Wednesday, 29 May 2013

City Of Ale Norwich - Saturday

It was going to be a long day.  Me and my two mates began with a Wetherspoons breakfast at the Bell Hotel.  Suitably refreshed, we headed for the brewers market outside the impressive Forum building in the centre of Norwich.  There was lots of jangling of bells and clashing of wooden batons from a team of morris dancers when we arrived and my first stop was to see Kevin from the Golden Triangle Brewery to sample their Citropolis.  It tasted suitably citrussy so I was determined to find a pint of it during the day.  There were about a dozen stands featuring Norfolk brewers offering samples and selling bottles of their various beers along with a City Of Ale stand selling glasses and giving out their excellent programme.  I sampled lots and went away with a bottle of Poppyland Dr Rudis New Zealand Saison (6.3% ABV), an Ole Slewfoot Citraville (3.9% ABV), a Norfolk Brewery Moon Gazer Ruby Ale (4.0% ABV), three from Grain Brewery and three from the Panther Brewery.  These will all be enjoyed and reviewed over the next few weeks.

It was now time for the beer festival to begin.  The excellent City of Ale programme contained details of 42 pubs which would be selling in excess of 200 beers from nearly 40 local breweries.  Plenty of venues to choose from and plenty of beers in each.  On top of all that, renowned Norwich beer blogger, Nate Southwood, had arranged a visit to Redwell Brewery in the afternoon for us so with that in mind the first couple of pubs were to the East of the city centre.

Both myself and Ian have worked at Aviva in the past so we know the city well.  My last work assignment here was in 1999 so it was going to be interesting to see how the pubs had changed and which ones had disappeared.  On my first assignment here back in 1989 I organised a Friday night pub crawl every week taking in five different pubs each time so my knowledge of the city pubs back then was pretty extensive.     

Trafford Arms

The Trafford Arms appears to have changed little over the years.  It is a comfortable locals pub away from the city but within easy walking distance of the busy St Stephens Street.  It was great to see two Lacons Ales beers available (Encore and Legacy) but I went for Winters Mild (3.5% ABV) from a local brewery situated on the outskirts of Norwich.  This was full of flavour with strong roast malts and coffee notes along with some caramel.  My friend Martin went for the Lacons Legacy (4.4% ABV) and a quick taste of this confirmed to me that this was also a winner alongside their Encore.  Other beers available included Adnams Lighthouse, Woodfordes Wherry, Oakhams Green Devil and Revolutions Manifesto.  A superb selection indeed.   

The Rose

Heading away from the city on Queens Road we came to the Rose.  This pub is a former Adnams house that was bought by Kevin and Dawn Hopkins in 2003 which they now run alongside the Ketts Tavern on the other side of the city as well as the Norwich Bear Brewing Co which supplies the beer to both pubs.  The Rose was always a good street-corner local convenient for Carrow Road and a bit of comfort has been added to it along with a recently installed micro-brewery.  The full range of Norwich Bear beers were available and I went for the Norwich Pale Ale (4.7% ABV).  This was a superb beer.  Golden in colour with a citrussy hoppiness it was beautifully balanced and very drinkable.  It turned out to be my best beer of the day.

We met Nate and his friend Alec at the Rose prior to our visit to Redwell Brewery and the lovely Dawn Hopkins dashed over from the Ketts to say hello.  With the Ketts Tavern on our list of pubs to visit later it would not be the last we would see of Dawn either.             

Redwell Brewery

From the Rose it was a reasonably short walk to the home of Redwell Brewing.  Here we met Stuart and Andrew Pickard, two beer lovers from Yorkshire.  The visit was a huge success and deserves a post all of its own so click here to read about this.

Coach and Horses
We had plenty to drink at Redwell Brewing so we were in need of a good walk back into town.  We headed towards the railway station and up Thorpe Road to find the home of the Chalk Hill Brewery within the Coach and Horses.  It was early evening now but the pub was buzzing.  The brewery opened in 1993 bringing back to life the pub that had been closed for a number of years.  I opted for a pint of Dreadnought (4.9% ABV).  It was quite a rich malty beer with a slight earthiness to it although the aftertaste I found to be a little dry.           

The Jubilee

The Jubilee has long been a favourite pub of mine and it is situated a short walk from the Coach and Horses in a largely residential area.  A street-corner local it has a small front bar leading into a back bar that has an adjoining conservatory where there was a pop-up shop with plenty of Woodfordes Brewery merchandise.  There were a couple of local beers available and I went for On The Huh, a 5.0% ABV beer from the Beeston Brewery.  It had a strong malty taste with a lovely smoothness to it.  A very nice beer.
The William IV

For some reason Nate took us into this pub next.  It had very few redeeming features and I had a lovely glass of water.

Ketts Tavern

From the William IV we headed down to the river and turned right to come to the Ketts Tavern where we were welcomed by Dawn Hopkins and a 90s disco.  I chose a pint of the Coffee Pawter (5.0% ABV), a festival special from the Norwich Bear Brewing Co.  The Ketts is a superb pub, much improved from how I remembered it under previous ownerships in the 1990s.  The front bar is spacious and we retreated away from the disco to the relaxing conservatory at the back which overlooks a delightful garden.  My favourite pub of the day.

Plasterers Arms

Stuart and Andrew Pickard had a few more days in Norwich so left us after the Ketts Tavern for an early night.  The rest of us headed round the inner ring-road to the next roundabout where we turned right into a quiet backstreet.  The Plasterers Arms is a great pub in Cowgate, a quiet road slightly away from the busy Anglia Square and it has a massive cask ale selection alongside craft and bottled beers but we all chose the Citropolis (3.8% ABV) from the Golden Triangle brewery.  This was the beer that Nate named and we were able to tell him what an excellent name it was for such a lovely citrussy hoppy pale bitter.  This was the beer I was looking forward to the most and it did not disappoint.  It sent Nate to sleep but we woke him up in time to make one last stop.

Norwich Taphouse

We were hoping to visit the Ribs of Beef but it was closed (it was nearly midnight) so we went to Nate's local where we were served once the guy behind the bar realised who we were with!!  This new modern craft beer bar was still fairly busy and it was fitting that we should end the day with a Redwell Steam Lager.

The City of Ale turned out to be a fantastic event.  Myself and my two mates have visited the Great British Beer Festival virtually every year since the mid 1980s.  This year we decided to try this event as an alternative (due to me booking a holiday during the GBBF later this year).  We all concluded that a beer festival spread across an entire city is a much more enjoyable event.  Beer festivals often preach to the converted but these kind of events can take beer to a wider audience as well as giving pubs much needed support.  Cask beer is also a drink that is always best when consumed within a pub that knows how to keep and serve it.  City of Ale is now an established event in Norwich.  It would be great to see similar events in cities all over the country.

Happy drinking.

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