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Norwich City of Ale gets ready for the action

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The organisers of this year’s Norwich City of Ale – 23 May-2 June promise that this year’s event will be bigger and better than last year’s event.

Last year 45 city pubs offered 240 beers from 35 local breweries and hosted 192 events and it is hoped this year’s event will top that.

Now in its third year the festival brings together pubs, local breweries and real ale throughout Norwich city centre and strengthens its reputation as “UK’s City of Ale”.

The whole idea of the festival is not just to get more locals back into pubs but to encourage visitors to walk the winding lanes of this fabulous mediaeval city centre and enjoy the comforts of its pubs and ale culture.

Several pub trails and other events are organised in an extravaganza of pub culture. One of the highlights is expected to be the Brewers’ Market on Millennium Plain at the Forum, on Saturday 25 May with many local brewers offering samples of their craft ales to try and buy.

It’s is a superb initiative, which allows me a moment to reflect on some of city independent minded pubs.

So where to go to drink? First of all, the Vine, Dove Street, part of the medieval patchwork of streets, small in size but big in character. When a beer festival is on the seemingly impossibly small space is even fuller with barrels of beer and people enjoying them. On quieter days try one of its Thai meals. They pair well with some of Oakham’s swilling citrus ales.

On Friday nights the Plough, St Benedicts Street, seems impossibly busy. Who said pubs are dead.  It’s a swirl of conversations and the excellent beers from the Grain brewery. The Blonde, an unfiltered wheat beer is fantastic.

The Gardeners Arms or is it the Murderers, Timberhill? The pub with two names is in the town’s centre. Popular and busy it is a pub for seasons and all people. Phil the landlord orchestrates the action with practised perfection. Noise swirls around the bars, it’s the joyous sound of people enjoying their night out. It is a flurry of nooks and crannies and of course well-kept interesting beers.

Almost in the shadow of the cathedral is the Adam and Eve. Here Adnams beer does the work, where once the labourers who built the cathedral once slaked their thirsts. It is a curiosity of a small, higgledy piggery pub, a living, vibrant organic place.

Closer by is the Wig & Pen, St Martins Place. It not really a far enough walk to work up a thirst, but it helps to have one when you get there. This friendly 17th century pub is ideal for reading papers while sipping on a seductive glass of Adnams Southowld Bitter.

The good pubs just keep coming. Find time for the King’s Head on Magdalen, it’s a treasure trove of the understated values which turn a good pub into something near perfect.

The Ribs of Beef, Wensum Street and Take 5, Tombland are worth spending time in. and if there is time take in the great Ketts Tavern at the bottom of Ketts Hill. A must visit pub has to the Fat Cat, West End Street which is a bit of a way from the city’s centre. But it has set the standards which other have tried to emulate.

The Duke of Wellington, Waterloo Road has bags of character and an excellent choice of beers.

Go to http://cityofale.org.uk for more information on this fabulous celebration of pubs and beer.

Tim Hampson is the author of CAMRA’s 101 Beer Days Out, which is available from the CAMRA shop and all good book retailers, (www.camra.org.uk/shop) priced £12.99 (£10.99 for CAMRA members).

Written by timhampson

March 23, 2013 at 11:27 am

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