Organisers determined to make fourth Norwich City of Ale Festival the biggest yet

PUBLISHED: 12:44 24 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:44 24 March 2014

Last year's City of Ale launch in Norwich. Left to right: Phil Cutter, Sheriff Graham Creelman, Lord Mayor Keith Driver and Dawn Leeder before getting on the bus heading for the launch party. Photo: Steve Adams

Last year's City of Ale launch in Norwich. Left to right: Phil Cutter, Sheriff Graham Creelman, Lord Mayor Keith Driver and Dawn Leeder before getting on the bus heading for the launch party. Photo: Steve Adams

Plans are well under way for this year’s Norwich City of Ale Festival – with organisers confident it can be even bigger and better than the previous three.

City of Ale factfile

Work carried out during last year’s festival saw 234 face-to-face interviews held with drinkers across participating pubs and 33 surveys by publicans and brewers.

Some 84pc of drinkers were male and 66pc of these came from Norwich. A third of those who came were from outside Norfolk.

Of those interviewed 74pc fell under the category of regular ale drinkers and of these 51pc said they would be drinking more ale then usual during the event.

Lacons came out on top as the most popular ‘favourite new beer’ last May, whilst the Jubilee attracted the most drinkers who had come specifically for the festival.

Greater promotion of the event was consistently mentioned when participants were asked how it could be improved. Newspaper coverage and word of mouth were cited as the main sources of information for publicity.

Meanwhile, nine out of 10 people rated their experience of the festival as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

Some 82pc of brewers and publicans said they expected to gain more future business as a result of participating and all but one said that they would take part again next year.

91pc said it was a success for their business, with 69pc agreeing that takings were up in comparison with the same period a year before.

Around 50 pubs are expected to take part this year and they will be supplied by 36 local breweries from Norfolk and Suffolk showcasing a variety of new beers.

Now in its fourth year, the festival will run from May 22 to June 1, and Dawn Leeder, co-chair of the event, said: “It is early days but preparations are going very well. We are still compiling a list of VIP guests and are currently in the process of finalising lots of events to take place around the city during the festival.”

On efforts being made to improve the festival, Mrs Leeder added: “We want to get women more involved. Drinking ale is not just for men in baggy jumpers and we have worked hard this year to broaden our appeal. There will be a number of female specific events.

“We are giving more attention to promoting the festival too. A generous £11,000 grant from Norwich BID is being used to take advertisements out in 20 regional magazines, which will target real-ale lovers.

“With a combined circulation of 345,000 these magazines should help generate national interest. We are using Twitter and Facebook extensively to establish more of an online presence too.”

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District, said: “The festival helps the leisure sector to increase customer and visitor numbers, whilst growing the overall vibrancy of the city as a destination and keeping Norwich as the nationally-recognised first City of Ale.”

A launch party will take place at the Dragon Hall, King Street, on May 22. Top beer writer Roger Protz has been confirmed as attending.

In the days leading up to the festival a printed programme will be available free around the city centre, and will include the pubs, brewers and beers involved and a map.

Mrs Leeder added: “Norwich has a vibrant brewing heritage which should rightly be celebrated. We were able to estimate that last year 57,000 pints were pulled, enough to fill a small swimming pool, which is a nice thought, and we hope to go one better this year.”

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