All hail the ale! Norwich City of Stories campaign celebrates pubs

Lacons Brewery in Great Yarmouth The Falcon Brewery Picture: James Bass

Lacons Brewery in Great Yarmouth The Falcon Brewery Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

Norwich once had a pub for every day of the year, and a church for every Sunday, or so the saying went.

In the 1880s, there were 450 pubs just within the old city walls, and 49 surrounding Norwich Market alone.

While there are much fewer than this today, organisers of the City of Stories campaign – which aims to promote Norwich – are toasting our pubs this week in a chapter called 'All Hail the Ale'.

The 12-week campaign, run by Visit Norwich and backed by sponsors including Norwich BID, aims to encourage more people to enjoy the city by sharing its stories.

From 1096 to 1538, Norwich Cathedral was home to a priory of Benedictine monks.


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The priory maintained its own brewhouse, producing ale for the monks, their servants and their guests.

The servants alone were allotted a gallon of ale a day each; altogether the monastery consumed around 100,000 gallons of ale in a single year.

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By the 1920s Norwich had just a handful of breweries left, known collectively as the Big Four. Disaster struck in 1942 when one of the four, Morgans, was destroyed in a German attack that became known as the 'Fire Blitz'.

By the 1970s Norwich's remaining breweries had become monopolised by Watney Mann, and when it became part of a national company, brewing in Norwich ceased altogether.

But from the 1980s onwards, the Norwich area's brewing resurgence began.

Led by the Star Brewery, the Wolf Brewery and Woodforde's, microbreweries started springing up all around the city area. Two decades later and even historic breweries have come back to life, such as Lacons.

Woodforde's has become a nationwide brand and the Good Pub Guide's Brewery of the Year 2015, and there are more than 40 microbreweries in Norwich and Norfolk – such as Chalk Hill Brewery at the Coach and Horses, and Redwell Brewery.

One of Norwich's best-loved breweries is the award-winning Fat Cat Brewery, which was formed in 2005 when the landlord of the Fat Cat pub – twice Camra's Pub of the Year – Colin Keatley, decided to try his hand at making the beer as well as serving it.

Almost 10 years later the Fat Cat is a household name among ale drinkers, and two more Fat Cat pubs have been opened in different corners of the city.

Another favourite spot for ale lovers is the Kings Head in Magdalen Street. One of the oldest pubs in Norwich, here you can find a wealth of locally brewed beers plus a wide selection of Belgian beers and Trappist beers.

Leading Norwich through the craft-beer revolution is the Norwich Tap House.

The annual Norwich Beer Festival held in St Andrew's and Blackfriars Halls welcomes more than 18,000 punters over the course of six days, making it the largest indoor beer festival in the country, and the only one held in a former monastic building.

So much beer is sold that the stock has to be completely replaced at least three times.

What is your favourite Norwich pub? Tweet at #cityofstories

For more details on the City of Stories campaign, see www.cityofstories.co.uk

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