With the 2016 Norwich Beer Festival just around the corner (24 – 29 October), Belinda Jennings, head brewer at local award-winning brewery Woodforde’s, shares her tips and tricks for what to try and keep an eye out for this year. So whether you’re a beer connoisseur or a real novice, you’re learning from the expert here – listen up!
Image: Woodforde's beer
Norwich is a city with an incredible beer scene, debatably one of the best in the UK. The city hosts two key beer celebrations every year; City of Ale celebration (in May) and The Norwich Beer Festival (in October), which attracts hundreds of revellers across the UK to raise their pints to our fabulous city and give a great boost to the local economy, pubs and breweries.
It used to be said that Norwich had a Church for every week of the year and a pub for every day of the year, with Norwich having had the highest number of pubs per square mile anywhere in the country – quite the accomplishment! Sadly many of these pubs have since closed, but Norwich still enjoys a wealth of pubs to pick from for a pint or two!
The beer market continues to be driven by the premium beers; whether it’s imported premium lager, premium bottled ales or the so called “craft beer”, beer is experiencing a kind of resurgence in popularity, and interest in beer is likely to continue to rise. With the Millennial market looking more towards sharing moments and experiences, then this in turn is bound to bring more consumers to beer.
Over the past few years, Norwich has become a real beer haven, with pubs from the city through to the coast offering beer and food matching nights, huge ranges of cask and keg beers to choose from and even pubs that now operate their own brewery.
Image: Woodforde's Head Brewer, Belinda Jennings
Norwich has some really great pubs. Where to start? How about one of the smallest and oldest Norwich Pubs, The Adam and Eve, before checking out the fabulous Fat Cat – boasting over 30 cask beers and its own brewery, followed by a pint in the Norwich Tap House or St Andrew Brew House. The Ribs of Beef is a great shout for a riverside drink, whilst a little further afield (near Bungay) sits The Artichoke at Broome, with a range of top-quality beers.
Norwich’s pubs range from the smallest of public houses, those with majestic views and infamous quiz nights, through to the big music scene, comedy festivals and the real ‘foodies’, there really is a pub for every taste in the area.
Our city’s pubs pride themselves on continuously looking to change up the beer scene, with new offerings in the form of keg as well as the flavoursome cask and the latest IPAs and lagers through to the smaller craft brewery offerings. With more pubs and breweries opening up across the UK than ever before, people enjoying more beer and expecting more for their money and the range on offer then there’s never been a better to jump on-board.
This year sees the 39th anniversary of the Norwich beer festival and with an incredible following, growing year on year, this year will feature over 200 ales. The crowd has also changed over the past few years, with a younger demographic seeping through who are starting to have a greater respect for beer and looking to pay that bit more to get that quality pint, which may not necessarily now just be a sessionable beer, but that of a stronger ABV where they may not drink as much, but rather savour that refreshing and quality taste.
Image: some of the beer on sale at Woodforde's shop
The IPA pale ale has always been a great trend setter and we won’t be expecting to see this disappearing any time soon as it appeals to all with its every imaginable flavour and form as well as special releases with different blends of hop and the infamous white IPA.
Keg - the future, allowing pubs to put different beers on different days with no wasted stock and also a longer shelf life than cask, it also offers a different drinking experience to the consumer as its consumed not necessarily as a sessionable beer due to its stronger ABV and therefore opens up a new experience for the punter.
Dark beers - these are really on trend right now, with the recent champion beer of Britain winner a dark beer, we will start to see more of these produced, especially around the Winter time, where dark beer has always been a popular tipple. We have some great dark beers here at Woodfordes, which include our Norfolk Nog, a really popular smooth, rich and rounded old ale, with velvety texture and hints of chocolate, treacle and liquorice and at Christmas we actually produce our very own ‘Nog’ Christmas pudding, which sells like hotcakes! Dark beers are also a perfect complement to winter warmer meals; think Christmas dinners, stews and casseroles - those real hearty dishes! There’s nothing better than a great food-matched beer, which is also another incredibly popular trend at the moment.
Last but not least are the lagers, and with craft breweries stepping into a shift towards easier drinking beers and embracing lagers, this trend is also on the up. Flavour is key for the easy drinking crowd with smaller barrel-aged and sour beers (less sessionable due to higher ABV but still trending) appealing to wider audiences and also key in driving growth in the local beer festivals up and down the country.
For more information on Woodforde’s Norfolk Ales and its fantastic range of ales and beers, visit their website www.woodfordes.co.uk or call in at their Brewery in Woodbastwick to sample some of their beers and take a tour of the brewery!
Advance tickets are on sale for the 2016 Beer Festival at St Andrew’s and Blackfriar’s Hall online; this ensures you’ll get to jump the (always very long) queue and guarantee entry. Otherwise there’s always cash entry on the door; prices vary depending on session time.
Abellio Greater Anglia have Advance fares from £9 one way between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Trains run every 30 minutes. Abellio also serves Colchester, Ipswich and Diss on the Norwich line. Direct trains also run from Cambridge.
East Midlands Trains runs services from Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.
Flights into Norwich served from Edinburgh, Manchester, Exeter, Aberdeen, Jersey*, Guernsey* and Amsterdam.