. It was a rich brown colour with plenty of caramel notes along with a complex spicy character.
After the event was over we obtained another pint from the bar. I went for Polly's Folly (4.3% ABV) from the local Buffy's Brewery. This amber coloured ale was disappointing and my two friends agreed that it lacked any sort of flavour. Was this due to the rich complex beer we had just sampled? Whilst drinking the beer we met up with Nathaniel Southwood (Nate), a renowned beer blogger from Norwich. Nate confirmed he too was not a fan of the beer so it got a thumbs down from all of us.
Nate introduced us to Kevin from the local Golden Triangle Brewery. I had heard great things about their beer, Citropolis, that Nate was quick to tell me he had named. Kevin informed us where we would find it over the weekend so I was looking forward to finding out whether the name was suitable. He also informed us that a sample would be available at the brewers market next morning. This was part of our plans so with that news imparted to us we moved on to the Sir Garnet pub with Nate and his friend Alec for more beer.
The Sir Garnet is located in the centre of the city adjacent to the famous Norwich market. This pub was a bit of a dive when I lived in Norwich many years ago and I always avoided it. This multi-levelled pub has recently reopened after a refurbishment and we were all impressed with it. The ground floor bar was small and cosy with lots of people coming and going at this late hour. Three Norfolk beers were available and I chose a pint of Cabarrus Gold from the Ole Slewfoot Brewery (3.6% ABV). This was a delightful golden ale beautifully balanced.
The evening was completed with a pint of Lacons Encore (3.8% ABV). I was very keen to try this after sampling it at the beer tasting and the full pint did not disappoint in any way. It was a magnificent pint with lots of gorgeous citrus notes and it was my first 10/10 beer of the weekend. The citra notes were well balanced by a mellow fruitiness and a little earthiness. My opinion was backed up by my two friends who also gave it high praise.
The evening drew to a close as the midnight hour was struck and after a good sleep we would be raring to go again tomorrow.