A taste of Norwich’s City of Ale festival for beer writers

Beer writers from across the country have raised a glass to toast this year's City of Ale festival, as they visited Norwich for a VIP preview.

The writers were invited to take a tour of more than 20 of the city's pubs, with the hope they will be impressed enough to spread the word further afield about Norwich's fine range of drinking establishments and local beers.

This year the second City of Ale festival, which aims to celebrate all that is good about pubs and brewing in the area, will be held from May 31 to June 10.

And the popular City of Ale bus from last year's event was on hand to take the visitors from pub to pub.

Darren Norbury, who writes for Beer Today and lives in Cornwall, said: 'I'm full of praise for the City of Ale. I think it's a geat idea and it is the way beer festivals should be. It's a great way to see the city and to see bars which are full of characters and character.'

Susanna Forbes runs DrinkBritain.com, a drinks tourism website, and said meeting some of the smaller local brewers in person had been very valuable.

She said: 'A great initiative this year will be the walks by the Blue Badge guides, particularly for those of use who don't know the history as it brings it all together.

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'When we went to the Ribs of Beef they showed us where the wherries used to pull up and that was great to see.'

Jeff Evans, from Berkshire who writes for Inside Beer, said he had been impressed with how even the pubs they had visited outside the city centre, in residential areas, had been thriving and had extensive ranges of good beers.

He said: 'I knew Norwich had a good reputation for great pubs and good beer. There's been a big turnaround from the 70s when there was no decent beer worth drinking here. But there are now lots of small breweries and good pubs.'

Dawn Leeder, co-chairman of Norwich City of Ale, said: 'It's gone very well. We have been showing them a really varied range of Norwich's pubs and learning about the city's rich brewing and pub heritage.

'The landlords have been extremely generous and it's been a real party atmosphere all weekend.'

More than 20 pubs have signed up so far for 2012. The first festival, held last year, involved 31 pubs and 35 breweries and proved an enormous success in terms of raising the profile of pubs and real ale in Norwich.

The Evening News Love Your Local campaign aims to get people to support their local pubs.