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It was with great excitement that I planned my Wednesday crawl around Norwich. I was a student in Norwich many years ago and since then I haven’t really frequented the excellent fleet of pubs Norwich is blessed with. Furthermore, back then, I wasn’t the Real Ale aficionado I am today. So being a relative novice to the Norwich pub scene, I had high expectations for my day. Norwich certainly did not disappoint.
This was the third year of City of Ale. Its objectives as far as I can see are to promote pubs, real local ale and Norwich nationally as the place to indulge in these fine things. It is a 10 day event and isn’t just a selection of beer festivals but an opportunity to learn about beer through, tastings, meet the brewer events and food pairings. From what I saw yesterday, the City of Ale organisers are more than achieving their objectives.
So now onto my day. Getting into Norwich via the bus from Beccles I started at the King’s Arms on Hall Road. This Batemans pub offered a warm reception and 8 handpumps (3 of which were Batemans). I opted, perhaps bravely, to start the day with Oakham’s Green Devil IPA. Like many Oakham beers, there was a strong hoppiness. Yet also like many Oakham Ales, there is a depth of flavour and body that many hop heavy beers often lack.
I followed this by having a half of the King’s Arms own brew Mild. Sorry guys, I wasn’t a fan. But thanks for such a warm reception.
I then headed to the Murderers in the city centre. They had set up a dedicated festival bar to complement their already strong bar. My first half here was a Smoked Porter from Hoxne Brewery. Now this was only the second beer I have tried from Hoxne and already I am very impressed. I am looking at planning a visit to their brewery tap.
Following this, I enjoyed a festival special in Norfolk Harvest. A collaboration brew between Norfolk Brewhouse and Poppyland. This was a sweet golden with hints of honey and mint. It was well balanced by having a good bitter finish. I was very content with this beer.
I then moved onto Gunslinger from Yarmouth brewer stagecoach. This was a sweet golden which wasn’t too bad. My friend enjoyed the good Beast of the East IPA from Panther.
The atmosphere and the service in the Murderers was excellent. Thanks guys!
Our next stop was probably our only disappointment of the day. The Lamb inn. The festival beer was a selection of standard session bitters so we opted for All Day summer haze raspberry wheat beer. This was not impressive to my tastebuds. Ribena and Paracetamol came to mind!
So after leaving most of this beer we headed towards the cathedral. We enjoyed a swift half of Winters Revenge, which was a very satisfactory golden in Take 5. This bar had a relaxed feel with a fairly good beer selection.
We then moved onto the Wig and Pen where I enjoyed Humpty Dumpty’s City Hopper no. 18. Like an awful lot of Humpty Dumpty beers, this was a perfectly adequate session beer. This was followed by a rather flat half of Buffy’s India Ale – not overly impressive. Once again though, lovely, friendly service behind the bar.
We then went to the Ribs of Beef by the river. Here I enjoyed the excellent Golden Triangle Hop Lobster – A fantastic hoppy, golden ale. The beer list was strong here but unfortunately lunch was calling!
After lunch, recognising that we were able to achieve the Magdalen ale trail badge, we headed to Adam and Eve for a swift half of Theakston’s Old Peculiar. An old ale many know of. In terms of widely, commercially available beer, this is a favourite of mine.
We then headed across the river and went into the King’s Head. This also coincided with meeting up by chance with CAMRA members from my branch. Once again the beer list was strong and the traditional atmosphere and service was pleasant. I started off with Nethergate’s Magna Carta, a gorgeous rich old ale. This was followed by the very sessionable King’s Head Bitter from Winters.
We then moved onto the very hip and trendy yet very friendly Plasterers Arms. Here I enjoyed Jo C’s Knot Just Another IPA. This is a beer I have seen many places but had never before tried. I was impressed with the beer’s crisp. sweet taste. We could’ve stayed longer in the Plasterers but we opted instead to go and earn our trail badge so we headed around the corner to the Leopard.
This was a very smart, recently refurbished pub with a bright, friendly feel. I opted for Tombstone’s Stagecoach, which was a very impressive mild.
After this we started off on our long walk for the day towards the big player in real ale that is the Fat Cat. With their Scottish themed festival we opted for two beers. First was Strathaven Midnight Walk which was a rich, ruby coloured beer. This was followed by the strong coffee infused stout – Kelburn Cart Noir. Both beers were to a very good standard as was service at the bar, as the gentleman kindly let us choose our stout by sampling those available.
After the Fat Cat we walked back towards the city centre and into the Reindeer. One of the founding fathers of Norwich’s real ale scene, this pub did not disappoint. With our bellies now full of ale, we were gutted we lacked the energy to sample more. We opted for Marble’s Manchester Bitter, which was a proper, rewarding session bitter. It should also be noted that also on tap they had beers from Green Jack, Thornbridge and Elgoods amongst others.
We then headed for the Plough and had a half of the always quaffable Blackwood stout. As ever (the Plough is one of the Pubs in Norwich I have often attended), the Plough had an excellent atmosphere.
We then headed to the Vine. Here I made a poor choice by having a beer after my name. Christopher by Great Heck. Sorry guys, but I was not a fan of this beer whatsoever.
With my friend’s girlfriend kindly picking us up shortly we had time for one last half at the Sir Garnet on the market square. Unbelievably, we found St Peter’s Cream Stout on Cask! A great way to end our day.
So in conclusion, visiting all these Norwich pubs was a fabulous experience. The strength of Norwich’s pubs should be of envy to many towns and cities. I must stress that all of the pubs I visited I would be proud to call my local. All were friendly and the price of beer was very reasonable.
I look forward to many more years of visiting Norwich City of Ale.