Norwich City of Ale Festival launched

Lets all hail this fine city's ale and its wonderful pubs - that was the overriding message being heralded at the launch of Norwich's very first City of Ale Festival.

A total of 31 pubs and 35 breweries are involved in the 10-day festival which organisers hope will help make Norwich a world-renowned centre for real ale.

Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide and Chris Higgins, sheriff of Norwich and landlord of the Trafford Arms pub, helped launch the festival last night.

The venue which launched the event, St Gregory's Church, near Norwich's Pottergate, proved to be a fitting choice given the proud history of pubs and brewing in this city.

Mr Protz issued a plea to the government to stop 'destroying' the beer and pub industry by helping to ease the burden of VAT and excise duty in pubs - and to stop supermarkets being able to sell alcohol 'cheaper than bottled water'.

He said: 'Norwich is setting the pace. I hope other towns and cities do what you're doing to boost our beautiful beer.'

For Mr Higgins the event was one of his first as sheriff after being formerly appointed at a ceremony at City Hall earlier this month.

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Mr Higgins, who arrived wearing his ceremonial dress including chains, said: 'I applaud the City of Ale Festival – let the rest of the country take note and may this be the first of many. Cheers.'