Norwich City of Ale hailed as ‘our best festival ever’ with pub visitor numbers at record level
- Credit: Archant
The team behind the Norwich beer festival is raising a toast to its most successful event yet after more than 11,000 visitors were drawn to the city's pubs to wet their whistles during the week-long celebration of ale.
Norwich City of Ale 2019 saw an increase in visitor numbers, pub visits, and festival events, as well as a record number of breweries taking part in its ninth year.
Festival co-chairman Dawn Leeder said: "In terms of visitor numbers, events and people visiting from outside the region, it looks like our best festival ever.
"I think the word is spreading. I've always said from the start of City of Ale that it's a slow burner.
"We were the first in the country to do this so when we started people didn't really know what we were trying to do.
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"People now know what City of Ale is about, and they come from far and wide for the festival and we don't have to keep explaining.
"People know what we're doing and people get it."
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The final report into the festival revealed that while five fewer pubs took part in 2019 - 43 to 2018's 48 - the event, which ran from Thursday, May 23, to Sunday, June 2, drew drinkers into the city's venues a total of 11,036 times, a step up from 10,046 in 2018.
Visitor numbers from Norwich and Norfolk fell from 69pc in 2018 to 59pc this year, but visitors from elsewhere to the city's seven ale trails rose from 31pc to 41pc, and Ms Leeder said the average daily spend, not including ticket price, was around £25.
And the number who completed those trails also saw a boost of more than 300 - rising from 1,465 'trail completers' last year to 1,790.
Breweries involved in the week-long event rose from 22 to 30, with a corresponding increase in events laid on for drinkers, from 201 in 2018 to 244 this year.
Visitors found their way through the city's 15.6km of ale trails and claimed limited edition enamel badges, featuring iconic Norwich landmarks, for each trail completed, with 100pc of landlords involved in the festival saying they had seen an increase in footfall and planned to take part in the next year's event.
The ale trails included in this year's festival were:
- The Thorpe Trail - Fat Cat & Canary, Coach & Horses, Thorpe, Jubilee, Lollards Pit, Adam & Eve, Maids Head;
- The Unthank Trail - Sir Toby's, Sir Garnet, Coach & Horses Bethel, Georgian Townhouse, Warwick Street Social, Beehive;
- The Heigham Trail - Britannia Gardens, Fat Cat, Garden House, Black Horse, Earlham Arms, Reindeer;
- The Waterloo Trail - Fat Cat Brewery, Tap, Whalebone, Angel Gardens, Duke of Wellington, Stanley, Artichoke;
- The Lakenham Trail - Redwell Tap Room, Rose Inn, King's Arms, Trafford Arms, Murderers, Walnut Tree Shades;
- The Lanes Trail - Vine, Belgian Monk, Rumsey Wells, Mash Tun, Arboretum, Ten Bells, White Lion;
- And the Magdalen Trail - St Andrews Brewhouse, Louis Marchesi, Ribs of Beef, Kings Head, Plasterers Arms, Leopard.
A survey of landlords who took part in the festival also saw 100pc say the event was a positive thing for Norwich, with footfall up by between 10pc and 50pc.
While those involved in hosting the trails and events said the best things about the 2019 event, which was sponsored by the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), included "increased trade and good relations", "seeing new faces", "having people visit the city from outside the region", and "people enjoying new venues".
And feedback on ideas for the festival's tenth event included calls for clearer guidance when signing up, pub 'trails of the day' and more of a focus on keg and craft beers - as well as using Instagram to promote the festival, and twinning with other cities.
The end of festival report also revealed almost £1,000 had been raised for the festival's charity, the Norfolk SEN Network, via special fund-raising events, with money from the 1,000 bottles of £1.50 charity ale, brewed by the Panther and Poppyland breweries, and collecting pots yet to be added to the £948 total.
Norwich City of Ale was launched as the UK's first beer week, and has been replicated in city's including York, Bristol and Manchester, with the fine city's event remaining the biggest.
Co-chairman Ms Leeder added: "City of Ale 2019 has been the most successful to date.
"The challenge is to improve and grow without losing site of the core values of collaboration, co-operation and trust we have pioneered, and that other cities have reshaped in their own styles.
"As we look forward to our 10th festival in 2020, we should not lose sight of the past nine years and our many ground-breaking achievements."