Norwich is a beer city, but it hasn’t always been that way. Situated in East Anglia surrounded by some of the barley fields in the world, including the globally successful Maris Otter, Norwich was an important brewing city up to the 20th century. Tragically through a system of mergers, acquisitions and mergers the amount of breweries declined over the last 100 years from dozens to the last one being closed by Watney Mann in 1985.
Thankfully there has been a reversal of fortune and this historic brewing area has now a plethora of exciting new breweries in its local area and hosts one of the biggest beer festivals on the calendar for the customary three years. The Great British Winter Beer Festival is held in the magnificent St Andrew’s & Blackfriars’ Halls and was the reason we were in the city.
The evening before the festival we went to a fine dining beer and food pairing evening, hosted by the engaging Beer Sommelier Cheryl Cade from Thirst Consultants.
It’s a fantastic way to spend the evening, informative, amusing and you get to meet some really interesting people as the table is invariably set in a big circle. Frosty at first, after the seven local beers that matched the three exquisite courses, the conversation was unsurprisingly flowing and we were delighted to find we were sitting with one of the breweries who’s beers was being represented during the meal and I was frankly fascinated by someone who worked in the National Collection of Yeast Cultures which is also based in Norwich.
The following day we went on a little pub crawl round Norwich and there is some really good ones. Popular brewery tap The Fat Cat was a great place to start and a must for anyone with an interest in Breweriana as they have all their walls adorned with some great signage.
The Duke Of Wellington is a nice enough pub, with a great array of beers and friendly bar staff this could be a great place to stay the whole afternoon on a rainy day.
The Plasterers Arms was far more hip and happening than the other two, with a good selection of ales and craft beers.
Finally The White Lion, which is more of a cider specialist place, but they did have a good range of well kept ales, and some of the best bar snacks we’ve ever had!
We finished up the evening with a meal in The Belgian Monk, and what a meal it was. Steak Forestiere that we could not fault and great service. 10/10 and a fantastic way to finish the evening.
The next day was Beer Festival day, we left our great little Air B&B which at £45 a night was a great deal. Its definitely worth looking about on Air B&B if you going on these little trips, there is often some great spots that are cheaper than hotels.
St Andrew’s & Blackfriars’ Halls is a cavernous set of friary church and convent buildings, dating back to the 14th Century. This year, last year and the next it is hosting the CAMRA National Winter Ales Festival. This festival is to showcase the best real ales available in the UK (such as stouts, strong ales and winter warmers). These are Michelle’s favourite styles so she was more than happy whilst I made my way to the foreign beer bar to try a couple of beers I knew were on my list.
No.264 Trois Monts is a French beer from the beautiful sounding La Brasserie de St.-Sylvestre. This beer which was first introduced in 1984 is brewed in France but in a town only 10km from the Belgian border and you can tell. It even calls itself Biere de Flandre on that label, and of course Flanders is the Dutch-speaking Northern portion of Belgium. I really enjoyed it, it was very carbonated, dry as a wine, like the Brut style thats going round at the moment and it reminded me of one of my favourite beers Deus by Bosteels which is treated like Champagne.
No.265 Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel is a dark beer which was well suited to the Festival. Weltenburg Abbey in Bavaria, Germany, is the oldest continuously operating monastery brewery in the world, dating back to at least 1050AD! A Dunkel is a dark lager that was the most popular beer in Bavaria. We found it had a burnt, dirty taste with a grassy aroma. That doesn’t sound very pleasant but it was!
Finally No.266 Weltenburger Kloster Asam Bock which is obviously from the same brewery. These beers look similar too both being dark lagers. Bock of course are stronger beers and this comes in at a not too shabby 6.9%. Its dark, rich and meaty, like beef stock in fact. Its one of those beers that tastes historic.
So there we are, that’s Norwich. As I have mentioned the Winter Beer Festival will be on in Norwich in 2019 and it’s well worth a go. It could move anywhere after that, its previous three years were in Derby, so take advantage whilst it’s relatively close by. If you do I highly recommend the food pairing evening that takes place just before the festival starts, and the Steak at The Belgian Monk!